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Author Topic: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?  (Read 40390 times)

White Tiger

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Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« on: September 27, 2012, 03:30:54 AM »
I have been wearing out a friend of mine - who has been kind enough to "Elmer" me (for those that don't know - that's what ObiWan was for Luke...) as I have bumped along this road to my current spot. Maybe a description of my very recent journey into amateur radio will help?

Only 2 months ago I didn't have a radio, didn't have a clear understanding of what it was, and beyond wanting to use it to talk to the world - and maybe a little closer to home...only a vague idea of what High Frequency (HF), "short wave" communications, were all about. I bought "Ham Radio for Dummies", which cleared up the fundamentals. I had distant memories of family friends speaking to missionaries in far off lands on an old "short wave" Heathkit radio , and played around with my uncle's CB base station as a teenager...that was during the CB radio craze of the late 70's early 80's...it was short lived, and I never even got around to buying my own radio.

So, basically, I knew nothing...but after the economic meltdown really hit home for our family - I started investigating prepping - ..so without belaboring that point more - let's just say my wife, son, and I all scrimped, saved, studied, planned, & adapted - eventually met the tartget goal. We did a LOT in a short period (from beginning to end of 2011) we layed in: food & water storage, firearms, training, and stockpiling ammunition, to focusing on paying off debt...

That's been about a year ago - and while I realize a preppers life in todays depressing and difficult times means something a little different for all of us - the bottom line is, that there is never a point that we feel we got "there"...I mean I NEVER feel 100% sure that I've finally got everything. Seems I only need to talk to one or two like-minded folks for me realize something else I've forgotten - for the family or for a *neighbor's* (prepper parlance for: someone who sees trouble ahead, and agrees to do something about it now, and strategizes with me on ways to help each other out), need...but at least we can sleep without the nightmares...and we can breathe a little easier...

It's for those of you in this state that the rest of this post is for.

It's been a little more than a year ago that I finally stocked the last of those food storage cases away...and I got that familiar edgy feeling of needing...something...while listening to a new podcast from Jack Spirko of Survival Podcast (new normal - I listen to survival folks everyday) - I think I finally realized what it was I needed now. Jack constantly talks about the neccesity of developing a sense of community...that no one of us can be as smart and talented as a group of likeminded folks with differing interests...and that we need to stay in contact with that community...I heard him interview a ham radio guy by the name of Tim Glance (from Texas, of course) about how Tim and many of his friends had integrated amateur radio into their prepping - for the express purpose of keeping in touch with their community - that it all came perfectly clear.

...so the next part of the journey just began for me...like I said, about 2-3 moths ago. I had no idea of what to do, or what I would need, beyond a means to stay in touch with my family - one group of 6 and another group of 14 - strewn nearly 500 miles apart from each other. Fortunately for me, it was at this time that I met another current board member of this fine forum - Luck WA4STO - on another board. Luck is VERY knowledgable about amateur radio, heck - he used to workf for ARRL and he even wrote some of the FCC rules we're studying/abiding by! Ol' WA4STO helped narrow my perspective and search a bit. Gave some great advice about identifying the type of operating I wanted to do (HF, voice), the type of radio I would need for the things I wanted to do - and again - it was on a budget (and trust me - it CAN be done n a budget). Now I have a radio that was built in America back in the 80's - and get this, the company that built it - built such a fine piece of equipemnt - they STILL build ALL their radios in America!

I'm now studying for my exam (something I never thought I would or could attain) and ol WA4STO has me interested in some digital modes of HF communication that can be used for security - and get this - amateur radio can communicate WITHOUT the power grid and DOES NOT NEED the internet to send pictures/email!!

Anyone where I was a couple months ago? Anyone have any questions about starting, best type of equipment, WHAT equipment and/or what the expenses are...I can sure help! Not because I'm an expert, but because I just went through it...and I may know someone who just might be able to help answer your questions!  I may be the least knowledgeable poster on this forum - and at times that is readily obvious - but maybe there's one or two who come in and lurk...trying to get an idea of how to start....and maybe this post will help you discover what it is you want to do, and how to get started toward your goal.

I just don't know how anyone can have a prepping plan that does not include communications - especially if you have family spread out across a county, or state, or even further...we have to have a way to contact them - and amateur radio might just be the thing you're looking for!
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 12:44:33 PM by White Tiger »
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

Sunflower

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2012, 11:40:44 PM »
No radio here.

I do have some study books, so that is progress.

White Tiger

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Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2012, 01:23:47 AM »
Do you have an interest in a radio Sunflower, or are you satisfied concentrating on studying?
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

Sunflower

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2012, 09:40:03 PM »
I am kind of afraid of a radio. It is only on faith that I am taking up this venture. I figure if GOD gave me the interest, he will surely give me the ability. This site has gotten me this far. I plan to keep it up.

