November 28, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Ham Radio 

For those of you who don’t recognize it, KC2SMS is a United States amateur radio call sign.  It’s used to identify the station and operator of a “ham” radio station in the US.

It also means me.

I’ve been interested in radio for many years.  During college I was a member of the Rutgers Amateur Radio Club (WA2NPP), but I never got my license.  I just didn’t want to go to the effort to learn Morse Code.

Earlier this year, the FCC (and ITU – the international body governing radio) eliminated the Morse Code requirement for all amateur radio licenses.

When I decided to stop flying, I looked for a less expensive hobby that could be done on my schedule (flying is clearly neither).  I tried some online version of the ham radio tests after doing 20 minutes of looking at a study guide and to my surprise I passed both the entry level (Technician) and middle level (General) tests.  I seem to have learned a lot of the information over the years from one source or another.  I decided to do some studying and take the tests.  It only costs $14 for a testing session and you can take as many levels as you pass for the same fee.

On Saturday, November 17 (the same day that I handed in my keycard to the flying club) I went to the Pennington branch of the Mercer County Library and took my tests.  I got one wrong on the Technician test and to my surprise only one wrong on the General test – a score of 97% on each.  I tried the Extra (top) level and only got 1/2 of the questions right.  That test is harder and I’ll have to work to pass it someday.

Yesterday the paperwork went all the way through and I was issued my call sign and license.  I have a Yaesu VX-6R handheld VHF/UHF radio on order that should arrive later this week.  In the future I’ll look into a mobile (car) radio that handles all bands and can be used at home as well.  I don’t think I plan to install a major antenna farm or tower at home – I’ll probably get field antennas and put them up when I want to use them.

I have already contacted the ARES/RACES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) folks in my area.  I’ll start working with them soon, though there is a pause in activity for those groups in December every year.  I also may get involved in traffic nets – the passing of short messages via radio from members of the public to other members of the public with the intent to train for the need to pass important messages in an emergency.

Besides, being an IT person by day, being heavily involved in church, and flying airplanes wasn’t nearly geeky enough.