So, curious about Amateur Radio? What are those odd antennas on that guy's car? What is Ham Radio anyway?
That's a big question. We'll give you a basic answer, and encourage you to inquire further if you're interested.
Amateur Radio is a lot of things.Yes, we like to talk on the radio. Some of us are experimenters, building antennas and stuff, even radios. We use different voice and digital modes on the air, including Morse code and Amateur TV. Our computers often talk to one another by radio, we even pass messages similar to the Internet.
In addition to the fun of talking to people all over the world or on the next block, we're also serious about community service and helping our fellow amateurs grow in the hobby. One of the things that's drawing a number of new hams in the last few years is Skywarn. Skywarn is a group of trained severe weather and tornado spotters, connected by amateur radio with the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, MN. Training's given every spring all over town, and we need new faces.
We also offer emergency communications assistance when normal telephone service and such is out. Each June hams individually and as clubs conduct Field Day, an emergency-preparedness exercise that's also a fun weekend, whether you're out with a bunch setup roughing it or even just on battery power at home. There's a lot going on in ham radio, and it's not hard to get started.
You've taken perhaps the best first step right here. This website is maintained by TCRC, and from here you can find a lot more. Some amateur 'radio shacks' contain thousands of dollars worth of radio equipment, rivaling some broadcast stations. It's not actually an expensive hobby to get into. For example, for under $100 you can buy a used 2meter radio and the accessories you need to get it going. With just that you have access to many local repeaters, and those all across the country. Repeaters let you on a small radio connect into a central one, which has far greater range and some cool features as well. For instance, an autopatch function that lets you place a telephone call from your ham radio thru the repeater. This is similar to the system currently being used by fire, police, and such.
On the 2 meter repeaters there are nets, where people all tune in and listen and check in and trade radio-related stuff or just chew the rag a while and greet friends. There's almost always someone listening if you feel an urge to chat. It's a friendly place and new hams are extra welcome. Get started there and you're going to learn about what others are doing with ham radio, and make some friends in the process. Licensed amateurs in Minnesota are permitted by law to use a scanner in their vehicle too.
Yes, you need an FCC license. At present the cost for the test is twelve bucks. The FCC license is good for ten years. To pass the test, you'll need to study a bit. For the Technician license, the entry level, which allows you to use the 2 meter repeaters mentioned above, as well as the 440 Mhz band, a portion of the 10 meter HF band, and more, you don't even need Morse code. Morse is a license requirement for those going more into HF, those are the frequency ranges where you'll do most of your worldwide talking. Testing covers things like FCC rules, some radio principles, what frequencies you can use, and just basic common sense.
As you go higher in license class, you will of course need to learn more and in more detail. The test preparation materials are easily found, like books for under ten dollars, classes offered by some radio clubs, even online test practice at several websites. We want to make it easy to join us in Amateur Radio, license testing is given weekly or better all over the metro area, offered by several radio clubs including TCRC.
In our page of links on this website, you'll find connections to many things like the online tests and test prep, and a whole lot more information on Amateur radio and the activities Amateurs enjoy. As a club, we're here to help one another grow in and enjoy the hobby, and to encourage those interested to learn more and join us. Please take time to visit the links we've provided, and then if you have more questions, we'd be glad to help you get started.