We have a number of licensed hams at NYC Resistor, but until recently I never quite understood the draw of ham radio. Honestly, I didn’t see what was so exciting about contacting a random person and telling them their signal strength, maybe along with the weather if you had a good signal. And in a world of email, broadband internet it can be hard to understand the appeal of amateur radio.
Admittedly part of my interest is just for the sheer nerd value. We refer to hams as “beardos,” due to the fact that almost everyone using a ham radio sounds like they are a middle aged man with an intense beard. But lately I’ve been thinking about how our incredibly powerful network of internet and phone lines is also incredibly fragile. Like how an errant backhoe in Massachusetts can kill my connection for hours. Or how my husband and I managed to lose each other, despite being only a few blocks away, when cell phone service was out for an hour. In light of some of the recent natural and man-made disasters, the ability to send a message 1000 miles per watt of power seems a lot less silly.
I’m studying to take the Technician exam, which involves learning a small amount of radio science on top of the basic electricity I already know. By far the hardest part is navigating all the acronyms. Hams love acronyms. Everything written about it is so full of acronyms and jargon it’s pretty much impossible to read without prior study, which can make it a little difficult to get started.
While I usually find the for dummies series painfully oversimplified, I actually found Ham Radio For Dummies to be pretty handy. It’s by no means comprehensive, and a little out of date, but it got me to a point where I could at least navigate the ARRL website.
I’m still not quite passing the practice tests, so I have a little more studying to do, but hopefully I’ll have my ham license in hand by the beginning of next month!