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At various times in the past 30 years, I have toyed with the idea of getting my HAM license. I’ve downloaded information and even have a few apps on my phone to refresh my memory, but I have never pulled the trigger. The main reason is that it is just not a hobby that I am actually interested in pursuing.

It isn’t an aptitude problem. I did electronics repair in the Marine Corps, I have a Bachelors degree in electrical/electronics engineering and have spent the last 20+ years in various roles as a telecom engineer.

I know that in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario, radio comms become extremely important, but as I said, listening and talking on the radio is not a hobby I wish to pursue.

My stupid question is, beyond the time and money investments required to get my license and get a set up, what would I do with it in the meantime?
 

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At various times in the past 30 years, I have toyed with the idea of getting my HAM license. I’ve downloaded information and even have a few apps on my phone to refresh my memory, but I have never pulled the trigger. The main reason is that it is just not a hobby that I am actually interested in pursuing.

It isn’t an aptitude problem. I did electronics repair in the Marine Corps, I have a Bachelors degree in electrical/electronics engineering and have spent the last 20+ years in various roles as a telecom engineer.

I know that in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario, radio comms become extremely important, but as I said, listening and talking on the radio is not a hobby I wish to pursue.

My stupid question is, beyond the time and money investments required to get my license and get a set up, what would I do with it in the meantime?
Maybe you could choose to look at it in another direction. You could join your local HAM club. You would probably meet some really decent folk there. They would probably benefit from your electrical engineering qualifications. You would probably develop some strong friendships and you might just see a different side other than just talking or listening on a radio that makes it worthwhile to you.
 

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If you are interested enough in pursuing your ham license, there will be something of interest to you. One thing we have done to get our kids interested in some of it is SSTV from the ISS. We call them space pictures for the kids. I got my wife not interested to practicing for her tech exam in April by going over the utility it would provide in good times, let alone in the bad times. Cell coverage is bad in my area, so 2m/70cm and a full time running set of ears would allow quick notification if there are any problems. Say, wrecking on snowy roads.

Realistically, I was not sure what I would be interested in, and there are so many things you can do with ham radio that it almost seems like an over simplification to just say "Get your ticket!"

Personally, the most power I have ran was 100W, and normally I run 20W or less. QRP isn't the most common way to go in the beginning, but I ran field day on 20 watts on a fully off grid config. This allowed me to test my set-up for an emergency, and also see where I was reaching. I got ~30 contacts, so when the grid is down, I figure It'll be decent.

Remember, a ham is not a walkie talkie. You need to practice it if you want to be proficient when times are bad. Knowing where people are on the air, how to get to them, and which bands work best for you, your antenna, and your area are all things only practice will get you. Frequencies, times, plans and everything else needs to be in place.

I am no expert by any means, but have been tinkering a lot with different stuff between kits, home brew etc. Communicate between know and a possible SHTF. I learned far more being on the air than I have from any ham book. If you are going tech, and do not know code, you comms are pretty much limited. If you are going general, there is more of an upfront cost associated with the equipment, but you can really go out and reach someone then. It really depends on what your goals are for post-SHTF on what you should do Pre-SHTF.
 

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As a side note, when SHTF and the grid is down you'll be able to make better contacts because of far less QRM. Look on YouTube for the video from K6UDA about the California power outages, and how well he was able to communicate because of less interference from everyone's electrical interference that comes from everyone's house and all the crap they have plugged in.

If you're making contacts on QRP now, you'll be making great contacts when the grid goes down. Just make sure you have a renewable power source to charge your batteries!


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I was a tactile radio relay and carrier operator for the army. I listened to enough static to last a lifetime. I got my code free tech a few years ago. I made my own j-pole for my 2 M rigs. I monitor the local repeater and check in once a week on the net to make sure I can transmit.

I was on a different local repeater and their net too, but they yack too much for me 2 damm load and 2 damm often.

Having the radio, I decided to add a small battery bank for emergencies. Then I added some solar panels to charge the bank. Next came some 12 V LED lighting so I could see what I was doing in the dark. Then I added chargers and ports and got the adapter so I could run the lap top off the bank.

My radio shack scanner died (was a gift) but I could listen to road crew, the ambulance, sometimes the sheriff and the life flight people. Was sort of handy during fire season and we had no local internet or cell service (still no cell unless you have wifi) back then.

I'm thinking about doing a raspberry pi software defined radio for fun. I listen to foreign stuff on occasion just to hear what is out there.

Locally here in the sticks, a 2M rig in your truck could save your life or someone else if you needed to get the ambulance, fire, or cops rolling ASAP.
 

