Completely New to Radio - Where to Start

Started by twinger, September 04, 2012, 01:25:45 PM

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Hi Everyone,

I'm very happy to have found this wonderful resource of experienced radio operators who also share a preparedness mentality.

I have been interested in getting into radios for a while, but have never took the plunge.

Where is the best place to start? What should I do first? Resources?

Thank you.



I would say that getting a Technician license book would be a good start. Not only will it prepared you for the easy Tech exam, but also teach you the basics. Come here regularly and read all the posts... You should quickly gain some understanding of what is involved. It isn't rocket science.. Just basic electrical principles and a bit about antennas.. If you have a short wave receiver, listen to the Ham bands, especially 40m/7MHZ and 20m/14MHz. If you are good with a soldering iron, check this one out:, otherwise make sure you have a model that has a plug for an external antenna. Most people also start with a 2m handheld, they are cheap and useful for local communications.
The Technician license does give you access to some parts of the HF bands, which allow long distance communications, but those frequencies are mostly Morse Code only, which is great if you have the patience to learn the code. That said, the General license isn't much harder than the Tech and gives you access to almost everything.
The is always the CB route, but it does limit you quite a bit. Don't hesitate to ask questions.  ;)



Welcome twinger.  Can I say that after 5 posts?

Those are loaded questions.  I'd say, from a preparedness standpoint, that a multiband scanner and a shortwave receiver (and the means to power them) would be the best places to start if you don't have them already. is a great resource to find scanner freqs in your area.  Know what's going on locally first in the event of an emergency.  While there's usually some frequency overlap, scanners don't make very good short wave radios.  The Grundig wind-up AM/FM/SW radios are decent radios to start with if you're on a budget.  They're cheap, have multiple power options, and make a nice backup or BOB radio if you upgrade later. 

For 2-way, what are your comm requirements and reasons for wanting to operate a station in the first place?  I'd let that lead your decision making process more than anything else.  The licensed ham route is one way to go, but I'd consider it carefully first.  There's no do-overs once you register, and at some point you might regret your home having a "privately owned radio transmitter" designation on someone's map.  If you can meet your communication requirements (comint, security, short-range, tactical,  long range, wireless control, or whatever) without advertising the fact, all the better imo.  Good Luck.


This reply will be a bit different than most.  I am not trying to discourage you, but definitely would recommend that you find out more about ham radio before jumping in the 'deep end'.  This hobby get's expensive very quickly, and there is more to it than meets the eye.
If you haven't visited them yet, go look at the ARRL web site.  The American Radio Relay League is a ham organization, a group of hams that have a lot of things in common.  It's probably the most informative site you can find for things in general.  There are others, the ARRL isn't the only one, but it's probably the easiest to find.  Read everything that you can about 'getting started', and also all the rest of the things there.  There are a huge number of 'aspects' about ham radio, some may interest you more than others, but get a 'taste' for what's possible.  You may find one aspect that you just can't 'live' without.  There will be others that you probably will never understand why anyone would be interested in, you know?
The whole idea about ham radio is communicating, talking (in a number of different ways) to others with the same interests and hobbies.
Ham radio (Amateur radio) is a licensed service, you got to have one of those licenses before you can say a thing on the air.  It isn't dead nutz simple, but it's far from being impossible to get licensed.  Every question that will be on a test is published with the answers.  How much easier can it get?  Most of the questions on a test deal with rules and safety.  There's some theory, but mostly the testing is to keep you from causing problems or getting killed/injured.
Should everyone get a license and enjoy the hobby?  No, not in my opinion.  Just like some people will never ever need to own a golf club or knitting needles (-->me).
So, wade through all that you can find out about this radio stuff, ask questions, then decide for your self.
Have fun.
- Paul


Hi Twinger,
Welcome. I am perhaps more new than you - skill wise. I also signed up for this forum in recent weeks. So far so good. I am already learning bits and pieces here and there.

Just got off the telephone (hard line) with (KB6NU) when ordering the Technician Test Guide. He was so very helpful. Dan explained OHM law to me, and I think I got it. (V=cr or e=ir). Now, I just need to think "circuit" when I see "i". V for voltage or electromoto will not be too hard to remember. r for resistance is easy enough on the brain, but I really do not understand the concept yet.

