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Ham Radio is
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Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association [SARA]

Established: January, 1958 an ARRL Affiliated Club since 1961

"Whiskey 8 Quack Quack Quack"

Meets at: James P. Capitan Center, Lower Level; 149 E. Corunna Ave.; Corunna, MI 48817 Monthly: 2nd Tuesday @ 7:00 PM

Club station located in the James P. Capitan Center - Lower Level.
IARU: 2 Grid Square EN72wx   Latitude: 42.9819 N   Longitude: -84.1164 W   Alitude: 760 ft.

Contact us at:   SARA / W8QQQ <Email>

You're invited to a club meeting!  7:00 PM the 2nd Tuesday of each month in Corunna, MI.


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Basic Ham Information

How to get started in HAM RADIO is NOT easily and clearly definable to a total newcomer. Ham radio and radio amateur have the same definition and are used interchangeably on these pages. Almost always a newcomer has heard of some aspect of ham radio that stimulated an interest which they found somewhat intriguing. This usually sparks a personal interest for more information on the topic. Depending on what was heard or the particular area of interest they stumbled upon, the newcomer will usually start with a narrow area of interest, especially when compared to "all the areas" that are available in ham radio.

Ham radio covers a very wide number of topics. Underlying all these topics is some level of communication, which is at the lowest level of commonality for all ham radio topics. Another common area, in the U.S.A., is the fact that all ham operators must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]. To obtain a license you need to pass a test on rules and regulations and on electronic theory. How large is the number of amatuer radio topics list? Well a nice private web site for hams is AC6V [SK], it has over 700 topics with over 6,000 links to other 'ham radio' sites, and that is just a beginning {See on AC6V the "Glossary, Ham" link for looking up terms you need defined or the "License Preparation" link on that page for lots of good data on getting a license}. (SARA's Web Links site has some good startig information)! Also, check, and Ham Radio for Dummies cheat sheet for many additional areas to review and think about.

If you are interested in becoming an amateur radio operator, we suggest you visit the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and then the ARRL's What is amateur radio? site links. Also, search for a local radio club and let them know you have an interest. Generally, they can and will be very helpful in guiding your learning path. They are a great place to find answers to areas in which you may need assistance and yield local personal contacts with a shared interest. They may be able to provide you with an 'Elmer', which is a knowledgeable person to assist you along your own ham learning path. Warning: An Elmer is usually a copious coffe drinker, so information may lead to a long term friendship & coffee drinking friend.

To start the licensing process, the various FCC application forms can be found at these external links FCC web site or at their FTP site. Almost all VE testing sites will have copies of the required forms, so you may be able to actually skip getting the physical forms, but knowing ahead of time what goes on the forms can be quite a benefit.

As in most complex areas, you cannot understand many of the discussions until you 'learn the language'. Ham radio is filled with thousands of abbreviations and acronyms that allow communication in a quick, accurate and precise manner. As a beginner to the topic, you will be required to learn this language to support your widening interests. It is importaant that you recognise this aspect and work to learn the language AS YOU PROGRESS, otherwise you may become discouraged and confused. Take your time and put forth the effort to learn the 'unknown terms' as you journey along and it really becomes a painless issue. This is an area where those new personal contacts become 'priceless'. As examples, you will need the phonetic alphabet, Q signals, abbreviations and many technical terms and acronyms in your new language {Start with ARRL operating aids link and Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur as first stops}. Things like: 'Q' signals, RST; CW; LSB; USB; AM, FM, SDR, RTTY, EME, PSK, ATV, etc. will become common terms you will easily learn to deal with. Prosign usage and proper on-air manners are in there as well. Just like any language, take your time and expand the vocabulary as you learn thus making the task more easily accomplished. The knowledge will make you feel 'at home' as you start operating on the air.

Today's ham radio operators usually use computers as one of their main communication support and organizational tools. Computers add to the many other aspects of our hobby and allow new complex methods to be integrated into our efforts to communicate. For radio amateurs, communication is the 'core issue' and the other areas are used to support and simplify are ability to communicate. As you are most probably viewing this data via some form of a computer, it is assumed you will have a computer to use for studying and learning ham materials (If not, check out your local library). You can survive and actual thrive at the beginning levels for "free" just by using the internet. Later you may desire your own written library of information (we have a web page on that topic). Then there is the expanding area of microcontrollers and microcomputers being used to assist ham radio efforts.

