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What Do I Do Now
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What Do I Do Now

You know the feeling. You studied the test material for months with the anxiety building up inside you as you poured over page after page of technical data. When the day arrived you went down to the local ham radio club and sat among others taking the test, trying your best to remember all the information as you answered your 35 questions. When you finally handed in your test you sat and waited as the others slowly finished doing the test as well, while the VE's graded each one and put them in a neat little pile on the desk. When they approached you your heart skipped a beat as they told you that you had passed the test, congratulate you and shake your hand.

Sitting at home you surf the internet checking everyday to see if your ham radio license has been issued yet. It can be an exhausting experience. Sure the test is easy enough nowadays, and it seems that the hardest part of getting your amateur radio license is the waiting period. This can take up to 10 days. When the day finally arrives and they issue your amateur radio callsign you are excited and releived that the process is over, but now what do you do ?

OK, so now you finally have your call sign issued and a paper copy in your sweaty little hands as you start to consider what you want to do next. Do you purchase one of the inexpensive little Baofeng UV-5RE or Wouxun KG-UVD1p dual band radios and get on the air.

When looking for an amateur radio one important thing to consider is what you want to do with ham radio. Are you going to confine yourself to the VHF and UHF bands and use your amateur radio for local communications. Maybe you are interested in doing emergency communications with the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and give back a little time to protect and help your community. Maybe you are considering digital communications using a computer and your radio. This can be a great way to send email and communicate with other ham radio operators using cheap ham radio gear and your existing computer. It is also a way to stay in touch with friends and family.

Once a year the Amateur radio clubs around the country participate in Field day. This is an emergency radio exercise to set up a temporary station on generator power and make contacts on the air. It takes place on the weekend every year in June, usually with setup on Friday afternoon and then operating Saturday and Sunday with tear down on Sunday afternoon. This is a great way to get on the air and make new friends in your local area. Even if you are not licensed yet you can still get on the radio and make a few contacts and meet the locals at the GOTA (Get On The Air) tent. At field day you can try new modes of operation and new bands as well to familiarize yourself with them.

As radio equipment becomes more and more inexpensive the choices become harder and harder to decide on a first radio. There is a pile of cheap ham radio equipment out their that can be purchased over the internet. The one thing that you will want to be aware of is return policies and repairs. Sure you can get a used radio but if it stops working then you are on the hunt for a new one. If you purchase one online and don't get any kind of warranty then you are in the same boat. Ham radios tend to become outdated over time as technology moves forward and repairs can cost more than the radio is worth and it gets harder to find a technician that can fix it for you. You could learn to work on your radio gear yourself which can be very rewarding, but that takes practice and patience and wont get you back on the air right away.

No matter what direction the amateur radio hobby takes you, you will always be able to find people that share a similar interest.

The main point is to get on the air.


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