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thoughts and ramblings of a pedal powered geek

Ham Radio Exam

Recently I decided I wanted to get into ham radio. I bought the ARRL technician class license manual and read through it, trying to absorb as much of the information as possible. Unfortunately, the ham community has a lot of “jargon” and it can be hard to visualize what is actually going on when the book talks about operating. Fortunately, the TWiT network has a great weekly podcast called Ham Nation presented by Bob Heil (K9EID) and Gordon West (WB6NOA) which served as an excellent companion to the book so I could put the book’s words to use in my mind.

Over the past month or so, I’ve watched about 30 episodes of Ham Nation, starting from episode 1, and have gained a huge amount of knowledge about Ham Radio. Things like d-star, IRLP, repeaters, 2m band, 10m band, etc, are all starting to make sense to me. Also, understanding how various frequencies propogate through the atmosphere has been very helpful for me to determine what sort of things I would like to do once I get licensed.

This morning, I woke up and decided I wanted to take some practice exams to see where I needed to do some more reading and research. I surprised myself in passing all of the practice tests with flying colors (except for the first one, where I just barely passed). After taking a handful of practice tests for the technician class exam, I decided to see how badly I would do on the general class exam. I again surprised myself. I took 2 practice exams for general class and passed both of them (but only by a narrow margin, and a lot of it was likely due to process of elimination, not actually knowing the subject matter).

So, pumped up, I decided I should schedule myself for an exam. I went on to ARRL’s exam session finder, put in my zipcode, and saw there were 2 tests happening this afternoon. I clicked on the first one and, sadly, it wasn’t allowing walk-ins. I clicked on the second one, it was near by, and was accepting walk-ins. I was expecting to have to schedule out an exam in a couple of weeks, maybe even having to take an afternoon off from work.

I had a couple of hours before the test, so I decided to swing a couple more times at the technician practice exams just to make sure I had everything, and one more attempt (successful) at the general class exam.

Showing up at the exam session, I immediately knew I was in the right place. Many of the cars in the parking lot had ham antennas on the roof or trunk, and there was a guy with an ARRL badge hanging out just outside the exam room.

I sat down, my test was given to me, and I got started on the technician exam! About 5-10 minutes later, I was finished, and felt really good about how I’d done. Since I was the first one done, my exam was checked pretty quickly and one of the guys running the session came back and said I’d passed and asked if I wanted to do the general exam as well. The $15 fee for taking the exam is for all of the exams. You only have to pay extra if you want to re-take an exam that you failed. Since there was nothing to lose, and the possibility of getting a general class license, I decided to go for it.

Here is the result:

Yay! I passed both the technician exam and the general exam in one sitting!

I just have to wait for my license to show up on the FCC website and I can get on the air!

Now, which radio to buy…