KM4OLT - Mike's Ham Home
Ham operators have to have a license in order to broadcast on the air. I said broadcast. Many people initially do a lot of listening to find out what kind of conversations go on as well as see what data is transmitted. But geting licensed isn't that difficult or expensive.
For many they hear the word "licensing" and think money, Time, knowing in-depth technical information, having to learn Morse Code, or other concerns. I want to quickly address some that I can think of.
1. Expense - to take an exam is approximately $15.
2. Time - this could mean time to learn for taking the exam to time taking the exams. This will vary from person to person but with all the online exams that you can practice with and all the information regarding these questions some people have studied very little. There is a couple of reason. One is that on the Technician class license there is 426 possible question. The tests contains only 35 of those questions taken from that pool of 426. You have to get at least 26 right. But the thing is you can have all the answers to the questions ahead of time. So it's not like when you get to the exam you see a question like some teacher pulled out of their head and no one has seen before. With the online exams you can take them enough times to have seen all the questions and answers.
3. Knowing in-depth technical information - there are several types of people here. Some will just go through online exams and know the answers to the questions, maybe even memorize them. Others come from electronics or technical backgrounds and the information is intriguing. Some want to get on the air but have no desire to learn the electronics end of things other than how to connect up a radio and get on the air. The most important pieces is knowing your limitations of your license etc. Knowing what frequencies, how to communicate and when and what the regulations are. You can get on the air with knowing those and abiding by them and really not care how transistors work etc. I'm sure some older ham is throwing things or cussing right now thinking I'm speaking blasphemy or something. There are so many different types in the Ham arena. Some can build their own radios and others buy everything al ready to get except connect the pieces, plug it in and turn it on. So the same thing with technical knowledge. Some know enough to pass the exam but really don't have much need on the inner workings of a radio. Others like me want to know how everything works and why.
4. Learning Morse Code - No longer required. In 2003 the requirement to learn Morse Code as part of the licensing was removed. With so many communications options available to the amateur Morse Code requirement didn't seem to serve the public's best interests. For myself I find myself challenged to learn it even though I have my license and many do. They find it fun and exciting. Morse Code is one of those methods of transmitting that takes less power and bandwidth and typically can reach when other methods don't. But if you're like me it's not something I can pick up that easily. I don't know why. But at least it's not stopping you from getting your license or getting on the air now.
5. I need an expensive radio - Far from it. There are groups that pride themselves on using the lowest power possible to reach as far as they can. Some with nothing more than a $5 circuit board and a morse keyer or microphone. If you're one of those that are rich, retired and have worked hard all their lives and have money for whatever reason like having the latest and best equipment, then you can get into radios that cost as much as a car. One I saw was $15,000. My first radio was a Baefeng UV-5R handheld. It cost me $35 which included the shipping and I was on the air on 2m and 70cm. It's better to start out small and inexpensive to kind of explore what you like and what features you may want in a future radio. You wouldn't want to spend $15k on a radio only to find out after all that effort and having a radio you just don't have that much time or it's not what you thought it was.
6. I need a huge tower with all sorts of antennas sticking out - I know many people think of Ham radio and they envision some guy with a tower in their yard that looks like they're trying to compete with the local TV stations. But that depends on a lot of needs. Some people try to see how small they can get an antenna and still reach around the world. Some have nothing more than a couple of wires strung between 2 poles in their yard. Some handhelds only have a 4" whip antenna on the top of them. You may never have a need for a big tall tower or huge expensive antennas.