Gil is sending me a gift/oscillator I think- for practice. I have some shortwave radios but they don't recieve HAM business. I did not realize that when I got them. A HAM man actually recommended them. At the time my HAM hopes were still on the back burner.

I have not had the time to search YouTube for more HAM radio listening.

I will do good to squeeze in 10 min on CW training tonight.

Got a lot done today - a lot for me at least.   

White Tiger

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2012, 11:55:41 PM »
That was a very generous offer Gil made you - glad you're taking him up on it! He would not have done it if he didn't think you were 1)  trustworthy 2) hardworking!

I figure if you think God gave you a desire then it is something you can and should pursue. Just remember, he promised tribulation...too... ;-)

Radio seems intimidating before you study, less so after you start studying...but at some point during study, a light switch goes off!

I am sorry for that Ham who misled you about the radios you sought his advice on...I had a similar experience, only I knew what I was doing when I acquired my 10m/CB...it is nearly worthless...my troubles started easing up once I met a ham who helped...I know you said you checked the database locally...but my "Elmer" is several hundred miles away - and he helped me tremendously...WHILE I was traveling. Maybe you can see if ARRL has a "buddy program" where they assign an experienced amateur radio enthusiast that you enjoy talking through any issues/questions?

At any rate - we're proud of ya' and for ya' - keep up the good work! Remind that veteran husband of yours that we're pulling for you both!
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

Sunflower

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2012, 12:19:42 AM »

I am sorry for that Ham who misled you about the radios you sought his advice on...I had a similar experience, only I knew what I was doing when I acquired my 10m/CB...it is nearly worthless...my troubles started easing up once I met a ham who helped...I know you said you checked the database locally...but my "Elmer" is several hundred miles away - and he helped me tremendously...WHILE I was traveling. Maybe you can see if ARRL has a "buddy program" where they assign an experienced amateur radio enthusiast that you enjoy talking through any issues/questions?

At any rate - we're proud of ya' and for ya' - keep up the good work! Remind that veteran husband of yours that we're pulling for you both!
Sorry for the misunderstanding. I was only a housewife not studying HAM operations when I consulted with the man from YouTube, who happens to also be a HAM. THe gentleman uses his sign letters for his YouTube communications, so I that is why I choose him to get references on radios. I am very happy with my wind up/solar shortwave radios. There is no CW that I can find, but that is OK. When I do get a radio it will be interesting. I hope I don't get overwelmed. Simple  things like computer troubles and TV service from the Cable/phone company can get to a state that I feel like I will stroke out. Literally. I sort flip and wig out. Not sure why, but my buttons get hot trying to interpret what my husband says is wrong and trouble shoot with the operator on the phone. I hope HAM does not get to be anything like that. If so, then I will be out and off to other ventures. So far, everyone seems happy with the many options and styles of amatuer radio. I sure hope I get this CW thing, and my Technicians Licence before too long. There is a test this week, but I am not ready - not even close. The test sight is only 90 min. away so that is relatively close by for Western Kansas.

Geek

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2013, 01:34:25 PM »
Yes, I am so new I don't have a SW radio and this is also my introductory post as I just found this forum.  I do have some FRS/GMRS radios and the GMRS license and I have a CB for the car.  Those radios are superior to shouting at each other, but not by much.

I am coming at this from a prepper persepctive.  I feel communications is a problem that I haven't even addressed unless you count the FRS/GMRS radios.  I'd like to start with anything that will extend the range of the existing radios, e.g. antennas, base stations etc. and get enough understanding of SW to read an advertisement for a radio and have a clue what is being said.

gil

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2013, 02:32:00 PM »
Welcome aboard Geek,

You are better equipped already than most preppers. I probably won't be the only one to suggest that you get your Ham license. At $14 and a few hours of study time, it is a very small price to pay for a lot of capabilities. That said, using your existing equipment, learning more about antennas would definitely benefit you a great deal. Does your CB have SSB (USB/LSB)? That is a major must-have if you want any range.. You can't swap antennas on FRS radios, but on CB, you can use whatever you want. I would suggest that you try the PAR End-Fed 10m model, which should work for the upper part of the CB band. That would allow you to take your radio out of the car and operate it from a small battery. I shoot up fishing weights and line up trees with a slingshot to hoist up wire antennas; works like a charm.

If you want to go the Ham way, and simple/cheap, nothing beats Morse code. CW radios are small and cheap, and you can go on 40, 10 and 80m with a simple technician license. The tech license also gives you 10m SSB and VHF/UHF for local communications. You could get a radio like the MFJ-9410X. The General license though is what you want to get as soon as you can. Get yourself a book and do the qrz.com practice tests... You'll be ready in a few days.. There are a lot of people here willing to help.

