There are basically three classes (levels) of licenses for amateur radio:
- The technician class license, called “getting your ticket”, gets you on frequencies/bands that allow for local communication, and also some with which you can make longer contacts. Bands are just ranges of frequencies, often stated in terms of the average wavelength corresponding to that frequency. With the technician class license you will have access to the popular 2 meter and also the 220 and 440 centimeter bands, which are good for local communications generally. These work “line of sight” which means with no major obstacles like hills or mountains in the way and are usually using the “FM” or frequency modulation mode. The latter also work through repeaters which relay the signal out so you can talk to people further away by these relaying repeaters. You also get to use 6 meters and a bit of 10 meters which on a good day can go thousands of miles. With 2 meter or 70 cm FM you can talk to others directly over maybe 5-20 miles (simplex – no repeater)) or through repeaters for 30-40 or more miles. It is line of sight still. You can also work satellites which are really just very high repeaters, and through these you can make contacts for many hundreds if not longer of miles! Milford and Hopkinton each have a 70 cm or 440 MHz repeater. Framingham has several repeaters. HTs or “handy talkies” (walkie talkie) can be bought from 50 to several hundred dollars. The cheap ones are ok for listening but sometimes hard to program and not so good on the audio. Most of these can listen in to public service like Police and Fire but are blocked from transmitting on those frequencies which would be illegal. I use a Yaesu FT-60R, an oldie but goodie, which covers 2 meters and 70 cm or “dual band HT”.)
- Also there is the general class license which gets you on some parts of more bands including “HF” (high frequency most of the rest of the bands including 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40, 80 and 160 meters). With these bands, you can talk up and down the east coast, cross country and into Europe, South America, and further with good equipment and good propagation conditions. I have talked to Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and Antarctica using only a 100 watt radio and a wire in the trees. I have talked to Europe and all over the US, Canada and South America using only 5 watts and very limited wire antennas. These are usually short conversations or exchanges to these further areas, not long conversations, but the latter is possible. Many people are into digital modes when send digital signals over the airwaves and use a computer connected to the radio to decode and send signals that give the call sign, the location, and a signal report without saying a word. Morse code or CW (continuous wave) is still popular and can get a signal through when nothing else can. You can also send still color pictures by radio which is another aspect of the hobby.
- The extra class license is the highest class, and it gets you access to all the frequencies on these ham bands.I (KB1VXY) studied for one weekend for the technician class license using the hamwhisperer free online course (see below) and the no nonsense guide pdf at https://www.kb6nu.com/study-
guides/. For the extra class I did 4 months of light studying doing practice questions supplemented by tutorial practice from a club member. For the extra class, I took my time reading one of the books, but eventually used hamtestonline because there were so many questions in the pool. Some people have been known to take all three exams in one sitting, one after the other, not me.You can buy the equipment used at flea markets or new at some stores or on line. You will probably want to first buy a dual band HT (handy talkie) for 2 meters and 440 cm, under $160 and cheaper, add a better antenna than the stock one, $30, which is called a “rubber ducky”, and maybe add a mag mount antenna for the roof of your car for $40. That will get you on the air once you get licensed. I tend to buy from Ham Radio Outlet in Salem, NH, https://www.hamradio.com/Probably the best bang for the buck is to simply subscribe to hamtestonline for about $25. This is the one that gives mini lecture slides and then questions and it sorts them by how often you get them right. Once subscribed, you can practice for two years. You have to subscribe separately for each level of test though. You can also use it for free to some extent. One good feature of this program is that you can limit yourself to one category of questions, such as safety topics, and practice all those at once. Then maybe move on to antenna questions, etc. Here is the link: https://www. hamradiolicenseexam.com/login. htm
Here is a video course (the question pools change every few years and these course may not cover exactly the questions, but most if it stays the same.) >>
Here is a more recent tech class online:
Here are some practice exams. Some people just do practice exams until they get good (consistently 90%) at them.
The ARRL, Amateur Radio Relay League, has lots of info on amateur radio. It has links to books, the actual question pool, and other resources. If you want to really understand the material you could read some of the books. But there is a fair amount of free stuff online. The site for the technician class license is here >>.
Resources, including video, audio.
One of these links they give is for a kid friendly course.
The basic ARRL technician class manual is here>>
There is a shorter Q&A book that covers the same material>>
Gordon West puts out a series also in book form (I used his for the Extra). And he has a course on CD.
There is also a phone app for the Technician class that works on droids.
The ham whisperer has a free slide show with audio here. The tech class was good through the June 2018 exam, but most of it is still relevant. I used an earlier version of this on the weekend before the test, then took the test and passed it.
After you study a bit and are consistently getting at least 80 to 90% on the practice exams, look for an exam session in your area. They are called VE sessions (volunteer examiner) and bring all the stuff they tell you to bring. Ids, $15, etc. You can search for a testing session in your area by looking here.
FARA does testing on the odd months, and you have to contact the testing person ahead of time. http://w1fy.org/license-exams
There is another, perhaps the simplest and cheapest way: Download the question pool Do the questions and delete them from the file when you are sure you know them. Eventually you get down to a few questions that are hardest to memorize. The question pools are located here:
Good luck and feel free to ask me or any other FARA officer any questions you have. Visit us at our meetings which occur at 7:30 pm on the first Thursday of most months, at the Framingham Police Department. We no longer have a working club shack but are looking for one.
John Iwuc, KB1VXY, President of Framingham Amateur Radio Association