So I got my licence, now what?

So I got my licence, now what?

Your new callsign has appeared in I.S.E.D. Canada’s database and your license came in the mail. Congratulations, you are now officially a Ham Radio Operator. What’s next?

I know those weeks when I first was licensed were pretty exciting times. I couldn’t wait to buy that radio, get on the air, and make lots of contacts. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. It didn’t take long for me to realize how little I actually knew. So here are the things I wish I knew when I started out in the grand adventure that is amateur radio.

Join a club/group, find a mentor

“Amateur radio is a hobby where you learn by doing, and the best and fastest route to competency is by getting involved with a club/group and learn from other’s experiences of what to do and what not to do 🙂 .”

Buying that first radio (VHF/UHF)

There is an overwhelming number of choices in radios. Handheld, mobile, or all-mode all band, how do you pick one?. This could be a topic for later discussion, but most new hams starting out often pick an inexpensive dual-band handheld radio. An example of this is the Baofeng UV5R, for as little as $30-$40. These are good starter handheld radios, that get you on local repeaters & Whitecourt’s IRLP network which allows worldwide contacts.

Make that first contact (VHF/UHF)

Listen before transmitting. Listen a lot. If you are on a local repeater, have it on in the background and monitor. You’ll soon get the feeling of who’s on the air and when the activity periods are. Morning and evening drive time is a great time to monitor, and in the evening, especially before or after a local club net. If the repeater has a net, participate in it. You’ll soon get the hang of talking on the air.

You’ve got your license, you have the radio, now it’s time to make the first VHF/UHF contact. What do you say? If it’s the local repeater, the easiest way to start out is to press the transmit button and say “[your callsign] listening.” I like to monitor while I’m in the car, so I’ll announce that I am mobile with “[your callsign] mobile.” Sometimes you’ll get a response, sometimes not. It’s a lot like fishing.

What do we talk about? Great question, how about the weather, where you live, that you are just starting out in ham radio, other interests, family, work, etc stay away from contentious topics such as politics & religion. Remember others can hear you as well.

Finally, keep the transmissions brief- you don’t have to be long-winded, allow an appropriate amount of time (1-2 seconds) in between transmissions, in case another station wishes to jump in and wait approximately one second after you key the mic before you start speaking. This allows the repeater system enough time to activate without cutting off the start of your transmission.

Buying that first HF rig & Antenna

Here’s where Elmers fit into the situation. Get some personal recommendations on radios by talking to local hams or radio shop if one is in your community. If you’re shopping online, is a great place to read reviews for pretty much everything HAM related, for a new HAM I would not recommend buying used unless you know the seller well. Modern radios are very high tech and most new hams don’t have the knowledge yet on how to repair solid-state components.

Making that first contact on HF

Listen, Listen, Listen, get a feel for what others are doing, I know you are excited and want to get on the airways. There is a protocol to exchange contact info on HF.

Some other notes

Logging of contacts, now it is not a legal requirement to do this, but it is a very good practice to keep track of when your transmitting and qso’s made not only for sending/receiving qsl cards but from my first-hand experience of a neighbor complaining about interference with Industry Canada. I could prove when I was on the air. (I was not the cause). There are many many different logging software that can be used or a good old piece of paper and pencil. It is nice to go back after your first year of operating and see your contacts and jog your memory of those conversations when you were so new.

WWW.QRZ.COM is the Facebook of Amateur radio, here you can create your own profile and look up other hams while dx’ing, some chose to put a little bio about themselves and list the equipment they use.

So your radio is all set up, you have your QRZ account, but you can’t seem to hear anyone? Well there are the WWV beacons you can listen on to tell you if propagation is open 2.5/5/10/15/20 Mhz, (AM mode) If you hear the female voice she is transmitting from Hawaii & the male voice is from Colorado And of course, there is CHU in Ottawa transmitting on 3.33/7.85/14.67o MHz (USB) Upper Side Band

There is always something “more”

Don’t let your lack of knowledge be a limitation. Ask questions, explore, and get involved. Amateur Radio is a great activity and one that is always at the forefront of technology. Hams truly are a sharing bunch. We were all new once, & we are all still learning something new every day in this exciting hobby.
Still feeling overwhelmed?, I know was too don’t worry. Feel free to contact me with any questions and your more than welcome to come to our monthly lunch socials to meet Whitecourt’s local HAM’s and ask questions. I self-learn something new every time.

As they say in the radio world 73 (Best regards)

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Monthly Get Together

2nd Sunday of the month
A&W Whitecourt 12pm
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