The Shiawassee Area Amateur Radio [SARA] strives to assist ham radio growth for people with an interest and we invite you to come to a meeting, email or phone for help. Also, we are trying to give access in a more self 'directed approach' to learning by use of the internet. There are thousands of web pages that provide information useful to people wanting to learn to be a ham operator. Figuring out which ones to visit and effectively learn from them will become part of our direction. There will be many internet links that will open the path to broader and deeper detailed knowledge. Hopefully, this will allow you a shorter path versus following some search engine links in some random manner and hoping you are gaining the correct information to get your license. As you understand and gain new terms, search engines can become your best weapon to gain detailed knowledge, but you need a list of proper terms to plug-in and learn quickly. Perhaps we can help supply a quicker path, just let us know.

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Amateur radio is a voluntary, non-commercial, radio communications service that allows licensed radio operators to improve their communications and technical skills, while providing the nation with a pool of trained radio operators and technicians. This pool provides the nation with essential communications during emergencies. If you have ever heard severe weather reports from "trained spotters" on a TV or radio station weather alert (Skywarn), hams are usually those trained spotters, sometimes risking their lives to help warn the public of dangerous weather approaching. After the storm, hams are usually there working with various aid agencies in providing communcations (all at no cost).

In general, you must obtain permission from the FCC to transmit a radio signal (in the USA). The exceptions to this position are very few and usually at power levels and frequencies that will only support communications over very short distances. Everyone else must go through a licensing system to obtain operating privileges. Exceptions exist for "short range" linking at low power levels (think WIFI hotspots, bluetooth, garage door openers, fast food ordring, etc). Otherwise you will need to obtain proper licensing.

In the U.S. there are currently 3 classes or levels of amateur radio licensing (historically there were up to six in the past). Each license class requires the passing of a multiple choice question test. The first level is the "Technician Class" and is specifically designed for the beginning level ham. To earn this license, you just pass a 35 question multiple choice written exam given by a volunteer examiner team (3 or more). Passing is answering 28 of the questions correctly (80%). The volunteer examiners [VE] must be ham operators and they want you to pass your exam and become one of their ranks. SARA has testing sessions on a regular basis and we are always trying to be helpful in getting you through the testing process (look at our web page with details - SARA VE Testing).

The Technician Class, as the beginning level, requires a very basic level of electronics and some elementary knowledge of the FCC rules and regulations. Passing this test allows voice operation on all ham frequencies and modes above and on 10 meters (30 Megahertz [MHz]). Also on 10, 15, 40, and 80 meters operation is allowed with CW (Morse code) using low power levels. These terms and many more details are part of what you learn in the study guides suggested. Learning Morse Code (CW) is no longer a requirement to obtain a ham license, however, it is the mode that allows radio amateurs to communicate over much longer distances. SARA can help you learn the code - just ask us!

Above 30 MHz the power can be up to 1500 watts and these privileges include the very popular 2-meter band. Many Technician licensees enjoy using small 2-meter (and higher frequencies) hand-held radios to stay in touch with other hams in their area or operating from just about any vehicle, boat, etc. Imagine sending live TV in real-time over the air or just still pictures over the air! By using a simple hand held radio, a repeater and the internet, you get clear speach around the globe to thousands of locations. The newer 'digital voice' modes can be used and link into internet resources to send your handheld signal around the globe.

Technician class Hams may operate FM voice, many digital modes including: digital voice, packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes. As a Technician class Ham Radio Operator, you can make international radio contacts via Ham Radio satellites, and actually communicate directly to hams aboard. Talk to the International Space Station (ISS). All using relatively simple and inexpensive equipment. You can use D-Star (copyrighted by Icom) and Fusion (licensed by Yeasu) for talking to hams around the globe by the interlinking of the repeater system and the internet. This allows telephone quality communication, using a small handheld radio, to almost all populated parts of the globe, with no financial charges (FREE).

