Getting started in Amateur Radio

I’ve always been interested in amateur radio (and radio in general) but I’m not sure where to get started; especially in terms of the actual equipment.

What sort of equipment should I invest in?

I’m looking into scanners that cover a wide range of frequencies…any good recommendations?
I think transmitter equipment would be too expensive at this point…plus I don’t have a license yet.

Another point I should add is that I’m interested in this from a technical point of view (I’m studying elec. eng) and not simply an entertainment point of view.

So I don’t know…is a good scanner a logical place to begin?

If I were you, I would try to get a relatively inexpensive (used would probably be a good way to go) transceiver. Most hams start out with 2-meter (144 MHz) FM equipment. Activity on 2M is high, and equipment is not too hard to get. By buying a 2M transceiver, you’ll be able to listen to activity on the band, and also, after you get your license, you’ll already have a way to transmit and start talking to people.

I think if you’re technically minded, you’ll eventually want to get into HF (the bands from 1.8 MHz to 30 MHz), as those are the bands for which homemade equipment is most easily (and commonly) built.

By the way, I’m a sophomore in college studying electrical engineering. I got my first amateur radio license in the fall of 1999 at age 15, and amateur radio is the main thing that convinced me to become an electrical engineer. My favorite aspect of the hobby is designing and building things, and I’ve built several radios, some from kits, others from simple schematics, and a few other simpler devices of my own design. I also enjoy the communication aspect of the hobby. Talking to people around the world is just plain fun.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or want more info. Just use the email link at the bottom of the post.

I’m an EE and ham.

The best thing is to jump right into it.

Before looking at equipment, reading books, etc., the very first thing you should do is get your Technician’s License. Just study and take the exam.

After you take (and pass) the exam, start looking at equipment.

Unlike most hams, I have not purchased must equipment. In fact, I have only 1 radio: a handheld Vertex VX-150. It’s single band (2-meter), but it suits me perfectly. It performs triple duty: I use it as a base station, mobile, and handheld!


Jump on in, the water’s fine.

Don’t waste your money on scanners when the same amount of money will buy a small handheld radio that you can transmit on as well.

Check out QRZ for more information and practice tests to make sure you’re ready. And post on their forum as well, and make sure you make it clear that you want help. There are many good people there who will be more than happy to help you through the steps.

Been licensed for 22 years now, General class, and ramping up to take my Extra exam next year. It’s a great hobby.

Oops - I just noticed you’re in Canada.

QRZ has the USA/FCC practice tests.

But their forums ought to help you. And there are Canadian hams that post there as well.

Hope to work you one day.

Find your local ham club (Google is your friend), and ask about licensing classes.

HF is your friend! Learn Morse and get on 20m!

73, KE3OM (Extra since 1995)

Once you get involved with a club you will be amazed at the equipment that becomes available, other members will probably have most everything you need to get on the air. Usually, in my experience, for a most reasonable price or on an indefinite loner basis.


Before you spend much money, see if you can shadow another ham and make sure you are really interested. Lots of old working Heathkits on ebay

mmm… Heathkits.

If you can’t find anyone to hlep you out, they do sell the Technician study guides through Radio Shack, or online. It’s a pretty simple test of some very basic electronics, some rules, and some radio wave stuff. The most basic licence does not require you to learn Morse code (thank god). Find a club (google, as mentioned above), and sit in on a few meetings, liek in any hobby, tell someone you are new, and they’ll likely tell you more than you will EVER need or want to know! :slight_smile:

As an aside, it did get me a job once for a wireless networking (pre 802.11) company once.

N1OQF - Technician (No code)

My local ham club got me hooked up with classes. You can learn it from the book, but hands on experience in amateur radio is really impossible to beat.

I agree with the other folks. In the US, at least, amateur radio licences are really easy to get. You can essentially study the actual tests you have to take, and there’s no morse code requirement for the earlier levels. There’s lots of nice folks in the ham community. I’ve had equipment given to me, and hamfests are a great source of used equipment.

Good luck!