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Author Topic: Should I become a ham?  (Read 1260 times)
W8FEU-SON
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Posts: 3




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« on: October 17, 2003, 12:35:41 AM »

I apologize if this is the wrong forum for this question.  Let Me know and I would move this to the right one.

I think that I might actually be showing symptoms of being bitten by the amateur radio bug decades later.

My dad was W8FEU (SK 1996).  I can remember watching him build and operate his station.  I can remember reading all the neat articles in the Radio Amateur's Handbooks and QST from the 40s and 50s, before I was born.

And yet, I didn't have a burning desire to be a ham.

Way back in 1978 our HS electronics teacher ran a class  on amateur radio and I passed the 5 WPM Novice test.  Unfortunately, the form 610 got lost in the bureaucracy.  What with getting ready for college and all, I dropped the idea.

I graduated with an EE degree (THAT influence from ham radio stuck) and went to work.  I gradually drifted over to the software side and no longer do any hardware design at all at work.  In the 90s, when the No Code Technician came out, I was working very long hours at a dot-com company in California and renting a dinky apartment.

Now that I have settled down a bit with an actual house with a yard and finally have some spare $$$, I am finding that maybe I want to do this.  Then again, maybe it's just a whimsy and I'll have forgotten about it in a couple months.

I passed the code before (102 letters straight) and I'm sure if I brushed up I could do it again.  I've looked at the General question pool and could probably do well there once I learn the various band assigments and study antennas a little.

But do I want to?

What would y'all recommend to help get the information to make a decision?

Since the license is cheap, I could perhaps just pick up a ticket even if I never get on the air.

Maybe I could buy a receiver and just LISTEN for a couple months to decide if I want to be part of the scene?  If that's the way to go, where should I start?  Down in HF?  6 meters?  2?  What about an antenna?  I don't want to build some enormous tower like My dad had (not to mention fighting the association) and decide "nah."

I don't want to pour gasoline on the flames, but I view CW as an essential part of MY image of a ham and would want to do at least a LITTLE work there.  I wonder if that only those who are really good (15 WPM+) are the only ones left there and My pitiful 5-6-7 that I could manage would be totally inadequate.

As I mentioned above, I would like to dabble in home-brewing, but is that really viable any more?  In these days with uP-controlled super-precise PLLs, would a little, oh, say, 2-tube transmitter be completely unacceptable in stability and quality?  

I know that no one can make the decision for Me, but where should I look for help?
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WD7G
Member

Posts: 17




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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2003, 12:47:47 AM »

Jump on in. It only takes 5 words per minute nowadays for any of the HF licenses. I'll be happy to have a CW Qso with you at your speed at any time that's convenient. SSB is fine too. All your other questions can be answered for the most part right on this site at the various forums. Look into the "Boat Anchor," and "Homebrew" particularly. There are plenty of good kits out there. Elecraft makes a superb one. Oak Hills, Small Wonder Labs, Ten Tec, all have a nice line of kit radios. The homebrewing spirit is alive and well, including glow-in-the-dark rigs.

-- 73 -- WD7G
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W5CPT
Member

Posts: 557




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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2003, 10:02:26 AM »

Certainly not the only reason FOR becoming a Ham is that, in your chosen field, Hams have a great "Good Ole Boy Network" that could prove very valuable to your career. I was in the Electronics Logistics Field for many years and being a Ham opened doors for me that I might not have been able to go through otherwise.  Check around your office parking lot and see how many antennas you see on the cars.

Go for it.

de W5CPT
Clint
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OBSERVER11
Member

Posts: 657




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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2003, 11:13:38 AM »

my first thought is... GO FOR IT...

but if you read this web site, "WHAT! Are you NUTS?" comes to mind.
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N8UZE
Member

Posts: 1524




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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2003, 08:02:44 PM »

I say go for it too.  And don't be afraid to work CW even at a very slow pace.  Any decent person will slow down for you.  That's how we all started.  If you really like it, you'll improve just by using it.

It seemed like it was a lot of work to get to 5wpm.  Someday you may have the same thought I had recently.  And that is now it's rather spooky that 15wpm seems rather slow.
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3729




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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2003, 11:41:42 PM »

Hi,

Sorry, it is too late, HAM is in your blood,
the  fact that you are posting here shows it !

After you get your license, did you know that
you can apply and receive your fathers callsign ?

Good luck on the testing.

73 james
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FRANKM12
Member

Posts: 46




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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2003, 01:04:56 AM »

Sorry to hear your Dad's SK in 1996.  I would guess that somewhere in your mind you want to relive the expereiences you had as a kid, especially since your Dad was so avid a Ham.

I just got in last year.  Being a disabled vet, my finances are tough so I've not been able to enter the arena the way I would like to.  BUT since the VA owes me some money, I'm going to get in soon.

I don't know what makes people get into radio.  I remember as a kid the way I felt about radio.  It was magic!  Somehow these waves went thru the ether and played music.  How could this be?  Then there was the galenas and the cat's whiskers; old WWII headsets and then listening to WLOF, Channel 95 and Bill Vermillion's crazy antics at nite.

Then there was the war.  I ended up in Combat Support fixing B-52's, assigned to Quality Control and Avionics Maintenance while effectively writing tech orders at 19.  What a job!   How the hell did I do it without understanding maybe 1/10th of the stuff?

It's the awe factor for me, like what Einstein said about the universe and God.  Also, we are/will be indispensable during disasters and even wars God forbid.  Then there's the TRULY international nature of the field that says something the dolts that run this world should look more closely at.
frank
KG4VLQ
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W8FEU-SON
Member

Posts: 3




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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2003, 11:32:43 PM »

No, did NOT know that I could "inherit" My dad's call sign.  The idea of passing on the torch (key?) is appealing.  Almost like a coat of arms.

