Me and Amateur Radio
As a child I was exposed to Amateur Radio by a number of people. Unfortunately, there was a morse code requirement to get started and I didn't think I could do it, so I didn't. In mid-2003 I discovered that the FCC had restructured Amateur Radio licensing in 2000. There was no longer a morse code requirement to get started. I got on the Internet and took some practice tests without studying. I failed each one of them that I took, but only by two or three questions each time. I bought a study guide, read it while serving jury duty, and passed my Element 2 35 question Technician license test. My callsign, KD5ZPW, was assigned to me on 13 November 2003. Being a little older this time around, I learned morse code and passed my Element 1 5 words per minute test and Element 3 General license test in 2004. I passed my Element 4 Amatuer Extra license test on field day this year, 28 June 2008, with many thanks to the study techinque at HamTestOnline.com.
My wife and her father received their Technician licenses in 2004. My wife and I have enjoyed working with the Tiger Athletic Communications Team, supporting the first aid workers at LSU sporting events (mainly football!), as well as providing communications support to the Red Cross and other local agencies in the days after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. We worked at the River Center shelter the first night after Katrina hit and the Lamar Dixon Arena shelter the second night. That was quite an experience!
How does Amateur Radio benefit you and me?
When discussing how Amateur Radio can benefit you and me, there are basically two different situations that I talk about.
The first of those situation is a normal day in a our current society. Everything is working: telephones, cell phones and the Internet. In this situation, Amateur Radio is a hobby and a pasttime. It can provide you with a way to communicate with others, meet new people, wether they are a couple streets over or on a different continent. It can help a group stay in touch while travelling. Amateur radio operators have frequency allocations from 1.8Mhz to above 275Ghz (wireless networks operate at 2.4Ghz, cordless phones at 900Mhz, 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz). Amsat is the Amateur Radio Satellite Corporation: yes, there are amateur radio satellites, built and maintained by everyday amateur radio operators. There are amateur radio transcievers on the space shuttle and the International Space Station. Your amateur radio experience can be as varied as you want it to be. Day to day operation also doubles as practice for our seconds situation.
The second situation is a not so normal day. Something bad has happened. Telephones, cell phones, and maybe even the Internet are not working. Normal routes of communications are down. In this situation, Amateur Radio is a lifeline. Amateur radio operators have provided communications support in every disaster around the world since they have been allowed to. Follow this link for a short list of recent events in which amateur radio operators provided emergency communications. When cell phones didn't work after Hurricane Katrina, my family was able to communicate with our amateur radios.
The NTS (National Traffic System) is a network of amateur radio operators that pass messages (radiograms) across the United States. In our first situation, NTS is a fun way to get a message to a friend or loved one in another state. In our second situation, NTS is an organized way to pass traffic across the nation when other forms of communication are not working.
Getting others interested
When people think about operating a radio and getting licensed, their first reaction is to run the other direction because there is so much they don't know. My challenge to anyone that may or may not be interested is to take a practice test from one of the online testing sites below, without studying! I'm willing to bet that the average individual will be surprised at how much they already know, and how much of it is just common sense. Granted there are some numerical things you WILL have to memorize, like what frequencies you will have access to with your Technician license, and there are some math problems, but they are a small part of program.
The other cool thing about the license test is that the entire question pool, with answers, is published. So if you study the pool, you won't be suprised by any of the questions on the actual test.
Getting your license
In the good old days, amateur radio exams were administered by the FCC at their field office locations. Today, amatuer radio exams are administered by qualified amateur radio operators called Volunteer Examiners (VE). I happen to be a VE, and as long as you're not a family member, I can actually help administer your exam, with the help of two other VE's. In 2008, the cost of the exam is $14.
Amateur Radio Interest Links
Online study and practice exam sites
- HamTestOnline.com - Subscription based study and test site. This is what I used to study for my Amateur Extra license.
- KB0MGA.net Practice Exams - Free site. If you login it will track your progress and show you where you need help
- W5AC Study Guides - Tech, General and Extra (old) study guides
Online practice exam sites
- eHam.net Practice Exams - Free site.
- AA9PW Practice Exams - Free site.
- QRZ.com Practice Exams - Free site.
Bob Bytheway K3DIO Resources
K3DIO has provided lessons in Microsoft Power Point format. They can be used to study for a test or teach a class.
There are some well done PDF study guides for the technician license test. It's a lot like some of the books you can buy (topics divided into chapters followed by followup questions) but they're free!
Band plans in pdf format
- HWN - Hurricane Watch Net (14.325 MHz)