Time to Upgrade

Published Friday, September 10 2010

I have such a knack for ignoring this blog, haven’t I? Well, nothing like a new post to help me break out of the habit.

These past few months I’ve been having more and more fun with amateur radio. Why on Earth didn’t I get into this sooner? Well, I’ll be honest, when I was younger I didn’t have any interest at all in ham radio. It’s not that I was *un-*intereseted in it. It’s more that it simply didn’t enter my mind. I gave it no thought. So of course I wasn’t a ham. It wasn’t until I indulged in a desire to pick up a short-wave radio in 2008 that the idea popped into my head to check out this ham radio thing.

I’m glad I did, of course. I’ve been enjoying the hobby tremendously since getting my license in May. In July I bought a Yaesu FT-857D radio and a Buddipole antenna, and I’ve been operating from a local park almost every weekend. Some weekends I make no contacts. Some weekends I only make three or four. But it’s always fun!

There are three amateur license classes in the United States. The first, Technician class, grants quite a lot of privileges on VHF and UHF bands, but only very limited access to the HF bands. The next level up is the license I currently hold, the General class, which grants full privileges on a lot of the HF spectrum too. It’s certainly good enough to do some DXing (that’s what we hams call talking to folks in other countries), but it doesn’t allow access to all frequencies, including some of the most used ones.

Well, now that I know that I’m here to stay, I think it’s time to upgrade to the highest level license, Amateur Extra. It allows the most access to every amateur radio band. I’ve been studying hard, and I’ve finally picked a date. On September 18, I’ll take the exam and, with luck, I’ll pass on the first try. It’ll be nice not to have to keep triple-checking to make sure I haven’t accidentally let my VFO wander down below 14.225 before I transmit!

Next up is finishing the other task I’ve been working on for the past few months: learning CW (morse code). It hasn’t been a requirement for the license since 2007, but it’s not fading away. In fact, it seems to be regaining some popularity. There’s no doubt that it’s still incredibly useful, and one of the very best modes to use when doing DX! I can’t wait until it’s second nature for me. Unfortunately, for the time being it’s still “painfully slow” rather than “smooth and easy”.

Wish me luck!