HAM without a radio?
I've only recently gotten a license, although I've been on the periphery of the HAM world for a little bit. (Growing up, one of my siblings and various other individuals have been HAMs, but I never got into it myself.) Lately, my employment has grown to include operating on MARS with employer provided equipment. So, I went out and got myself a Technician license so that I would be able to, if necessary, operate the station without oversight. (If I have to get on it in an emergency, who knows if someone might be available?)
Unfortunately, my salary has not grown so much that I'm all that comfortable purchasing a radio right off. At the moment, I can't budget a chunk of change in the 500-1000$ range for a good mobile, power supply, antenna, etc, for a hobby which sounds fun but which I have little practical experience in. I know that a club is a good bet for ways to get some airtime and experience, as well as find cheaper gear, but I was also interested in other options.
From what I've seen, and a quick peek at echolink.org, it seems like it would be possible to use a computer to "get my feet wet" - within the limits of my license, of course!
Are there any suggestions, stories, moving life experiences, etc, along these lines? A radio will be in my future, but I'm also interested in any suggestions or help for those of us who may be radio deprived but still interested in QSOs.
As a catch all... I'm not bad with a soldiering iron, although I'm a bit out of practice. Any suggestions on good kits that might be able to become a radio?
I was looking around, and I'm somewhat surprised that there isn't a USB or similar peripheral for computers these days to handle only the actual RF generation - software would seem to be able to handle the rest. (Like most things, it seems like radios I've looked at may have more computer power built in than the original Macs had. Heck, the latest TI calculators outperform a lot of old 3/486 systems.)
Thanks for any and all pointers, suggestions, and even the occassional "get off my lawn!"
No such thing. Everyone is welcomed into ham radio world. As with any view of our worldwide society, simple rules should be followed. Apart from that, no other "get off my lawn" is encouraged or accepted, by anyone to anyone.
...and even the occassional "get off my lawn!
you are so oh so welcome.
-You added a linear amplifier for $249?
-Not exactly, but I did bought a Yaesu boatanchor FL2100Z 2 X 572 for $180 and 2 chinese tubes for $50... and then did some rebuild.
Heh. I was thinking of that too, but also the literal "Get off my lawn!" while trying to hide an antenna.
I recently picked up my tech license as well (KB1UHL). If you cannot afford any type or radio at this time echolink may be the way to go, at least to get your feet wet. There are also 2 meter and 70 cm 5 watt portables (Chinese made) available that range from approx $50-$120 USD that have gotten good reviews on some of the ham forums... I 've got at least a half dozen repeaters in both bands in my area that I can hit with these little units...good luck!
Echolink would work well for you, but many folks, and I am one who would agree with them, will tell you that Echolink is not Ham Radio.
I do use Echolink.
For sometimes less then $100 (usually around $100) you can find a good 2M rig. Make sure you get one with CTSS tones (PL Tones). Building you antenna is easy and you can power the whole thing with a car battery.
As time goes on, you'll acquire more equipment.
I am disabled and live on a little over $900 a month. It has taken me nearly 7 years but I have managed to put together a decent little station for myself. Never, ever turn down a gift, but never ask for one either.
If you run my callsign, you can see pictures of my station.
Be careful with those. Some are spectrally clean and some are not. All are illegal to market in the USA. It is not illegal for you to use one, unless it is not spectrally clean.
Originally Posted by JIMBR1
Personally, I'd stay away from them.
A $60 used QRP rig, a $20 keyer kit, homebrew antenna and paddle, and you can work the world for $100. The QSL cards will cost more than that.
EchoLink can be a lot of fun, and it's becoming more of a utility for linking repeaters in some areas. It will give you some insight into FM repeaters, but not much as far as HF radio goes. It does offer the possibility of random contacts with hams at great distances, and that can be very enjoyable. Some of my favorite QSO's from the past include talking to hams in Europe who were mobiling home while I was mobiling in to work, and chatting with a fellow down in Tasmania while he was out for his evening stroll with his HT.
Once again, you have any two of the following three things: Easy, Cheap, or Effective.
Easy and Effective will generally not be Cheap. Easy and Cheap will usually not be Effective. Cheap and Effective will not be as Easy.
According to your profile, you live in a fairly well populated area, though I do not know if there is enough VHF/UHF activity there to hold your interest for long. Please don't confine yourself to the VHF/UHF bands and think that's ham radio. Most of us consider VHF/UHF to be an accessory to a ham station, not the main station itself. For most of us, HF is where the action is.
If you intend to operate primarily voice modes, you will need a substantial station to really enjoy it. It's much easier to build a station that will work all over North America on a routine basis than it is to build one that will work the world.
Digital modes can be done very cheaply. Small Wonder Labs sell fairly cheap kits that will produce a few watts of digital (data) signal on one of the HF bands. Coupled with your computer soundcard and a decent outside antenna, these little rigs will make contacts all over the country. http://www.smallwonderlabs.com/ Check out the PSK20,30, and 40 and the Warbler for 80 meters. What I'm talking about is using the radios for keyboard to keyboard digital mode contacts.
Likewise, if you take the time to learn the code, there are a ton of small, cheap CW transceivers out there. An older HF rig that provides 50 or 100 watts of CW can also easily work the world with a decent antenna.
Finally, there are some good kits out there, but they won't save you much over a commercial radio. What you can hope for, in some cases, is a lot more performance for the price, though. Elecraft makes a nice line of kits. DZKit is a new supplier of high end transceiver kits.
Oh, and you are close when you mention a USB radio. Such things do exist in receiver form. And, there are a few companies out there offering more sophisticated 'software defined radios' like Flex Radio Systems. The computer does most of the work, and you can find lots of videos on YouTube demonstrating the capabilities of the Flex gear. Indeed, their newest offering, the low power Flex 1500 does use USB to connect to the computer. I believe their other versions use Firewire or their own interface.
Last edited by K0RGR; 06-25-2010 at 05:51 PM.
EchoLink, IRLP and DSTAR - adding interest to repeaters worldwide 24X7
Well, on my plate for the near future is studying to pass the General, and hopefully the Extra, exams. Along with Morse for CW, although I'm looking around to see what kind of software to generate CW for practice exists. (I do not want to get stuck in the "lookup" table trap.)
Fortunately, my employer maintains a mobile MARS station, so I have been exposed to some HF. (Of course, their station is a little on the expensive side...) Since getting my Tech license, I've also been able to get a little hands on with HF via MARS, but that's not something I plan on doing on a day to day basis. (Hopefully not ever, if the winds of chance are favorable. But it's better to be prepared.)
Locally, there are a few different repeaters running on the 70cm and 2m bands, so I think I'll look for something in those areas to start with, but taking the advice of an Elmer, I think I'll hold off on actually dropping a chunk of change into a radio until I get at least a General.