A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my venture into amateur radio. Here’s my progress so far.
Since my first article on the topic, I’ve selected a radio and passed the licensing exam. I did end up taking all three exams at once. I did pass. It was exhausting. Even with some background in electronics and science, it wasn’t easy to keep all that information in my head and also sit through three exams, even though in total it was only 120 questions: 35 for the element 2, 35 for the element 3, and 50 for the element 4. Luckily, so long as I keep my license renewed, I’ll never have to take another one of these exams again, unless the FCC decides to create an even more advanced license scheme, though I doubt that will happen.
Or… I could go on and take some commercial radio licenses, but I know nothing about that. It is tempting though. In any case, continuing on about amateur radio for a bit, I did pick up one radio so far.
Purchasing a Radio
I decided to go with a dual band DMR radio, since DMR seems to be becoming quite popular and it has a number of advantages over FM.
I picked the TYT MD-UV390, which is a dual band (136-174MHz/400-480MHz) DMR transceiver with GPS. I chose this model over the UV380 because of the waterproof/dustproof IP67 rating. It’s not a very high powered radio, but the reviews were decent, so I decided it was worth a shot. The other option was the Radioddity x TYT MD-9600 Dual Band DMR Mobile Car Truck Transceiver. I’d probably get a unit like that if I ever end up building a HAM shack.
I will admit that there is a portable DMR radio that I want even more: the Boxchip S700A with VHF/UHF DMR Tier II 4G/LTE. But it’s very expensive, which isn’t surprising because it’s an integrated FM/DMR radio and smart phone. So instead I entered myself into a sweepstakes through network-radio.com. I might buy one eventually, if I decide I want to spend $700 on a single item for this hobby. But right now, I honestly don’t even know how much I’ll even be using these radios.
Programming the device was a real pain in the neck. The software doesn’t seem to be all that compatible with Windows 10 so it crashed a lot. I more or less had to change a little bit at a time, but I did quickly manage to get some repeaters set up on analog mode.
There hasn’t really anything I could do, besides figure out how to program the DMR radio and try listening in on incoming traffic. It takes a while for the exam results to propagate to the Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) and then the FCC, especially if they use snail mail. I also didn’t feel comfortable making a call without someone else around to help me out. That’s the main problem with not being able to find a class with hands on experience. So I decided to wait until the next local club meeting. In the meantime, I’ve been listening in, and have managed to find a few conversations between operators. I’ve also connected to other operators on Reddit and through a nice Discord server for young HAMs (I mean, technically I’m still registered for a graduate college program, so I qualify, right?).
So one thing I’ve noticed is that the software, and especially the user experience for the software, hasn’t really changed all that much since I first started looking into amateur radio technology about 10 – 20 years ago. It really feels like I’m going back to Windows 95 and running software from the mid 90s. A lot of the amateur radio websites are the same. Take QRZ.com for instance. Sure, it’s a great source of information and it’s very useful as a study tool, but look at this setup.
T-Shirts and other Merchandise
Since I was making stuff to sell on REDBUBBLE and other sites anyway, I decided I’d take a quote that I was thinking about and turn it into products for amateur radio. People liked it, so I’m making a few more designs. I like the mugs personally.