Getting a Ham license

So, a few years ago I looked into getting a ham license, taking the course, passing the test, getting the equipment, starting out from scratch.

But, it just looked like a lot of immense work that I wasn't sure would pay off in the end.

Can someone here refer me to a really good way to get a good education on this (and I don't mean "Radio Ham for Dummies" book) that will lay this all out in a sensible manner, and guide me through what I need to do, and what equipment I need to acquire, and the basic ins and outs?

Seriously, if you guys want to recruit people into this skill set, it needs to be straightforward and relatively easy to assimilate, or you will continue to turn off people that are interested, if it is perpetuated as some arcane, exclusive club that only nerds need apply to.

Thanks for all your help in advance.

I agree that a lot of the people in charge of giving the exams end up presenting Ham Radio exactly as you described it, “as some arcane, exclusive club that only nerds need apply to”, that's been a complaint of mine for decades even though I've long described myself as a “nerd”. However, that's not at all who is actually the bulk of Ham operators that I have known. I have personally known Hams that are house construction carpenters, dental technicians, big-rig truck drivers, locomotive engineers, farmers, housewives, Nurses, etc. In fact there are so many that that I would in no way call a “nerd”. I've also known University Professors, Astronomers, and so on. My Dentist is a Ham, no way a nerd and in fact he and his father (a retired dentist) are Tree Farmers on the side. I don't call JMG a nerd, yet he has his Extra Class Ham license. There truly are people from all walks of life.
Most of the Hams I know are in Ham Radio because they like communicating with other people around the world and Ham Radio is a great way to do it. Then there are those like myself who really do like digging into the equipment and “getting our hands wet” so to speak.

I wouldn't call the terminology used any more arcane than that used by people when they talk about soil pH, specific breeds of chickens, nutrient content of vegetables, what organic fertilizers someone uses, different types of metals and how to use a metal lathe, etc. It's just a different subject that needs to be learned. The actual tests that are given aren't any more complicated than that given for a Driver's License, lots of arcane rules and regulations there that have to be memorized, how far you have to signal before turning, how long is your license revoked for a specific infraction, etc.

The big thing that JMG is talking about is that Ham Radio is a communications method that can be used even when a massive, humoungously expensive infrastructure doesn't work or can't be afforded. It's a method of communicating that doesn't even use the Post Office, it's direct from one end to the other. It's possible to use very simple, some would call them primitive, radios to communicate and this does not take much power. I know many Hams who have a simple solar panel and battery setup that gives them the ability for unlimited worldwide communications even when there's no AC power within 100's of miles.

I'm trying to point out in my posts just how the necessary equipment can be obtained and am offering to help people get it if they need help. Equipment is more affordable than ever, used HF radios that work for worldwide communication can often be bought for less than some people spend on a few months of cellphone bills. I just picked up an older, but reasonably modern HF Transceiver and power supply (Yaesu FT-77) a few days ago for $250. Another $20-$50 in wire and cable and you've got worldwide communications. I'm more than willing to answer any questions people have.

Please, you other Hams, Chuck, Kevin, Moshe, Toomas, etc. please jump in here too. What favorite methods do you have for learning the subjects needed to pass the exams?

August KG7BZ

lathechuck's picture

If you just want to pass the exams, you may be able to find a one or two-day intensive course, typically sponsored by a local club. I haven't tried that, but I hear that it works. There are also courses that run for some number of weeks, one night a week. That's how my son, a police officer who likes animals and board games (not a tech-nerd!) got his Tech license. Or, you can find practice exams on-line, and try to memorize the answers (I don't recommend that). There are exam-prep books you can study from, but I've never actually opened one to evaluate it. I recommend getting a copy of the ARRL Handbook. It's updated annually, but not much really changes from one year to the next, and even one 10-20-30 years old will still cover the basics, and give you a sense of the history of the hobby.

By the way, I'm monitoring a frequency in the 80m band as I write, and (in central Maryland) I'm hearing a casual group conversation between amiable hams in West Virginia and Ohio as if they were in the room with me. Even without sunspots, a coronal hole has enhanced propagation over last night's conditions.