Author Topic: 3 days to a HAM license  (Read 7875 times)

Offline AngusBangus

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3 days to a HAM license
« on: May 10, 2012, 01:29:53 PM »
I sent the following in a PM to a new member who asked for guidance on getting a HAM license. Most of the "resource" threads and the HAM RADIO STUDY MATERIALS sticky is from 2010, so 2 of the 3 question pools have changed since then and the last one is due to change this summer. The message is also not simply "here's how" but also "get off your butt". Since there are mixed themes and not just reference, I'm posting this here:

I went from no specific radio knowledge to Technician license in 3 days in the spring of 2010. I upgraded to General after a 1-day refresher in spring 2011. My dad points out that I do have a pretty significant physics and engineering background... even though I'm not a sparky, I knew enough about Volts, Ohms, Amps, Hertz, wavelengths and the associated math to understand and get through the calculations. If I'd known how the process works, I would've gone straight to General. Instead I ONLY studied the Technician test and showed up to take that one... OOPS.  ::)

Here's how it works. You go in and take the Technician test. You turn in the paper and they grade it on the spot. If you pass, the proctors give you the General test to take. Turn in, grade again. If you pass that, you can even take the Amateur Extra test. You REALLY don't need to be an Extra unless you are planning on some HEAVY DUTY experimentation, construction, and fringe operation. If you LOVE taking tests, go ahead and give it a shot, but the General class license gets you into every single band where you would do voice communications.

Here's how you go from 0 to General in a few easy steps:

1. Go to http://www.arrl.org/question-pools and download the Technician and General question pools. You might also download the ARRL Band Plan and some other graphics to look at and get familiar with before trying the tests.
2. Read through the Technician pool and the CORRECT answers. Repeat with the General pool. If you print it out, cross out the incorrect answers. This is you ACTUALLY studying. For the math based questions, you might buff up a bit on things like V = IR, Power = I^2(R) = VI, Wavelength (m) x Freq (MHz)= 300 (300 Megameters/s, speed of light). The General pool builds on the Technician pool, so it is not a disadvantage to study the General before taking the Technician test. Some people don't like this "study the test" approach and think you should take a course. Ummm, why? You are capable of reading the FCC regulations covering the appropriate license. I also suggest doing this, but you can get your license quickly and read the regs while you chat about them on the air with people.
3. Go to http://www.eham.net/exams
   3.a Take Technician practice tests until you consistently score >90%.
   3.b Take General practice tests until you consistently score >85%.
4. Find a local exam location at http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session They are usually at a local HAM Radio Club, emergency operations center, or something similar.
5. Show up and take the test.
6. Get on the air.

If you do step 4 first, it will tell you how much time you have to complete step 1-3. I did step 1-2 on Thursday, step 3 on Friday, and got my license on Saturday. Again, it was just the Technician. But I just didn't TRY to do general. I might have needed one more day if I had to also study the General pool and take those tests. Anyway, it's not that hard. Just like all the other prepping we do, get your butt off the couch and make it happen. The only thing stopping you from doing it is taking the time to do it.

There was an old thread from 2010 that had links to the question pools with ONLY the correct answers left. But the question pools change a little every 3 years. I would just Google "technician pool correct only" if you want to go that way. Here's the old thread: http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=12602.msg139824#msg139824

Good luck and see you on the air.

Offline slingblade

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2012, 09:10:37 AM »
Anyone know of an audio book or audio podcast that will run through the information?  I have plenty of time to listen but not a lot of reading time.

Offline chezrad

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2012, 05:48:16 PM »
Look up "Ham Radio Podclass". I think they are still available.

Offline slingblade

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2012, 08:04:23 PM »
Looks like they took the site down :(

Offline Hartmann

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2012, 10:45:46 PM »
Anyone know of an audio book or audio podcast that will run through the information?  I have plenty of time to listen but not a lot of reading time.

