First Steps in Ham Radio

Guide For Newcomers

If you want to just hear what ham radio is all about on the air, the best thing is to visit a licensed operator’s shack. The RSGB have a DVD which gives a very general insight.
If you want to explore on your own, then you may want to get a receiver. There are quite expensive ones around, but I found great joy at one point using a scanner. It’s perhaps not the best operationally, but if you have a multimode type you will be able to hear stations and get a flavour of what’s on offer.

Sampling Ham Radio

Short wave or HF was discovered by the early radio hams almost 100 years ago now. At that time, wireless telegraphy used frequencies in the LF ( 30 to 300 kHz) and MF (300 to 3000 Khz) bands.
Transmitter powers were quite high and the links were mainly ground wave. Radio enthusiasts who experiemented with frequencies above 200m ( about 1700 kHz) found that they could communicate over large distances with relatively low power. Scientists found that wireless communication over great distances was possible due to the way that these high frequency waves defract or bend as they hit layers of ionised gases between 60km and 400 km above the earths surface. So instead of waves just following the earth as with LF and MF during daylight hours, HF waves go up and then come back down again, hundreds or even thousands of miles from the place that they were transmitted. This multi-layer region of ionisation is called the ionosphere, aptly enough and whilst there are trends in behavior, there are many influences theat affect the wave’s ability to propagate.

Exploiting ionospheric propagation to achieve long distance contacts is the essence of HF ham radio.

As the strength of reflection changes, and the range achievable changes, the fun of the hobby is trying to find out just how far one can communicate, making as many contacts as possible using morse, speech, text, data or picture transmission.

As well as skills in operating, there are technical skills too if you want to make or experiment with your own transmitters or antennas. From time to time contests are held in which you or a club can compete to win prestigious prizes.

Interested? Then you may want to start out by visiting a ham radio station. If you don’t know of any, why not check out a local club www.rsgb.org.uk .

You can also hear some recordings here…

You may want to just get on and get a receiver and tune in for yourself.

Some radios that can tune into ham radio transmissions

Frequencies to try from the UK:

Time Suggested frequencies Mode What you should hear
Weekdays, evenings 3.600 to 3.800 MHz LSB Chit chat about ham radio.
Special stations at weekends
Weekdays, evenings 7.100 to 7.200 MHz LSB International calls, contests
Europe
Weekdays
Mid afternoon, early evening 14.130 to 14.350 MHz USB International calls, contests
Europe, USA, North Africa
The success of your trial listen will depend on the conditions at the time, the quality of your aerial, local noise conditions and, of course, the capability of your receiver.

If you are interested in engaging in two way conversation using HF or any of the ham bands you will need a licence. Click here to find out about