There is no excuse for anyone not getting their ham license. The license is free, the study course costs only about $30, and the test materials cost only $5 – $12 in most places. The test is multiple choice. On the technician class test there are only 35 questions, and you can get 9 wrong and still pass the test. There is no longer any requirement on any ham test to learn morse code. We have given the technicians test to people as young as 8 years with good results.
At this point I always get the same questions. Why should I trade in a right for a privilege, and why would I want to let government know who I am? Let me try to answer.
First, radio waves do NOT respect any borders. They go where they will. You can argue that government should not be involved in making rules about radio saying that it’s “not in the US constitution”. There are a couple of things about that. One is that it IS in the US Constitution that government must protect our borders. That includes invasion. Radio waves can be used to invade also. I believe that it is within the realm of government constitutionally to protect AMERICA’S INVENTION of radio from invasion and incursion by ANY foreign power, and to that end there are treaties with other countries involving the allocation of frequencies and usage of those that are rightly entered into by the FCC, and have been, almost from the beginning of the invention of radio communications.
The second point is this. You don’t want to unnecessarily twist the tiger’s tail. People do that with the driver’s license VS the right to travel, and some end up in jail for a while, when there are much more important issues to fight about. The same applies here. I don’t see any licensed hams going to jail because they want to use radio in an emergency, or simply because they have the ham ticket in their pocket.
The third is about staying under the radar where federal agencies are concerned. Guess what. There are almost one MILLION licensed hams just in North America alone. That, friends is good cover, and cover enough for the purpose of preparedness. What are they going to do? Do you think they could try to make criminals of all those hams with the stoke of a pen, and if they did, do you think they could physically enforce that? On the contrary, they would be way in over their heads, and they know it.
If you want to find any ham radio operator that has a license just do a search here with your zip code. http://www.qrz.com
When you apply for your license use a PO Box, not your physical address.
Go study, and when the interactive software says to schedule your test look up some local hams with the qrz.com
site search link and ask them when the next test will be and where. You don’t have to have the callsign to own the right equipment, or to listen to what is going on out on the ham bands. You do need it when you push the transmit button.
We also recommend you get a GMRS license. GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service. You can just BUY a license for about $65 without any test, that is good for 5 years, and can be used for business as well as personal uses. There are 8 channels available with wideband, full modulation on UHF at around 462.000 mHz. The license is good for the whole family, and each license can have their own repeater. We are putting up a GMRS repeater in Eureka soon, in addition to about 9 other repeaters we already have.
See all the ham repeaters in the country here: http://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/
These repeaters greatly increase the range of your handheld or mobile radios, sometimes out to 100 or more miles radius from the repeater site.
You might want to get a scanner from our radio store at http://www.fm2way.com/scan.htm
so you can listen to what is happening in your area, especially in any emergency situation. Your life might depend on it some day.
My recommendations to get licensed STANDS notwithstanding all the comments I will get on this article, from our readers, about not wanting to get ANY licenses for ANYTHING because they would be trading in a right for a government privilege. Just write your comments and I will answer them with some good reasoning on this. The rest of this will deal with what to do after you have your license.
What kind of radio should you buy?
To start with you will need a handheld dual band FM transceiver that covers at least the 2 meter and the 70 CM bands. And it would be best if that radio was also type accepted by the FCC to cover the business bands just above both of those bands. Band refers to a group of frequencies designated by the FCC for certain purposes.
The 2 meter ham band covers 144 – 148 Mhz (that is megahertz, or million cycles per second) The business band above that is the VHF business band and covers 150 – 174 Mhz.
Correspondingly there are two bands on UHF also. The ham band is 70cm (centimeters) from 430 – 450 Mhz, and the business band above that at 450 – 470 Mhz. All these frequencies (bands of frequencies) can be covered by ONE radio. We recommend and are using the Anytone 3208 U/V which fills all these requirements. Find it
You will be very pleasantly surprised at how well these small radios perform. I have talked up to 10 miles with just a handheld, to another handheld, and much further to a base, mobile, or repeater.
What is a repeater? It’s a radio that is located at a very advantageous location like the top of a mountain, that listens on one frequency, and instantly transmits what it hears on another higher or lower frequency, in real time. That allows you to extend your range up to the footprint of that particular repeater. Most of our repeaters are either solar powered or have a battery back up system that will allow them to stay on the air for weeks during an emergency. Some of our repeaters have a footprint of up to 150 miles or more.
There are literally THOUSANDS of repeaters in America.
All of these handheld units use FM modulation. Modulation is the method of putting an intelligence on the signal that can be converted back to audio so you can hear what the guy on the other end is saying. FM is frequency modulation, or varying the frequency of the signal a very little bit so a detector in the receiver of the listening radio can re-create sound. FM is very impervious to noise, and to other weaker signals, so it’s usually either pretty clear, or it’s not there so it can be heard.
That makes for very quiet radio operation with little interference from things like alternators in a vehicle, or power lines, like you would hear on CB which usually uses AM or amplitude modulation, which varies the “strength” of the signal.
Groups of hams can monitor several frequencies at the same time by using a feature called SCAN which rotates around several channels (with a different frequency in each channel) and when someone talks on one of the channels being monitored the scan stops and locks on that channel. At that point if you want to continue on that conversation you can press an exit key or touch the transmit button and the radio stays on that channel. When you are done listening you can start up the scan and monitor all again.
Please watch this video about the possibilities of various types of radios that can be used for safety communications. This is published by AmRRon, which stands for The American Redoubt Radio Operators Network.