I highly recommend Gordon West's materials:
CDs (Technician):
http://www.amazon.com/Technician-Class-2010-2014-Theory-Course/dp/0945053630/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1337056922&sr=8-3

And the companion book, Technician (get this for sure):
http://www.amazon.com/Technician-Class-2010-2014-Gordon-West/dp/0945053622/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337056965&sr=8-1

Using his stuff, I breezed through the exam (34/35 right).  I am studying for General now with his book/CDs.

I also listened to Podclass for just drilling questions while on the way to work.  I see the site is indeed down; wait a few days and it may be back up again, I hope!  That was a good free reference.

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2012, 09:37:08 AM »
I highly recommend Gordon West's materials:
CDs (Technician):
http://www.amazon.com/Technician-Class-2010-2014-Theory-Course/dp/0945053630/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1337056922&sr=8-3

And the companion book, Technician (get this for sure):
http://www.amazon.com/Technician-Class-2010-2014-Gordon-West/dp/0945053622/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337056965&sr=8-1

Using his stuff, I breezed through the exam (34/35 right).  I am studying for General now with his book/CDs.

I also listened to Podclass for just drilling questions while on the way to work.  I see the site is indeed down; wait a few days and it may be back up again, I hope!  That was a good free reference.


+1 to Gordon West. I listened to his stuff when I thought about going for my Extra and when I wanted to beef up on my CW. He has a good teaching style.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2012, 09:36:09 PM »
E... experimentation?

You mean I can get a license to build my own radio from resistors, capacitors, inductors, various transistors and diodes, etc... and then shoot energy into space for other humans to recieve, all on my own custom built piece of equipment?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

This I must do.  *hand rub, hand rub, hand rub*

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2012, 07:30:23 AM »
E... experimentation?

You mean I can get a license to build my own radio from resistors, capacitors, inductors, various transistors and diodes, etc... and then shoot energy into space for other humans to recieve, all on my own custom built piece of equipment?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

This I must do.  *hand rub, hand rub, hand rub*

Yeah, I haven't tried to build my own radio yet. It isn't that hard. After all, it used to be done frequently by kids in the 50s. And they didn't have soldering irons. In case someone is reading this who did not understand that Josh was writing with some humor (unfortunately sense of humor is not prerequisite for being a HAM), you can experiment and make your own stuff even with a Technician license. The Extra license just opens up the possibilities of what you can do.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2012, 09:28:45 AM »
Well, as a computer engineer who hasn't been able to get a job in his chosen field (rassum frassum), and is working with code (way better than paperwork! Love my job!), I feel a distinct urge for some "Heavy duty experimentation".

Bwahahaha?

:P

Anyway, thanks for all the info Alpha Bravo.  I think I'll start off studding for the easier two first.  As a bit of light prep for Hamming, I'm practicing the NATO phonetic.

Is there any re-testing, or is this a lifetime license?

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2012, 12:57:56 PM »
I feel a distinct urge for some "Heavy duty experimentation".
Bwahahaha?
:P
I think you meant YAARrrrgh!  8)

Anyway, thanks for all the info Alpha Bravo.  I think I'll start off studding for the easier two first.  As a bit of light prep for Hamming, I'm practicing the NATO phonetic.
@AlphaBravo - Nice. If we're gonna use non-FCC handles... my non-HAM callsign (which I was lovingly given when I was the mission commander after my COMMO in central america found out my middle name is Angus) is BEEFCAKE.  My 7 year old, whose initials are AAA, insisted on having one of his own when we use our GPRS/FRS radios. So he is "Alpha 3" pronounced ALPHA TREE in accordance with NATO standards for radio comms. And my 5 year old, who is RCA (and quite the ladies man at 5) is just ROMEO. It's kinda awesome that my kids want to practice COMSEC without any prompting.

Is there any re-testing, or is this a lifetime license?
The license term is for 10 years. However, you simply have to re-up. There is no further testing. That MIGHT not be the case if you let it lapse.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2012, 01:04:06 PM »
COMMO?

And sorry, AlphaBravo, I'm not exactly comfortable calling you that.  I'm sure you understand.  I can call you meatloaf if you like, though.

