Ham Radio ?

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by quickburst, Jul 11, 2019.

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  1. Jul 11, 2019 #1

    quickburst

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    Forgive me if I say or ask something stupid. I don't know anything about Ham Radio, that's why I'm asking.

    My wife and I are not Doomsday Preppers. However I do think that its best to be prepared reasonably well. The Great Bruce Lee once said "The best defense for a blow … is don't be there". I'd like to think that a reasonable person would take some take some measure of precaution. That's why I'm asking about Ham Radio. I live in East Texas (The Pine Belt) " where wind and rain storms are frequent, with so many trees here is not to surprising for a tree to fall and take the power out. Most of our family lives on the coast below Houston, and the threat of a Hurricane is an annual event. This is why we have a Generac 22KW whole house stand by Generator. We buy MRE from time to time and do a bit of canning. We also store some drinking water.

    Anyway I was thinking a Ham Radio would be a reasonable precaution. When I looked at what is available I had no idea what they were talking about. I'm thinking a hand held transceiver that would run on rechargeable batteries, preferably common batteries like AA, C or D cells. I have solar battery chargers that would be used to keep the batteries up.

    From what I understand part of the first responders will be Ham Radio Operators, these folks will broadcast local news and updates on whatever tragedy befalls us. I doubt that I'd ever transmit anything but I'd like to have the option if needed. I doubt that I'll ever need a license. In the event of a National Disaster I doubt seriously that the FCC will be writing any tickets.

    Can any one suggest a hand held radio that would fit my needs? Pease be specific.

    David Bachelder
    DBA QuickBurst
    www.quickburst.net
    TRA L1
     
  2. Jul 11, 2019 #2

    Tom

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    The Baofeng radios have become quite popular. They are rechargeable as most are and surprisingly in expensive. Depending on where you live there is a good chance that there is a 2 meter repeater in your area which will give you a broad reach with a simple 2-5 watt hand held radio once configured.

    You are however required to have an amateur radio license. A 'technician class' license at the very least. Don't worry they are quite simple tests. You will need to find a testing site and date near your location.

    http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session

    I currently hole an Advanced Extra class license, however since hurricane Michael took out all my trees and the antennas strung between them, all I am left with is the dual band hand held and the two meter in my truck.

    https://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-BF-F...g&qid=1562874162&s=gateway&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1
     
  3. Jul 11, 2019 #3

    quickburst

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    Thank you for the input, it will help me decide. I saw the ones you have recommended and thought they looked pretty good and were reasonably priced. I was afraid to make the purchase without getting a bit of advice.
     
  4. Jul 11, 2019 #4

    Tom

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    You can of course spend a lot more money on a 'better' radio, but honestly the Baofengs work just fine. Especially for someone just starting out. They are fairly easy to program once you learn to step through the menus. But be prepaired for a bit of a learning curve. Things like 'offsets' and CTSC tones etd.

    The key thing is as I mentioned the repeaters. Here in Florida we have a state wide system that goes all the way down into south Florida So with a 2 watt radio I can reach the entire state.

    I do recommend getting the license, to use one of these radios without a license is actually a Federal Offense. if you get caught using one of these unlicensed be prepared to have the book (and some other things) thrown at you ;)

    Many clubs are quite active in emergency response and work closely with the red cross and other authorities. When the poop hits the fan radios are the last line of communication. Don't count on cell towers to be working.

    Good luck!
     
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  5. Jul 11, 2019 #5

    DuctTapeandRocketFuel

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    I would like to expand a little on your premise. Lets start with Ham radio. Baofeng is popular because of its price point. I have gotten to play with one, and I wasn't impressed with the menu structure. However, once you plug in your presets, and save it, it seems to be decent. Also, handheld (HT) radios only output 1 to 5 watts max. This is not very powerful for long distances. Check for repeaters in your area, and get them programmed into your HT. Not all HT will run on AA batteries. The ones that do only work in low power mode. i.e. 1 watt. An aftermarket antenna will give you a lot of gain over the stock antenna.

    You will also want to consider what kinds of repeater clubs, ARES/RACES/SKYWARN and other first responder groups are operating in your area. For example, the ARES group in my state switched to the D-STAR system by ICOM. To listen and communicate with these groups you must get a ICOM radio that supports D-STAR.

    This leads to the second part, your city, county, state First Responders, i.e. police, fire, EMS, National Guard, FEMA, etc. These guys have their own radios, many with complex frequency hoping technology. No ham radio currently on the market is going to be able to process these communications. Now, you need to be looking into a scanner that can. Again, depending on your area will determine what level of technology you should be looking into like analog Motorola, EDACS, etc, and digital P25, etc.

