I Passed a Few Tests, Now What?

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by 3M-TA3, Sep 4, 2017.

  1. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    After a long break in study I decided a few weeks ago it was time to get the job done and get my amateur license. Tonight I took and passed the Technician exam. Then I took and passed the General exam. Then I took and passed the Extra exam. OK, so I proved I can book learn a bit and pass some tests. Now it looks like the real learning begins. It's a strange feeling to have licensed access to all the allowed bands, but have zero operational experience. Basically, regardless of Extra privileges, I'm as dumb as a box of rocks, so I'm turning to the tree for guidance on my next steps.

    I don't see myself as a hobbyist. My interest is in emergency and survival communications. I'm thinking in terms of use case scenarios, like what solution is best for vehicles vs what to take on foot vs what to have at home to monitor for news as well as to participate in emergency comms. I'm also interested in what you all think are the best reference materials.

    One postscript for those who haven't taken the plunge yet - don't put it off if you are thinking about it and perhaps a bit intimidated. The easy way is to do what I did - I used hamtstonline.com. The adaptive teaching process they use will get you up to speed very quickly. You can test drive it for free at HamTestOnline™ - Try it
  2. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Well, I would suggest learning CW. Please, don't roll your eyes.

    I would also suggest looking at an MFJ-9296 for 6 band HF coverage (plus enough overlap for SW listening)
    and a QRPGuys tuner ($25) (EFHW Mini Tuner - QRPGuys) for an end fed half wave antenna. Small easy to carry and easy on the batteries full coverage setup. Also - least cost new equipment you will find on the market.

    Welcome to ham radio. Much more 'fun' with the code....
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    What's next? Time to wet your toes on the air. First thing I'd suggest (after finding a club to visit) would be an H/T and find a local net operating on 2 meters. (I use one at home for that but uv cuss can go with you on the road.) I suspect that every repeater in the US hosts a net at some time, but the club guys will point you to specifics.
    Here's one of several lists of repeaters across the US.
    Amateur Radio Repeater database - Updated daily

    Glad you're getting into it.
  4. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    I was at my local Legion the other night, I was asking a member that I've hung a few antennas for how his radio was working. It seems my antenna hanging skills are , for now , up to par. I was asking him about getting into this as well. So I'll be looking around here trying to learn a little about this hobby, and maybe ask a few dumb questions. Thanks for the link to that site, I'll be working with it as well.
  5. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Congratulations, 3M....opening a door to a new world. — · — · — — · —.......— · — · — — · —......— · — · — — · —

    I felt the same way when doing an Assault Pioneer course with the Infantry Centre. creating a ring main with real explosives, det-cord and detonators is not the same as playing with plasticine, window sash cord, and simulated detonators. Things get real when theory changes to practical application of knowledge and skills. I still have all my fingers, and you will also survive any bloopers, I'm sure. (y)
  6. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    any antenna you have to pay for, you need to get the knowledge to make that choice from experience, DO NOT go buy any antenna on somebody else's word. For HF, wires are hard to beat and the education you get from it is the majority of the answer to your question. For VHF/UHF, ground plane verticals made from a SO-239 panel mount socket, a few feet of stiff copper wire, and some 4-40 nuts and bolts. I won't recommend trying to build your first radio but absolutely don't spend a thousand bucks before you know what it does for you. Find old cheap radios that do some of what you want, SEE WHAT THAT'S LIKE FIRST, then decide what YOU think is worth spending money on. If you spend over a hundred bucks, you're doing it wrong.
    In some areas there may be somebody to talk to on V/UHF bands other than 2m, but you'll have to do some listening and/or talk to local hams to find out. 2M will get some results anyway. Listen for a few weeks to see what activity there is on the local repeaters, then join in. Depending on your area, just a H/T with the rubber duck might be enough, or you might need an external antenna. It's all line of sight, so don't go crazy with amps and such, you still won't make it over the horizon, and it won't help unless you have some special circumstances.
    But really, that's all just the same walkie talkies from Radio Shack you played with as a kid, only more expensive. REAL ham radio is HF, and you can get an '80s multiband at a hamfest or ebay for under a couple hundred for sure. It won't have all the bands we have access to, but you will be going through them slowly anyway, building the equipment between your ears, so that you'll know what is worth spending on. Even a 50 year old rig will give you the basics, 10/15/20/40/80/160. Start with one, build a dipole for that band, and just spend some time there before worrying about anything else.
    The ARRL annual Handbook and periodic Antenna Book are the place to start for tech knowledge. Many sources online but this will be the basis for understanding. I want to recommend the Operating Manual but I honestly haven't read it myself, so it's only a guess that that will be useful for those practices the way the others are useful for the technical info.

    wanted to add, this is not a particularly good site for getting that large amount of knowledge in a short time that you need right now... we might offer some points of info and some motivation here, but the vast amount of writing that's already there at specialized sites such as QRZ.COM and EHam.com are much more useful to you at the moment.

