I have become very interested in radio over the last 7-8 months. I’m not sure now what triggered it. But I do remember watching a video about emergency communications and ham radio. I thought it was interesting so I started doing research. Now as of 6/1/2021 I am a licensed ham radio operator!
I started with a CB
Many years ago I got an idea that I wanted a CB in my truck to monitor traffic conditions. I was on the road for around 2 hours a day for work and I had been getting stuck in a lot of traffic jams. I got everything set up and I thought it was very cool to hear other people on the road talking.
But I learned that the downside to a CB is the people are not always very nice. Let us just say I was not comfortable having the CB on in my truck if my young son was riding with me.
So while I thought the concept was cool I never got that big into it and I only talked on it one or two times.
Discovering ham radio
I have heard of ham radio before. It was not a new term to me but I guess I never thought much about it. But something in 2020 happen that caused me to become interested. I don’t remember the very moment where I thought about getting into ham radio. But I do remember coming across a video about emergency communication and ham radio.
This piqued my interest and I started researching ham radio.
My first radio
In early December 2020, I ordered and received my first radio. It was cheap and later I learned the mic was kind of bad on it. But I was not allowed to talk on it anyway so I used it as a scanner to see if I could hear other people in my area.
At first, I heard nothing. Then I got some local repeaters programmed into the radios memory channels and started scanning them. It was not long before I was hearing people talk and it was very cool!
Ham radio is safe for kids
One thing I noticed right away was the ham radio community was very nice and respectful. I didn’t have to fear having the radio on while my young son was around. This was a big breath of fresh air to me. Other communication methods are not always clean and nice in the world we live in.
Because of this, I became even more interested in ham radio and I wanted to join this community.
Studying for the test
In my research, I heard a lot of people talk about this book from Gordon West so I picked up a copy and started studying. I didn’t know anyone who did ham radio so I was all alone doing my own thing. But I found a class on YouTube from Ham Radio 2.0 that jump-started my studying and got me going on the right track.
I also found and started using a phone app and hamstudy.org to take practice test every day.
I was not sure if anyone was giving a test with COVID-19 going on but I found one nearby with the help of ARRL.
Taking the test
I had not really taken a test since college I guess so I was a little nervous but everyone there was very nice. Just like the people I’d hear on the radio.
I think I may have been the first person to turn my test in. I remember thinking “crap did I do something wrong to finish so fast?” but I guess studying like crazy paid off because I passed. They offered to let me take the next level up so I gave it a try but I didn’t quite pass that one. I put 100% of my study effort into the Technician test but I kind of wish I at least looked over the General test before that day.
My first transmission
That following week I was assigned a call sign. I had also ordered a better radio called a Yaesu FT-65r. I didn’t want my first broadcast to sound awful. I also ordered a digital recorder so I could play it back and get call signs for the people who say them fast.
I was mic shy I guess and my heart was racing. But I worked up the courage to push that button and I said my call sign on a repeater. I waited for a few moments but nothing happen. I thought maybe no one was listing. So I switched to another repeater and started working up the courage and pushed that button once more. But once again no response.
This went on all week. I’d go outside and try a few times then come back inside and try the next day. At one point I turned my cheap radio and my new radio to the same frequency and called out my sign. The cheap radio could hear me so I knew it was working.
Maybe I had some setting wrong somewhere. I ended up doing a factory reset on my radio and reloading the repeaters in but that also did not help.
Around this time I woke up sick and lost my voice so I had to put the radio experiments on hold. I was thinking maybe my radio was bad. I could try talking on the cheap one but the mic was awful and I was not sure if anyone could hear me.
My first ham radio contact
Once my voice came back the next day I handed my son the cheap radio and asked him to stand 20 feet or so away from me. I wanted to be sure the 2 radios being beside each other was not causing issues. Then I attempted contact once more. I didn’t expect to hear anything back and then someone named Steve responded.
I was not mentally prepared to get a response so I kind of panicked. He told me he had a hard time hearing me and to speak closer to the mic. That seemed to help and maybe that was the problem the whole time! My heart was racing and I was full of adrenal. I was so excited that I forgot to write down his call sign or record the conversation.
But at least I knew my radio worked!
My second ham radio contact
In my months of listening to the radio, I heard one guy I wanted to contact. So a few days later I was messing with the radio when I heard him say his call sign in the repeater.
I rushed outside and up a hill to try to contact him. He responded and he probably thought I was a nut. I was out of breath from running and I’m still kind of nervous on the radio. I also forgot to record it. So the recorder has been useless so far haha.
He gave me another tip and told me not to go so fast. That the repeater needs a second to kick in before I start to talk. I think he called it quick keying or something.
He also told me when ham’s say “73” that’s how they say goodbye to each other at the end of a radio contact.
A new life long hobby
There’s a lot more I could say but maybe I’ll save that for another day. This post is already getting long. But I think I’ve found myself a new lifelong hobby with some of the coolest people on earth. I look forward to my 3rd contact and hopefully, it will become more natural to me as I do it more.
Until next time 73s to everyone.