There would be something to said for, oh, AA7XYZ or whatever, which would be MINE.  I can also see someone trying to work Arizona hearing "W8FEU" and thinking "Damned Michigander."  

I went to a hamfest today and watched the Jamboree on the Air for a while.  Seeing the scouts talk to each other and talking to the OMs there has probably pushed Me over from "maybe" to "probably."

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AA8LL
Member

Posts: 400




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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2003, 02:33:58 PM »

I also think you should "go for it".  However a quick call sign search shows another fellow in Michigan has already obtained your Dad's old call.  There are many things to do in ham radio and your interest in cw is comforting.  You could get one of those kits from Elecraft and show us how to make it better!  (Maybe you'd better stick with the 2-tubes, hi!)I find it a nice "inside" activity to do when the weather is not good for "outside".  I also like to travel and operate as DX.  The problem with a modest antenna setup is you can mostly hear the local rag-chewer types.  CW will make that better, but if the DX bug truly bites, you will need that big antenna and possibly some real estate to go with it.  There are worse things that could happen to you.
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K0AST
Member

Posts: 21




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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2003, 07:12:47 AM »

Why not, at 41 I did, and it has been a lot of fun!  

I never had a "ham dad" or even a technical mentor of any type.  Electronics does not come easy to me, but I had no problem passing the Tech & General tests, as well as CW lite.

I have a Icom 706MIIG mobile set-up right now, and do mostly commuting ham contacts.  It's that "magic of radio" thing, where I get to talk drive-time to people all over the US when the bands are right.  I end up not even noticing the commute time, and have a big ol' smile on my face when I walk in the door!

Why did I do this so late?  Not sure.  Wish I had done it earlier.

Was it a big investment of time?  Nope.  Of dollars?  Not really.

Is there any downside to getting started?  Can't see any.

Look at it this way -- if you fork out say $1500 for an all new mobile setup (706MKIIG, AH-4b, whip or screwdriver antenna)you can also use as a base (with antenna change) and you end up not liking this and getting bored, you can get about 60-85% of your dollars back on ebay for it.  In the mean time, you won;t spend yout time ever wondering if you should have done this...

BTW, don't let the fractuous ranklings on eham dissuade you at any time.  The squeakiest hams often need to get their egos greased here.  Most everyone I meet is great!

73'

Dan

PS. I think one of the reasons I got into this may be yours as well, a need for more "luddite" technology in the digital, software age.  A fun form of human interaction with technology that reaches way back, and still moves forward at the same time.
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N6AJR
Member

Posts: 9910




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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2003, 06:57:54 PM »

the ve session will cost between $12 and $14. you can study the current test here and on QRZ.com.  You can down load the free Software from G4FON.co.uk for a great way to get back with the code ( Koch method, start with 2 letters and when 90% add one more)

So for Under $15 you become a ham, and you can buy gear on ebay cheep  good luck see you on the air..DO IT NOW

73  tom N6AJR
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3729




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« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2003, 08:33:02 PM »

Hi,

The call w8feu is still valid until 6/26/2005
and has the same last name as the original who
posted this to the forum.

Not sure but unless the family/estate files
form with FCC that the person is SK the callsign
stays valid until expriation and is locked out for
a period of time.  So he could apply for his fathers callsign.

Also you are not obligated to change your callsign
when you relocate out of the FCC zones so the
w8feu or ke4drn could be anywhere in the us.

73 james
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KC8YNH
Member

Posts: 4




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« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2003, 06:48:45 PM »

By all means get your ticket!  I'm 48 and just got my
call sign last Thursday.  I had an interest in amateur radio when I was a kid but we didn't have much money and I didn't really know anyone who was a ham who could have helped me.  As I got older, going to school and getting into a career drove the idea out of my mind.  What brought the interest alive again was buying a set of the "5 mile" GMRS radios.  I found out you have to have a license to use them (no test, but you have to pay $75.00).  I started to think, "Shoot, I should look into what it would take to get a ham license."  I found out it was easier than I thought.  You're already a step ahead, having done code before.  I have to tell you that, when I saw my callsign come up for the first time on one of the callsign servers, I got tears in my eyes because it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.  Regardless of what you end up doing in ham radio, if you don't go for your license, you'll always regret it.

73,

Judy
KC8YNH
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W8FEU-SON
Member

Posts: 3




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« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2003, 10:09:05 PM »

Well, I ordered some books and disks from the ARRL.  I know, not the cheapest way, and maybe not the best, but I presume they are at least adequate.

I looked at the question pools (all the way to Extra) and My EE degree helped with about 80% of them.  I've downloaded part 97 and gone over it a few times.

I still need to learn who can do what on which band with what license.  I don't see any way but rote memorization for that.

I don't know diddly about antennas.  This is an area I will have to really study, since making, installing, testing, and tuning an antenna is a major factor whether I'll be able to call more than 5 miles away.
Just being able to pass the test isn't enough.  I have a particular problem with location, as I have a 55'x25' back "yard" and a HOA that will squawk at anything visible from the front (I can do what I want in the back if it isn't higher than the house).  If I only worked 1-1/4m, that wouldn't be a problem, but trying to get an antenna that will do 40m and under in that space is going to be tough.  Physics...
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FRANKM12
Member

Posts: 46




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« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2003, 12:51:59 AM »

W8FEU son,

If hams get their way, HOA's will not be able to torture us as they'd like to do.  HOA's stink in many ways but to endanger the emergency work that Hams do would be cardinally stupid.  There are just a few things HOA's are going to have to put up with and I sure hope they'll have to show tolerance towardsd us.
frank
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