Intrested in becomming a HAM, feel free to contact us anytime. Send us a message and a KARC mentor will be in touch with you to help guide your through entering this exciting hobby.
What is Ham Radio?
A housewife in North Carolina makes friends over the radio with another ham in Lithuania. An Ohio teenager uses his computer to upload a digital chess move to an orbiting space satellite, where it’s retrieved by a fellow chess enthusiast in Japan. An aircraft engineer in Florida participating in a “DX contest” swaps his call sign and talks to hams in 100 different countries during a single weekend. In California, volunteers save lives as part of their involvement in an emergency response. And from his room in Chicago, a ham’s pocket-sized hand-held radio allows him to talk to friends in the Carolinas. This unique mix of fun, public service and convenience is the distinguishing characteristic of Amateur Radio. Although hams get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These bands are radio frequencies reserved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by hams at intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up into extremely high microwave frequencies.
How do you become a ham
To become a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (ham), you need to take a test that ensures you know the basics of radio and the operating rules. The license structure is currently broken down into 3 operating classes with increasing privileges. You must pass each test to advance to the next level.
Technician: Entry level operating license that allows operation on frequencies above 50 MHz with limited output power. The test includes questions on basic electronics and radio theory, safety, and operating rules
General: Intermediate level operating license that allows operation on all amateur radio bands with higher power limits. Some frequencies within the bands are still off limits (see Extra below). The test includes more advanced electronic theory, safety including issues with the higher power limits, operating rules, and the ability to receive and interpret Morse code at a speed of 5 words per minute.
Extra: Top most license level with full operating privileges. This license gives access to all available amateur frequencies and modes. The test involves advanced electronic and radio theory, safety issues, operating rules, and testing procedures.
Testing overview and locations
Amateur radio testing is now performed by volunteer testers. The tests are multiple choice with questions taken from a publicly available “pool” of questions. For example, the Technician test will have 35 questions randomly choose from a pool of about 300 questions. You must get at least 26 questions correct (74%) to pass the test. There is a small charge (about $10-20) for each exam session.
Test are conducted in many locations on almost every day of the week. Click here for the Atlanta area exam locations and schedules
There are many online resources for help getting prepared for the exams. Many involve online “simulated” tests that are very helpful.
How to get started
The best way to learn about ham radio is by doing it. Get a Technician licensing study book from the ARRL book store or your public library and get the technician license. Then get on the air and talk to others.
There are many opinions on this, but one suggestion is to buy your first radio a 2 meter FM Handheld Transceiver (HT). This is a self contained unit with a small “rubber ducky” antenna. It will allow access to repeaters in most areas. For use in a vehicle, it can be connected to a power socket (cigarette lighter) and an external antenna. As you get more familiar with the hobby, other equipment will follow.