Table of Contents
- What is Amateur Radio?
- Where Do I Get Study Guides?
- Where Can I Take Study Classes?
- Where Can I Take Practice Exams?
- Where Do I Take My Ham Radio Test?
- Now I Have My Tech License – What’s Next?
- Joining A Radio Club – Why Should I Join A Radio Club?
- Expanding My Hobby
- Filling out a QSL Card
What is Amateur Radio?
There are many different aspects of Amateur Radio. It’s very hard to put one definition around it so we will point you to the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) website which describes it best. Click here to learn more about Amateur Radio through the ARRL.
Where Do I Get Study Guides?
To obtain an entry ham radio license, you must pass a 35 question multiple choice test with a 75% or better. Click here to learn more about testing.
There are a few places to obtain study material for the Technician or any Ham Radio license class test.
Amazon Website – Search on Ham Radio License Manual and you’ll find a list of books/manuals. Gordon West Technician Study Guide : ISBN 9780945053798
ARRL Ham Radio License Manual – These are good study guides directly from the ARRL. ARRL Ham Radio License Manual : ISBN 9781625950130
KB6NU’s No Nonsense Study Guides – these are guides you can download in many forms and take a more reading approach to get you up to speed.
QRZ.COM Study Guides – these are general guides you can download to use to study.
You can also study on line at https://hamstudy.org/. This is a great place for general info around licensing, reviewing on-line flash cards, and taking practice exams. Spend some time on this website learning about ham radio.
Where Can I Take Study Classes?
If you’re in the St. Louis area, there are a couple of classes you can sign up for to prepare for the Technician class Element 1 license test. We (The St. Louis Suburban Radio Club) teach a Technician class twice a year over a full weekend, which is basically a cram course. Previous knowledge of the technical license material is highly suggested. We have a very high success rate for passing the Tech license in a weekend. For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org for upcoming dates. If you feel comfortable with the material there is a testing session on Sunday afternoon.
The above picture on the left is the tech session taught by SLSRC. The right is the Sunday testing session.
If you’re in St. Charles, the WB0HSI ham radio club holds 10 week classes starting in March and concluding in May. Click here for more info about classes in St. Charles.
Where Can I Take Practice Exams?
There are many places on the web to take practice exams. If you’re passing practice exams consistently with an 85% or above, you are ready to take the exam! Go for it!
There are numerous apps for Apple and Android phones/tablets that allow you to take practice tests. Check the respective app stores and search under “ARRL practice test” or “ham radio practice test”.
Where Do I Take My Ham Radio Test?
If you’re from St. Louis, we have our own VE Testing (Cliff Cave) team that meets weekly on Tue nights to administer tests. Click here for more info on St. Louis testing. Be aware on what identification and payment you need to bring with you.
If you’re from outside the St. Louis area check your local ham radio club. St. Charles and Jefferson County offer testing on a semi-regular basis. Check below for a link to the ARRL to find a local club in your area and contact them for testing sessions.
Now I have my Tech License – What’s Next?
Congrats!!! Now you have your new Tech license and a new call sign. This is your license to not only get on the air but to learn more about the hobby! The first thing to do is get a transceiver and some hardware to get you on the air.
A VHF/UHF hand held (5 watts) or mobile (50 watts) is a good starting point. These transmitters can range from $35 dollars on Amazon (Baofeng hand held) to a nice $550 dollar Kenwood TM-710GA mobile radio from DX Engineering. Do your research before purchasing. Keep in mind, if you buy a small HT (handy talkie) that has a small antenna and 5 watts of output, you’ll need to be very close (less than a mile) from anybody to make a contact, including a repeater. Ham Radio 360 is a great website (and podcast) to get you started with a hardware purchase. They have complied a list of hardware a new ham should look at purchasing to get you on the air. Click here to find out more info about new ham gear.
As a Technician you have access to a large group of bands and frequencies to start making contacts. Repeaters in your local area is one way to make contacts on your new rig. There are many webpages dedicated to repeater operation but there is one guide that brings all the info together. Click on the link -> Repeater Operation to learn more about more about repeaters, how to program your radio and general repeater lingo. This is a great guide to help explain all about repeater operation. We have also put together a RUG (Repeater User Guide) to help you with the SLSRC owned repeaters. This guide can be found on our SLSRC Repeater Page.
Technicians also have some privileges on HF (below 30 mhz). These typically require another radio (HF = high frequency), other than your VHF/UHF mobile/HT to talk on. They also sometimes require an antenna called a dipole, vertical or loop. Check out what bands you have access to based on your license class. The ARRL has a great color cheat sheet helping decipher band privileges. Click here to access the graphical frequency charts.
Find a local club and attend a club meeting to get more involved! There are many great clubs around the St. Louis area. Try out each club, as each brings a different perspective to the ham radio hobby. Some concentrate on contesting and DXing, some are service orientated (ARES/RACES). Some are full service general clubs that bring like minded hams together on a regular basis. There are large and small clubs, some have their own club house to operate from, some do not. Each club is different so attend a few club meetings before deciding to join one or all of them!
Check into a local net. There are many nets around the St. Louis Area. Our SLSRC net is on Tue nights 7:30pm on the 146.850 (141.3) repeater. W9AIU conducts their net at 8pm on Tue nights on 146.760 (141.3) and has a large coverage repeater. St. Charles starts their net on Tue nights at 7pm on the 145.330 repeater.
Sign up for the SLSRC mailing list to get information on how to get involved! There are so many ham radio events around the St. Louis area, it’s hard not to find something going on each week. You can sign up for the mailing list on this website on the lower right hand side of the webpage.