    To find out what frequencies are in use in your area, check out this website. It will list every group and who is what on every frequency.

    https://www.radioreference.com/


    If you wouldn't mind sharing your location, I can give you some specific radios for you to consider, and ones to avoid. I would also highly recommend getting your ham license, as well as your wife. Its a simple multiple choice test.
     
  6. Jul 11, 2019 #6

    hobie1dog

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    The Technician test has 423 questions in the pool that you will need to memorize the answers to, for 35 questions on the test.
     
  7. Jul 11, 2019 #7

    srfrich

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    It's true that in a real emergency, you won't need a license. But, to 'practice' before an emergency, you need a license.
    By far the funnest and easiest way to pass a FCC license exam: https://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com

    I have the highest HAM license, but I've owned just 1 radio, a handheld ("HT") at 5W output. I'm not mentioning the brand/model because it doesn't matter.

    What matters is the you get on the air and practice every now and then, 'cause you won't know if your radio works unless you get a conversation going with someone else on the air and they say they can hear you.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Jul 11, 2019 #8

    seth_cooper

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    You don't need a license to own a radio or to listen in.

    License is only necessary if you want to transmit.
     
  9. Jul 11, 2019 #9

    srfrich

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    That's right; I bought my HT before I took the exam. I meant 'practice' making a transmission - for that you'd need a license.
     
  10. Jul 12, 2019 #10

    n3tjm

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    I would highly suggest purchasing a better quality radio than a Baofengs. A lot of those cheap radios don't have a good receiver in them and wont pick up signals that other radios can. Yaesu has some nice offerings which are reasonably priced. My twin brother in Cincinnati has a bunch of HT's including the cheap Chinese brands, and its interesting comparing how each well each one works.
     
  11. Jul 12, 2019 #11

    Tom

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    I knew it was only a matter of time before someone would chime in and talk about how the cheap Chinese hand helds are crap. It happens every time. I think some of it stems from the fact that they spent twice as much for their radio, so the cheapo Chinese radios are not up to snuff! Of course the Yaesu Kenwood etc are better radios, more rugged, more reliable, etc.

    But the fact is the Cheapos work just fine and is an excellent starting point for a beginner. Especially at nearly half the price.

    You probably wont be worried about weak signal reception because if you can barely hear them you probably cant talk to them.
     
  12. Jul 12, 2019 #12

    scsager

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    Hi David - Let me start by saying thank you for all the great items you supply at Quickburst.net.

    The ham license is incredibly easy and inexpensive - simple written test and a test fee. Once you have the license it can be renewed every 10 years for free.

    Lots of good info in this thread already - I agree with the idea that more expensive radios that you get from a real "Ham Radio Store" (https://www.hamradio.com/) or (https://www.gigaparts.com/) are usually better that the Baofeng radios available on amazon (https://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-UV-5R-Dual-Radio-Black/dp/B007H4VT7A)

    I happen to own 5 of the Baofeng radios. I use them all the time at High-Power launches. They are especially handy in areas with spotty or no cell service.

    At many large launches, the LCO is transmitting low-power FM and folks tune-in on the car radio or they carry a small FM transistor radio. >>> The Baofeng can be setup to receive FM so you can listen to the LCO when out of "earshot" - and it still works like a regular transceiver so you can talk on a different channel.

    My recommendation is to get your Technicians Ticket (Ham License) and a Baofeng for every member of your family or group.
     
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  13. Jul 12, 2019 #13

    billdz

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    If the OP is only interested in using ham radio after a hurricane or other emergency, keep in mind that many if not all repeaters will be down while the power is out. If no repeater, the simplex range of a 5w 144mhz HT with a rubber duck antenna is just a mile or two. Would be worth buying or building a yagi antenna and perhaps a small power amp, which would extend the range to 30 miles or so.
     
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  14. Jul 12, 2019 #14

    hobie1dog

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    Exactly. During a full blown wide area power outage, a 5W handheld with no repeaters available, means you are only going to be able to talk to people really close to you. Everyone is constantly requesting people who use 5W handhelds to turn up their power if they have the capability, even when using the repeater to boost your signal, as it is noisy, scratchy, and has low audio. Using an external antenna mounted up high helps somewhat. An external amp is going to draw some current, so have a rack of batteries available or a generator ready.
    Again start memorizing those answers to the 423 questions in the pool.
     
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  15. Jul 13, 2019 #15

    jderimig

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    If there is an emergency it is likely serious hams will be operating stations with antennas that can reach you. If you are in a reasonable populated area real preparedness means contacting the local ham club and see what plans they are have in place for emergencies, frequencies, etc. Preparedness is not ordering a Baofeng from Amazon and then waiting until a disaster happens to figure out if its going to be any help to you.

