Laying the Foundations

Following on from my post last year about playing with the DX and more recently revisiting a hobby, I have decided it’s about time I went back into education. My interest in Amateur Radio has, so far, been more than a fleeting trial. Some of my previous interests and hobbies waned quickly (snow boarding, RC helicopters and painting to name a few!). I’ve learned to give things time before devoting more effort (and money) towards them. So I plan on learning the Foundation License syllabus to gain a basic license as set out by OFCOM.

The Foundation License is the basic of three levels. It’s the “easy way” in to Amateur Radio and tests the basic understanding of transmitting and receiving, antennas, the technicalities of radio and, most importantly, safety.

In order to see if this interest will stick, I’ve set myself the challenge of learning and passing the exam within the next six months. My understanding is it shouldn’t take more than 12 hours worth of ‘classroom based’ theory with a trained operator, or alternatively learning the whole syllabus by myself, but I’m keeping in mind the fact I’m freelance and have no idea what my schedule will be like from one week to the next! When I’ve passed the exam I’ll be given a call sign, be allowed on certain frequencies and interact with other hams around the world.

I’m interested to hear from others on their experience of Amateur Radio, so please do leave a comment below.

Are you a ham operator?

Was it easy for you to get your licence?

Did you run into any particular problems?

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UPDATE 1: Out of interest to see if my (rather old) high school education in Physics and Higher Physics would help, I took a mock Intermediate License multiple choice exam. I scored 37%. Clearly I need some work!

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UPDATE 2: I contacted my closest Ham Radio Club to discuss training, but they were fully booked on their upcoming courses. I guess that proves the hobby is still as popular ever. The gent I spoke to suggested I could probably go it alone, and he’d send me notes, homework and mock exams. So that’s the plan!

Playing with the DX

EDIT: When I wrote the below I had pretty much no idea what I was doing. I used a basic 2m antenna connected to a QS1R Software Defined Radio attached to my MacBook Pro to spot signals, and free Windows software emulated via VirtualBox to decode any Morse Code. I say I had no idea…

July 22 2012 11:25 BST

TP2CE sent website address “www.tp2ce.eu”. I signed their log to say I had heard them 415 miles away

July 22 2012 12:35 BST 28.264Mhz LSB

IN8ØWC 599

“A4Q IN8ØWC CUENCA TT E EA4Q PWR 5W EANT GPT VVV DE T4Q INI”

So, someone in Spain sent morse code using a 5W transmitter, and I heard it in London using a radio picking up 28Mhz (10m radio). Their Readability Signal and Tone was readable, strong and clear.

Their simple 5w radio signal travelled approximately 800 miles.

July 22 2012 13:00 BST 28.175 LSB Beacon

1EWEM/B JN35WD 2ØW

Someone in Italy using a 20W transmitter has a repeating beacon. They are 570 miles away.

July 22 2012 14:00 BST 28.027 LSB

EA8BLV TEST TEST

Biggest reception yet. 1773 miles, Tenerife to London!