From Technician to General: A Maker Neccessity

Once I had my Technician’s license I was all excited. Time to start figuring out what fun can be had. I began to look at kits almost immediately after picking up my Pofung UV-5R.

Traffic Net (Ugh Voice)

nts_clTo satiate my interests as I researched options I also scanned the VHF/UHF repeaters for
traffic and found the Colorado Traffic Net. They were starting a pre-net training around the same time so I listened in on that and learned a bunch about proper transmission of messages. It turns out that is harder than I initially expected and my newbness showed the first and only time I originated a message. Sadly, my message never made it and that caused me to lose interest. Apparently the system wasn’t as reliable as I’d hoped. I expect the skills those folks were putting into practice are very useful, but I also learned that verbal communication wasn’t any less tiring for this introvert over a radio than it was in person. This drove me back to my first interest, learning and making. Maybe someday digital modes will bring me back to traffic passing.

What can I make?

I dug and dug and dug and found almost nothing that a Technician can build to transmit on UHF and VHF, and only a little on the 10 Meter band. I was convinced for awhile that this must just be me missing something. Technician is a basic license on a hobby that used to be all about building. Surely the basic license had ways to build and get on the air!

Eventually I found an answer. In my frustration I finally found out my error. It turns out that homebrewing is simply very challenging in very high and ultra-high frequency. As I understand it, wires and leads at those frequencies can collect undesirable signals. Oddly enough, the beginner license (Technician) isn’t much good for makers interested in messing with building transceivers and the like. If you want to use the ham bands for Remote Control vehicles, home automation or other stuff like that you can probably have some fun, but you’ll almost certainly need to be looking at transceiver modules rather than building your own stuff.

So this resulted in my next big decision. Time to get the General License. Studying for that exam was very like studying for the Technician, except I did invest more time in it and I barely passed. The VE who told me my score said “What do you call a doctor at the bottom of his class? Doctor!” I guess that was supposed to be comforting, but frankly the idea of a doctor that barely passed, stealthily giving me advice was a bit disquieting. Still, I appreciated the sentiment.

Now what can I make?

From my previous research, I knew there were lots of kits and designs for transceivers that could be used with General license. It was time to look further into those options I overlooked before, but that’s for next time.