Where to begin?

I was introduced to ham radio by an uncle in the last century. Obviously, many things have changed in this art/hobby since then. I have a solid but rusty background in electronics thanks to the US Navy Submarine Service. My intention is to pass the Tech and General exams (same day) next month. I need to rely on good mentorship to help me navigate to an enjoyable place in ham radio ops. I can see myself assisting during emergencies, for example. I would love to network with those who love woodworking since I have over fifty years experience in most areas and mill my own lumber and dry it in a kiln for use in my shop. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no intention of using an amateur radio for commercial purposes. I live in rural northern Mississippi and I feel becoming a licensed ham would be a great way to exchange ideas and build a friendship base.
So, elmers, where do you recommend I begin as far as equipment is concerned? I should mention I live in a heavily forested area. Trees here grow at least 100 feet or more in height. The terrain is not flat. Broad agricultural fields are separated by forested hills.
Thanks, in advance, for your help.

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Hello and welcome to the American radio club! I am going to leave it to one of the more experienced elmers here like @JimARC or @ChuckARC :slight_smile: But my recommendation would be starting with handheld like a Yaesu or Baofeng to make your first contact. Here is a list: The Best Handheld Ham Radios (2022) - American Radio Club

American Radio Club also has free practice tests you can use to study for your exam, and I recommend the free Ham Radio Prep app aswell. For more premium study materials, you can join the American Radio Club to get access to the courses.

Thanks for the comment and welcome to the community!

Thanks for responding. I will become a member today.

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Happy to help! Personally, I mostly use a handheld and I have made contacts on local repeaters, but there is soo much more you can do. My next step is setting up my mobile station on my truck.

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Yes, the possibilities are almost overwhelming. I was introduced to the hobby by an uncle who worked for MIT, in the middle 1950’s. Obviously, ham radio has evolved over the years since. The electronics I studied formally while in the Navy has changed drastically. Thank goodness the basic laws of electricity haven’t changed! I learned hybridized radio and tv electronics back then even though my forte was power generation and distribution aboard nuclear submarines.
I have noticed several hand held transceivers for sale. I have also considered building a shack. Years ago, I enjoyed building electronic kits and was wondering if I might save a coin or two doing so these days.
So much to learn, so little time.

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Hamfests are a great place to get gear that you want to experiment with. I’ll be in southern New England in April but the timing won’t work for the MIT Flea unfortunately. It would be dangerous to have my car available to bring things back. Last time I was on a plane so I had to keep it small.

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@member459 If you are in a heavily forested area, a handheld might be iffy in getting a signal out from the woods. Foliage has a tendency to eat up UHF signals, and even 2 meters might be difficult, depending how heavily forested the area is. It also depends how close your nearest repeater is, too. Depending on the distance involved, you might need to go with a mobile radio in your home with a directional (Yagi) antenna pointed at the repeater(s) you want to access for communications, including EmComm (emergency communications).

As far as a simple handheld, we generally recommend the readily available Baofeng UV-5R, or the version made just for ham radio, the GT-5R, which locks out the commercial frequencies for safe use. The radio sells for $25 at the most. If you want to take a step up, the Yaesu FT-4XR is a safe bet and is solid and also performs well. It sells for under $90 and also is readily available at most amateur retailers. I hope this info helps you!

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This helps very much. I had been thinking using a repeater would be the way I would need to go because of my location. I can visually see a tower from my house which I assume is a cell phone tower. Are these ever set up as repeaters? I remember finding a tower map online for our last residence in Texas. I will research that for here in MS. My mind is aglow with questions!! I am enjoying exploring this “new” world of communications very much. During the Cold War I was aware of GPS and digital comms when I rode submarines. Back then that stuff was classified and I was not in that loop as a propulsion plant operator and supervisor. I just knew the basics for qualifying for my dolphins. Submarine qualifications were intensive, though. We depended on each other for survival. After all, submarining is inherently dangerous. The number of dives I made equals the number of surfaces I made, and that’s what counts.
Thanks for being so very helpful. I prefer to not reinvent the “wheel” as I travel this new path.

