Ham Technician Exam, Morse Code and an Observation

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    • #97846
      Daniel
      Participant

        I passed the Technician exam on Saturday (got two wrong), so that’s a load off. Will shoot for General next month. I’m looking at learning Morse Code and wonder about the applications in a community defense team setting like MVT teaches. Is tapping code a good way to send patrol reports and the like or is sticking to voice better? I see pros and cons to both so informed input most welcome.

        During the test process I got my first up-close look at a decent number of real ham people. They tend to be pretty old (70’s) and in terrible condition – seriously over weight with bad health problems. They are friendly, good-natured and helpful. Very smart and builders. They can literally barely walk, yet one is building an airplane in his garage and the others are building ham shacks, bending conduit, stringing wire and making things happen with their hands. Much to admire and a pleasure to be around…

      • #97847
        GreenTip
        Participant

          I have my technician license also. Everyone I tested with were all real old 70 plus, nerdy or reminded me of child predators I have arrested at work over the years. Strange experience but I do live in KY.

        • #97848
          Virgil Kane
          Participant

            “Recon is not an old man’s game…” Ham is not a young man’s game. Hamfests are like a gathering at the nursing home. They’re generally good people, but that’s the only time they come out of the basement.

            Seriously, it does take a lot of time on the air to learn to run the rigs and work HF. People with jobs, kids and other hobbies generally don’t have the time to dedicate to it. The old geysers have a lot of time and they had that before the internet.

            Congratulations on the license.

          • #97849
            trailman
            Participant

              Congratulations on the license.

              Go to amrron and search for CW. You learn by listening. Eventually the noise starts to sound like letters. There are good apps listed there.

              I’m working on my general now.

            • #97850
              BrigandActual
              Participant

                Going for my license has been in the to do it’s for a while. I just need to set aside the time.

                Congrats!

              • #97851
                Virgil Kane
                Participant

                  Hamtestonline.com is great. I used it for the Tech and General and passed both on the same day. For the Extra, I downloaded the questions and correct answers and read through them the day before the exam.

                  I recommend learning the content for the Tech and General, but the Extra gets real deep into aspects most operators will never use.

                  I have CW on my to do list too.

                • #97852
                  Daniel
                  Participant

                    Well done Virgil. The examiners suggested I try the General the same day too. I’d only studied the Technician side and faceplanted, failing by 6. I plan to be ready for next month’s test cycle. West’s books seem like the go-to and did me right for Tech so I’m doing same for General. Might end up with his CW CDs before it over as well.

                  • #97853
                    trailman
                    Participant

                      Use this, load it on the phone and practice test anywhere including the shitter.

                      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iversoft.ham.test.prep

                      also

                      Getting Started in CW (Morse Code) – PART 1

                      this is pretty good too

                      http://www.g4fon.net/

                    • #97854
                      SeanT
                      Keymaster

                        Congrats on the license. There are endless things to do in the radio hobby. One of them is supporting your local emergency services probably thru ARES ( Amateur Radio Emergency Service) or Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)
                        ARRL ARES/RACES

                        CW , the original digital mode works well when there is a high noise level and voice simply cannot make it thru the noise.

                        The newer digital modes are pretty cool, the Winlink system uses AX-25 packet on VHF to send/receive email…

                        You are also right on with your observation of HAMs in general. Definitely older. The new stuff can be interesting to kids if they get the right exposure
                        fro example the cell phone is just a full duplex, encrypted UHF transceiver…. they use radio and don’t know it. WiFi, same sort of thing, just at microwave frequencies.

                        Listen a lot and that helps when you are ready to press the key the first time. I keep a world map and I stick pins in the countries/cities outside the US I contact. I find contests that are going on with a lot of activity and the contestants only really want to record the contact, not ‘rag chew’ so each contact is fast and since I am not playing for points, I can make contacts at leisure or wait to get in to a far or rare place.

                      • #97855
                        zeerf
                        Participant

                          Congrats! Daniel

                        • #97856
                          D Close
                          Moderator

                            Using digital modes are certainly worth while. Right now HF band conditions are very iffy here so CW is a mode that may get you through when others cannot. HF Voice is often hopeless right now at the power levels most of us might use in the field.
                            Using digital VHF/UHF radios for short range comm may be more secure and economical from a time perspective. What is your AO like? There are ways to set up inexpensive repeater systems that could allow you to cover your area with secure digital comms. HF based systems tend to be heavier and use lots of power.
                            So few people learn CW these days it has a certain obscure security factor. Fact is you buy cheap digital radios that are difficult to detect and work rather well. I’d say that might be a better use of time; build a robust UHF/VHF network for your AO. More practical. Learn how to construct expedient antennas and practice using report formats via voice and digital modes. Plenty of stuff to do right there.

