ARRL Membership

arrl-logo The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is is the largest membership association of amateur radio enthusiasts in the USA and it represents the interests of hams before federal regulatory bodies, provides technical advice and assistance to amateur radio enthusiasts, supports a number of educational programs and sponsors emergency communications service throughout the country.

The ARRL is the primary representative of amateur radio operators to the US government, lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission on various issues of importance to ham radio.  The ARRL has a significant international membership and influence as well, serving as the secretariat of the International Amateur Radio Union, which performs a similar role internationally, advocating for amateur radio interests before the International Telecommunications Union and the World Administrative Radio Conference.

The ARRL’s underpinnings as Amateur Radio’s witness, partner and forum are defined by five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership.

ARRL’s Vision Statement–  As the national association for Amateur Radio in the United States, ARRL:

  • Supports the awareness and growth of Amateur Radio worldwide;
  • Advocates for meaningful access to radio spectrum;
  • Strives for every member to get involved, get active, and get on the air;
  • Encourages radio experimentation and, through its members, advances radio technology and education; and
  • Organizes and trains volunteers to serve their communities by providing public service and emergency communications.

For all the above reasons it is good to support the ARRL with membership at $49 per year. As a bonus, and for many it is reason alone to be a member, the ARRL publishes the monthly magazine QST.  Each issue is a source of equipment reviews, technical tips, projects, news and many other ham-related topics.

Regular columns address specific interests:

  • Amateur Radio World-  International ham radio news and info
  • Classic/Vintage  Radio- Fun look at older receivers, transmitters and transceivers
  • The Doctor is In-  Authoritative answers to interesting technical questions
  • Eclectic Technology- Discussion on new or unusual technology in ham radio
  • Hands-On Radio- Practical technical discussion of interest to DIY hams
  • Hints & Kinks- Ideas, tips, and related handy suggestions on all things ham
  • How’s DX?-  Long-distance (DX) communication news or issues
  • Public Service- Ham radio for emergency communication and/or events
  • The World Above 50 MHz- Ham radio at VHF and higher frequencies

There’s something for everyone in QST.  A new ham will be exposed to the Continue reading

Get on the Air Now!

An outstanding resource for amateur radio operators, and new or prospective hams in particular, is a paperback book by Don Keith N4KC entitled, GET ON THE AIR…NOW!

    

There is something for everyone here: Folks who are interested in ham radio, those who just got a license, experienced hams who lose interest, and long-time hams who are looking for something to share with newbies. N4KC covers most of what current and prospective ham radio operators need to know and he does a great job of selling the hobby/interest. And no, he’s not pushing Morse code, although CW operation is one of the more interesting aspects of amateur radio.

The main emphasis of the book is encouraging licensees to actually get on the air and experience real ham radio, not to get frustrated with bad experiences and limited equipment and then give up on our hobby.  He addresses some of the common discouragements and steers us to realistic remedies.  Chapter five is a practical discussion of antennas and I particularly appreciate chapter six with Don’s concise description of what to expect on the HF bands.

gotan TOC

The second half of the book is a comprehensive dictionary of “ham-speak”–amateur radio terms, abbreviations and slang, useful to all hams, new and old.

About $19 with a Kindle version for $9.  Highly recommended and the first item listed on a new site page entitled Recommended Reading.

License Training & Study

So you are interested in ham radio and want to get a license.  Thats’s great!  Now how should you study for the exam?

Let’s present some basic information first. Breathe a sigh of relief to know that Morse code is no longer required to be a licensed US amateur radio operator.  Also unlike the days of old, you no longer have to travel to a FCC office to be examined.  Many of us old timers recall having to demonstrate our skills at sending and receiving Morse and taking a tough written test at a FCC office in a large city.

License exams are now conducted by local hams who are accredited by an authorized organization to certify that examinees have passed the written exam.  These volunteer examiners then process the paperwork necessary to get passing candidates their license.  You can find the nearest exam dates and locations at the ARRL website.

