4 Questions About HAM Radio

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AlphaDelta10

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1. To buy a ham radio, do I have to have a license?

2. What is a good starter radio if I were to get a license?

3. What is the average range of the radio with an average antenna?

4. How much does it cost to get a license and is it easy?
I guess #4 was a two parter!

Thanks in advance to whoever can help me out with this.
 

eaf1956

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Starter

1. To buy a ham radio, do I have to have a license?

2. What is a good starter radio if I were to get a license?

3. What is the average range of the radio with an average antenna?

4. How much does it cost to get a license and is it easy?
I guess #4 was a two parter!

Thanks in advance to whoever can help me out with this.
1) You can buy one you just can't TRANSMIT w/o a license
2) Whatever does what you wish to do at a price you can afford
3) Depends on Sunspots and time of day and many other such things
4) The TECH test is 35 questions and costs about $15 It isn't that bad

For TECH you'd probably start with a 2 meter maybe a 2 m/ 440 rig

KC9LVX Evansville, IN feed
 

zz0468

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1. To buy a ham radio, do I have to have a license?
No.

2. What is a good starter radio if I were to get a license?
Any of the 148/440 MHz mobile radios by Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, or Alinco are suitable. Pick the one with the features you like, they're all about equal as far as reliability and performance is concerned.

3. What is the average range of the radio with an average antenna?
Too many variables to define "average". With a dual band FM radio talking through a repeater, your range could be hundreds of miles, or even thousands, if the repeaters are linked. Or it could only be across town.

Direct, FM simplex, a few miles, depending on terrain. Or 100 miles if you're in an elevated location.

There really IS no "average".

4. How much does it cost to get a license and is it easy?
I guess #4 was a two parter!
The fee can vary, depending on the local examiner. But it's generally around $15 for the test. Study materials would be an additional cost.

I would suggest you start here:

arrl.org
 
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AK9R

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1. To buy a ham radio, do I have to have a license?
2. What is a good starter radio if I were to get a license?
3. What is the average range of the radio with an average antenna?
4. How much does it cost to get a license and is it easy?
I guess #4 was a two parter!
  1. No. I bought my first ham radio from a ham radio dealer before I got my license. Though you may run into a dealer who has his own rules about this. You just can't transmit in the ham bands without a license.
  2. Depending on where you are, you may find the most local activity on 2 meter (144-148 MHz). A 2m handheld or mobile can be purchased new for less than $150. A dual-band radio would be a better choice, but a little more expensive. Before you buy, go to a dealer and test out the radio you are interested in. Make sure it's easy for you to program frequencies, repeater offsets, PL tones, etc.
  3. In my area, we run regular tests, called nets, on 2m simplex and through a repeater. In relatively flat terrain, we can routinely talk about 10 miles mobile-to-mobile on 2m. A local wide area 2m repeater, though, has a working radius of about 75 miles.
  4. The FCC sets the maximum fee that can be charged by the examination team to cover their expenses. Right now, it's about $15. Some examination teams waive all or part of that fee. As for the test, get a license study guide from Gordon West or the ARRL. Read through it once, then start taking the practice tests online. Go back to the book to study the material you have trouble with. Study the concepts, not the exact test questions. When you consistently score 90% or higher on the practice tests, you're ready.
 

chrizby

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Remember also that it is possible to take all 3 tests(Tech,General,Extra)
at one sitting for $15.
From 0 to extra in one day. Difficult but possible.

Start studying today.
Start listening today.
Use the web and hopefully find an Elmer to help you out.
Ham radio is like a big ocean, just find someplace that you are comfortable
and enjoy the water.
 

w5dmt

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I would add, that if you're absolutely sure you want to get into the hobby, I would consider buying a mobile rig, power supply and outside antenna in lieu of an HT. One of the great frustrations of new hams, who go the HT only route, is that they can hear 3 or 4 repeaters full quieting, but if you transmit, you're luck to hit one... I know the other route is a bit more expensive, but EBay is a good way to go there too. I've seen 2M Mobiles with a tone board available for $50-100. Power supplies (50W Radio = 10Amp power supply) for $50 and antennas just as cheap. So, for a $200 investment, you get a great "Starter" station on 2 Meters.

