Foundations of Amateur Radio Celebrate accomplishments Mistakes are common in all aspects of life. Sometimes they are only known to you, other times they are public knowledge and open to ridicule and lambasting. Getting on air for the first time is an accomplishment and often the initial source of mistakes, mishaps and great frustration. Once you've made it on air, the reception to this feat is often underwhelming, people around you don't appear to appreciate the amount of effort you went to in order to key your microphone and for others to be able to hear that. If you've been in this community for a while it's easy to forget what is involved to make that first contact and to dismiss those around you who've managed to obtain their license, acquire their equipment, install and configure it just so and to actually achieve the first visible milestone in their amateur radio journey, though technically it's audible. If you've never done this, or if you have but have delegated it to the historical backwaters of your mind, here's an outline of some steps and mistakes along the path of making your first contact. The first question you're likely to ask is, which radio followed quickly by, from where? Then, if you're like me and many other starting amateurs, you'll have set up your radio for operation on the local 2m or 70cm repeater, you're likely to have some kind of vertical antenna with the microphone gain and squelch set just so and have your radio set for FM. I'm skipping over power, the electrical type, but that in itself can be a feat of endurance. After hunting around for a list of relevant frequencies, you might also have set up something like CTCSS to ensure that your signal actually gets acknowledged by the repeater. If that's not enough, you'll also have made your radio use an offset which makes it receive using one frequency and transmit using another. There's possibly more things you've had to do to make this work and not be subjected to the ire of the local repeater troll who appears to delight in telling you off when they feel you've done something wrong, like leave the roger beep activated or some other infraction. If you did manage to achieve all these things and actually made your first contact on the repeater, congratulations and welcome to the hobby! Take a breath, you did well. After a while you're likely to become more familiar with your radio and start exploring the local bands. You might program another repeater into your radio and even experiment with local simplex frequencies. Each of these activities brings a new experience and new mistakes. For example, not all repeaters use the same offset, or even an offset in the same direction. Not all repeaters have the same CTCSS requirements. If you're using a simplex frequency, remember to turn off the squelch - don't ask me how I know - so you have a chance to actually hear the other stations, even if you are using FM as the mode. The process of getting on air as a first time user can be daunting, with many different points of failure along the way. Ignore the trolls, try your best and ask for help if you get stuck and celebrate your accomplishment when you manage to make a contact. My point is that achieving all this isn't trivial and it would be helpful if that's remembered from time to time. It's easy to dismiss an achievement made by another, but much more rewarding to celebrate it. I'm Onno VK6FLAB To listen to the podcast, visit the website: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/ and scroll to the bottom for the latest episode. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB. All podcast transcipts are collated and edited in an annual volume which you can find by searching for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: http://amazon.com/author/owh. Foundations of Amateur Radio Volume 7 is out now - with chapters on digital modes, coax connector loss, waterfalls, station performance and more. Feel free to get in touch directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (http://twitter.com/vk6flab/) If you'd like to join a weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6.net, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.