Remember, you must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] to use these privileges and in order to get a ham radio license, you must pass an exam to receive your license. Privilges are based upon the specific license class you have. As you get started in our hobby, visit the SARA page for workbench and library for additional thought starters you may find interesting in progressing deeper into the ham hobby. There are 'one day study / test' classes to support your efforts (requires some work before the class).

The second level of license is the "General Class" license. It is the most popular class of Ham license and gives higher power and operating privileges on ALL ham bands (frequency range choices). There are some restrictions on frequencies within the various bands under the General class. You need more electronic and regulations study, but thousands of people have done this.

The third level of license is the "Extra Class", which is the highest level of license. It provides for operation on ALL ham frequencies. It has more allowed frequencies than those of the General Class license. It requires the most electronics knowledge and is held in high regard by other amateurs. The study can be difficult but the rewards are many.

In order to advance, you first take the Technician exam, then the General and last the Extra class. The test portions are required in sequence. You do not have to advance if you are happy with the level you are at. Most Ham radio operators go for the more popular General class after passing the Technician and getting a bit of experience. The General class authorizes ALL ham radio bands and modes. The Extra class requires the "in-depth understanding" of radio electronics and the FCC regulations for the amateur radio service.

Some people do take all three exams in one sitting! The tests have to be taken in order. You can't skip a test. Usually an Extra class operator has studied electronics for period of time and may be working in the electronics field. They have the knowledge to be able to work with higher levels of electronics required to pass the Extra exam. Many have just learned the elctronics with no real outside background.

Where to start? Your journey has already started just by reading this far. So, you are on the way to getting the first license. Use the internet to find and read as much as you can on the specific ham topic that started your interest. You will need to study basic information to get the FCC license and then you will need the information on your specific topic. A local library sometimes has borrowing books to get you started (maybe even the study guides we suggest below). Magazines and handbooks, look at the library, are good choices for gaiming additional knowledge. The best suggestion is: read, read and then read more!

The multiple choice tests used for all the exams are subsets of a large question pools. Under specified guidelines, the questions of every test are selected from this larger set. The entire set of questions, in complete detail, is available for your review at any time for free, like perhaps before the test. Most materials will have these questions listed as part of the material, so taking the tests is usually pretty simple. The following are some directions you may choose to follow.

You can check the SARA Technician Study Information web page as a guidepath to your own license. You can find commercial study guides in most amateur radio supply catalogs.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) publishes excellent ham radio license study guides for all classes of ham licenses to help you learn the things you'll need to pass your exam and have fun with Amateur Radio. See ARRL Books Web Page for ordering these materials (search around and read information on the site, as well as using the sale of materials information). Again, check your library to see if they have access to these books.

Also, Gordon West, W5YI is a California ham operator who has published materials and guides along the same lines. These are good study guides as well. The W5YI web site see 'Amateur Radio' under the 'Product Catalog' to list his materials.

Then there is the internet. Use a search engine to track down items and terms you want to know about. Find commercial vendors for amateur radio equipment read / study the information they have. Request paper catalogs and read those. Check out this site for online learning site links (relative inexpensive but requires computer and internet to actually study):

Ham Test Online-- GREAT site for Beginners & License Upgrades

Most licensed Ham Radio Operators have studied by one of these ways to pass their exams. They are highly recommended and contain ALL of the study material needed to pass the exams, including the exact questions and answers that can be on the exam! Search the internet for 'practice exam' sites, they will allow you to take tests online and feedback results. This will allow you to approach the actual testing with a high degree of confidence.

Again, you can check the SARA Technician Study Information web page as a beginning outline to your own license.

An interesting view on learning CW (Morse Code) can be found at: A Guide to Morse Code from G4IFB in Great Britain. It includes a nice 'reference' and 'bibliography' listing at the end. The ARRL has a very good paper on learning the code, check it out: Learning Morse Effectively - N7RR (great paper!!).

Two links suggested by the N7RR paper are: G4FON Koch Trainer and RufzXP {Callsign Practice}. These will assist you getting effective practice.

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All Hams Must Have An Antenna

Every radio transmitter is connected to an antenna. The antenna is the hardware that broadcasts the electro-magnetic-field into the eithers. There is a'ton of information' on the web about antennas and we advise looking through some of that material. Use our SARA's Links looking for antenna information. Also we have a very basic page at SARA Antenna Basics.

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