What Amateur Radio Equipment Is Best For A Beginner?
There is so much radio equipment available...
When you're getting started in Amateur Radio you'll need to pass an exam and get a license from the FCC before you can transmit anything at all, unless another licensed amateur radio operator is there to oversee your transmissions. Years ago if you wanted an Amateur Radio operator's license, you needed to learn and pass a test in Morse Code, but not any more. You can get 'On The Air' with a minimum of fuss and find out how large the worldwide community of licensed Ham Radio operators is.Incidentally, the Morse Code (often referred to as just 'CW' or Charlie Whisky) is still used because it has some advantages, but hams use it by choice. Apart from voice modes (usually FM or SSB) there are numerous Digital Modes available to Hams as well. Most of them involve the use of a computer and./or a radio modem.
What To Buy Once You Get Your Ham License?
HF, VHF or UHF radios are all used by Amateur Radio operators - depending on their level of license.
A 2 meter band VHF FM transceiver or walkie talkie will probably be your best bet, because it will allow to to chit chat with other licensed ham radio operators in your town or city and get to know them. And with luck, you will find an older ham (known as an Elmer) who will "take you under their wing" and tutor you. This process is known as "Elmering".
Having a 2 meter radio will give you access to the 144-148 MHz vhf band that is assigned to Ham Radio operators in most countries of the world. The vhf signals are mostly good for line-of-sight contacts, not for working overseas "DX" stations. A handheld 2m radio will usually transmit an FM signal at about 1 to 5 watts power output, whereas a mobile or base station 2m rig may have an output of 20 watts, 50 watts or higher.
But as long as you are within range of your ham radio club's local 2m FM repeater tower, you should be able to set up your 2m two way radio to work through the repeater to talk to anyone in or around town who can hear it.
Transmitting out through a repeater is known as working duplex. Your 2 way radio transmits on one frequency or channel and receives on a different frequency... and everyone else using the repeater does the same. So while your little handheld radio might only be good for half-a-mile of distance while working simplex (same channel for both TX and RX), when you work duplex you have the added power of the repeater station to help you, plus you have the considerable extra distance courtesy of the great antenna location.
Most repeater stations have towers for their VHF or UHF antennas, and many are on the top of hills or tall buildings. So your modest walkie-talkie may well be able to talk out to everyone in the whole town or city who uses that channel.
Since repeaters cost money to set up and maintain, they usually belong to the local ham radio club. If you live in their district and plan to use their repeater, then it is pretty much expected that you will join their club and contribute to the club by paying your dues, attending meetings and making friends with your fellow ham radio (amateur radio) operators.
It is those guys (and ladies) at those meetings who can best advise you on what ham radio gear you will need. But do contact them because they'd love to help you. And they can probably help you find good deals in second-hand two way radio equipment, and they can steer you to getting your ham radio license as well.
Just remember, you may listen to ham radio frequencies before you have a license, but you cannot transmit (unless you are with a licensed "Elmer"). In that case, he (or she) will announce their callsign, and introduce you as their guest or "Second Operator".
Some Amateur Radio Books
I will try to answer any radio-related questions here, as long as I think it will be of interest to other viewers. And if you pick a popular subject, I may even write a new lens about it.