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I have another course suggestion which pertains to how modulation is explained and illustrated. Years ago I learned the difference between amplitude and frequency modulation both graphically and in words. A student may wonder why the bandwidth for a CW AM transmission is much narrower than voice FM transmission, for example. A picture of a FM wave’s frequency being modulated versus an AM wave’s modulation may help some one who is new to these concepts. Having bandwidth restrictions and precautions and awareness can be emphasized with pictures and text. Honestly, I know the difference, however I had to sit and think the restrictions and precautions through for a moment or three before it sank into my muddy brain. Band plans are emphasized well. As a new operator I intend to stick with more forgiving frequencies until I hone my skills a bit. Plus, I am not familiar with equipment frequency drifting. Will heat change the frequencies noticeably, for example? I definitely have have an interest in antennas If we are serious about our hobby and art, I think its natural to look for the most efficient and practical way to broadcast.

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@member459 that’s a really great idea about showing how the AM and FM modulation differs with an animation - let me see if we can do that!

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I think it would be very helpful, particularly for students who don’t have a technical background. I remember having some difficulty understanding how frequency modulation carried the information we broadcast. Amplitude modulation made better sense to me, at least graphically. Once a person wraps their head around varying the frequency produces a “carrier wave” it you will, bandwidth regulations make better sense.
I hope yall don’t mind my comments. I think you have a great program and I used to teach related topics when I was in the service. I learned to use a few “helps” for students who were struggling to grasp concepts needed to understand electronic feed back loops, amplifiers, field effect components, etc. It’s not easy to grasp how a motor-generator set can shift back and forth given one end is a DC motor/generator and the end is an AC motor/generator. We muddled through.

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Okay., I am reaching out for some help and/or advice for how best to learn the amateur bands, frequencies and modes. I certainly understand the importance of this knowledge. I try to practice learning several different ways when I can. And, I prefer using the FCC’s part 97 rules. They are actually fairly easy to read. So…, maybe I am answering my question. Keep reviewing the material in several different ways such that I don’t get bored. I have been using the tech quizzes (several each day) to where I am scoring well consistently. Just gotta get those General license privileges down.

Thanks for the recognition, btw!

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I am trying to understand some of the ways PC’s can be used in HAM radio ops. Do I understand correctly it is possible to send and receive CW using a keyboard thru a computer? Is there software available for this? My tongue in cheek remark is what a way around learning Morse code! My run on thought is I am not an exceptionally fast typist cuz I only have seven digits meaning I had two toes surgically attached to my right hand. Poor impatient operator on the the end might fall asleep waiting for my reply, lol.

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@member459 check out this video… sending QRQ CW on an MFJ 451 CW Keyboard while interfaced with a LINUX LAPTOP - Live DEMO - YouTube

Looks like you totally can! It might be a little bit tricky to set up the software though.

Hey James,

I found something that may be of interest to you with regard to course revision. I found a 1944 US War Department film #86794 titled “FM Radio” on Youtube. Apparently this film was made shortly after the US Army was switching to FM radios because of the trouble with AM radio interference on the battlefield. I love the historical value of this film as well as its technical value. youtube.com/AzvxefRDJ84. Hopefully I copied this address correctly. I am smiling about the web address listed: www.Periscope Film.com. I am a retired submarine sailor.

Take a look-see at this

Deane Rapp

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Hello!

Being a Ham Radio operator, it is a lot of fun. It is an art that I think is highly underrated by a lot of people who don’t appreciate or understand the complexity of a ham Radio. When you start learning more about the amateur radio world, I hope you will see the art and have fun with it.

For me, my Dad has been a radio operator for the the past 40 plus years. So, I have a passion in this. I had a license for only around 5 years. But, I grew up knowing a lot about amateur radio. I have lots of knowledge on it. I am happy to help anyone who has an interest in learning! Just ask away, if I don’t know something, I will find the answer out for you.

Regarding studying, you are not required to take a particular class to get licensed. It is just to help you learn so, you can pass the exam. If you have a basic knowledge of physics, you are already going to pass half of the questions. You can get a study book that has the whole pool of questions that can be on the test along with the answers. If you study that and memorize the answers, you will pass the test. It was the way I studied for the exam. There are also lots of online courses you can take. Just make sure you do your research and find a reputable one. Because some are expensive and don’t even help. There is a course here you can take. Before your exam day, make sure you take at least one practice test.

You can get a General license if you wanted, but for me personally, the technician license gives me plenty of access to what I use it for.

Good Luck and welcome to the fun hobby!

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I like to say this as, “If you know the difference between a resistor and a capacitor you are well on your way to being licensed.” Nice post!

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