SLSRC also holds “Back to Basics” classes during the fall and winter months. Want to know what VHF radio to purchase? Want to decipher all this repeater lingo? What are all these digital modes I learned about in my Technician book? Back to Basics is the place for you! Even if you don’t have any interest in the topics covered, it’s a great time to come and ask the questions you’ve been wanting to ask, but didn’t find a formal session to ask them in. Click here to learn more about the SLSRC’s Back to Basics classes.
If your into social media, there are many on-line groups you can join to further your knowledge.
Joining A Radio Club – Why Should I Join A Club?
Joining a local club provides you access to elmering, free info and a place to talk about ham radio with like minded folks. It’s easy to sit at your house or outside and enjoy the hobby by yourself, it’s even better to share it with people who have the same interests. Everybody started out somewhere, usually from the beginning, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t figure something out. Find a club, go to a meeting and I’m sure someone will reach out to you offering a helping hand.
The St. Louis Suburban Radio Club is a full service club offering insight into everything from contesting to digital modes to working with very low power making contacts 2500+ miles away. SLSRC welcomes new hams to our meetings as we understand it’s intimidating showing up to a club meeting when you don’t know anyone. SLSRC is the largest club in the area and coordinates many activities outside the club meetings including a monthly area breakfasts, license classes, a Holiday dinner and operating events, including Field Day throughout the year. You don’t have to be a member to come to a meeting, so try us out and come see what SLSRC has to offer!!! Click here to find out when the next meeting is.
If you want to join the SLSRC, please click here to fill out a membership application. Yearly memberships are only $25 for the calendar year.
For more info around getting the most out of your SLSRC membership, or any club membership, click on this link for info and ideas. Club membership can be great, but remember what you put into the club is what you get out of it, so make the best of it. When you join a club, join it for the right reasons. Make sure it’s the club you feel comfortable with, who share your similar interests and allow you to grow your hobby on your terms.
You can also join the ARRL for $49 a year. Your membership gains you access to their monthly magazine, “QST” which is jammed packed with info. The membership also gives you discounts on technical books and apparel within their store and the option to purchase ARRL replacement insurance on your rigs and associated equipment. Click here to find out how to join the ARRL.
Here are some other clubs around the St. Louis area you might try out. You can click here to search the ARRL website for club in your area.
St. Louis ARC
Mississippi Valley DX/Contest Club
Jefferson County ARC
St. Charles ARC
Boeing Employees’ ARS
Area ARES/RACES clubs
Expanding My Hobby
There are many ways to expand your hobby within Ham Radio. The list below does not include every aspect of the hobby, but will get you started.
Contesting – making as many contacts in a set amount of time with given rules
DXing (Working towards your DXCC) – confirming 100 contacts on each band in different countries
WAS – Worked All States – confirming at least 1 contact in every state
WAS Triple Play – confirming at least 1 contact in every state on SSB, CW and Digital
SOTA – Summits on the Air, climbing a mounting and making contacts for points
WWFF – World Wide Flora & Fauna – activating a state or national park for points
County Hunting – working all the counties in the USA
QRP – making contacts with less than 5 watts
WSPR – Weak Signal Propagation Reporting, sending out a signal at a fraction of a watt to see how far it can be heard
JT65 – A weak digital signal communication protocol, great when the bands are not propagating very well
FT8 – A weak digital signal communication protocol, 4 times faster than JT65! It’s hot!
PSK31 (Phase Shift Keying) – common digital mode on the high frequency bands for digital rag chewing
RTTY (Radio Teletype) – common digital mode for contesters and general contacts
CW (Continuous Wave) – using Morse Code to make contacts
Satellite work – there are many satellite repeaters that you can make contacts on
VHF/UHF digital – get on a DMR, System Fusion or D-Star repeater and talk around the world!
Filling out a QSL Card
Some Question & Answers :
What is Winterfest? – Winterfest is SLSRC’s yearly hamfest the last Saturday in January running from 8am to 1pm at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, IL. Vendors from all over the US come and display their latest gadgets and items for sale. Others use the event to sell their used equipment or share information about their club or events. Winterfest is the largest hamfest in the region, so you don’t want to miss out.
What is Hamvention? – Hamvention is a yearly 3 day hamfest held in Xenia, OH (Dayton) the weekend before Memorial Day. It’s the largest gathering of hams in the world with +30K in attendance. Contest University is held on the Thursday before as other groups have their yearly conference there just before Hamvention. Want to know more, Google Hamvention or type in Hamvention into YouTube for some good and not so good videos.
What logging program do I use? – This is a tough question to answer but we will give some standard logging programs and let you make the decision on which one is best for you. Click here for a list of loggers. Pick a simple logger for your first so you don’t get overwhelmed. You might consider using a paper log until you find a logger that works for you.
What is Field Day? – Field Day is a once a year two day event the 4th full weekend in June sponsored by the ARRL. Field Day consists of amateur radio operators and clubs getting on the air to test their ability to demonstrate to the public the ability and fun of Amateur Radio. Over 40 thousand hams are on the air during the weekend making contacts with other hams and clubs. Some say it’s a contest but it’s really to show the public what this great hobby is about. SLSRC puts on a Field Day event to come check us out!
I want to do “X” but I can’t find any info on “X”, or I need help putting up an antenna. What do I do? – Come to a club meeting or a breakfast and ask an Elmer (more experienced ham). If they don’t know, a good Elmer will give you someone who will know or point you in the right direction.