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Author Topic: Discouraged  (Read 1311 times)
KJ4DMO
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Posts: 6




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« on: December 01, 2008, 02:03:13 PM »

Hello,

We are new to amateur radio; my 13 year old son and I just acquired our licenses this year.  We both have 2m HTs (I have a 2m/70cm Yaesu FT-60 and he has an Icom V8 Sport.)  We have been trying to save up for an HF rig, but they are quite expensive and it's taking a long time.

That's the discouraging part. We would like to try to inspire other kids to get their licenses and get involved, but we're not sure how to help them overcome the expense.  To get on HF, you need a rig, power supply, antenna tuner, SWR meter and plenty of wire and cable to get a decent antenna up.  That's a lot.  And if you add proper grounding it get's even more complicated and expensive.  How did people do this in the past?

We had heard that a local group of students all got their technician license and after 1 year, 90% were not active in any more with amateur radio. When asked why, the two main responses were  "no time" and "too expensive."  We can't fix the time problem, but the expense should be something we can figure out.

What about kits? Radios are so complicated now that it seems nobody can build one inexpensively any more.

How do you overcome the expense of getting on the air in the HF realm?

We're looking for suggestions on how to get to most of the popular bands with as little expense as possible.

Thanks and 73,

KJ4DMO
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W3LK
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Posts: 5639




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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2008, 03:45:34 PM »

With all due respect, amateur radio is no more expensive than any other technical hobby: competitive shooting, photography, auto racing and so forth. I have learned over the years that if you really want something, you find a way to pay for it.

That said, used HF rigs abound in the $300-$500 range. A suitable power supply can be had new for $100 (less used). Antennas can be homemade for $20 or less (not counting coax) and so forth.

73,

Lon - W3LK
Naugatuck, Connecticut
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A smoking section in a restaurant makes as much sense as a peeing section in a swimming pool.
NA0AA
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Posts: 1042




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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2008, 05:00:23 PM »

I have to agree, there are few technical hobbies that don't have some cost associated with them, so I have a bit of trouble with the idea it's too expensive.  Sure, top of the line gear is but used is reasonable and available.

BUT that's not what you wanted to hear.

Second hand equipment - if you really read the old timer stories, everyone had an elmer who loaned 'em either a receiver or a transmitter [usually a receiver] and they would build a one, two or three tube CW transmitter.

you can still do that today with kits, anything from milliwatt to 5 watt or so CW transmitter kits are reasonably priced from a variety of vendors.

MFJ has some receiver kits in their catalogue, I know there are others.

Flea markets and elmers - scrounge the radio clubs?  If you have clubs around, many of them have older gear they might let you have on loan or for low cost, or maybe they would let you borrow their club station at some point?

In my experience, kids tend to value the things they work for more than anything just handed to them, so don't overlook earning money to pay for this equipment.
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NA0AA
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Posts: 1042




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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2008, 06:02:40 PM »

I wanted to amplify also, that you can build antennas very cheaply, and learning how to match them without an expensive antenna tuner is an additional learning experience - for example, making a 5/8th wave ground plane for 20 meters or something of that nature.

Recycled Coax:  Ask the phone company if they can let you have spool ends, or better yet, ask the guys on the truck.  It's a bit different to work with but the 75 Ohm coax will match well enough for your work and TV coax is actually pretty darn good stuff since it has to handle UHF.

Power supplies:  Temporary power supplies are used car batteries and chargers.  Most households have at least one charger around.

One thing I would do if I had a group of youngsters who were interested, if I could get a hold of a couple of used radios is to made a deal that any member of the group who gets a license or an upgrade would get to borrow the rig for a month or somthing like that - help setting it up and getting on the air.

Plus, if I could I'd scrouge up some SW receivers to let others borrow to listen with.  Smaller battery sets are not expensive used either.
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KJ4DMO
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2008, 07:51:26 PM »

You all are right. I was having a whiny "poor me" spell today, and you all snapped me out of it with some really good ideas.  I particularly like the SW receiver idea.   I have a County Comm GP-4L for which I only paid about $25 including shipping.  It's great for listening to various stations all around the world... which is what originally gave me the bug as a kid myself for radio.

