1) What is Amateur Radio?
Amateur Radio is a non-commercial radio communication service whose primary aims are public service, technical training and experimentation, and communication between private persons. Amateur Radio operators are commonly called hams. Hams often communicate with each other recreationally but also provide communications for others at public events or in times of emergency or disaster.
FCC rules now allow persons to obtain all classes of licenses without learning Morse code! If you have had a basic Physics or Electronics class, you may already know enough theory to pass the tests. If you haven’t had this kind of class, the material is extremely easy to learn on your own.
2) What is the West Texas Section?
The West Texas Section is part of the West Gulf Division of the ARRL. This organization is composed of students, military personnel and local residents of West Texas and the surrounding communities. The section has weekly meetings and conducts other activities such as nets, Field Days, and public service communication events throughout the year.
3) How can I join the West Texas Section & ARRL?
Membership in the ARRL is open to anyone interested in Amateur Radio.
Dues are currently $49 a year for full membership.
4) Who can become a ham?
In the USA, anyone who is not a representative of a foreign government can be an Amateur Radio operator. You do not have to be a citizen to obtain a license. There are tests that you must pass to get a license, however, the tests are not insurmountable. On that general level, the requirements are probably similar in almost every country.
5) How much does it cost to join the hobby?
To take the tests for any class of amateur radio license, there is a small charge ($15.00 at the time of this writing) to cover copying costs and running the testing sessions. The cost of a radio is really dependent on what you want to do. You can make your own radio and antenna for under $150. You can buy a used single-band radio for $150-$300. Or you can buy a new multi-band multi- mode radio with all the bells and whistles for $300-$3000. If you want to learn more about ham radio, talk to local hams, find out what you want to do with ham radio first. A club meeting is a good place to start. See #7 below
6) Where can I take the tests?
The Novice tests used to be given by any two qualified hams of General class license or above. Now all the license tests are given by three qualified Volunteer Examiners (VEs) who volunteer their time.
The Section has several teams of VEs throughout the West Texas area that try to give exams monthly. Look on the Home page and the Calendar page for announcements of dates and locations.
7) Where can I find out more information about the Section & its clubs?
The Section currently maintains a mailing list for the club news and information blasts. You can join the mailing list by following the steps here.
The Section also holds weekly zoom meetings on Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Everyone is welcome to come to the meetings that is interested in amateur radio. You do NOT have to be a member to attend the meetings (but we would like you to join).
You may also find a list of all the clubs in the Section here.
8) What can I do with a ham radio license?
There are so many things, it’s a difficult question to answer, but here’s some ideas:
* Talk to people in foreign countries.
* Talk to people (both local and far away) on your drive to work.
* Help in emergencies by providing communications.
* Provide communications in parades or walk-a-thons.
* Help other people become hams.
* Hook your computer to your radio and communicate by computers.
* Collect QSL cards (cards from other hams) from all over the United States and foreign countries and receive awards.
* Participate in contests or Field Day events.
* Provide radio services to your local Civil Defense organization thru RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service).
* Aid members of the US military by joining MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System).
* Participate in transmitter hunt games and maybe build your own direction-finding equipment.
* Have someone to talk to on those sleepless nights at home.
* Receive weather pictures via satellites.
* Build radios, antennas, learn some electronics and radio theory.
* Send and receive live television pictures.
9) What can’t I do with an Amateur Radio license?
The most important thing you can’t do is transact business of any kind over ham radio (under new FCC rules, some types of personal business transactions are now allowed, however, there are still major limitations). Interference to other hams or services, as well as obscene, profane or indecent language is not tolerated and is illegal. Music and broadcasting are not allowed on ham radio.
Some personal conversations may not be appropriate to Amateur Radio. Do you really want the whole world to hear about Aunt Martha’s illnesses?
10) What are the different US amateur classes and what can each of them do?
New License Classes Effective 4/15/2000
Amateur License Information
NO new Novice licenses will be issued after 4/15/2000. Anyone holding a Novice class license may continue to renew it after 4/15/2000.
Technician – has full privileges on all VHF/UHF bands above 30 MHz.
Required are 35-question Technician written test. A Technician may access some HF bands.
General – has all Technician privileges, plus larger access to more HF bands, including CW and Voice on 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meter bands. A General class VE can administer Technician tests.
Requirements are already being a Technician and passing the 35-question General test.
NO new Advanced licenses will be issued after 4/15/2000. Anyone holding an Advanced class license may continue to renew it after 4/15/2000. An Advanced class VE can administer Technician & General tests.
Amateur Extra – has full privileges on all amateur bands. An Extra can become a VE and give all amateur tests.
Required are Technician and General exam credit and passing a 50-question Extra test.
Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) forms are valid for a period of one year after you pass an examination element. If you pass the written examination for a license level, or upgrade requirement, you have 365 days to pass the Morse code portion, or vice-versa. Once you have been issued a license as an Amateur Radio Operator, you do not have to repeat the same examinations, unless you fail to renew your license within two years after expiration of the ten year licensing period.
Under recent FCC rule revisions, you may contact the ARRL, FCC, or an electronic database of Amateur Radio licenses directly originating from the FCC’s records, and go “on-the-air” before you actually receive the printed copy of your license in the mail. This usually takes 5-14 days from the next business day after the test session for your new call sign to be issued and entered into the FCC’s records.
Please DO NOT Call the FCC or ARRL until at least 10-14 business days have passed since the test session.
Federal Communications Commission, Licensing Office
(800) 322-1117 M-F 8-3:30 Eastern Time
or (888) CALL FCC for form requests and general information.
American Radio Relay League, VEC Records Division
(860) 594-0300 M-F 8-5 Eastern Time
University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Call Sign Server (updated from FCC records daily)
Thanks to the W5AC Radio Club & the ARRL for information in this FAQ