|Using Your Technician Class License|
|Articles - Non-Technical|
|Written by Brenton Salmi|
|Wednesday, 12 August 2009 15:10|
Getting your technician class license is the first step to enjoying a diverse and amazing hobby. The "tech" license allows for many privileges on the air, more than many know about or how to do! It is quite amazing that although I have my general class "ticket" (license) I find myself spending more and more time on the VHF/UHF frequencies. From chatting on my local repeater to working 6 meter (50MHz) openings, there is a lot to do! Taking this suggestion from my dad, this category has been dedicated to making the most of your first moments on the bands.
Finding radio's to use can be a challenge for a new amateur radio operator, especially if on a college budget. Being part of a college radio club will be helpful, some are not so lucky! Used hand-held VHF radios can be found priced on the lower side at "hamfests," also known as amateur radio flea markets. Low priced radios are scattered across the internet, club postings, and throughout the community by word of mouth. Even knew radios can be found on the cheaper side (Not as low as used, but still low!), several manufactures such as ICOM and ALINCO offer an entry level 2-meter (144MHz) radio price around $100. These entry level radios are built well and will take a beating, consider you money well spent as it will last you a long time.
Since being in amateur radio since my sophomore year of high school a few years back, I've learned a thing or two about the hobby. A part of the hobby that most don't realize until years later is the generosity, goodwill, and "give back" nature that exists within. Search around for a local community amateur radio club and become active with them. You might have come across the term "Elmering" a few times, this is one of the many ways to give back to amateur radio.
Elmering is when a (usually older) amateur radio operator helps a someone get into the hobby. This can range from advice, lending equipment, installing antennas, or all of the above. When I first got into amateur radio several local operators helped showing me the ropes and getting equipment. Don't go out expecting someone to lend you a radio, but remember that if you show real interest and are a trustworthy person, this may be an option for you.
Equipment To Consider
Amateur radio repeater operation is simple as well as one of the most popular forms of operating. Spread across the world, radio repeaters are the devices that allow users to extend their range greatly while using hand-held, mobile, or base-station radios.
Repeaters can extend a held-held radio's range from a few miles to 30, 50, 100+ miles as repeaters are normally installed on top of buildings, hills, and mountains. They work by re-transmitting your signal on a slightly higher or lower frequency. When the repeater re-transmits your signal, It does so with much higher power and a great height advantage. A great example of this is my experience while traveling and talking on the Mt. Equinox repeater in Vermont. I was in the Adirondack region of New york talking to another radio amateur in Connecticut (Granted, Mt. Equinox is quite high!).
Repeaters offer a nice meeting place for local "hams" as amateur radio operators are sometimes referred to as (traditional lingo). At the Rochester Institute of Technology many club members operate on the clubs repeater just to have fun and hang out as well as for public service events. Repeaters can be programmed into your radio easily for quick access. There is a common "repeater etiquette" that is very straight forward and new operators will get a hold of it quickly, it's the same as having a good conversation where common courtesy applies.
Amateur Radio Satellites
Amateur radio is a hobby that is so diverse in its members, activities, and technology that often a few very neat things are happening at a given moment. One of the neatest aareas of amateur radio is talking on the orbiting satellites that have been built by amateur radio operators just like you! Don't believe me? Check out the AMSAT website! There are a few different types of amateur radio satellites including FM (Frequency Modulation) repeaters, SSB/CW transponders (A type of repeater), PACKET/APRS repeaters, and more.
Although it may not seem like it, these "birds" as amateur radio satellites are sometimes referred to as are easier to use than one might think. In fact, with just a simple hand held and a "whip" antenna you should be able to at least listen to a satellite as one passes by over head. With inexpensive a commercial or home built antenna you will achieve much better results and has an awesome time talking to people all over the country/world. These satellites are traveling 10,000+ miles per hour at hundreds of miles above the earth, how cool is that!
Although this article quickly overviews this activity, please visit our satellite operating article for more information!
HF (High Frequency 1-30 MHz) Operation
Technician class operators do have HF privileges using both Voice and Morse Code. the "HF" bands ranging from 1-30 MHZ are the amateur radio frequencies that bounce around the world on a daily basis. Talking 1000's of miles is not uncommon at all, following the sun's influence on our atmosphere radio signals may act in strange ways making this amateur radio activity very fun. Each "Band" or range of frequencies given to amateur radio operators is affected by the sun's radiation in difference ways. Some bands travel longer distances that others generally speaking and other bands offer reliable communication within a few hundred miles.
Operating the HF bands can be a thrill, there are large amateur radio "Contests" at least a few times a month, DX (Distance Country Amateur Radio Operators), and more that will radiate from the speaker of your radio or type out across your computer screen. If you call "CQ" using voice or morse code (A traditional morse code abbreviation meaning "Calling Anyone") you may end up talking to you licensed neighbor down the street or to a person in a distance country! Many "DX" speak at least a little bit of English and sometimes hold longer conversations. I once had a hour conversation with a gentlemen in the United Kingdom, held a great conversation with an operator in Germany, and other neat contacts over my time in amateur radio. Their is a lot that can be done even without a General class license which give much more HF operating privileges and I could not go over all of the different things to do in this article (Look forward to a more in-depth article!).
Echolink/IRLP is a relatively new form of operation that not only integrates a standard amateur radio with the internet, but has removed the need for a radio. Although it is always recommended to obtain a real radio, many students just getting into the hobby may not have the ability to do so and this is a great way for them to "play around" without having a radio. From any Echolink or IRLP enabled repeater/link/program a user can connect to any other enabled system using VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and talk just as if you with right there! We've had many different stations connect to my college's amateur radio club repeater using both Echolink and IRLP. One of my neatest experiences with echolink/IRLP is when I set up a SKED (Scheduled Contact) with another teenage amateur radio operator in Australia and had a good conversation for a half hour while he was driving!
Public Service/ Emergency Communications
Amateur radio has been a proven resource for emergency communications in the event of natural disasters and other threats. It has also been proven as an extremely efficient form of communication that can provide large events such as marathons, charity rides, and other events with the needed reliability, organization, and skill. The technical know-how and reliability of amateur radio networks can be the only form of communication with the outside world as in the case of hurricane Katrina. Cell phone and public safety networks were completely destroyed leaving amateur radio operators the task of creating a way to "get messages in and out" of the area. With these networks incapable of operating it was the radio amateur that set up mobile repeaters, emergency HF stations, and alternative power sources that formed the communications backbone necessary for an event of this scale.Organization withing amateur radio exist to assist these services such as RACES, ARES, and SKYWARN.
Public service is also a large part of amateur radio and many local events spread throughout the year near ask amateur radio operators to provide volunteer communications services to help. Not only is this good practice in case of an emergency, you may need to actually report and provide the logistics necessary if an attendee of the event is hurt. Many amateur radio operators volunteer their time to do this, a great example in the Boston Marathon!
And on we go...
There are more activities that can be done with just the technician class license! For you technical minded college students out there, going higher in frequency may be a fun thing to try out. Operating on the microwave frequencies is a great way to play with tomorrow technology. Using laser and other light sources to communicate large distances has been an area of interest for myself as well. Relatively simple and rewarding there is a lot of potential to use these higher frequencies! With even more areas of interest for technician class licensees it is not possible to write about it all, get out there and give it a shot! Use the amateur radio spirit and be inventive and explore the ocean of possibilities that this hobby offers!
|Last Updated on Monday, 12 October 2009 23:46|