Interested in Amateur Radio?

I'd be interested in seeing how many others are interested in the subject of Amateur Radio as possibly used in a world on the downside of the oil age. It has several methods of communication that I think will be appropriate in the future.

I'm going to write up a brief summary of the modes of communication that seem usable by us in the near and longer terms. I also want to see how many current HAMS and prospective HAMS are on here. A few of us have been talking about this on the ArchDruidReport, but it seems time to move the conversation over here.

Agust Johnson


I've had my General license for over a year now, but can't afford a HF rig of my own yet. I do have access to one through a club, so I can work the higher bands with some advance notice.

Right now, I am starting to get involved with ARES (Amatuer Radio Emergency Service) and RACES (Radio Amatuer Civil Emergency Service), both of which run local training nets and gives me experience handling message traffice, etc. It also gets me involved in the local community, which is always a good thing.

Hi Antony,

We've had some attempts a month or so ago, but at that time conditions weren't the best. Things are considerably better now, a bunch of us should try again. In the meantime, I've set up a web site to help people who are interested in Ham Radio but don't know how to find out more information. There's also a link to a set of forums specifically for talking about more technical issues that might not fit so well here. I think posting basic summaries here of activities on the GWR site keeps people informed of what we do there. Hopefully there will be more Hams showing up here and then on the air!

I see you're located in NY. I'm located in Montague, in Northern California.


August Johnson


I recently received my license but have yet to buy a radio. My call sign is KC9VTV

I am also interested in getting a license. Could someone suggest what equipment needs to be bought? I probably will have to wait until gardening season is over but this is the year for ham! I am in Massachusetts but at least one hour away from the closest active users who are in Amherst. I guess I should get the book and start reading it but the issue of equipment has always puzzled me.

lathechuck's picture

Still interested? At, you can search for licensed hams by call sign, city, county, or grid square (don't make me explain what that is). It shows me 60 hams in Amherst, but if you're an hour away, I'd be surprized if you couldn't find someone closer. There might be one in your own back yard. I was able to borrow my first radio from a nearby ham who had bought newer and better for his own use.

Ordinary people go to "flea markets"; amateur radio operators go to "hamfests". Looks like there's one every month down in Cambridge, MA. I paid about $500 for my first HF radio, power supply, antenna tuner, microphone, and antenna (Kenwood TS-130SE). I paid about $600 for my second HF radio (Kenwood TS-940S) (no mic). Expect to spend around $100 for a VHF Handheld Transceiver (HT). Think "HF for strategic, VHF for tactical" comms.

AB3NA (lathechuck gmail com)

Hi Lynn,

This is a question with many answers! There's a wide variety or equipment that you might get. It all depends on what types of communication you want to do. For long range voice or even Morse code communication you'd want an HF (High Frequency) Transceiver and an antenna. The ARRL has a web page that should help supply some answers to your question.

There's lots of used equipment available, no reason to buy new. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have after looking at the ARRL page.

73, August KG7BZ

By the way, 73 is the HAM abbreviation of "Best Regards" This goes back to the days of using Morse Code and there are all sorts of numeric and alphabetic abbreviations for different phrases to speed communications up.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the US Amateur Radio association, has lots of information and help for learning what you need to get your license. Here's their page with info on getting licensed.

They offer a really good book that teaches you everything needed for the exam and there's also a lot of online information available at the same place.

The W5YI Group is also another organization that offers books and study material for getting your ham license.

Both the ARRL and W5YI give the exams, you'll be able to find out from their web sites where and when the exams are given. Both organizations are competitors but they are both good ones and offer valuable assistance.

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask.

August Johnson KG7BZ

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Hey August KG7BZ,

I took, and failed by three questions, my technicians license back in January. Since then I've studied the ARRL Technicians book a bit here-and-there, but my attention to it has been scattershot. What is nice about the book is that it comes with the test questions in the back, and a CD-Rom with the test, so you can practice taking the test as much as you need to. I really need to bone up on the electronics & technical aspects of Amateur Radio. I seem to do fine in all the parts about laws & FCC regulations, and operating procedures. I haven't forgotten about this discussion group within the Green Wizards forums, and I just wanted to let people know that I plan on going for the test again. Hamfest in Dayton, Ohio not far from me, is coming up in May, and I'd like to shoot for having my license by then, or taking the test again at the Fest.

In any case, when I do get my call sign and a set up, I'm all for the idea of setting up a Green Wizards group to meet up on one of the bands.