    Good place to start is here: http://www.arrl.org/amateur-radio-emergency-communication
     
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  16. Jul 13, 2019 #16

    RocketMike

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    Being a ham radio op for the past 41 years I'd like to throw my two cents in. Ham Radio and Rocketry go hand in hand in many ways. You can actually "work" through satellites in space! Repeaters, just like terrestrial based stations but put in space by rockets. What's more, you can do it with the entry level license and two of the Baefong radios. You can memorize enough to get by the 35 questions if you want but why not learn the basic electronic theory? It's fun. if you can build, fly and recover model rockets then you can learn the basic theory. Not hard at all. Rules and regs you have to memorize but the test isn't that big a deal. You miss it the first time, you'll get it the next. Try it, I think you'll love it.
    Michael, W4HIJ
     
  17. Jul 13, 2019 #17

    OverTheTop

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    I have the advanced HAM license, since as I am a communications engineer it would be embarrassing to have anything less ;). The technician license, which is much easier to do, gets you access to quite a lot of voice bands that might be useful for you. Down here in Australia it does not allow use of any data transmission, another reason for my advanced ticket. The test is quite straight-forward and if you do it through a radio club they will help you with the practical aspect of the test too.

    Personally I (VK3TRK) only run rocket telemetry (Altus Metrum, Featherweight, Eggfiner and homebuilt) and a Baofeng UV-5R handheld. The unit is quite respectable and great value for money. Get a decent antenna for it though. I use the Diamond SG-7900 antenna on the car.

    FYI there are some higher power Chinese transceivers that are meant for car use, around 25-30W I think. They are notorious for out-of-band transmissions so beware of those. You don't want to splatter anyone within cooee of you!
     
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  18. Jul 13, 2019 #18

    billdz

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    Yes, and you can even talk to astronauts on the International Space Station, some of whom are ham operators. There is ham equipment on the station.

    A new era in ham satellite communication recently started with the launch of Qatar's Oscar 100, the first ham satellite in a geostationary orbit. This means you can use a fixed antenna, because the sat stays in a fixed position in the sky relative to the ground, just like Dish and Direct TV satellite antennas. Non-geostationary sats require an antenna with a rotator and tracking program to turn the antenna so it follows the sat as it moves across the sky. The ultimate dream is three interconnected ham sats in geostationary orbit at different points around the Earth, which will enable ham communication with anyone anywhere in the world at any time.

    The Oscar 100 footprint covers Europe, Africa, much of Asia, and a bit of South America, but unfortunately not the USA. Anyone can listen to the downlink via online web receiver, see https://amsat-uk.org/2019/02/10/qatar-oscar-100-web-receiver-now-live/.
     
  19. Jul 13, 2019 #19

    MichaelRapp

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    I've (KT5MR) been licensed for seven years now and have really enjoyed it. There is an endless variety of things to do in the hobby. I'm still trying to find my niche.

    I've always been fascinated with interacting with things at long distances. (My primary hobbies are astronomy, radio, and rocketry....so there is a little bit of a theme here.) Also, ever since I started with modems in middle school, I have loved making computers talk to one another...so it is no surprise that I operate exclusively in the digital modes. Bouncing digital signals off the ionosphere is just plain cool. I don't even have a microphone attached to my rig any more. :)

    My current farthest two-way (digital) communication is with someone in Reunion Island in the southwestern Indian Ocean. (Do you know where that is? I didn't! When I pulled up his location on Google Earth I was floored.)

    Still, even after seven years of trying....I still can't communicate with anyone in China or India. At local sunrise (when signal propagation from that area of the world is most favorable for me) I can hear them, but they can't hear me. Someday.... :)

    I am also a huge six meter fan. The antennas are relatively small and manageable and the six meter band's propagation characteristics is that perfect blend of predictability and sheer randomness that has really captured my interest.

    As I get more experienced in rocketry, my hope is to start to combine my radio and rocketry interests, although it looks like the hobby is moving towards full GPS tracking rather than radio-direction finding. (Although RDF is sure a lot cheaper at the moment.)
     
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  20. Jul 14, 2019 #20

    vcp

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    I had a license >50 years ago in HS, and we had a neet station and club there. About 10 years ago I thought I'd get back in. Got the Advanced Extra (and a GROL just for fun), bought a used transceiver and put up a nice antenna. Browsed the bands for a while, ... it sounded like CB radio from the '70's. Checked in with a local net to see that the system worked, ... and never turned it back on. Sold it all.

