Starting Out in Amateur Radio
Some may say the days of the wireless are long gone, usurped by the ubiquitous internet; Nothing could be further from the truth for the millions of Amateur Radio Operators, or ‘Hams’ around the world. You would be surprised how easy it is for you to join this club and soon be chatting around the world without a telephone or internet connection.
Wherever in the world you live you need to get a government licence before you can operate your own radio station – though it’s certainly not a daunting process in most countries. Many authorities now have a tiered licensing regime and to get a Novice or Foundation licence normally entails a day at the local Radio Club or College to learn the basics of Radio Transmitting and the License Conditions. There will then be a simple multiple-choice test, normally marked on the day and you could walk away with the licence in your hand.
When you have a licence it is time to start thinking about equipment. In the days of Thermal Valves and “steam driven” radio, all Hams built their own equipment, as none was commercially available. Nowadays there are large emporiums filled with exciting, shiny, radio equipment, mainly from Japan and the Far East. Chinese made radios have recently taken the market by storm with simple Walkie-Talkies costing as little as $30 new. This is a great way to dip you toes into the Ham Radio waters.
Many Hams do enjoy building their own equipment and it does not need to be hard or too technical to get started. An easy project would be to build a bigger aerial for that new Walkie-Talkie which will give you greater range and more people to talk to. Perhaps then you get the bug for wanting to throw your signal further out – talking to stations in other countries or even the other side of the world? Ham operators call this “Working DX” and it is not hard, even for a simple novice operator.
The easiest way to work long distances is to use Morse Code – you many think it was dead and buried, but a listen to any Amateur Radio bands and you’ll find it alive and well. A very cheap, or even home built set and a length of wire with a Novice Licence and you could be working the world! From there you can go with the hobby as the mood takes you – you may aim for a higher licence, you may want to work the amateur satellites or even talk to the International Space Station, or volunteer to help with Emergency Communications. All is possible from a simple start in this wide ranging and interesting pastime.