Perhaps starting each kid off with something like that and teaching them about frequencies and antennas. Then you can step it up a little to 2M with a used radio and perhaps some CW with a small hand made QRP rig in an Altoids can would be a fun project.

You are correct when you say that when they work for it, they appreciate it more.  The things my son values the most are the things he worked to earn.

Thanks for snapping me out of it!

(anyone have an old HF rig they want to unload real cheap?)  ;-)

73!
KJ4DMO
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KA1MDA
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Posts: 543




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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2008, 09:35:37 PM »

Actually, getting into ham radio today is cheaper than it has ever been!

Take, for example, specialized modes like SSTV, RTTY, AMTOR, etc. 20 years ago, each of those modes would have required hundreds of dollars worth of specialized equipment. Today, all you need to utilize those modes is a PC with a soundcard running some free software.

Radio prices have also dropped drastically. If I wanted to get on the HF/VHF/UHF bands when I originally got my ticket, I would have needed an HF radio, a 6 meter multimode, a 2 meter multimode, and a 70 cm multimode. Oh yea, don't forget the seperate general coverage receiver as well to monitor the short wave bands. Today, you can get all that in a single box for less than the price of an 80's HF transceiver!

Heck, the IC-706MK2G I bought in 2000 only cost $175 more than the 25 watt 2 meter multimode IC-290H I bought in 1985. If you take inflation into account, I think the 706MK2G works out cheaper than the 290H!

Tom, KA1MDA
www.ka1mda.org

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N7NBB
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Posts: 380


WWW

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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2008, 06:51:17 AM »

This is NOT intended as a "direct" attack to you and may or may not apply to your specific situation, but after 8 years of teaching HAM Classes I've made some observations..., so please don't take it personally. The same people who are saying that HAM radio is "too expensive" are probably saying that with one or more $200 GAME CONSOLES at home, a $150 or more i-Pod & Cell Phone (with monthly charges) in their pocket, a TOM-TOM (or similar) on the dashboard... not to mention the NEW HD flat panel TV, computers, etc etc... Technology is expensive.  You just have to put it into that perspective and then CHOOSE... WHERE will you get your enjoyment ? you and your son watching the big game on that new HD TV... or you and your son spending quality time making some DX contacts.  After that rant (sorry) there are lots of opportunities for enjoying this hobby on a shoestring (read that non-existent) budget .. find a club and become active... attend Field Day, JOTA, Public Service events, SKYwarn day, Contest weekends, etc. etc. most clubs will be happy to let you take your turn at the microphone, in exchange for you lending a hand helping to setup / teardown / cook / etc.. the secret here is become an "ACTIVE" member of the club. Which by the way will put you on the inside track for USED equipment too.
Best of luck, and enjoy the hobby.
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KE4DRN
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Posts: 3722




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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2008, 07:35:25 AM »

hi Steve,

Some may disagree with me, however, don't overlook
the older Kenwood hybrids like the ts-520, ts-530, ts-820 and the ts-830.  
All 'solid state' except for the driver and final tubes.

best thing is they have internal power supplies and
if there is a failure down the road it is easy to fix,
unlike the modern radios.

an hour or two with a fellow elmer and you will be on
the HF bands.  you can even use these radios on the
digital modes psk31 or SSTV !

Many available in the $ 200-300 range.

sometimes the radios are for sale on the forum
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TS-520_820_530_830/

if you do not belong to a local club,
you can find one with this link

http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/club/clubsearch.phtml

73 james



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AA4PB
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Posts: 12841




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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2008, 08:20:18 AM »

Actually, getting into ham radio today is cheaper than it has ever been!
------------------------------------------------------
It depends on what you are getting into. What is missing today is the cheap military surplus. There was a time when you could purchase a new ARC-5 transmitter for $10. Home brew a power supply made with parts from an old TV set and you had a CW transmitter ready to go. Another $10 for an ARC-5 receiver plus a wire dipole and you were on the air.

You can still get on the air for under $50 if you build a 5W CW transceiver kit. You have to think beyone going to the store and buying a new 100W, all band CW/SSB transceiver. You either have to go very used or stick with low power CW if you want to minimize cost.
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WW5AA
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Posts: 2086




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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2008, 08:48:15 AM »

....and if you learn the technical end of repairing equipment you can make some pretty good deals. The incentive licensing bunch is always blowing stuff up!