    I know there are other parts of it that might be interesting, I might like to fiddle with SDR's, but what was the essence of it to me, just rag chewing, is dead to me.
     
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  21. Jul 14, 2019 #21

    quickburst

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    Thank you all for your vaued advice. I really appreciate the help.


    I bought a Baofang hand held. I have also decided to get a license.
    Ive been working on getting it set up. To date the only noise it's made is the FM radio station. I'll keep plugging at it. I would like to say the menu is the second most confusing thing I've ever tried to understand, women being the first..
     
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  22. Jul 14, 2019 #22

    Tom

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    Try doing a search for "2 meter repeaters in my area" where my area is where you live. That should pop something up.
     
  23. Jul 14, 2019 #23

    hobie1dog

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    David:
    Go to eham.net and click on Ham exams over on the LH side. All 423 questions in the question pool are randomly chosen for the 35 test questions. It's just social masturbation, doesn't prove that you know anything at all about ham radio, just proves you can memorize answers. For the Extra Class test, there are 712 questions in the pool, 50 questions on the test. I took the practice tests over 130 times for it.
     
  24. Jul 14, 2019 #24

    OverTheTop

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    There are a couple of books which have 500 questions and 1000 questions for AOCP candidates. These are good questions to answer and figure out where your knowledge shortfall is. I went through these and figured out what I had to study up on, which seemed to work well for me.
    https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/19039797
    Files listed there should be free
     
  25. Jul 15, 2019 #25

    scsager

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    Try Googling "Baofeng setup" - you will find lots of instructions and videos to help with the programing. You are right, it's not very intuitive, but there is lots of helpful info online. I have the programing cable which makes the set up a bit faster. I have 100+ channels set up including GMRS, FRS, all my local repeaters, the ISS (international space station), my local DPW (department of public works) and the Drive-thru channels for Wendy's, Arby's, Taco Bell and McDonalds -among others.

    The Baofeng works on two ham "bands" 2m and 70cm. I believe there are a couple of 2m (2-meter) "repeaters" near you. Check here to find the repeater info. You will be able to set up the radio to listen to these repeaters and you will hear other hams talking to each other. When you have the Tech license, you can use the radio to chat with them on the repeater.
     
  26. Jul 15, 2019 #26

    hobie1dog

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    [QUOTE="scsager, post: 1902432, I have 100+ channels set up including GMRS, FRS, all my local repeaters, the ISS (international space station), my local DPW (department of public works) and the Drive-thru channels for Wendy's, Arby's, Taco Bell and McDonalds -among others.

    r.[/QUOTE]

    I never knew that the Drive thru.channels at fast food restaurants were available.
     
  27. Jul 15, 2019 #27

    Peartree

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    Somewhat off-topic, but a related question since so many active Hams are watching this thread:

    I am hard of hearing. I have a cochlear implant that allows me to function professionally as well as in person (in small groups), but I cannot use the telephone well and, for the most part, I cannot "hear" music (I can hear something but what I hear often isn't musical).

    Are there aspects of the Ham radio hobby that can be enjoyed by the hard of hearing and deaf community, or is that pretty much out of the question?
     
  28. Jul 15, 2019 #28

    mbeels

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    Yes, certainly. There are a multitude of digital modes which require no hearing. There also image modes, where HAMs exchange pictures. Especially recently, the digital mode have become quite popular. Basically, you interface a radio with a computer and your signal is modulated/demodulated by the computer.

    I've also heard of deaf hams doing morse code by flashing lights.
     
  29. Jul 15, 2019 #29

    MichaelRapp

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    Yes, absolutely. As Marten said, we have a slew of digital modes. In fact, I rarely operate my rig with the volume on! The thing I really love about the digital modes -- other than I am making computers talk to one another across the globe -- is that one can "see" the radio signal and that opens up a completely new world in regards to interacting with radio.

    Below is a (dated, but it is what I had on hand) screen shot showing roughly what this looks like. In the image I'm exchanging signal reports with a station -- KD0BIK -- in Colorado. In fact, at the exact moment I took this image, I am transmitting "KD0BIK KT5MR 73" which is ham lingo for "KD0BIK from KT5MR, best wishes" and is the customary way to end a contact.

    (I also noticed in the list of decoded station is 4Z1IG. 4Z is the callsign prefix for Israel. There's also a DC2XX...and DC2 is a callsign prefix for Germany.)


    Screen Shot 2019-07-15 at 2.50.48 PM.png
     
  30. Jul 15, 2019 #30

    Titan II

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    PSK31 is popular.

     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019

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