                          • #97857
                            SeanT
                            Keymaster

                              D makes a very good point about HF propagation. HF ‘works’ because the signals are reflected back to earth by one of the layers in the ionosphere.The solar activity creates the conditions and the conditions change hourly. This is why certain frequencies are better to use at certain times of the day or night. You can nerd out on propagation here:
                              Propagation

                            • #97858
                              Joe (G.W.N.S.)
                              Moderator

                                Congratulations on license, I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from learning Morse, but many won’t for a variety of reasons.

                                Consider this Thread Monitoring Morse Code Communications, remember even if you know Morse you can’t be listening all of time. Maybe good to have others help.

                              • #97859
                                Abacus
                                Participant

                                  Just remember there is no such thing as truly secure wireless communications. Anyone in range that is listening can “hear” your transmissions. Even encrypted radio transmissions will light up a spectrum analyzer or scanner. Unless you are using some sort of fancy high end low probability of intercept (LPI) system or really really tight directional point to point rig those trons are going everywhere.

                                  At best in the ham bands you can be obscure. All the digital modes that you can use on the ham bands are not actually encryption but rather a special type of modulation. As such, anybody who has the right gear and cares enough can demodulate them. True encryption like, AES public key encryption, (the stuff that secures most of the internet) is not actually allowed to be used on the ham bands per FCC rules. Depending on how you read those rules, stuff like code words or ramrods are not okay as they “obscures the meaning of the message.” How butthurt the hams in your area get about such stuff is probably dependent on the the character of that local community.

                                  All of this does not mean you should not use radios. Just beware of the limitations of wireless communications in general and ham in particular. It is best to just assume someone is always listening when you key the mic. It may not even be “the guberment” who is listening. In most cases it won’t be, they probably don’t care about you that much. Other hams however love to police their own airwaves looking for pirates and the like. Commsprepper even put out a video a while back of a listening post he setup during an MVT classes.

                                  Don’t transmit anything over a radio that you would not say over a megaphone and you will be fine.

                                  For a good idea of what now to do, read this report on radio usage in the 3per community. The comments are illuminating as well. militia-radio-frequencies

                                • #97860
                                  libertycalls
                                  Participant

                                    From a security standpoint CW is not a good way to send messages that you don’t want others to read. Sure the person listening might not know morse code, but there’s devices and software to decode it. They could even record the message and decode it later. Security through obscurity isn’t really security.

                                    For getting your message through when the conditions are bad it’s not a bad idea.

                                  • #97861
                                    BrigandActual
                                    Participant

                                      The fact that there are always chances for intercept just emphasizes the importance of a comm plan that includes ciphers, one time pads, code language, and other low tech options.

                                      If the situation ion calls for it, that is.

                                    • #97862
                                      Daniel
                                      Participant

                                        Excellent input, gents. Much appreciated. I’m quite new at this and, after putting a basic concept framework together, am slowly discovering what I don’t know. It’s all good since it’s lighting up parts of my brain that have been dormant a looong time.

                                      • #97863
                                        Abacus
                                        Participant

                                          The fact that there are always chances for intercept just emphasizes the importance of a comm plan that includes ciphers, one time pads, code language, and other low tech options.

                                          If the situation ion calls for it, that is.

                                          Just remember many hams are hostile to ciphers and the like as they hide the meaning of your message in violation of FCC rules or at least the “spirit” of such rules. Some guys take the hobby and it’s rules very very seriously. Maybe don’t rehearse your cipher work on the ham bands before you actually need them. It would draw less attention from busybodies.

                                        • #97864
                                          BrigandActual
                                          Participant

                                            I get that. But what situation are we talking about, now? Are we talking about learning the ropes of radio now, or if there is a WROL situation and you have a need of more secure wireless comms? If it’s the former…sure, I wouldn’t be testing it on the air. If it’s the latter, they’ll have to get over it.

                                          • #97865
                                            Trailrunner
                                            Participant

                                              Great job!

                                              I have grown up around Hams and it’s a life-long hobby. Many are of the age (pre-internet) to understand what communication is in emergencies, disasters and wars. Ham Radio has a distinction that it allows you to listen and communicate around the world during all these. Except some wars. But overall it’s a Strength.

                                              Keep learning and growing, it will all help you down the road.

                                            • #97866
                                              Abacus
                                              Participant

                                                I get that. But what situation are we talking about, now? Are we talking about learning the ropes of radio now, or if there is a WROL situation and you have a need of more secure wireless comms? If it’s the former…sure, I wouldn’t be testing it on the air. If it’s the latter, they’ll have to get over it.

                                                That was the gyst of my suggestion. In an emergency, or “post event” to quote Max, folks can pound sand as long as you are not screwing up legitimate emergency/rescue services communications. Even the FCC has rules to that effect.

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