Monday, December 19, 2011

Amateur Radio: Not Just for Old Men

About a month ago, my dad decided to pick up an old hobby: amateur radio. It had been something that he had been into about ten years ago, but had to let go because of his newest hobby of being a father. He had been talking with someone recently who told him that getting an amateur radio license was so much easier now. Originally, you had to know morse code and a bunch of confusing rules and regulations to even dip your toe in the water. Fortunately, the FCC saw its way clear to eliminating the morse code requirement, simplifying the test, and making the questions available to the public. Man! Now, anyone can take the test and expect to pass! So, my dad being who he is, pondered the idea for a couple days, studied for a week, and obtained the highest level of ham license, Amateur Extra. (Show-off...)

Now, he had been telling me about all the cool things he was finding out about ham radio during the week he was preparing. That you can send video feeds back and forth between hams and you can send information with a computer were only a couple of the things he told me. What really piqued my interest was that the lowest level of licensee could contact anyone in the world. Meaning, I could talk to people right in the heart of Japan: Anime and Manga central. I couldn't let my dad have all that fun without me.

Even though I don't have all the background knowledge in electronics that my dad does, it was still relatively easy to pass the Technician Class exam. I had to study for about three weeks every night after work. My studying was even easy. All I did was take one to three practice test every night from this site and read a bit on the sections I was struggling with from the No-Nonsense Technician Class Study Guide. With this preparation, it was a snap to pass my Technician Class exam last Saturday. And even though I didn't pass the General Class license exam, but I did no worse on it than I did on my first Technician's practice test.

With the test now behind me, I'm looking forward to getting my "KJ6T..." call sign and start spamming the radio waves with:
"QC! QC! I got my call sign!"
("It's 'CQ,' you Lid. Get off the air.")

After getting my call sign, the only thing standing in the way of making my first contact will be my equipment. Being a 19 year-old girl, I'm looking for inexpensive, tasteful equipment. Preferable colorful. The black handy talkies that I've been finding may be all right for an old guy with no fashion sense beyond what's practical, but for a young woman who doesn't want to look like she's toting around a ten year-old cell phone, it's terrbile! The closest thing to decent that I've found are some Chinese handy talkies that come in the primary colors, camo-green, and black. What I was really hoping for was something in a soft pink, off-white, beige, or even light purple! I would even prefer a plastic-molded Hello Kitty model over the standard black models. So, until more upwardly-mobile women get into the hobby of Ham Radio, it looks like I'll have to make my own colored slip-covers.

But, fashion aside, I am really excited about having an amateur license. I'll be able to contact people who share my intellectual interests and plus up my "geek street cred." It will certainly be worth the three weeks of busy evenings I spent on it.

3 comments:

  1. congrats. don't be too negative about CW. It's awesome.

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  2. Now there's a concern I've never read about in a product review: a soft pink rig. Happy to read about your accomplishment, have fun with it.

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  3. Congratulations! Unfortunately there isn't much deviation from "black radios with glowing buttons" in the HT world. The Yaesu VX-7R is silver.. There's a 'blue ice' model of Alinco's DJ-V5, which is what I have. It's a little behind the times now, I think, but I've always had reports that my audio sounds great.

    I highly recommend requesting an 'AES' (Amateur Electronic Supply) catalog to peruse. It's absolutely massive, and full of good stuff.

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