Justin, sounds like you have the right idea. Hopefully I'll be able to be back on the air in about 6 months, maybe less. It would be great to talk to others from here. Yes, there's skype and so on, but on radio it somehow seems more direct, without the incredible complexity of the Internet involved.

Taking lots of computer generated practice exams was the key for me. You'll see the same questions occurring time and again. Eventually you'll learn the right answers just from repetition if nothing else. When you start passing practice tests reliably, you're ready to take a real one.

Know what you'll get if you fail the exam eighteen times before you pass? Yep, that's right, you get a call sign.

Apparently it's a serious, full-on first-year university course, and assumes some basic knowledge of calculus.

Thought this might be of interest to anyone here wanting to know a bit more about electronics in general.

It's all over except for the final exam! The latest official word was that about 10,000 certificate track students made it through the midterm. There were another 100,000+ non-certificate seeking browsers who enrolled and observed to a greater or lesser extent. The consensus opinion on the discussion board is, this was a full up MIT second year EE course with few compromises. It carries no accreditation or transferable credit, but on the other hand it was entirely free of charge.

A few weeks ago, Harvard announced that it will be joining with MIT to offer similar online courses. The new educational consortium is at As far as I know, no official schedule has been released, but it has been hinted that the circuit analysis course will be offered again this fall (2012) and that more advanced EE courses will be offered in the future.

This experimental course proved that with the internet, actual educations can be practically given away to anyone who wants one. The traditional residential degree program might then consist of a roughly equivalent educational experience, plus a costly secret sauce consisting mainly of social networking opportunities and occasional face to face encounters with professors. I wonder if the established powers that be can live with the idea of great low cost education, freely available to all. Watch for these experimental online university projects to be squashed flat in 10 ... 9 ... 8....

According to the students' discussion board there, with around 100,000 enrollees MITx 6.002x is on track for breaking the world record for an online university course. People are still enrolling, but naturally it gets harder to catch up as time goes by. Thanks for posting about the course, kieran. I'd like to pass on a couple of other things as well in case anyone else is interested.

Unlike traditional university courses, there is definitely no penalty of any kind for casually enrolling just to look in or perhaps try a few assignments. Everything is optional and it's perfectly okay to walk away if you decide it isn't for you.

The assignments are web pages that have boxes where you enter your answers. When you are ready you click a button labelled CHECK. Correct answers are marked with a green check mark. Incorrect or missing answers are marked wrong. But here's the good part -- you can revise and recheck your answers as many times as you want with no penalty up to the deadline for the assignment. At the deadline, which is currently midnight of your local time zone on the due date, whatever you had filled in the last time you clicked the CHECK button is retrieved and graded.

First of all, the course is based on videos hosted by Youtube, so a person would need to have a broadband Internet connection and a browser that can play videos in Youtube's Flash format. The auxiliary course materials such as handouts are in PDF format.

I don't think a specific browser or operating system is required. I'm using Opera 11.61 and Linux. Anything that works right with Opera and Linux usually works with any other setup. The actual course material is presented in the browser window with two main frames. The left hand side has a navigation menu of the video lectures, homework assignments and lab assignments grouped by weeks. The right hand side has the selected content, which may be an embedded video lecture, a HTML homework assignment page (with forms where you type answers and submit them), or a web based circuit drawing and analysis window for performing the "lab" assignments.

There are three weeks of course materials already posted. I guess new content is posted weekly.

The only thing that keeps the course from being entirely self paced is that assignments and exams have specific due dates. I think solutions are posted after the due dates, which obviously means graded assignments can't be turned in after the solutions are posted.

This course is the very first MITx offering. They call it a prototype. Things are subject to change. For example, they've already changed assignment due dates from Friday nights to the end of the weekends. Now, only a pocket protectored engineering nerd in serious grind mode could possibly imagine making assignments due on Friday nights, but then, hey, after all this is an MIT project. They also mentioned that completion certificates would be free of charge for the prototype course. I guess the implication is that in the future certificates will cost money.

The embedded player that presents the video lectures is wonderful. The lectures are captioned, which is very helpful if a person has trouble understanding a speaker's accent. Even better, there's a playing speed option that somehow speeds up or slows down the lecture without altering the speaker's voice. 3/4 speed works great for me but you can also set it to 50% faster if you prefer it that way.

Two of the homeworks and two of the lab assignments are dropped, so it would be possible to start working on the course as late as the week of March 25 without losing any points toward the completion certificate (that is, if you get right in and immediately complete the current assignments). I think people are also welcome to "enroll" in order to casually view the lectures and play with the lab simulators, even if they have no intention of ever submitting a graded assignment.