2M Mobile, Transceivers, Antennas. Great deals on eBay!

Only a couple things... don't buy a Motorola "VHF Hi" radio unless you already happen to have a way to get it programmed, and I generally recommend newbies stick with one of the big 3 (Yaesu, Icom or Kenwood) but there are some exceptions out there.. And make sure it has tone or ctcss in it. (Theres a reason why some of the older radios run $25-50... They're worthless on todays repeaters.)

Good luck!
Dave, W5DMT
 

RadioDaze

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Another thing that's said very INfrequently is: if you really want to get into the hobby, study more than just the answer pool for the exam. Use a good, current ARRL study guide. Otherwise you'll find yourself with more questions than answers when you begin to put together a station and get on the air. Your questions are reasonable to be asked by someone who is interested in getting into the hobby, and lots of folks here are looking forward to helping you. But I have seen similarly basic questions asked by forum members who already have a ham license, at least according to their user names. This indicates that either they never read the full content from which the pool questions were derived, or they didn't fully understand or retain what they read. There's always the need to keep reference materials on hand no matter what level a ham has achieved, but there are fundamental principles of electronic theory and safety, operating procedures, etc. that should have been easily remembered on the first or second exposure to such information.

I think becoming a ham is easier than it has ever been, with more access to information. But that means there are more shortcuts.

AlphaDelta10, this isn't directed at you at all. It's just an opportunity to say something I've wanted to mention for a while. Thank you for trusting us to help you with your good, intelligent questions. We hope that someday soon you will become a ham.
 

w5dmt

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I agree with RadioDaze.. I've been licensed for 25 years this year, and started out as a Novice. Then moved to General about 6 months later... It's really important that you understand basic electronic principals... Certain formulas should fly out of your head... Ohms Law, Antenna calculations, and basic db Conversions are things that will enhance your enjoyment of the hobby many fold.
 

Ref-Jazzy

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Please don't take my post wrong. It does come off as lazy and slightly irrresponsible. My way of thinking is "get your foot in the door" then study as you. RF concepts run deep and its easy to feel overwhelmed, So take it a day at a time. I have been a wireless specialist for 3 years, and im still learning.
 

RadioDaze

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Ref-jazzy, I wasn't directing at you in the least. There's a lot to be said for "getting your foot in the door" because it keeps the interest going and keeps you encouraged that you will be able to accomplish the goal. I think the online tests are great for drilling and getting ready for the real test. It helps you know when you are ready to go to the exam. But think how many of us "crammed" in school, did well on a test, and then couldn't remember the material a month later. With regard to concepts we will use all the time in our hobby, as opposed to "PostModern Pleofrastic Anthropology 101", we are all well-advised to continue to master our understanding of at least the basic elements that apply to all aspects of Amateur Radio.

Get the ham ticket, but keep studying... immerse yourself in the hobby. Become an expert to the extent that you can.
 

Ref-Jazzy

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I didnt take your post as attacking mine. When i read yours it made me think about how mine came off. When boiled right down to it, i believe you and I sir, are on the same page, when it comes to this hobby.
 

davidbond21

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Only a couple things... don't buy a Motorola "VHF Hi" radio unless you already happen to have a way to get it programmed, and I generally recommend newbies stick with one of the big 3 (Yaesu, Icom or Kenwood) but there are some exceptions out there..
That's actually pretty good advice as far as steering clear of public safety equipment(at least in the beginning). I would probably add to that, besides difficulties in having it programmed, while PS equipment can make for a great sounding radio, they make poor ham radios as far as flexibility and front panel programmability goes. If all you're doing is putting in some local repeaters and simplex frequencies, then you'll be OK, but to change anything as simple as a tone you'll have to hook it back up to a computer.
 

zz0468

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... And make sure it has tone or ctcss in it. (Theres a reason why some of the older radios run $25-50... They're worthless on todays repeaters.)
No they're not. Real hams know how to install a pl board. :p
 
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Tech license

I live in NJ I'm a SC disabled Veteran, I use to be an RTO in the Army.
I love radios and I have several scanners I have been thinking about getting my license 2 meter/ 70 CM's. I need to get help, where do I find people here in Burlington, county NJ and where do I go to take the FCC test. My wife and I both are interested in taking the test. If anybody can direct me please help.
 