Maybe I should just look up your FCC handle.  :P

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2012, 01:30:42 PM »
COMM
COMMO?
And sorry, AlphaBravo, I'm not exactly comfortable calling you that.  I'm sure you understand.  I can call you meatloaf if you like, though.
Maybe I should just look up your FCC handle.  :P

COMMO - Communications Officer (actually he was an Air Force Tech Sargeant, but he was still my COMMO).
BEEFCAKE - I recognize it sounds silly, but it was really funny to do mission briefs when we'd go over the comms plan and to have the base or the helos calling me when we were out on a mission... "BEEFCAKE ACTUAL, BEEFCAKE ACTUAL, this is WARRIOR 21, OVER"

The callsign is W5DAA - it's publicly available information. Typically the folks in society I'm worried about are not also going to be delving into FCC records. If they do... I'm not only a member of the HAM Radio Club, but also a member of the Black Rifle Club.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2012, 01:56:50 PM »
Thanks, Whiskey Five Delta Alpha Alpha.

So, can you explain the whole "ACTUAL" thing to me?  I presume it that means they want you, yourself, not someone else answering for you, or in your team.

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2012, 02:52:59 PM »
Thanks, Whiskey Five Delta Alpha Alpha.
I really wanted Whiskey FOR DAA, because that just makes me smirk every time I say it. Such is life.

So, can you explain the whole "ACTUAL" thing to me?  I presume it that means they want you, yourself, not someone else answering for you, or in your team.

When I say I want PATHFINDER ACTUAL, I mean I want the person who is the commander of the mission with callsign PATHFINDER. I use that one because many of the missions I was on were titled that and the LT COL would be PATHFINDER. On THOSE missions, I would be PATHFINDER 3 (OPS officer) and my COMMO would be PATHFINDER 6. So if our headquarters wanted ME specifically, they would call for PATHFINDER 3. If they didn't care WHO answered, they would just say PATHFINDER without an ACTUAL or a 3, 6, etc. The numbering system comes from WAY back but I think it is now written down in the Joint Operational Planning and Execution System (JOPES). 1 - Personnel/Admin, 2 - Intel, 3 - Ops, 4 - Logistics, 5 - Plans, 6 - Command/Control (communications), 7 - Development (tactics, doctrine, etc), 8 - $$/Resources, 9 - "Outreach" (civil affairs, "school building", not PR).

The callsign for the mission is up to the planner (and subsequent approval by the Operational Order (OPORD) Approving Authority - aka, my boss). So my COMMO found out my middle name, started joking about it, and used BEEFCAKE as our mission callsign. It was all throughout the OPORD (that I reviewed a ton in draft form) and went unnoticed until the mission brief (where my boss would approve the order). The COMMO had to explain it to everyone and my boss thought it was hilarious so it stuck... OPORD approved. BEEFCAKE I became.

So if I was the mission commander (smaller planning missions without a full complement of people) and not just the ops officer in a larger mission, then my group would be designated BEEFCAKE and when they needed me specifically on the horn they asked for BEEFCAKE ACTUAL.

The whole thing took quite a bit of getting used to for this desk-jockey of a nuclear engineer. My Major gave me "Generation Kill" to watch and it all started to make sense. Great series if you haven't seen it and you're interested.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2012, 03:06:38 PM »
Thanks for the recommendation.  What's the series about?

And if you have a single ship mission, the ship commander is ship-name actual?

What do you do if you're calling around a fleet, and want to call the head of a ship?  Is it (SHIP NAME) ACTUAL?

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2012, 08:41:00 AM »
Thanks for the recommendation.  What's the series about?
The series is about the Recon marines who led the charge into Iraq in '03. It is NOT PG. It is also not TOO far from the way guys actually act sometimes.

And if you have a single ship mission, the ship commander is ship-name actual?
What do you do if you're calling around a fleet, and want to call the head of a ship?  Is it (SHIP NAME) ACTUAL?

