This Month I Want To Try Ham Radio

This post isn’t as much of a description of how to get into ham radio. It’s more my story of trying to get into it and the process I used.

A few years ago my dad told me he finally got his ham radio license. I had no idea what it was but he mentioned it was like a CB radio but you need a license so there aren’t as many sickos on the channels. I grew up with CB radios so it had an immediate appeal.

He sent me the tests and told me if I could pass the first two in one day he’d get me my first radio. Right away I started going through them and it made no sense. The approach I was using was to take the practice tests and see what the correct answers were if I got a question wrong. I learned a very small amount using that method so it didn’t work for me.

Every once in a while I’d spend some time trying to learn the tests but never got to a point where I was comfortable enough to pass. After a couple years I gave up on putting any real effort into learning it.

Eventually I found some study guides which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. The No Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide by KB6NU. It presented the tests in a way that actually understood why the answers were what they were. That’s what I needed. I can’t just memorize something because that’s what it is. I need to make connections to know why it is.

I still didn’t go through it until almost a year after I found it. One day in early 2018 I saw the Technician Class test was going to be changing in July. They only have each test for four years then they change the questions around. I decided it was time for me to get my license before the test changes because I didn’t know how quickly KB6NU would get the new study guide out. It turns out he’s really quick with it.

I looked up where I could take a test in my area and when they had them to set a goal. Based on when they did tests, when the test was scheduled to change, and my upcoming schedule, I had one chance to take it. The date would give me two weeks to be ready.

So I went to work reading and rereading the study guide and doing practice tests. I got to a point where I was getting almost 100% on the Technician Class practice tests then started including the General Class tests. I did the same with General and started the Extra Class tests. Two weeks later the night of the test was here.

The Night Of The Test

When I got there I wasn’t really sure where to go. I had been to the library where they had it when I was a kid but since I live in a different town I usually go to a different one. I went to the front desk and they pointed me in the correct direction. The room was in use by a different group so I got to awkwardly stand outside waiting until the time of the test and hoping I had the right time and place.

There was one other person there who was taking the Technician test. From the way everyone was talking it seemed like she had been trying for a few years to get her license but hadn’t had any luck passing. She finished before me with only a couple wrong answers and they told her she had passed. She didn’t believe them at first but was very happy to learn she really had.

I passed the Technician Class test with 100% which was a relief because I didn’t want to have to relearn for the new test which would be releasing soon. The proctors filled out and signed a sheet saying I had passed and started to pack up. They looked at me like I had 3 heads when I asked to take the next test. I saw no reason not to take it. It costs the same for me to try all 3 in one day as it does to try just one and I hadn’t gotten any wrong on the first one.

I don’t remember how many I got wrong on the General Class test but I think it was only 2 or 3. I didn’t have a chance to try for the Extra because they packed up and put their coats on while I was taking the General. Apparently they’re so enthusiastic about their hobby that taking 20 minutes away from their own time to help others really drained them of their energy.

I never went back to try for the Extra, partially because I expect it to be the same people giving the test and I don’t really want to interact with them again. Another is the suspected radio dead space that is my property.

Why I Can’t Quite Get Into It.

I put in one of my earlier posts about myself that I have difficulty getting radio reception on my property. I don’t know if it is because I am in the wrong spot in the valley so it doesn’t reach me or if the nearby airport has something to do with it.

I have a couple radios but I’ve never been able to hear anything with any of the small antennae which I’ve connected to them at my house. I heard something for about half a second while sitting in my car at a nearby school while waiting for my wife to get out of a rehearsal but that’s all the luck I’ve ever had.

The antennae are the biggest obstacle I’m having with getting into it more. I find things online which say I just need to hook a thing up to another thing and it’s guaranteed to work. But as I’ve said I can’t learn by being told something works just because it does. I have to know why the answer is what it is or none of it makes sense.

I also don’t have a good place to put a larger antenna. I can’t just run a cable across my backyard because I don’t have two places where I could attach it and it would make the already small yard less usable for activities. I do have a metal post in my front yard which was originally for a TV antenna but I don’t know how well it would work being level with the first floor of my house.


Disclaimer: Although I have done a significant amount of research before preparing this post, I am not an expert on this subject. My intent is to help people who may be interested find some more information. If you decide you would like to try this yourself, please do some additional research and use common sense.

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