Recently I’ve decided to get back into amateur radio (aka Ham Radio). For those how haven’t heard of Ham Radio. Let me explain a little more about it. At some point or another you’ve used a radio. Either you’ve listen to AM and FM stations for weather, news and entertainment. You may have even used a CB (citizen band) or 2-Way radio at some point. All forms of radio communication are regulated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The FCC manages and set frequents ranges for use. This is to help insure that devices do not interfere with each other.
Ham Radio is a set of bands/frequency ranges set aside for licensed operators. Licensed operators are required to past tests to ensure that they know how to setup and operate their equipment properly. Operators or Hams as they are often referred to, practice these radio skills for recreation, education and to help provide support during emergency situations. Hams have helped saved lives during such devastating events as Hurricane Katrina.
My life as a Ham began when a friend of the family, Dave (KE4LGV) introduced us to the technology. While out on a camping trip Dave showed us how he could contact other Hams miles away on his 2 meter radio. My dad became fascinated with it. Soon he got his license followed by the rest of our family. I earned my license sometime in late 1995. The FCC issued me the call sign “KE4ZDN”. As a gift for getting my license my parents bought me a Radio Shack HTX-202 hand held 2 meter radio. Which I still have and use today.
The other day I fired up my radio for the first time in over 10 years. After a full battery charge, I was surprised to find it still worked. I found a few local repeaters around where I now live. However due to living in an apartment I limited to using a rubber duck antenna. But I am able to hit a few repeater stations that can rebroadcast my signal for miles. I’ve made a few interesting contacts. Including a guy named Herb, who’s working on a home-built electric car.
I’m looking into other options for antennas. Some of the guys recommended using a 1/4 wave magnetic mount antenna on top of our refrigerator. Which would make our frig serve two purposes, an antenna ground plane and to keep food cold! I found another interesting antenna on eBay that I have been looking at. Operator N9TAX makes and sells what he calls a Slim Jim J-Pole antenna. The reviews show that it works great in environments where you cannot afix an antenna. The unit can also be used indoors. Not sure which route I will take. At some point I would like to get a better solution.
In addition to my hand held unit. I can also use radios over the internet via of EchoLink. This great software allows users to link their radios to computers to allow use over the internet. Some radio repeaters are also linked using EchoLink. I had the pleasure of talking to a fellow Ham operator in Cape Cod, Mass. Using the EchoLink software I found an open radio in the area that was linked to the internet. There was some delay but we were able to have a conversation.
That’s about all I’ve got on Ham Radio at the moment. If you’re interested in learning more about it check out eHam.net or search for a local radio club in your area. As they say on the radio, 73′s (best wishes).