Ham Radio FAQ "Q & A" Page - Advanced Specialties Inc.
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The Information Below will help clear up any Questions you may have on Amateur Radios, Licenses, Legalities & More.
- DO I NEED A LICENSE TO USE, BUY, OR LISTEN TO AN AMATEUR RADIO, & HOW DO I GET ONE?
A - No License is required to purchase the equipment, nor to Monitor (listen) to the many Amateur (Ham) Radio frequencies. However, an FCC License is required to Transmit on Amateur Radio Frequencies in the USA. There are currently 3 levels of Amateur licenses, & the Entry level ("Technician class") License only requires passing a simple 35 questions multiple choice test, there are no "Morse code" or any additional requirments. Study books, available in our OnLine catalog, include all the current questions, with the answers, that will appear on your test. The upper level "General" & "Extra" class licenses require additional multiple-choice written tests each, no Morse Code Test is required for any level of Amateur license. These additional levels give you more operating privleges on additional frequencies. The "Links" section of our website can be used to find test exam session dates in your area.
- WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS I CAN DO WITH AMATEUR RADIOS?
A - Besides the ability to communicate locally over much greater distances than what you may be used to with CB, MURS, GMRS & FRS radios, even an entry level license will allow you to explore all of the following - You can interface your ham radio equipment to your PC computer & explore Data packet & Internet Voice Communications, APRS GPS Radio position reporting, & other digital operating modes; Amateurs regularly communicate with the ISS Space station & Astronauts, they maintain their own 2 meter band Ham Stations "up there"; Bounce your signals through Amateur orbiting satellites or Internet Linked Repeaters to communicate worldwide; During disaters/emergencies Amateurs can provide communications when cellphones & other systems fail or are overloaded; Communicate to other Ham Operators & hobbists all over the globe. Amateur Radios are available in Base, Mobile & HandHeld Portable units.
- WHAT CAN'T I DO WITH HAM RADIOS?
A - Most types of 1-way Broadcasting are prohibited, so if you were thinking of getting a Ham Radio to start a new neighborhood "Disco Music" Station, forget it. Most "commercial type uses" are also against FCC rules, so Amateur radio isn't the thing to look for, when needing better communications between your plumbing or Landscaping trucks, or to dispatch employees, That would require a different frequency radio system & a different license. Use of profanity or obscene language is a no-no, & regular communications with any unlicensed individuals is also against the rules. You also can't charge anyone money for using your Amateur radio, Ham repeater, or your services directly related to using your radios. A copy of the FCC rule book can be purchased thru our online catalog or the ARRL, for even more information.
- WHAT EXTRA STUFF CAN I DO ON CB, VHF MARINE, FRS & OTHER CHANNELS, WHEN I GET A HAM LICENSE?
Nothing! An Amateur radio license has Nothing to do with these other services, & Amateurs are not allowed to modify or otherwise use "Amateur Radio Gear" on these other bands. CB, VHF Marine, Commercial & GMRS radio bands each require use of "FCC Type Approved" radios designed for those services, & Amateur operators & equipment do not have any exemption from these rules, nor can any extra power or frequencies be used on these services.
- WHAT IS ALPHA or ALPHANUMERIC DISPLAY?
A - AlphaNumeric Display allows you to enter a "name" for each memory channel of that Amateur Radio. For example, you could enter "NYC Repeater" or "Call Channel", & when your Radio is selected to, or stops on that channel, you will actually "see" the name of what you are tuned to. Transceivers with this feature will, of course have a limits on the amount of characters you can have in the display, depending on exact model. See our "Amateur Radios Comparisons" page for more information.
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN, SAY, A : 0dB, (Unity), 3dB, or 5dB "GAIN" VHF/UHF ANTENNA?
A - A "0-dB" (unity) gain antenna will radiate more RF energy in the vertical "upward & Downward" directions, & slightly less in the Horizontal, compared to those with a higher gain number. They radiate more "Equally" in all directions. Therefore, they can be very useful in mountains and city situations with tall buildings, & generally work "OK" in most other areas too. A 2db to 4-dB gain mobile antenna is a good "General purpose" choice in most areas, & usually will give a slight real-world improvement over a unity antenna. Antennas with 5-dB or more of gain send even more RF energy flat toward the horizon (at the expense of the "upward" angles)compared to the lower gain antennas. They are at their best used as higher Fixed Base Station antennas, & in areas of flat open Water, desert, & other flatlands, line of sight, and very open areas mobile.
Another Thing to remember is that "Gain" is a releative term, & can be stated in different ways, such as dBi, dBd or dB. An antenna with about 2.15dBi "Gain" is Exactly the same mathmatically as saying it has 0dBd!
* Gain is also generally a function of the Physical Length of the antenna, & be wary of antennas that are much smaller than others, yet claim the same or even higher "gain" numbers!
- WHAT SHOULD ONE "WATCH OUT FOR" WHEN ORDERING / BUYING AMATEUR RADIO EQUIPMENT?
A - There are some things to avoid, that may be unknown to a person "new" to the Ham Radio Hobby.
--* First, be real careful, & generally stay away from buying used equipment, unless you Really know & trust the original owner, & you know exactly what you are getting. For Example, is it really worth taking a chance paying a stranger on the internet or at a flea market $60-$130 or more, for a used HandHeld, when you can get Brand new, 5w Factory sealed & waranteed units (with a fresh, never charged battery),for about $119-170 delivered?? Also, very old used equipment may 'seem' like a great deal, but may be so old it actually lacks some basic features, modes or functions that you may require for successful transmissions in your area.
--* WATCH OUT, & Stay Away from the Numerous Radio Dealers that have "Unlisted", "Unknown", or High shipping charges when doing internet or Mail order. While Almost any size/quantity order from Our OnLine catalog is Only a Simple, Flat $8.99 total s/h, when delivered by standard Ground, (see OnLine Catalog for full details!), many other companies routinely charge $15-35 or More, Per Item or box, in their various non refundable Shipping & Handling fees!! It's very easy for some dealers to "advertize" a $179 "sale" on an item that really sells for $194 elsewhere, when they Actually charge you $208.50 "delivered" for that "supposed $179" dollar item!
It's Truly Amazing how many Internet dealers expect their "customers" to actually "Purchase, Check out, & enter Credit Card info" without ever knowing exactly what the extra shipping/hdlg charges will be!! We here at Advanced Specialties Inc are an Established Radio Dealer, appreciate your business, & try to inform & help with info pages like this one.
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