You have to "enroll" to get more information, where enrolling means nothing more than creating an account with a user name, email address and password. They also ask for your real name and location just in case you do the assignments, take the exams and want the certificate. If I understand the rules correctly, enrollment does NOT create an obligation to view the lectures or do any assigments. But of course, to get a certificate you have to do the work.

I enrolled in the course and I think I'll try for the certificate. They're in the third week now but I think I can catch up.

If I wasn't so full up learning the skills to work my half acre, I'd be on that in a minute! But this year, I'm taking Master Preserver classes, and plan to really get serious about canning or freezing all the local food I can. Thanks for letting us know about this!

I just saw this article about small town Post Office closings.

Postal officials were blunt in December when they stood before 120 residents in Dedham, Iowa, to tell them why their town's post office has to close. The Internet, officials said, was killing the U.S. Postal Service.

"Well, I have no Internet," resident Judy Ankenbauer said at the meeting.

As we progress down the slope, I'm sure that the less affluent places will slowly start losing Post Office and then Internet. Ham Radio will increasingly offer a way to stay in touch with others that isn't so dependent on an outside supported infrastructure. In same ways it probably can offer it's own "communications infrastructure".


August Johnson

73, de KG7BZ

Did my post get eaten by the monster? I’ve seen several posts show up after I tried to post mine.

Anyway, I hope that more of us Green Wizard Hams will get on the air and talk about what we’re doing along these lines. Hopefully I’ll be back on HF within 6 months and able to join in. Maybe we can get an SSB net going where we can discuss what we’re doing, both as far as Ham Radio and also all Green Wizard things. Even those non-Hams could listen in on an inexpensive receiver.

I’m thinking maybe something along the lines of what the Canadian Copthorne Macdonald was doing back in the 70’s and 80’s when he wrote the column “New Directions Radio” in The Mother Earth News. Here are some examples from 1976 and 1978:

We'll be interested in using Ham Radio as things wind down but I think these columns have lots of interesting ideas as they were written to support the "Back to the Land" movement in the 1970's and 80's. Just do a search at that site for "New Directions Radio" to see lots more.

As I said before, if anybody is interested in learning about Ham Radio, feel free to email me at augjohnson at gmail dot com.

August Johnson

73 de KG7BZ

Sorry if the delay stretched a bit; I'm trying to get the administrator to let you and some others'posts be "unmoderated" since you've all proved to be good posters. So hopefully soon, you're posts will show up immediately... we're working on it. Thanks!

It's probably going to be six months or more before I'll be back on HF. I'd sure like to have there be an SSB net that we can check into to talk about what we're doing as far as Green Wizard type Ham Radio things and also about all the other Green Wizard stuff we're doing. Even those who are not Hams could listen in just using an inexpensive receiver.

For the younger people out there, there was a column in The Mother Earth News back in the 70's and 80's called New Directions Radio. It was authored by the Canadian Copthorne Macdonald. His ideas were to use Ham Radio for communications among people interested in the "Back to the Land" movement of the time. Here are a couple sample columns from 1976 and 1978:

You can find the column online at:

Just do a search for "new directions radio". Interesting reading. I'd love to have some on the air conversations with other "Green WIzards" who are learing about all sorts of the older ways of doing things.

Again, anyone interested in learning about Ham Radio is welcome to email me at augjohnson at gmail dot com.


73 de KG7BZ

It's good to know that there are a few other ham ops out there interested in this kind of thing. I've been licensed since 1958, mostly operate CW, though have done a little experimentation with digital modes.

I got back on the air in 2002, after a long hiatius, due mostly to lack of funds. I've been living on an Island in Washington State for 35 years, until a few year ago getting by on radio repair, electronic design, carpentry, pottery-making, and whatever else I could come up with. Over the last fifteen years I've been involved in founding and directing a small museum in Bellingham, WA called Mindport Exhibits.

I agree that high-tech stuff is likely to go away, and that ham radio may provide one of the only alternative modes of communication available. CW is an elegant means of communication, and I wholly applaud anyone willing to take the trouble to cultivate it as a skill.

I'll be "staying tuned" for more discussion on this subject.


Kevin, W7LOZ

K9IUA, Kevin in Dubuque, Iowa, checking into the "net." I operate almost exclusively QRP (5 watts or less), usually CW in contests and some SSB, on the HF bands 80m to 10m. I have dabbled with PSK31 and FeldHell. Licensed since 1993, initially as a Novice. Been Extra class since 1998.