    If you already have a shortwave receiver that can do sideband, you only need to put up a good antenna for it to start listening. And that's the first step. "What do I do" will answer itself once you hear what they're already doing.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Welcome to the Comms Club... Get yourself a cheap Chinese DualBand HandiTalky for less than $100US, to start.... That gets you on VHF (144-148 Mhz) and UHF (440 - 450 Mhz) and start finding the local Repeaters... Listen for while, until Your CallSign is issued by the FCC, then you can PLUNGE in and have a chat or two, and get the lay of the Land... Then see if you can Hook Up with one of the Older Hams, in your area, and see if he will give you a tutorial on how HF works.... an afternoon will be well spent, and the tutorial, well worth the time, invested.... So far you will have only a few Bucks invested but Tons of information.... Then as you get into the Comms World, you can start ASKING Decent Questions, here, and of others you will meet, about what Gear will be suitable for your interests and Pocketbook...
  8. Southbound

    Southbound Monkey+

    I agree with BTPost here. My first was a radio shack 2M HT. Listened to the local repeaters, talked to a few folks and went from there. Go find a local club and get to know some hams and ask questions. Enjoy and welcome aboard.
    chelloveck and 3M-TA3 like this.
  9. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    @3M-TA3 Congratulations on completion of your exams! I did the same as you taking the first two tests (Tech and General) on the same day at the beginning of summer then got sidetracked with a thousands things that had to be done around the property. I will get my Extra this winter when I have more time but probably won't get a antenna hung until spring. Anyway, I just wanted to say congrats!
    chelloveck and 3M-TA3 like this.
  10. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    Thanks for the congrats - I mainly just wanted to get the tests out of the way so I could move on the real part. If you want to get the Extra out of the way with minimal effort HamTestOnline will get the job done. This is where their adaptive teaching method shines. Below I've attached my learning progress for the last few weeks so you can see how quickly it can ramp you up, especially in the Xtra column. They recommend that when you are regularly passing the practice exams with > 90% most of the time you are ready to pass the real test. I wasn't fully ready for the Extra exam, but managed to get a set of questions that avoided my weak areas.

    Pastel green = study time, pink = time spent taking practice tests
    Under Tech, Gnrl, and Xtra yellow = subjects not covered, red = poor knowledge, blue = needs work, and green = you have it down pat​

    Bandit99 likes this.
  11. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    I installed the G4FON Koch Method CW Trainer while I was studying, but haven't used it yet. CW is definitely in my plans.

    A couple of years ago I picked up a Yaesu VX-6 and a Diamond MR77 VHF antenna as part of my preps. Not as inexpensive as the new Chinese models, but is rugged and waterproof. At the time my office was on the other side of the Columbia from my home, and my likely crossing point would put the Willamette river between there and my home, so those features were high on my list here in soggy Nutlandia.

    After that a friend gave me a pair of Kenwood TH-79A handhelds. I keep all of them in an old microwave for EMP protection along with my IDEN phones and walkie talkies when not in use.

    One of my VE's works at our local HRO and I'm going to drop in next weekend and chit chat about clubs among other things. I definitely need exposure, guidance, and practice.
    ghrit likes this.
  12. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    I'm curious what everybody suggests for reference material. My online course was great for teaching the concepts, but isn't very good for later reference. I'm glad I took a lot of screen shots to refer to later as well as bookmarks to some of the links.

    I have the following three books that were given to me by friends:
    • ARRL Handbook 1993
    • ARRL Antenna Book 1991
    • Beam Antenna Handbook 1990

    I figure that the technical aspects of the books are fairly current as the physics haven't changed, though some of regulations may be out of date.

    Any must have references or web sites outside of ARRL.org, eham.net, and preparedham.com?
  13. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Some good info as well as obscure stuff.

    If you have not yet done so, give some thought to joining the ARRL and taking QST.
  14. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    The Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series (NEETS) manual set is used to train Navy ETs. Solid material, covers the maths, antennas - goes from Dc to daylight. Free on line - your tax dollars at work.

    For Amateur radio related data and training, hard to beat the ARRl handbook series.
    DarkLight, ghrit and Dunerunner like this.
  15. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    @DKR - If you have a link, that might be a good addition to SM resources.
  16. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    One more plug for the ARRL handbooks. I reference them all the time still, almost 3 years after getting my extra.
  17. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
    stg58, techsar, ghrit and 2 others like this.
  18. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Personally, I am more interested in learning and using CW than I am in Voice. I am not sure why...numerous reasons I suppose.
    3M-TA3 likes this.
  19. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    3M-TA3 likes this.
  20. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety

    Welcome to amateur radio and congrats on going zero to hero so quickly! Now grab another ham who you will find helpful in getting you started, putting frequencies in the radios, and learning some lingo. Next is getting your feet wet on the air, and remember you have two ears and one mouth: Listen twice as much as you talk, at least initially. You'll find your own groove soon enough and decide which direction of many you''ll take. Don't get hung up on any particular mode or way of operating as there are many and you'll always be able to change your mind. Take advice but always make your own decisions. You'll have a blast, I promise!
    3M-TA3, techsar and ghrit like this.
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