73 de Lindy

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K7KBN
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Posts: 2802




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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2008, 10:20:57 AM »

WW5AA said:  "....and if you learn the technical end of repairing equipment you can make some pretty good deals. The incentive licensing bunch is always blowing stuff up!"

---And that's why I no longer offer to loan any of my backup rigs out.  After having to repair damage caused by some new "hams" doing exactly what I cautioned them NOT to do, I decided it was best all around if they provided their own equipment.  Last I heard they had gone inactive.  No loss.

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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
W0FM
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Posts: 2055




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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2008, 03:09:24 PM »

I have long been a proponent of the fact that a 2M handheld radio is not the best introduction to amateur radio.  Kids see the little radio on your belt, hear a voice come out of it and get interested.  Maybe they relate it to a free cell phone.  But, in my opinion, it will more often than not end up sitting on a shelf when the contacts are few and far between and often from the same people all the time.

Inexpensive QRP transceivers are not that difficult to assemble with a little help.  My first antenna (40 meter dipole) was hung between two peach trees and fed with just 30 feet of RG58 from my bedroom window.  I made all kinds of contacts on 40 and 15M.  I was 14 and there was nothing complicated involved.

Be a little "suspect" of a young person getting all starry-eyed over your 2M handheld and make an effort to show him that entry into the HF world is not so hard and not so expensive.  Their journey in the hobby will probably be longer.

Good luck.  Our hobby needs people like you who care.

73,

Terry, WØFM

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WD5ABC
Member

Posts: 37




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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2008, 06:12:17 PM »

Don't give up, there are ways to get on the air without breaking the bank.  If the kids are into computers, point them at the Softrock 40 Yahoo group, Tony offers several kids, I built a transceiver kit for $32 that puts out 1 watt.  That's not much, but you can make contacts, and it's a 2 band rig.  Antennas are almost free, find some cheap wire (aluminum electric fence wire is about $15 for a quarter mile or so) and use twin lead ($18/100 ft at Radio Shack) and build a cheap tuner from spare parts.  Or, get second hand coax.  Or, new cheap coax, on the lower bands it won't have much loss and you won't need a tuner if you make the antenna resonant.

Another choice if they are more into analog stuff is a NorCal 40A.  I built one in '97 and have used it on and off ever since, including every year at Field Day.  I think that kit is up to about $140 now but it's still a great rig, has a good receiver and good filtering.

12v supplies aren't a problem either, especially for qrp rigs.  Building a power supply is a great first project, or let them use a battery and a charger like somebody else mentioned.  Don't run the charger while they're transmitting.

73 and good luck with the kids, above all have fun!
Kerry, WD5ABC
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KJ4DMO
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Posts: 6




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« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2008, 08:43:05 PM »

Thanks to everyone for the good points and good pointers.

As far as the Softrock 40 rigs, the site I went to didn't appear to have kits for sale.  Does anyone know where you can purchase one of these kits?

Thanks!

kj4dmo
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KA1MDA
Member

Posts: 543




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« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2008, 09:17:51 PM »

"What is missing today is the cheap military surplus"

I never used military surplus, but had my share of boat anchors...

I started out with an HW-8 qrp loaner rig my elmer shoved into my hands when I passed the novice test he administered. A couple of hours later I had scrap wire stapled in a zig-zag pattern to the rafters in the attic, making a fan dipole.

Then I updated to a heathkit HR-1680 receiver ($30 at Hosstraders). It had a cold solder joint that needed reheating. I threw up an outdoor 80 meter inverted vee made from scrap wire and a used $10 balun. Matched it up with a Heathkit Apache transmitter ($50 at local hamfest)- the band switch needed cleaning/repair.

God, that Apache weighed more than a 7,500 BTU air conditioner! I used to have a bubble level on the shelves above the table to prove to everyone the shelves were level- it was the table that was tilted under the weight of the Apache! A year later, I found the matching Heathkit HX-1681 and power supply ($125 at Hosstraders).

All in all, I got on the air quite cheaply, buying used equipment, repairing it, scavanging for filters/accessories, etc. Looking back, I think it was almost as much fun searching for hard to fine accessories at ham fests and via packet (wayyy before the internet or AOL!)as it was operating.

Tom, KA1MDA

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