License exam questions are all multiple-choice and are managed by the exam coordinator organizations.  There are question pools for each of the three license grades and these pools change somewhat every four years.  The question pool for the Technician class license consists of about 425 possible questions while the General exam has around 460.  The Tech and General exams both have  35 questions and a passing grade is 26 correct answers (74%, 9 wrong).  The Extra class license is much more extensive with over 700 questions in the pool and consists of 50 questions with a passing grade of 37 correct answers (74%, 13 wrong).  Each license class has questions about Rules/Regulations,  Operating Procedures, Radio Fundamentals, Practices, Electrical/Electronic Principles/Components, Equipment, Modes/Methods, Radio Wave Behavior, Antennas/Feedlines, and Safety.  As you might expect the questions become more involved and difficult as you progress from Technician to Extra license classes.  Every exam will have a certain number of questions from each of these general categories.

The Technician license exam is relatively easy to pass and is where most people start.  The General class exam is more challenging but is still doable for most people, being moderately or somewhat difficult to learn.  The Extra class exam is truly difficult and requires extensive learning and study to pass.  You can proceed from Technician to General and on to Extra in one exam session if you are really eager and prepared or just settle for Tech or General that day, as most people do.

Because you won’t know which questions will be on any given exam, you need to understand most (at least 75%) of the entire question pool for whichever exam you are attempting to pass.  So this requires some study in advance of taking the exam.

While it is possible for a reasonably intelligent and technically-minded person Continue reading

New Topics Coming

Sorry that it’s been several months  since any new topics have been posted.  The site manager  had a major stroke in April that put him in the hospital for four weeks and Jim has been recovering since.

Now that AF5NP is doing much better and has regained most of his functionality and energy we can think about writing and posting new material.  Still don’t have full use of the left hand, which makes typing awkward.  But we hope to roll a few things out in the near future even if he has to type one-handed.

Here are some of the topics on Jim’s list to prepare:

  • Practical skills for the radio amateur
  • Don’t settle for just a HT
  • Using a multi-meter
  • Your QRZ profile
  • License study
  • Call sign variations
  • Guide to using PowerPole® connectors
  • Packet radio
  • Dummy loads
  • Public service events
  • Radio craft language
  • Ham radio license plates
  • ARRL membership

We will also add a page of recommended reading to share publications that are particularly useful.

What Will My New Call Sign Be?

Of particular interest to prospective hams just finishing their study and preparing for their license exam, there is a great way to get a basic idea of the call letters they will be assigned, at least in the USA.  First they must know the FCC region they reside in based on the address they gave on the license application form.  The FCC divides the US into ten geographic regions with a numeric designation for each one;  a quick reference is found here.  For example, the table shows a numeral 5 for Texas so all New Texas licensees will have a 5 in their call sign as originally assigned.  By the way, this can be changed later but that will be a future topic.

From here you can refer to the Hamdata FCC info website and look for the most recent sequentially assigned call signs in your numeric region.  You can estimate that your assigned prefix (the letters before the number) will likely be the same as the most recent one issued for your region (unless it is at the end of the alphabet already), and your suffix (the letters after the number) will be the next one or two alpha characters subsequent to the most recent one issued for your region. All of this applies, assuming you take your exam in the next two or three weeks. If you test further out, you will need to check the database again to see the current stats.

Listen and Learn

Prospective hams or hams in training may wonder what they will do or say over the radio when they get their license.  There is all that lingo/jargon that hams use and there are rules about identifying and phonetics and whatnot; it can be confusing and intimidating to non-hams who haven’t had much exposure to amateur radio.

The best way to learn how hams speak on the air and what kinds of things they talk about is to listen in.  No license is required to listen; you can monitor radio traffic 24/7 if you like.  Listen and learn.  Just keep your finger off the transmit control (usually a push-to-talk [PTT] button) until your have a license.

Start by listening in on the local Continue reading

Who’s Your Elmer?

Elmer is what hams affectionately call an experienced amateur radio operator who acts as a mentor, guide, or encourager to new or prospective hams.  They coach and help prepare for license exams. They help new hams obtain equipment and accessories and get on the air.  They advise how to work the radio and what to say on the air.  They spend time showing new hams how things are done.  They practice communicating on the air to get over mic fright.  They demonstrate new or different modes or aspects of ham radio.  Elmers do all this and more.

So who is your Elmer?  Few people jump into ham radio cold on their own; they probably saw it in action by a relative, friend, or neighbor.  So  that person is your most likely Elmer.  But maybe that person is no longer around or available.  Who do you turn to? Continue reading