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As a side note, when SHTF and the grid is down you'll be able to make better contacts because of far less QRM. Look on YouTube for the video from K6UDA about the California power outages, and how well he was able to communicate because of less interference from everyone's electrical interference that comes from everyone's house and all the crap they have plugged in.

If you're making contacts on QRP now, you'll be making great contacts when the grid goes down. Just make sure you have a renewable power source to charge your batteries!
A lot of that depends on your location. For example, when the power goes off here there is almost no reduction in noise. We just don't have a lot of noise here to start with and what little noise we do have here tends to be because of the cheap inverters on one of my neighbors solar systems.

Now, I am also in CA, just like K6UDA, but I am in the desert, and the nearest neighbor is ~400 feet away, with fewer than 10 neighbors in a mile radius.

T!
 

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A lot of that depends on your location. For example, when the power goes off here there is almost no reduction in noise. We just don't have a lot of noise here to start with and what little noise we do have here tends to be because of the cheap inverters on one of my neighbors solar systems.



Now, I am also in CA, just like K6UDA, but I am in the desert, and the nearest neighbor is ~400 feet away, with fewer than 10 neighbors in a mile radius.



T!


Good point. If you're already out at your BOL then chances are it won't make a lot of difference.

Then again, if the whole grid is down world wide, you'll probably notice things are clearer.


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Well, everyone has a reason or desire to pursue ham radio...sometimes it is to better monitor the local public safety frequencies, help with local events or disasters or stay in contact with friends.

I think it provides a large amount of intel (particularly in large scale events where local media is MIA), makes some good networking (hams always seem willing to help, generally are preppers and a majority have knowledge, skills or supplies/equipment that would be helpful (like...electricians, farmers, plumbers -- folks with backhoes, generators, etc..).

One thing I use it for is WinLink. In the event of a large scale internet outage like an earthquake, I can send my son an email via radio by dropping it into a system hundreds of miles away and letting him know we are okay and he can reply as needed.
 

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I’ve barely used mine in 20 years. If at some point in my life, I’m not doing communications engineering for a living, I’ll probally get back into it. But you need to be able to transmit legally to be able to test antennas. Even just accessing the Local repeater you want to test to make sure you have the right PL tone.

I have gotten a lot of use from them in rural Montana, SK, and ND where cellphones are spotty. Both for work, and hunting- between two trucks using 50 watt radios and 5/8 wave antennas on the top of pickups.

A ham liscence is also all but required for some emergency operations positions.
 

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I suggest you look into the local SHARES organization, and see if you'd like to contribute there. I am, because I assume that being assigned to a SHARES station will boost my survivability at lower cost if there's some widespread emergency.

Good luck.
 

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I suggest you look into the local SHARES organization, and see if you'd like to contribute there. I am, because I assume that being assigned to a SHARES station will boost my survivability at lower cost if there's some widespread emergency.

Good luck.
Are there any Shares participants that would accept volunteers? I use to run the Shares stations for my employer- almost all the participants were fed govt agencies, telecom carriers, state EOCs, FFRDCs, and on base MARS operations.

The top two participants were the FAA and FBI. Neither are going to invite volunteers. CDC started using HF- that may have extended to state departments of health, but I never saw that. State health departments have a emergency medical professional volunteer corps- don’t know if they will take comm/IT guys- but it would seem logical- federal USAR, DMORT and DMATs do.

We used to send half of our SHARES exercise traffic over ham freqs. Of course, that assumed the operator was a ham. When you got someone exotic, like CIA, the message would go over ham freqs so the operator got the QSL card. The NCS net control station was a desired contact as well.
 

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I’ve been a ham for over three years now, beginning the exciting new hobby at 66. I agree with all of the positive comments above. They reflect my experiences. I recommend amateur radio for all who have an interest in it.
 

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After 9/11 in Virginia RACES and MARS operators set up an MT63 HF digital network with TCPIP UHF gateway to link all the state ME's offices. Once it was determined that the remains from the Pentagon would be sent to Dover AFB we stood down, but retained the capability to activate the network and to also include VSP division HQs.
 

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Go for it, I got my General because I wanted to be able to use HF, I'm glad I did, my wife did as well fwiw . I have battery backup with solar so grid down I can still work the air if I want to do so.
 
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In the old days the fun was learning electronics, designing and building your own rig and then the joy of accomplishment in telling someone on the other side of the world that you are running a pair of 807s or whatever. Today you just purchase a plug-and-play from China and there's little to talk about with others.
 

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Plenty of people still build their own rigs and restore old ones?
 

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In the old days the fun was learning electronics, designing and building your own rig and then the joy of accomplishment in telling someone on the other side of the world that you are running a pair of 807s or whatever. Today you just purchase a plug-and-play from China and there's little to talk about with others.


Most of what I hear today is old men complaining about their health problems.


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