No1PC: Top Ten Considerations for New Hams

Top Ten Considerations for New Hams


Amateur radio is one of THE most amazing and versatile hobbies. It is both born from and bears MANY technologies enjoyed around the world and in outer space today. Almost every technical skill is involved with amateur radio. It can make careers or come to you from a career.

Not only is amateur radio at its core technical but it is personal and a service - shared within and creating great relationships around the world. Even for those of us "born into" amateur radio with a ham parent or two, not all of the hobby comes naturally, and some if it cannot.

You may choose to simply enjoy amateur radio for personal enjoyment. If we wish to provide public services, those who ask us to provide them, also have "rules of engagement" that guide the types of communications, when and where you might provide them.

There are both legal rules and the rules of physics/science that govern amateur radio. What may have seemed easy or obvious within the intended limitations of CB or FRS, the 'appliance' operation of a business radio, or 'app' mentality of cellular phones and Internet devices are now your personal responsibility as a licensed station owner and operator.

You must ensure you and your station equipment operate/perform within laws of the land, and much of that includes awareness and compliance with the laws of science - how electrons and radio waves work.

There are hundreds if now a few thousand people technically-qualified to help you in many many ways. Consider that in school, in any course of study you probably didn't want to learn anything badly, the wrong way, unreliable, unpleasant or unsafe. So it should be with amateur radio. Your station, your technology, your operating practice.

I offer a generic Top Ten list of things I think are important, to one degree or another, to help you get started and progress in amateur radio:

  1. Review Title 47 Part 97 - the FCC Rules and Regulations
    • The specific frequencies you can operate on
    • The requirements of equipment compliance
    • Who can operate your station, identifying yourself...
    • Yes, it's a bit long and wordy and complex, but at least skim for the parts that begin to make sense

  2. Local "band plans" for 10m, 6m 2m 220, 440 repeaters and above
    • Portable and mobile radio use is one of the most popular in amateur radio. The spectrum is both crowded and not, may be open to all or interest-specific - you'll find your place.
    • Know which frequencies are simplex, repeaters, packet, APRS, satellite (just because you cannot hear a satellite or weak-signal operator on a given frequency doesn't mean it/they might not hear you)
    • Trying to squeeze in-between or make up channels will affect others nearby
    • Digital mode radios will 'hide' nearby interference

  3. HF "band plans"
    • National and global communications around the world can be one of the most enlightening challenges to accomplish - an amazing very cooperative sub-culture - even more important we know where and how to get along
    • What frequencies are commonly used for nets (on-air meetings), national and international disaster and safety programs, ATV, calling frequencies
    • You'll come to learn some frequencies to avoid (let the FCC sort out the bad guys)

  4. Station Safety and Grounding
    • Article 810 of the National Electrical applies to amateur radio
    • Proper station grounding method to maintain safety and reduce/elminate stray RF
    • PLEASE learn to use ladders and climb towers safely with the right equipment

  5. Antenna Basics
    • They aren't just pieces of wire
    • Bigger is not always better
    • Popular or attractive antennas are not always 'great'
    • Some antenna types are noiser that others
    • Nature/propation has more to do with radio than just the antenna or RF power

  6. Basic Electricity and Electronics
    • Don't imagine or make things up - truth and science will get you every time
    • Those "direct to battery" hook-up instructions may hurt your vehicle
    • If you don't know PLEASE ask!
    • Radio IS based on science, physics, technology - not magic or feelings

  7. Know Where to Find Help
    • local radio club or nearby experts
    • if you become an ARRL member you can get a list of other licensed hams in your area code
    • Find a Facebook or Yahoo group relevant to your skill and interests
    • beware reviews of technical equipment - knobs and colors and faceplates do not technogy make
    • just as there is a lot of sensational, attention-getting news and advertisements, so there are a lot of attention-getting but low-information tech help sources

  8. When You Ask For or Find Help
    • if you ask for opinions, that's what you'll get
    • opinions seldom have anything to do with technical criteria
    • be specific - what do you need help with?
    • what is your living/operating situation?
    • if you get an opinion in response to a specific question, ask that it be qualified with technical information you can look up and learn from
    • respect the help that actually helps you
    • good help will start to address the problem and preventing it

  9. Operating Practice, Etiquette, Manners, Respect
    • How and when to identify
    • How to politely enter an ongoing QSO

  10. Amateur Radio is a Unique Earned Privilege, Not a Right
    • The public and public safety don't have to regard us if they don't want to

  11. Let ham radio be enjoyable for you and others!

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