Having a SW receiver is a must as well. Just make sure it also receives SSB and has a plug for an external antenna. I'll attach the Ham frequencies band plan to this post..

Gil.

Sunflower

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2013, 03:59:15 PM »
Yes, I am so new I don't have a SW radio and this is also my introductory post as I just found this forum.  I do have some FRS/GMRS radios and the GMRS license and I have a CB for the car.  Those radios are superior to shouting at each other, but not by much.

I am coming at this from a prepper persepctive.  I feel communications is a problem that I haven't even addressed unless you count the FRS/GMRS radios.  I'd like to start with anything that will extend the range of the existing radios, e.g. antennas, base stations etc. and get enough understanding of SW to read an advertisement for a radio and have a clue what is being said.

Welcome Geek. Also, nice summary from Gil. Hang in there Geek. If you do not have the HAM Bug yet, you will catch it. I did. I am still in the kindergarten stage or maybe pre-school. Still studying to test for Tech. Picking up some equipment, but it is all coming slowly. I am kind of busy with getting adjusted with other topics in life, but looking forward to more HAM and more of this forum in my future.

On a prepper kind of topic, I picked up the 8th Edidtion of Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading this morning. Also got lucky with getting a box of 22-250. The .223 is starting to come in the stores again, but is getting gobbled up. .22LR is really tough to get. Amazing.

Remember when prepping - try to get enough to share. I shared a box of .22LR with a trapper friend last evening. He has skunks to deal with and his .22short pistol was jamming. Bobcat trapping has been really good this year as noted by several trappers in my area. I came across what appeared to be mountain lion tracks recently. Maybe they eat bobcats? Anyways, seemed time to graduate to a 1911, .45Auto. ... Its a Sig and feels awesome to hold. I have not located any caps to practice with yet. Need to get better acquainted with the model. ....

So I digressed. Welcome GEEK. Don't worry if firearms are not your thing. This forum is called radio preppers not gun preppers. I am just a little enthusiastic about my new 1911s and other purchases to help manage grief. Everyone deals with life differently. My sister in law bought when her mom died, I bought guns when my sweetie died. Looking forward to spring. I still have not located a very local HAM radio club in my area, but have not given up.  At the gun shop, there is at least some knowledge of who the HAms are.

Geek

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2013, 04:09:51 PM »
Thanks again.  I've been on a couple other forums related to survival topics and/or gun topics and feel that I at least know what I need and can carry on an intelligent conversation on those topics, but I don't feel that way about communications, so I am pleased to have found a forum dedicated to this topic.

cockpitbob

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2013, 04:14:14 PM »
Welcome Geek,

I'm going to say what Gil said in a slightly different way.

I strongly suggest you get your ham license.  Just get on the qrz.com practice test site and spend 20min/day grinding through the tests.  In a week or 2 you'll be ready for the test.  Don't worry about the theory for now.  Just learn the correct answers.  Learn enough of the rules and operating procedures to stay out of trouble.  If you make ham radio one of your hobbies the theory will come with time. 

There are 3 levels of license:  Technician, General and Extra.
Technician:  Gets you all the VHF and UHF line of sight stuff.  You can work some of the SW bands, but only with Morse.  You can use the handhelds (usually 5W) or stick a 50W rig in your car, but it's all line of sight VHF/UHF.  Still, a 2meter hand heald will carry much further than a FRS/GMRS plus you can work the repeaters and talk with people 50 miles away via the repeaters.

General:  Gets you most of the SW bands.  Now you can talk around the world with a microphone instead of morse key.

Extra:  Gets you the remaining small slices of the SW bands.  You really don't get that much more.

Unless you are gifted in learning foreigh languages or music, learning Morse will be harder than getting the Tech and General licenses.  On the other hand, Morse will go further on less power, cost less money and you really do become one of ham radio's elite.  The Morse community is very tight but friendly.

Geek

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2013, 04:38:12 PM »
Thanks.  That description of the levels of licenses is helpful.  I also saw a reference to "Novice".  Is that useful?  Should one get the license before buying a radio, or get a radio and listen before getting the license?

Gil, you recommended SSB.  What is SSB and why is it important?  The radio you recommended looks fine for home, but coming back to my scenario, I am picturing multiple family members each with something portable and capable of functioning when the power goes out.  I've seen ads for portable two-way SW radios, but the ads don't seem to mention SSB.

cockpitbob

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2013, 04:49:52 PM »
There used to be more levels of license.  Novice is one of the old ones.  A few years ago they streamlined things.  Now there are just the 3 levels and you don't need Morse for any of them.

gil

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2013, 07:52:50 PM »
Quote
Gil, you recommended SSB.  What is SSB and why is it important?

