April 2, 2023

Returning to Ham Radio

 I'm starting to put my ham shack back together after a few years of dormancy.  As I was planning, I suddenly had the terrible feeling that I might have let my license expire.  A quick check with the FCC told me I'm still good until 2031.  Whew.  Plans can proceed.

So, the first order of business was to check my main antenna and make sure it was still serviceable.  Then I needed to run some coax to a different area of the house, since my "old" shack is now a storage room.  Finally, I had to dig through the shop to find the minimum equipment I needed to test out the antenna.  I grabbed my Icom IC-7000 since it's a "do-it-all" radio, along with an MFJ power supply and an external video monitor to make the display easier on my eyes:

By the time I got everything rigged up, it was nearing sunset.  You can see that it's still a mess, but it works.  I pulled out a blank notebook and started tuning around the bands.  By the time I went to bed, I had logged Nebraska, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, California, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, Milan Italy, and Nagoya Japan.  Not too bad for the first day!

Now, it's just a matter of planning a layout, grabbing a couple more radios and amplifiers, and hooking everything up neatly (well, as neatly as possible).  That includes emergency power from deep cycle batteries and a charging system.  There's also another antenna to hook up for 2m/440, but it needs new coax feedline before I can use it again.

Some Reasons Why Ham Radio is Better Than the Internet

  • Ham radio still works when all other forms of communication break down.

  • Ham radio has unlimited possibilities for those in the maker movement (we used to call them DIYers).  You can build antennas, radios, amplifiers, accessories, satellite equipment, GPS trackers, experiment with digital modes, R/C vehicles, software programming, audio, spread spectrum, space communication, and much more.

  • Ham radio has no political boundaries.  You can communicate with people around the world directly, one-on-one, without the intervention of government censorship or 'spin'.  

  • In a disaster, ham radio keeps hospitals in contact with first responders.  Floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes - ham operators can coordinate resources.

  • Ham radio teaches you about geography, time zones, solar and space weather, meteorology, magnetism, electronics, languages, math, efficiency, courtesy, and how to relay messages accurately and precisely. 

  • Ham radio has many awards to win and contests to participate in.  You can get awards for contacting all 50 states, or 100 or more countries.  Awards for contacting islands, cities in Japan, countries in Europe or Asia, contacting the International Space Station, and many others.  You can collect 'QSL' cards -  verifications of contact with anyone in the world.

  • Ham radio has no monthly fees, no data plans, no ads.

  • Ham radio gave us television, cell phones, satellites, WiFi, Bluetooth, microwaves, and the Internet.