Yes Twinger, I like you am happy to have found this site. It will be so cool to have a Technician's Licence. While on the phone with Dan, he cited a 3rd level of test certification - something called Extra. I told him about a question I posted another's posts earlier this today.

What I learned about the Technician test includes some of what has already been highlighted. The test is said to be 35 questions long. 75 percent correct required to pass (that is about 8 or 9 wrong answers I think). When Dan mentioned Algerbra, I was delighted. That brought back some good memories. 

Dan shared some additional resources: More sites to check out...., (for morse code). I also wrote down K7QO code course. Dan was a bit of a moral booster. I felt a whole lot more positive about the prospects of learning Amateur Radio after speaking with him. He too encouraged me to check out ARRL.
Have fun,


Hello Tess,

Here is a good way to understand electricity. Compare it to water flowing in a pipe. Current is akin to how much (quantity) water flows inside the pipe. Voltage is like water pressure. Resistance is both the diameter of the pipe and obstructions inside, like, say, a piece of rock stuck inside the pipe. This explains how the three, current, voltage and resistance are related. Change one and you change the others.



Quote from: gil on September 16, 2012, 02:26:03 PM
Hello Tess,

Here is a good way to understand electricity. Compare it to water flowing in a pipe. Current is akin to how much (quantity) water flows inside the pipe. Voltage is like water pressure. Resistance is both the diameter of the pipe and obstructions inside, like, say, a piece of rock stuck inside the pipe. This explains how the three, current, voltage and resistance are related. Change one and you change the others.


Thank you. Current not circuit for starters. Current associated with water (as in water currents) makes sense. Thank you. Very good and helpful.

White Tiger

I am new to this site and to amateur radio. I see that Gil listed Ten Tec, that is the brand I bought.

Paul mentions that it's expensive - and while I am new, I think that it depends on what you want to do, and if you're patient in figuring out what TYPE of communication interests you, then doing some research as to the best types of radio for that specific purpose, then finding out what else you need to make the kind of contact you want to make, and then start trying to collect the equipment.

for example - if you really find Morse Code fascinating - I think Gil can speak to the fact of how little money it takes to start making contact (QSO's)!

If you're like me - and you want to talk to folks within 30 miles of your place, or as far away as say...Florida to Alabama - then you can go High Frequency (HF) - but that can get a little more pricey (but it happens so slowly, sometimes you don't know what you've spent until you're about to assemble all your stuff and start making mental notes about the pile-o-stuff you have in your amateur radio box) - but you don't have to start there. Like Gil said, if you want to make human voice contact in the 3-50 mile range (and potentially much further if certain "science" happens in the upper atmosphere), maybe CB or a handheld UHF/VHF is what you would like to do?

Some Ham's/amateurs (like Gil, I think) like to see how far away they can go - with as little power, and for as little cost, as possible!

So far, my limited exposure to amateur radio has shown me that whatever your interest level/financial capability - there's something just for you!

...but don't overlook one key fact - if you can find an experienced ham that you can bounce questions off of - it really helps!
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.



You've received a bunch of helpful hints here and I'm sure we can all agree that you've got plenty to chew on.

One thing I've not necessarily seen mentioned here yet is that many/most of us are more than willing to entertain very specific questions from you.    You might be the sort (as I am) that needs to be able to zero in on something specific, especially when you're beginning.

Since there are clearly NO dumb questions to be asked, have at it.  Put 'em right here so we can all tackle them for you.

One at a time would be good!  That way, you can focus -- and so can we.

Here's some starter questions that relate to ham radio (VERY highly recommended!)  designed to get you going.  Choose one, choose none, make up your own!  We're here to help.

1.  What band of frequencies would I use to communicate from point A to point B, where the distance is 400 miles?

2.  Why do we allow you the free use of millions of radio frequencies, by only memorizing the answers (if that's the way you choose to get your license) to some questions?

3.   Why is it that Citizens Band (CB) radios can not RELIABLY make contact with other stations on a day-to-day basis?  (((loaded question; many answers!)))

Again, we're here to help you.  Welcome aboard!