Hello Geek,

SSB stands for Single Side Band. Historically, the first voice mode was AM, Amplitude Modulation. Still used today. An AM signal has a few components: A carrier and two sidebands. These are the upper (USB) and lower (LSB) sidebands. So, AM requires quite a bit of power to produce those components. You can actually remove the carrier and be left with the two sidebands. It's call Double Sideband (DSB). Going further, since the sidebands are identical, you can filter one out and be left with one sideband, USB or LSB. A CB radio will typically output 4W in AM and 12W in SSB. So, you get more range with SSB as opposed to AM or FM. The only other modes better than SSB (voice) are CW (Morse) and digital modes. Most Ham radio operators use SSB on HF. A few use AM for the nostalgia but also better sound quality. So, if your receiver has SSB, you can listen to Ham radio operators chatting. For CB, it's a matter of range. Some Hams use SSB on VHF and UHF for regional contacts, 100-250 miles. These often involve an amplifier and a directional antenna.

CB works great but will only provide long distance communications during the day and at the peak of the solar cycle, which we happen to be right in the middle of now. Having access to the Ham bands allows you to choose your frequency depending on the time of day and season. It also gives you more modes to use, especially Morse code with CW. Like Bob says, a 2m handheld will beat the pants off an FRS radio. You get slightly better privacy as well, though there are better options for that. So, essentially, with Ham radio, you multiply your changes of making contact at any time, especially if you really need it. I do own a CB, and I am not going to sell it. However, it's collecting dust since I use Ham radios now.

The tech license is very easy. I can't emphasize that enough. It's really not worth not getting. Today, I could even use CB much more efficiently with what I have learned about Ham radio. Look around the site, you will find many interesting topics. You could probably pass your test after doing so, LOL. Those qrz.com practice tests are great. Think about it, they give you the answers, the exact same FCC questions you get on the test. How hard is that?

Gil.

Geek

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Re: Anyone so new they don't even have a radio yet?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2013, 08:15:27 PM »
Quote
Gil, you recommended SSB.  What is SSB and why is it important?

Hello Geek,

SSB stands for Single Side Band. Historically, the first voice mode was AM, Amplitude Modulation. Still used today. An AM signal has a few components: A carrier and two sidebands. These are the upper (USB) and lower (LSB) sidebands. So, AM requires quite a bit of power to produce those components. You can actually remove the carrier and be left with the two sidebands. It's call Double Sideband (DSB). Going further, since the sidebands are identical, you can filter one out and be left with one sideband, USB or LSB. A CB radio will typically output 4W in AM and 12W in SSB. So, you get more range with SSB as opposed to AM or FM. The only other modes better than SSB (voice) are CW (Morse) and digital modes. Most Ham radio operators use SSB on HF. A few use AM for the nostalgia but also better sound quality. So, if your receiver has SSB, you can listen to Ham radio operators chatting. For CB, it's a matter of range. Some Hams use SSB on VHF and UHF for regional contacts, 100-250 miles. These often involve an amplifier and a directional antenna.

CB works great but will only provide long distance communications during the day and at the peak of the solar cycle, which we happen to be right in the middle of now. Having access to the Ham bands allows you to choose your frequency depending on the time of day and season. It also gives you more modes to use, especially Morse code with CW. Like Bob says, a 2m handheld will beat the pants off an FRS radio. You get slightly better privacy as well, though there are better options for that. So, essentially, with Ham radio, you multiply your changes of making contact at any time, especially if you really need it. I do own a CB, and I am not going to sell it. However, it's collecting dust since I use Ham radios now.

The tech license is very easy. I can't emphasize that enough. It's really not worth not getting. Today, I could even use CB much more efficiently with what I have learned about Ham radio. Look around the site, you will find many interesting topics. You could probably pass your test after doing so, LOL. Those qrz.com practice tests are great. Think about it, they give you the answers, the exact same FCC questions you get on the test. How hard is that?

Gil.

So to really dumb it down what is a carrier and what are sidebands?  I get that AM has a carrier and two sidebands, so if I can get the concept moved back one more notch I can follow the rest from there.

Are you recommending taking the test before getting a radio?  I'm sure I can learn what I need to to pass the test based on the descriptions you all have provided.

Finally, since my scenario is to have communication between two or more family members, we need at least two radios.  The radio you recommended looks like it would be fine for a base station, but we would also need one or more handhelds.  Can you recommend a handheld unit as well?  Do you need SSB at both ends to get the benefit you describe?  I would expect the answer to be yes, but I don't know if there are handheld units that have SSB.