Ships don't work that way. For short-range communications they have VHF radios... monitor CH 16 and shift to another VHF channel for a discussion. However, that only works line of sight. Someone on the bridge operates the VHF. For instance, the Deck Officer might take the radio and communicate intentions or direction to another ship... "Motor vessel SAILNOMORE, this is WARSHIP 55. If you do not alter course to starboard you will be fired upon." I HAVE spoken to the CO of the USS ARLEIGH BURKE when I was onboard the USS STOUT. She & I had both seem the same worrisome anomaly from different angles and were comparing what we'd seen before taking some contingency actions to an event. In that case, the ships got in touch with each other formally ("WARSHIP 55, this is WARSHIP 51, over"; "WARSHIP 51, WARSHIP 55. Go ahead.") from about 10 miles apart and then she just took the radio and identified herself as the CO and spoke to me. It was way more informal. When we later wanted to talk to her, we called ARLEIGH BURKE and the XO of our ship just asked them to get their CO on the radio.

For communications at sea (and NOT to other ships around them) they communicate via a radio room, which sends signals via lower frequencies (which cover more distance) and via UHF to satellites. Just like HAMs, ships used to communicate via morse code. Now they have shifted to digital communications and primarily use satellite comms for most of their data/voice. Surface ships even have POTS (Plain Old Telephone System), so that you can just communicate via phone. Bandwidth is limited and dependent on good link with the satellite, but available... (most often available on the carriers since they have more antennas, people to upkeep the equipment, and flags/flag staff :) ) something that would be difficult to explain to a sailor of yore like Magellan. Aside from POTS, though, they have specialists - formerly "radiomen" now combined I believe with electronics technicians or "ETs" who operate the radio room. They communicate with fully encrypted digital transmissions, the details of which were beyond my need to know or geekhood to fully understand.

I know I ent off-topic with some examples. Hope this answered your questions.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2012, 09:09:41 AM »
It did indeed, Whiskey Five Delta Delta Alpha.  Thank you.

One more question.  Once you get below specific positions within a team, and down to the generic, like, say "rifleman", how is the numbering decided?

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2012, 09:44:56 AM »
One more question.  Once you get below specific positions within a team, and down to the generic, like, say "rifleman", how is the numbering decided?
Ummm, you got me. I never was in the generic part of the team. From what I can gather by watching the more legit movies and having an understanding of the basics, I think you would just add another number/letter based on function and level (company, platoon, squad, fireteam), so if the mission was being run by a company, the company commander (maybe an O-3) would be the named entity.. "MISSION". Then the platoons would be numbered and the squads would be numbered under that... so 2nd platoon 1st Squad might be MISSION 21. But at this point we're beyond my knowledge and I'm just pulling from my 4th point of contact and applying a little logic (can be dangerous when applying it to things the Army or any military service does organizationally). I THINK that the members of a squad have letter designations based on my work with the Army SF teams, who referred to each others jobs by their MOS. An 18 Bravo, or just a "Bravo" was the weapons sergeant. My most frequent contact with SF was with their 18B (If you're reading this, what's up Murph! Go NAVY!). Again, the communications plan is customized for each mission. So a company commander could, in theory, set up his "SOP" (standard operating procedure) however he deems fit so that his folks can communicate. Like all communications personnel will be designated PIGEON. From what I've personally seen, though, Army commanders are more comfortable just doing what has been done. I think it's a culture thing... by the very nature of being at sea, the Navy never takes the exact same path twice. You may follow the same directions, but execution is a little different based on the wind and the seas. Navy COs are delegated authority and hold the ultimate responsibility for their ship and its crew, so they must take (and are expected to take) more independent action. I'm not saying the way the Army does it is bad... I just don't fit that mold.

Josh, you sure do know how to make a guy digress.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2012, 09:59:08 AM »
^_^ Thank you.  I tend to ask probing questions that take people to the edge of their knowledge or ability to explain, and tend to poke my inquisitive questions into areas that people like talking about, which tends to get folks to ramble.  It's something that I'm known for.

Offline idial1911

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Re: 3 days to a HAM license
« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2012, 08:20:35 PM »
I have the gordon west cd's somewhere for extra... I'd be happy to pass them along to whoever with the only request is that you pass them along when you are done to another ham in need.... PM me if you are interested.