KZ9G

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I live in NJ I'm a SC disabled Veteran, I use to be an RTO in the Army.
I love radios and I have several scanners I have been thinking about getting my license 2 meter/ 70 CM's. I need to get help, where do I find people here in Burlington, county NJ and where do I go to take the FCC test. My wife and I both are interested in taking the test. If anybody can direct me please help.
Go to Find an Amateur Radio License Exam in Your Area and put in your zip code and how far you would be willing to drive. There is usually contact info with the session listing.
 

LtDoc

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The original questions have been pretty well answered, but here are a few thoughts about them.

"1. To buy a ham radio, do I have to have a license?"
No, but sometimes the dealer/seller may require you to have one, a CYA thingy.

"2. What is a good starter radio if I were to get a license?"
Depends on your wallet and what you think you would be comfortable with. I think the 'top of the line' kind of radio is certainly possible to 'start' with, you just have to read that manual more. Sort of.

"3. What is the average range of the radio with an average antenna?"
Depends on the band mainly. 'Range' is a terrible way to judge things! Depending on the band and antenna, there are no limits.

"4. How much does it cost to get a license and is it easy?"
The license fee is less than $20 and the license is for a 10 year period before renewal. Renewal is free. You are given all the question AND answers that will be on any test. There are several sites that have 'practice' tests, same questions as on the real test, take them as often as you like. It isn't absolutely a 'cinch', but it only takes some study/memory to pass any of the amateur radio tests. And naturally, if you understand what's being talked about it makes things easier (called studying). If you have no knowledge of electronics it will be more difficult than if you do, right? And a good percentage of the tests cover safety and rules. Both thingys that you really should know about.

The tests aren't "give a ways" but they are certainly not that difficult.
Have fun.
- 'Doc

PS - Testing in New Jersey (or any other state) is a matter of finding a club near you, or some other organization that does testing. The ARRL link is certainly a good place to start to find such a place. I'll bet that you can think of several other ways of finding one though.
 
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acyddrop

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1. To buy a ham radio, do I have to have a license?
You don't need a license to purchase a radio and listen to it, you need a license to transmit however. Though some sellers of used equipment won't sell to people with out a license, there's no reason why legally you can't own a ham radio provided you don't transmit.
2. What is a good starter radio if I were to get a license?
It depends on your license class. If you were to get just a technician class license you'd want a good brand of 2m/70cm rig. I'd suggest something like the line of D-Star radios from Icom as they support Analog and Digital communications and Digital is definitely here to stay and gaining popularity. However if you study for your tech and your general class I'd suggest an inexpensive HF rig perhaps something used. The Icom IC-706MKIIG is an excellent rig and can be obtained used for not much more than a good hand held radio and the 706MKIIG covers HF, 6 meters and 2 meters. The good news with that is you could obtain the IC-706MKIIG with a technicians license and still take advantage of it (though in a somewhat limited capacity without your general license or higher)
3. What is the average range of the radio with an average antenna
There's no such thing as "average" range. But you could probably reasonably expect to transmit up to 25-50 miles with a 2m/70cm mobile rig. With HF rigs you could reasonably expect anything from a couple hundred miles to 1500-2000 miles it all depends on propagation.
4. How much does it cost to get a license and is it easy?
Typically you'll find it costs somewhere in the $10-15 range to get your license. In fact lets just say you studied for the Tech and the General class tests and felt you were prepared to take both. It probably will still only cost you one fee for both (whatever they charge for a testing session, mine was $15). So it's very inexpensive. However lets say you take the test and fail it but think you just had test jitters and want to take a second test it probably will cost you another test fee.

Easy is a matter of perspective. I thought the tech and general tests were silly easy and only studied maybe 6 or 7 hours at most to get a 100 on both exams. However my girlfriend is still studying for her technician test and finds it more greek than sensible.
 
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