I wrote my own summary a couple of years ago of two-way radio communication options that GreenWizards might consider, which can be found here:

In the long run, the modes of communcation that will survive the longest on radio (and over wire) will be those that can be done without computers. Computers will only be a stop-gap method in a scavenging world and will disappear as equipment dies. Methods that will continue will be voice, CW - both created and transcribed by humans - and possibly any digital mode that can be done using electro-magnetic technology of relays and detectors that can be built in the back yard. In other words, possibly a very primitive RTTY, printed facsimile, and possibly FeldHell - directly printed stuff that do not require DSPs or anything other than simple timing loops and voltage levels to decode. This will all be slow-speed stuff. In other words, just about all of today's digital modes being used by amateurs will be toast again and forgotten memories.

But in the meantime, there is no doubt that amateur radio operators will be valuable throughout the period of transition, and we should continue to use every mode of communication at our disposal while we can. Although I would still recommend that one continue their proficiency in the simplest modes of all, and train others, to using CW and transcribing voice communication.

On to the next person in line.

I agree that the simplest modes will be the ones that survive. What we need to do now is make sure that the knowledge of how to do reliable communications survives. The tradition of "traffic handling" and so on has to be kept alive. This is something that I haven't been involved in before, but once I get an HF station on the air again I want to learn about it.

73 de KG7BZ

Ham radio isn't just people chatting with each other on radios. It's also a very open social network of experimenters and technically skilled individuals who share know-how and constantly recycle useful electronic equipment.

Larger scale organizations such as commercial companies, universities and government agencies are efficient but they'll disintegrate quickly if their funding disappears. As a network of individuals needing no direct funding, ham radio is less efficient in terms of achieving any specific goal but infinitely more resilient in terms of its ability to survive. I think we hobbyists will do an excellent job of preserving electronics know-how under chaotic economic conditions, and perhaps even rebuilding the electronics industry in a different form should that become necessary.

73 de AC5IQ

Thanks for starting this thread -- I've been following the discussion over at ADR and you've inspired me to sign up here at Green Wizards to continue with it. Anyway, I've been a ham radio operator almost exactly 10 years (just renewed my license!). I have a pretty modest HF setup which is optimized for portability (my main radio is a Yaesu FT-857D, and I use a Buddipole as my main antenna). I'm active in a couple local radio nets, and like to help out in public service events (mostly bicycling-related). In terms of communications modes, I am comfortable using voice, digital, and Morse code, though I'm not a speed demon at the latter.

For those who are new to amateur radio and are curious about what role it might play on the back side of peak oil JMG's essay from several years ago is by far the best thing I've read on the topic. I'd love it if enough green-wizardly hams were to emerge here that we could start trying to meet up on the air!

Allan KG6KDJ

Davis, California

Alan, I'd love it if some of us Green Wizard type hams could meet on the air. Now we just have to get JMG a radio and on the air! I think he has a most appropriate callsign; AD7VI!

I am most comfortable with ssb and digital modes but I'll improve at CW once I use it some more. A few years ago I wasn't too bad, I had my Advanced license for many years, when the 20 wpm requirement was going to be dropped for Extra, I pushed ahead and got my Extra before the requirement went away. I just wanted to know I did it at 20 wpm!

I'm in Auburn AL right now, but sometime later this year we'll be moving to some other family property in Montague, CA to be nearer to my 86 year old Father-in-law in Medford, OR. Then I'll be able to put my HF station back up.

The newest HF rig I've had is a Yaesu FT-757GXII but I don't have it any more. I got rid of it because I wanted a radio that didn't have specialized CPUs and so on. I do have a Yaesu FT-301, the analog, not the digital, version. I also have an old Drake TR3 that I really like. I like radios that are user-repairable.


Auburn AL

73 de KG7BZ

lathechuck's picture

My ARES group in central Maryland has a monthly phone net on 3820 kHz, on the Wednesday following the third Monday of each month. (If the month starts on Tues or Wed, that will be the fourth Wednesday.) . Officially, we start at 7 PM (ET, standard or daylight) and finish around 7:30, but the net control operator will usually start tuning up and taking "early check-ins" around 6:45. So, everybody's welcome. If any "Golf-Whiskey" hams check in, we can assess propagation and continue to use the frequency after the ARES net is done if we want to. If sufficient interest develops, we can establish our own net schedule. Our group has held this schedule for many years, and expects to continue for many years, so even if this posting looks stale, give a listen! Even if you don't have a General or Extra license, you can listen, and report results here.
If anyone knows of alternative "stable" nets to gather around, please post here.