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Monday, August 26, 2013

Radio - Become a Ham

Hello, Frank here.

This is going to be a short post with a lot of entry level information. There are three licenses in amateur radio, which is also called ham radio. The
first license is the technician, the next level up is the general, and the top and final level, is the extra. As you look through some of the information I am about to provide, you will find other titles for operators. Well, these are old titles that have been grandfathered in. Currently there are only the three mentioned above. Also, you are not required to know morse code for any current level of ham radio license. NO MORSE CODE REQUIRED.

First I am going to talk learning styles. I am a retired educator - teacher and school administrator. I want you to know that not everybody learns the same. Some people will take the information I am going to give you tonight and will be ready to take the technician test in three or four days. Other folks might take three or four weeks. If it takes you three weeks and it takes the other guys three days, no big deal. Everybody learns different. Don't compare yourself with anyone else, we are all different. Okay. So much for that.

The first level of ham radio is the technician. Of the three tests, it is the easiest with each test getting progressively more difficult. I'm going to give you two band charts. One is from ICOM, and the other is from ARRL. On both of these charts, you will notice old licesnse names. They mean nothing to you or me. But you will notice places where the technician can transmit and receive, which is mostly 2 meter and up. You say what does that mean? When you look at the charts, it will become apparent. There is a small portion of the 10 meter band that the technician can talk on, which in the ham world is called phone. 

Another topic. Both of these charts are very informative. I prefer to use the ICOM chart for my frequency needs. The ICOM chart, just by looking at it, will provide a number of answers for questions on the technician's test, which, by the way, is the only test we are going to talk about today.

Probably the most useful website you can go to is the ARRL website. Play around in here and it will give you information about many things that
we are going to discuss right now. When you decide to take your test, you will need to contact an ARRL local club. This can be done through this page. You will need the town you live in or the closest town to you. Most of these clubs have websites and contact information. Not only can they tell you when the test date is, they'll also be happy to invite you to any club meeting they have. Someone there will be happy to walk you through the world of ham radio.

This next site will take you to information about how to get your technician's license. It's just more information. You notice these sites are all part of ARRL. This is a very handy webpage to use.

The next site I am going to take you to is the FCC regulations page for ham radio. These are all of the rules, right here. You've heard me joke about your third cousin, Bubba? Here are the rules. There are really not very many of them. But, again, these are the rules. When in doubt, pull up this site.

Okay. I'm going to give you a couple of sites that will provide you with free practice tests. The first one is This is where I used the practice tests to study for my technician's exam. They will ask you to sign in with
your call sign. Well, you don't have one. Pick out a few letters you like. I used my initials for my first, middle and last name followed by the number 1. Then you will need to provide a password. Try to make it one that you can remember. Once in this site, go to the tab across the top that says resources. The first selection is 'practice amateur radio exams'. From here, you should be able to figure out the rest of it. These are free practice tests, and like I said earlier, this is the site I used to practice for my technician exam. 

The next practice test site is called Ham Test Online. This is the site I used to get my general license which is the next license after the technician.
This is not a free site, but my wife and I found that the general class was a little more difficult than the technician, and we liked the format that these folks use. This site also has a free trial period. If you like their style and you like the way things are laid out and you want to use this for your technician's license, go ahead. It is not free, but I used it and I would recommend it. 

Next on the list is This is a free practice test site. This is the site my wife chose to use for her technician practice tests. Remember, different folks have different learning styles. I like the first one I used and she liked this one. You will need to come up with a username and password, but you should be able to do that. 

Next are the No Nonsense Study Guides. This is another cool site with a lot of information. All of the sites above also have a lot of cool information. Don't be afraid to play around in them. But this site will actually give you something that you can print out or use in pdf form. It puts the questions and answers into a textbook style format. Click on the toolbar where it says 'No Nonsense Study Guides' and open the one that says Technician Class. You'll notice that there are three or four different versions. I used the free version pdf file. This is free and it is a great way to study for the test. On
about page six or seven you will see where it deals with a couple of formulas. Play with these formulas a little bit and you will see that they are actually quite easy. If you have trouble with the formulas, we will talk about them in more detail in the very near future. Don't be overwhelmed by the math. It is a small, small portion of the test. Again, don't worry about the math. The technician's test will have 35 questions out of a question pool of 396 and you will need to get 26 correct to pass. Don't worry about the math. 

Another example of learning styles. My wife, or YL in ham language, got her ham radio licenses just so we could do it together. Her level of operation is push the on button, pick up the microphone, click the button and talk. She knows little to nothing about antennas, coax, frequencies or modulation, but she does know how to push the button and talk into the microphone. Correction. She also knows how to change the channel.
You ask, how did she pass the technician and the general test? She took the practice tests, over and over and over and over until she memorized the answers. Well, some people might say, that's not right. She doesn't understand ham radio. Who cares! She met the requirements, she passed the tests and now she has her technician and general licenses. I, on the other hand, memorized many of the answers, but I needed to know more about the radio and it's overall operation. A side note here - she scored better on both tests than I did. So, each to their own. Whatever works for you. You have multiple choices here and most of them are free. 

If you want to know more about the details of how radio waves work, the ARRL site above has a plethora of information and books that they will be glad to sell you. Or, get in touch with a local ham club and they will be happy to assist you. The testing fee is normally $15.00. The testing has to be done in person. If you have handicaps or special needs, let the folks know at the testing site and they will accommodate your needs. By the way, if you want to take the technician and the general on the same day, if you pass the first test, the second test is at no additional cost, as is the third test for the extra if you pass the general. If you do not pass the first test, you can take it again, same day, same place, but it will cost you $15.00 more.

One last thing. Always think safety.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank


  1. There's a lot of good stuff in here. Thanks, Frank.

    1. Thank you. Hope you enjoy. Take a gander at the chicken posts. Someday I will discuss geese!

  2. I have started reading your information on getting started with Ham Radio. I'm glad to know it is only about $15 to take the test. Now, I have to study and read the rest of your Radio education posts. Thank you very much. You have laid it out in a simple format.

    1. Getting a ham license is not really difficult. All of the materials for the General and the Technician are provided with the Romanchik manuals which are free. Also, the site tests online are free. Contacting a local ARRL will provide you with a great source of information.

      Many people are just afraid of tests and are afraid to try new things. There is no Morse code requirement anymore and the math and formulas are at a minimum.

      Thank you for the observation. I tried to lay this information out in a very simple format, something like two friends talking. Thank you for the comment and I hope you enjoy the rest of the articles.

      73, Frank