I have been overwhelmed at the interest that my first post generated. First of all let me thank all of you who left comments and also the emails that I have received with questions. I am going to try to address all of them but please be patient with me as typing is not one of my skills. Proper English and spelling are also not my best ability. (Spell and grammar check are my friends trust me) I am however very talented at moving mountains or at least parts of them. Just wanted your tired eyes to open with that statement. I am a self employed excavating contractor here in the Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. I do not have a background in the field of electronics or radio communications. Now you will understand why I say what I do next.
First let me start with the number one question: HOW HARD IS IT TO GET LICENSED?
My answer to this is here in the US it is almost too easy. With just a little dedication and studying any one of you can and will be able to pass the technician class license. (I did)
While this first step is NOT going to give you the privileges to operate on all the bands there are, it will give you the bands that will be most useful in what I consider local communication (100 miles give or take)
The second step is where you get the privilege to use all the bands or at least a portion of them. This is the General class. While it is a little harder and takes a little more dedication and study time it is still not that hard. Again I did it so I am confident any one of you will be able to do it. At this level your ability to communicate will become world wide. (And I do mean world wide I have the QSL cards to prove it) For those that do not understand this, a QSL card is a card you either have printed for you or print from your computer. These are used to send thru the Postal system to other Hams when you speak to them on the air. I am going to make an offer here to send you one of mine so you can see how it works. (I know that I will probably catch some flak from old school Hams over this but that is OK I have big shoulders I just want those with an interest to see how it works) I may have to limit this offer because of cost but I am not sure how many will request one. So for now I will try to send one to everyone that emails me an address to send it to. (Trust will come into play here but I promise to keep your identity and address private I have no motive to use it for any purpose other than to let you see how this works) I take the trust thing very serious. I will tell you though; I do have a very unique QSL card that you will like.
The third step: Extra class is where you get the privilege to use the entire portion of all the bands. I have not gone that far to date but it is in my plans to do so in the future. Because of the fact I have not done this yet I will leave it at this point.
The second question that came up a lot was: HOW MUCH DOES ALL THIS COST?
The first step is to find a way to study for the test. This can be as little as FREE. You can purchase books for this at a cost of around 20 USD but you can also do it the way I did and study online for free. I will give links at the end of this post for a couple of sites, that you can take practice test for free (At least they were free when I did them) until your scores are high enough to go in and pass the test. Now for the test itself, my first test was 7 USD and when I upgraded to General that test was done by a group of Hams that do not charge anything. They do it for the love of the hobby at there own expense for FREE.
Now as far as the equipment goes: Well this can be as little as free to as wild as the imagination allows. I can only tell you what I have in my personal inventory. My first radio was 50 USD from a friend used. My first antenna I made from new ½" copper pipe like is used for plumbing in a house. I went to Home Depot and purchased new for this around 20 USD. I built it myself from plans off the internet that were free and I will email anyone that wants them. Now this is a plain 2 meter radio and a home made antenna but that was the beginning of my ham station. With this radio I am able to talk on all the local repeaters and have also talked as much as 75 to 100 miles without use of repeaters. That will not be everyone's results as there are many things to interfere with radio signals. I live in the mountains so I have natural elevation that helps me with distance. My main HF station or general coverage radio I purchased it thru the swap meet forum at www.qrz.com total cost with shipping from Texas to West Virginia 550USD. It is a Kenwood 570D and it covers from 10 meter thru 160 meter. For antennas I got my 160 meter double bazooka, a 20 meter double bazooka, and a 6 foot roof mount antenna mast never used from a fellow ham: the cost was a drive of about 50 miles one way to get them and once I got there about two or three hours talking with a great person. I would have driven the distance for the conversation and the hand shake from a very neat person to talk with. My 80 meter off center feed dipole is home made from cable TV hard-line coax left over from my days of building overhead lines for a cable company and the help of two friends. My 10 meter is left over form my cb days but you can buy something similar for as little as free to 20 USD if you get one used or 60 to 90 USD new. There are more antennas coming in the future and most of the wire antennas are down at the moment because I was clearing trees from my property this winter and did not want to damage them in that process. We have had our first taste of spring weather and the area where my antennas go is now ready for them to go back up. That will be a future post coming soon so you can see how this is done. My original part 2 was going to be a post of my mobile set up in my service truck with pictures, but because of all the wonderful comments and questions by email this became part 2.
Kymber: of the Canadian Preppers Network was promised the next post I did but that was supposed to be what is now going to be Part 3 so I guess you will see Part 3 on the CPN first also.
Good sites for US residents as well as info for our Northern brothers and sisters are:
www.arrl.org A great place to read about Ham radio in the US.
www.qrz.com at this site in the upper left side (little white window) type in your zip code use your mouse to hit the search button and you will see a list of all the hams in your zip code. (You never know but you may already know one) There is also a great Practice test area on this site and that is how I studied for both my Tech class and my General class test.
http://www.eham.net Another great place for info and they have a section REVIEWS I believe it is on the left side of the page and there you can review what other people have said about different radios before you decide to buy.
http://www.hamtestonline.com/study.jsp an online place to study for your test but it is not free.
http://www.hamuniverse.com/bazooka.html info about the double bazooka antennas I mentioned as well as much more if you search the site.
http://www.n7qvc.com/amateur_radio/copper.html the 2 meter antenna plans that I mentione.
All of these links should still be good but if you find one that is not email me, I will try to help.
God Bless all from the Hills of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia