HAM radios....who's the expert on here


DanJ

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I’ve got a Baofeng UV5R but have never really found any good repeater channels with any traffic. No license so I can’t transmit. It’s basically a Motorola handheld on steroids.
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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I have a Tech+ license, well, it expired two years ago, but was into it for a number of years before cell phones became the trend (ha!).
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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Oh, for starting equipment, your most popular bands are going to be 2m and 440KHz (a.k.a 70cm). You can get handhelds, mobile rigs, and base stations that will do that for a relatively inexpensive starting cost. 2m (meter) will have much further range since it is a longer wavelength. I was also licensed for 6m and 10m (voice). Only reason I didn't use them was a tri-band units (2m, 6m, 440) was expensive, and didn't want to have to run both a dual band 2m/440 and a 6m rig, which took up space and added antennas.

Somewhere I have a few handhelds, four mobile units (two are 2m/440, two are 10m that also do 11m (CB Radio)), a few linears, and some antennas. The base station antennas are in storage at my mom's. At one point I could key up with 50w on 2m and key up the repeaters in Macomb (from Wheaton). That was a nice 13 element beam antenna.

Yaesu, Alinco, Kenwood, Icom.. all good brands. Check out AES, it's in Wisconsin and is a gold mine for HAM equipment. Okay, wait. AES went out of business in 2016, guess I've been out longer than I though. Their assets were bought by Ham Radio Outlet:


My dad has a lot of similar equipment to mine. One of the nice features on the dual band models (2m/440) is that you can set them up for duplex communications. Meaning one person talks on 2m and listens on 440, the other person does the opposite, talks on 440, listens on 2m. So while you're talking, if the other person needs to interrupt, they can key up and you'll hear them. That's unlike CB radio or FRS/GMRS where they are simplex. You have to wait for them to un-key the mic before they hear you.

I have an Icom and Kenwood mobile unit (both are 2/440 duplex), a Kenwood and Alinco hand helds. The 10/11m are made by President (now Uniden). Also, some of the mobile units can be configured as a repeater, but will need to use more than one band. So you could leave your rig on in your car/truck, take a handheld with you and go hiking. Then if you don't have the range on the handheld, you trigger the mobile in the car and use it as a repeater. Technically you could then have the mobile unit key a tower repeater. Waiting for all the confirmation tones to come through is fun when you do that. I have a few times. Was hiking near Macomb and couldn't key the Macomb repeater with the handheld. So left my mobile rig set to receive on 440 from my handheld and transmit on 2m to catch the Macomb repeater. Then went out walking. Used my car as a mini-repeater since it could do 5w (low), 25w (med), or 50w (high), any of which would drive a 250w linear.

Something to keep in mind with HAM radio, when transmitting you ALWAYS use the least amount of power that you can. The intent is to communicate, not broadcast. So if you can talk on 5w, you talk on 5w, not 50w so everyone in NWI can hear you.

The good thing with the new license brackets is that for beginners, like the Tech license you don't need to learn Morse Code. Before you had Novice, Tech, Tech+, and Advanced. The lower the qualification the less bands you could transmit on. Advanced opened up everything, but required Morse, since on the VLF bands (40m, 80m, 160m) you can only use Morse, no voice. You can broadcast around the world on 160m using about 5w of power with a horizontal antenna.

Here is "the" reference site for HAM stuff, the ARRL
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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People still use HAM radios?
Let me guess, the Government cant listen to you transmitting?
Anyone with a radio or scanner capable of listening on those frequencies can hear you. All the bands are public and unencrypted.

Shit, you could buy a $50 handheld scanner and listen to radio traffic at the airports from your house, like O'hare's tower communication to the pilots. Most fire and utilities aren't encrypted either. Law enforcement switched to digital trunking units like a decade ago, which prevented you from hearing them. The scanner manufactures caught up on that as well. Now you can buy scanners that can listen in, but they're pricey.
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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No, it works when modern infrastructure goes down. Its the analog to the digtial world.
Pretty much. Only limitation is power and distance. If land repeaters go down you'll be relying on line-of-sight communications, which is still going to be further than what you can use without a license.

You could buy yourself a cheap CB and big pair of walking shoes though. It's just a $250,000 fine if you get caught doing it. CB is limited to 5w, which might get you to the end of your block these days. IIRC 2m/440 your max PET is 1500w, and it's legal.
 

Shawn1112

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I have a handheld police scanner in my garage that has to be 20yrs old. Used to use it in my past life while doing dumb shit, so we knew when they were coming lol. Think its worth anything?
 
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Pretty much. Only limitation is power and distance. If land repeaters go down you'll be relying on line-of-sight communications, which is still going to be further than what you can use without a license.

You could buy yourself a cheap CB and big pair of walking shoes though. It's just a $250,000 fine if you get caught doing it. CB is limited to 5w, which might get you to the end of your block these days. IIRC 2m/440 your max PET is 1500w, and it's legal.
Oh, for starting equipment, your most popular bands are going to be 2m and 440KHz (a.k.a 70cm). You can get handhelds, mobile rigs, and base stations that will do that for a relatively inexpensive starting cost. 2m (meter) will have much further range since it is a longer wavelength. I was also licensed for 6m and 10m (voice). Only reason I didn't use them was a tri-band units (2m, 6m, 440) was expensive, and didn't want to have to run both a dual band 2m/440 and a 6m rig, which took up space and added antennas.

Somewhere I have a few handhelds, four mobile units (two are 2m/440, two are 10m that also do 11m (CB Radio)), a few linears, and some antennas. The base station antennas are in storage at my mom's. At one point I could key up with 50w on 2m and key up the repeaters in Macomb (from Wheaton). That was a nice 13 element beam antenna.

Yaesu, Alinco, Kenwood, Icom.. all good brands. Check out AES, it's in Wisconsin and is a gold mine for HAM equipment. Okay, wait. AES went out of business in 2016, guess I've been out longer than I though. Their assets were bought by Ham Radio Outlet:


My dad has a lot of similar equipment to mine. One of the nice features on the dual band models (2m/440) is that you can set them up for duplex communications. Meaning one person talks on 2m and listens on 440, the other person does the opposite, talks on 440, listens on 2m. So while you're talking, if the other person needs to interrupt, they can key up and you'll hear them. That's unlike CB radio or FRS/GMRS where they are simplex. You have to wait for them to un-key the mic before they hear you.

I have an Icom and Kenwood mobile unit (both are 2/440 duplex), a Kenwood and Alinco hand helds. The 10/11m are made by President (now Uniden). Also, some of the mobile units can be configured as a repeater, but will need to use more than one band. So you could leave your rig on in your car/truck, take a handheld with you and go hiking. Then if you don't have the range on the handheld, you trigger the mobile in the car and use it as a repeater. Technically you could then have the mobile unit key a tower repeater. Waiting for all the confirmation tones to come through is fun when you do that. I have a few times. Was hiking near Macomb and couldn't key the Macomb repeater with the handheld. So left my mobile rig set to receive on 440 from my handheld and transmit on 2m to catch the Macomb repeater. Then went out walking. Used my car as a mini-repeater since it could do 5w (low), 25w (med), or 50w (high), any of which would drive a 250w linear.

Something to keep in mind with HAM radio, when transmitting you ALWAYS use the least amount of power that you can. The intent is to communicate, not broadcast. So if you can talk on 5w, you talk on 5w, not 50w so everyone in NWI can hear you.

The good thing with the new license brackets is that for beginners, like the Tech license you don't need to learn Morse Code. Before you had Novice, Tech, Tech+, and Advanced. The lower the qualification the less bands you could transmit on. Advanced opened up everything, but required Morse, since on the VLF bands (40m, 80m, 160m) you can only use Morse, no voice. You can broadcast around the world on 160m using about 5w of power with a horizontal antenna.

Here is "the" reference site for HAM stuff, the ARRL
Good info. So Decent brand duplex 2m/440.

Now drop some antenna knowledge on me for what to look for.

:)
 

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Bofeng radios are inexpensive and work reasonably well, if your just wanting a pair for comma if shtf, that’s probably what I would look into.

If you want some serious comms, and want encryption, Motorola is pretty much the way to go.

Band is going to depend on your application, as will crypto. Some encryption can be software programmed, others need loaded with hardware, I.e. a key loader or kvl for short.

I used to have my own array of gear, now I have stuff assigned and have spares to use if I need them around the house, on the road etc.

Money is always a thing, I’m sure most on here won’t sink more than $500 into some gear. eBay is your friend, you can buy a pair of xts 5000’s vhf or uhf, a programming cable and be talking pretty quick for less than $500, for gear that is weatherproof and will stand the test of time, and most all of what I mentioned will go into the ham bands. Uhf radio will need to be a Q split 380-470 to do all the ham band, R split will only get part of it.
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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Last time I got any real use out of HAM was when I helped my dad move a bunch of stuff from Glendale Heights to his place in KY and used two vehicles. Instead of constantly calling each other on cell phones, or using FRS radios, we used our HAM gear with that 2m/440 duplex setup. Just pick up the mic and key, instant answer. Since we were on simplex channels you just have to announce your call sign at least once every 10 minutes. Well, same when using repeaters.
 

Spectragod

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I have a handheld police scanner in my garage that has to be 20yrs old. Used to use it in my past life while doing dumb shit, so we knew when they were coming lol. Think its worth anything?
Not so much, even if it is programmable, the U.S. went to narrowbanding 2.5khz split as opposed to 5khz , so your scanner probably won’t pick up much more than weather and ham radio traffic, some did aircraft as well. I wouldn’t toss it, it may be nostalgic enough for someone.
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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Good info. So Decent brand duplex 2m/440.

Now drop some antenna knowledge on me for what to look for.

:)
The higher the gain the better. Most handheld units come with a basic rubber antenna for durability. They're usually BNC connectors, so can easily be swapped.

For mobile you can get small inconspicuous antennas, but you'll be limited on the power input and their range.

For homes, you can go nuts. Check what your locals limitations are and put up a big Rohn tower. Where I was at I couldn't be more than 20' above the tallest trees in the area (HAAT), or more than 100' without a beacon (flashing indicator). So I had 65' tower with a 32' full wave antenna on top. On the side were my 2m/440 stick antennas, and on a rotator was a 2m/440 13 element vertical/horizotnal beam antenna. Then tucked in was a multi-band scanner antenna that would go from 670Hz (AM radio) up to 1.3Ghz, which was a band that had just opened to HAM use. 1.3Ghz is great for penetrating through walls, but the range is extremely limited.
 

Ryan02Stang

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I used to work at Motorola....and some of the engineers there had insane home radio setups. My non-engineer brain never grasped what they were talking about....but they'd be talking to people all over the world through radio.
 

Mr_Roboto

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You said short wave do you mean hf or incorrectly mean vhf/uhf? just wanted to be sure where we need to go with this.
 

SpeedSpeak2me

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renew itnow, you have a grace period.
I’m outside of grace, already checked.

That’s fine though. I’ll grab the new Tech manual and review it, then test again. I aced it the first time abs they’re more relaxed on it now. IIRC even Advanced doesn’t require Morse anymore.
 

Outlaw

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chalk this one up to the "tcg knows a lot about fucking everything" file
Love it.

So, some questions I could probably google. Could I buy all the stuff and just not transmit? Or do you need licensing to power on?
 

Mr_Roboto

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I honestly dont know and looking for clarification lol
It depends on what you're looking to do honestly. If you want to talk world wide you'll want HF in all probability although 6M opens up depending on the sunspot cycle. You're going to have big antennas for that though. The highest frequencies in that range will be about 28mhz (10M,) similar to CBs. At the longest wave length is 160M which is below 2MHZ. Depending on which one you go with they come alive during the day or the night depending on ionosphere radiation. If you're into local stuff you'd be looking more at UHF (the 2M band) or VHF (the 70CM band or perhaps 1.25M.) Some people do operate HF mobile but they're pretty uncommon. You'd know one if you saw a hunk of PVC stuck to their vehicle with an antenna on top of it. The repeaters will extend distance to about 40ish miles with a mobile setup and a good antenna, the terrain permitting and the conditions right. The big thing you need to determine is local vs worldwide. You won't do worldwide bands on a tech license, you'll want to step up to General or Extra. There's apps for your phone that are a great way to use otherwise wasted time to study. I bumped 2 license classes that way in a shot (from Tech to Extra.)

"secure" comms aren't done via ham radio. The FCC rules around it prohibit obscuring meaning of a transmission through codes or otherwise. With ham radio you may as well be doing the RF equivalent of shouting it in the public square; it's hearable to anyone with a radio.
 

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