Frequently Asked Questions


This section will attempt to answer questions that are most asked of us as Amateur Radio operators. A lot of questions we get, involve everything from public service to the particulars of becoming a ham. It is not the intention of this web page to be an exhaustive reference, and these questions are mostly geared towards the uninitiated and are quite basic. Many of the questions have been submitted by the club membership and credit will be duly noted. If you have a burning question that is not answered below, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we will attempt to answer it and possibly post it on this web page. References for any answers that require it will be linked. This page has the potential of growing quite large and will likely be subdivided as questions are submitted.

What do all those numbers mean in the Local Communications section of the home page ?

These are repeater frequencies given in Megahertz (MHz). Above 30 MHz is considered VHF (very high frequency) and above 300 MHz is considered UHF (ultra high frequency). There are standard shifts in frequency for the input and the output frequency depending on what set of frequencies (band) you are operating. The 2 meter band (144 MHz) has a standard shift of 600 kHz between input and output frequencies, whereas the 70 cm band (440 MHz) has a standard shift of 5 MHz. The input frequency may be either plus (+) or minus (-) the offset from the output frequency. The PL tone is a "private line" sub audible tone that is transmitted simultaneously in order to 'open' the repeater. It is used to to substantially decrease interference from neighboring repeaters and other transmissions.

What are repeaters and how do they work ?

Repeaters are stations that are set up usually in an elevated location, that receives and amplifies a signal, and then rebroadcasts that signal at the output frequency (input frequency +/- offset frequency) . The purpose of doing this is to greatly extend the range of small low power transceivers. The preferred operating mode is FM (frequency modulation). An extensive discussion of this may be found here . This is a PDF file and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

How can I become a ham ?

This is a big question that is asked often. There used to be a lot of school clubs that introduced youngsters to electronics and everything radio. This collapsed back in the 1980's and 1990's, although school clubs are making a comeback. Without this avenue, the best resources are other hams. These can be found at ham clubs like this one. So attending a meeting "cold turkey" and introducing yourself as someone interested in the hobby, will surely bring a favorable response. One particular ham will seem to stick with you throughout your learning, probably because he/she remembers the trials and tribulations that had to be dealt with to obtain a license. This person is nicknamed your "Elmer", and is a longtime ham radio tradition. New to this club as of 2007, will be the offering of a Technician Class license course. Also quarterly testing VE sessions are given on a posted schedule on the News page.

What is involved in obtaining a ham license ?

Nowadays, there are three license classes and one subclass. These are Technician, General, and Extra Class, with a Technician Plus subclass if Morse code proficiency is demonstrated. The older classes of Novice and Advanced are no longer available. There used to be a Morse code requirement that was graduated in speed the higher up the class ladder you went. Now this is no longer the case. This requirement is only 5 words per minute and is fixed with the requirement beginning with the Tech Plus license. The entry class license is no longer the Novice class - it is now the Technician class. This class has no requirement to learn Morse code, but limits operating privileges to the VHF and above frequencies (> 30 MHz). A written exam must be taken and passed - then you receive a callsign from the Federal Communications Commission !

Addendum - As of February 23, 2007, the FCC will no longer require Element 1 Morse Code testing for licensure. At that time, there will be three classes of license - Technician, General, and Extra Class - obtained by written exam only.

Where do I get my study material ?

There are several locations to obtain study materials to study and prepare for the licensure tests. The book "Now Your Talking" available through the ARRL contains all materials to get you started to take the Technician Class license. Also, the popular Gordon West study guides and materials are available through the W5YI Group. Practice license exams can be taken at the AA9PW site. Dolly, KI4HBE, relates, "I took many tests there every morning and night. It really helped me a lot to take the practice exams. I began to grasp everything a lot better. It made the material much easier for me to retain. Now I have my ham license and I am very excited and thrilled !" Also available through the ARRL is a full Technician Class online course.
- - Submitted by Dolly, KN4SLY

Addendum: Beginning in the Spring 2007, RARC will offer a Technician Class license course. This will be offered periodically.

How do I choose my first radio ?

Now that you have that new Technician ticket, it's time to go shopping. There are many factors that go into the decision of purchasing a first radio. If you plan on upgrading your license soon, a more in depth decision tree presents itself to include HF frequency privileges. If you are not sure when (or if) you will be upgrading, or just want to bask in the glory of your achievement for awhile, the choices are a bit less complex. Also if you are satisfied with local FM communications, the decision becomes one of convenience, size and features ... oh, and cost. If you plan on satisfying your curiosity with a more in depth exploration of the VHF/UHF spectrum with such things as satellite communications, meteor scatter, and the like, then further considerations must be made.