Frustrated New Ham...

Discussion in 'Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator/Upgrading Privi' started by K1POO, Apr 8, 2009.

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  1. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Two meter activity also varies all over out here in the hinterlands.

    I had noticed recently that the local repeaters are pretty quiet. I am suspicious that at least 2 of them aren't even working real well, but nobody else has noticed.

    But, this week, there has been quite a bit on the air.

    I also made a trip from here to southwest Iowa, and I was delighted to find quite a few pockets of very healthy activity. Most of what I worked was on UHF, which used to be completely dead down there.

    When I travel, I pre-program the frequencies along my route, and have them scanning the whole time. I find interesting band openings and those active pockets of hams that way.

    So, hopefully, the cycle is on the upswing and more folks will come out of the woodwork as we get closer to summer.
  2. K1POO

    K1POO Ham Member QRZ Page


    Thanks all for the overwhelming responses and suggestions. Wow! :)

    Well, as my wife always says, I am a pure bulldozer of sorts. I tend to run the ball instead of passing it, as they would say in football. I have a tendency to push through things instead of taking things slower, hence my frustration factor, I think. Thanks everybody for your patience.

    Well, I have been doing a lot of research and figuring things out (the Internet has been very helpful). I was able to attend a hamfest in Belton, TX, attend a meeting of another local club, participate as a visitor in a weekly ARES net, start getting the materials together for a copper and twin-lead wire J-pole (for when I travel), learn to program my radio with my computer to scan more repeaters quicker, ordered a much better antenna for my HT, joined a Yahoo group for one of the local clubs, was given a CW keyer by a local ham to learn morse, learned that HF is WAY cool, now know that I want to learn to work satellites in the future too, am learning the possibilities on mounting stealth antennas, met another ham that took the tech test the same day I did (we're only 9 call letters apart and both newbie clueless - feels good to know I'm not the only one) and have had lots of offers to help now. Like I said, I just needed to research and figure out a lot of things and how the ham community works. Believe me, there's much more to amateur radio than what the ARRL tech study book talks about.

    Well, that's my update. My excitement is still here as I learn more and more. Again thanks for all the encouragement!

  3. K0CMH

    K0CMH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very good to hear things are picking up for you.

    If you can locate a repeater linked into the IRLP System, you can talk "around the world" on that system.

    IRLP is a system of "nodes". A Ham sets up his vhf or uhf radio and connects it to the internet, through a computer. Some hams and clubs connect their repeaters into the system.

    Each node gets a four letter designator. Google "IRLP" and you will find a listing of all the nodes in the world and their four digit designators.

    Access any node, punch in the 4 digit designator for a particular node, and your transmissions will be sent by the local node, over the internet, to the other node, and then transmitted by that node. Any replies to your call come back to the local node the same way. I often use IRLP and talk to a number of different countries. One of the local repeater in my area is linked in and a fellow in the UK often calls on it during our rush hour. Great fun.
  4. KI4QGJ

    KI4QGJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Speaking as someone else in Tech H*ll (and also working towards my General), a few suggestions I'll add:

    a) Seconded on the suggestion to seriously consider Echolink. Until I could get some radio kit together, that pretty much WAS how I would connect to other amateurs. (I also had the bit of being a Person Without Much Money who also tends to be able to make franken-computers from spare parts.)

    b) Also agreed with folks that HF is a good place to hang out--you'll be restricted mostly to CW, but most of the CW operators tend to be friendly folk. Plus, assuming you've got space for an antenna, there's always the QRP route, which is less expensive. (Plus there are small amplifiers you can build for the QRP rigs.)

    One thing about CW--I would *strongly* recommend using the Koch method to learn, if at all possible. (I never could quite get CW with the ARRL Farnsworth tapes distributed in the 80s--even with the spacing, I STILL managed to get utterly confused. It turned out my problem was that I actually tend to filter characters into dots and dashes (rather than "dahdahdidah didahdidah" sounds) if they're sent too slow, and I would *still* try to unconsciously count dots and dashes--I can actually perceive characters as characters if sent at around 20wpm, and I've had more success with this. Your mileage may vary, though.)

    (Another thing I've had success with re learning CW--music, seriously. (This is possibly embarassing to admit, but I actually managed to learn "V" and "CQ" by knowing Beethoven's 5th (didididah) and the song "CQ Serenade". I think if there was a good musical CW learning MP3 collection (or CD or whatnot) I'd have it down--if I can hear it as musical rhythm, I can get it down. Perhaps I should be teaching myself by using a bass guitar or a set of drums. :D)

    c) This is, of course, incentive to get one's General so you can mess about with stuff like PSK31 and voice on HF. (It's supposed to be an incentive. The basic concept is that you evolve as a radio operator and improve your skills.)

    d) Repeaters can often be dead; another thing I've found is that often repeaters tend to be rather *specialised*. For example, it's not uncommon that a specific club repeater is the "Skywarn repeater" and doesn't get a whole lot of traffic outside of organised nets such as for weather spotters.

    e) In relation to this, you'll find there are actually a whole lot of subspecialties people get into with amateur radio--a lot of people have mentioned satellite work (something I'd like to eventually mess about with).

    My personal poison/passion is QRP, partly because it is one of the few fields in amateur radio where it is still possible to build a radio from parts. (I unfortunately grew up *just* when Heathkit went out of business. This made me a Very Sad Panda until I discovered places like Small Wonder Labs, Hendrick Kits, Elecraft, and so on. :D) Not only is building from parts to me fun, but educational--IMHO, there is possibly no better way to learn the theory behind things than getting in and doing it.

    If you do go this route, the SW40+ is a really good and addictive little QRP CW rig to start out with--not only is it simple to get set up, but there is a very good archive online called the "Elmer 101" class that essentially teaches radio theory via the process of kitting together the SW40+ (including suggestions for mods, etc.)

    One of the things that may be doable--assuming there's a club that does this in your area--is severe weather spotting, as noted. (One of the things that I'd love to do if there is ever a spotter class near where I live.) A surprising amount of experimentation is on the really *high* ends of the ham radio spectrum--in the gigahertz ranges.

    One thing that's served as a major incentive to me to get my General is PSK31 and other computer-based modes; radio geekery + computer geekery = WIN as far as I'm concerned. :D (The nice thing re PSK31 is you can get out with low power similarly to CW. Connect power, connect and match antenna, echo interstate and occasionally internationally at 5W or less; PSK31 is one of the few areas, like CW, where QRP operation is practical.)

    Again, though, it depends on what you like. Different folks will have different interests.

    f) Again, much as ham radio has sub-specialties, very often this is the case with clubs as well. If a club isn't as friendly, see if there's others in your area. (Quite often there will be a specific club or two locally that has a specialty in "elmering"--taking newbie hams under their wings and mentoring them. These in particular tend to be friendlier clubs, and good places to get exposure to what's available both on the VHF repeaters and outside of them.)
  5. W6ANF

    W6ANF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Beethovan was a ham!

    Ha ha ha haaa... I've always thought Beethoven was a radio operator (OK, I know they didn't have radios back then), but why else would he call it his 5th? 5 in roman numerals is, in fact, a "V" ( ..._ ) :D

    Rick W6ANF
  6. K8MHZ

    K8MHZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, down here where people outnumber reindeer the band comes in pretty handy.

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