My Foray Into Amateur Radio

My First Radio

I very recently picked up a new hobby, amateur radio. Radios have always fascinated me. From AM/FM broadcast radio, and pirate radio thanks to Pump Up The Volume, to two-way communications.

There was CB Radio between my Dad and his friends in the late 70’s through early 90’s. As I got older and we picked up ATV’s, we would bring handhelds up the mountains to see who we could reach.

My family was very active in the volunteer fire service, and I soon joined in as the youngest ever Junior Fireman, at the age of twelve. I loved the brotherhood, the work, and most of all, the gadgets! From the early desktop HF Plectron used to page the firemen, to the VHF and UHF pagers and walkie-talkies, then checking out the newly installed repeater tower on Hosac Mountain. I left the fire service at twenty-two, as my 2nd-shift work kept me from most meetings and incidents.

I started seeing ham radio here and there. It seemed to be relegated to older individuals living in a time past, but I soon learned otherwise. It’s popped up in TV shows like ALF and Last Man Standing, and movies like Frequency. I started learning I had younger friends into amateur radio from their JROTC days in High School, and I started finding it all over YouTube being used by fellow geeks and some preppers.

In October of 2017, Maine had a powerful wind storm that knocked out power, Internet and cellular phones. Some, including my parents, for several days. I needed a way to check in with them, and my brother another 20 miles beyond them, as the crow flies. Radio seemed to be the ticket, and I tried to persuade them to join me on my quest. They saw the value, but don’t have the time to devote to studying. I eventually purchased a GMRS license that’s good for ten years and the whole family to use, and made connections with local repeater owners for my family to use. Meanwhile, my Dad started bringing out old CBs. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a couple of options.

I started studying fir ny amateur radio license, and picked up a cheap radio with Christmas gift cards from Amazon, and began to listen to folks with my new radio. My friends recommended a Chinese made Baofeng UV-5R, a $25 5 watt handheld radio that I wouldn’t miss if it broke or got lost. I had the gift cards to burn, so I let myself get wooed by the newer 8 watt BF-F8HP, and got the recommended aftermarket antenna, the Nagoya NA-771 to improve its effectiveness. I also picked up a programming cable, a must with the complicated menus on these radios. It’s much easier to program them with the CHIRP software.

The sheer amount of people, all ages and walk of life, talking around me is astounding. Their infrastructure outshines that of the emergency services in sheer coverage and interoperability. Most every bit of the communication I heard was educational and helpful, or jovial and and downright amusing. I’m eager to dive in and be able to join them!

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