Mike Wieger

My First Amateur Radio Contact!

What a day it was! I woke up eager to check the FCC database to see if my license was listed but was disappointed to see that it was still missing. However, I randomly decided to check again at 9:30am and it was listed! KE0WKP was my callsign and I couldn’t wait to get out and transmit for the first time.

Over my lunch hour I went to my car and attempted to make my first contact. The video above documented the entire conversation. A big thank you to Brandon (KC0USM) for the contact. Needless to say, I am hooked!

What to do While Waiting for Your License

It was exactly three weeks from the time I decided to get into ham radio and when I was able to take the technician license. It has now been another week since I passed the test and still do not have my license. For those keeping track at home that is a month of not being able to transmit on my radio. I received my first radio, the Baofeng UV-5R, two days (thanks Amazon) after deciding to dive into this hobby. The last few weeks have been filled with excitement but also frustration that I can’t transmit on this radio.

But there is a massive benefit to this “waiting period.” This time has given me the opportunity to do a ton of research and learn more about what it is I will be doing once my license hits the FCC database. It has also allowed me to listen to hours of radio and get to know how conversations function and the general etiquette for my area repeaters. I have learned which repeaters have groups of individuals I want to interact with… and which ones are not a good fit for me.

A month into listening with my radio I am glad that I did not have my license day one and glad that I had time to learn. I would have been making quite a few rookie mistakes had I jumped on the band right away and begun transmitting. Don’t get me wrong, I will be making plenty of mistakes on my first day (more like year) of transmitting, but I think it will be far less now that I have monitored the nets for a month.

What about equipment? During my wait I have tweaked and altered the equipment I am using and have found a decent setup for my home and mobile rig. Being only able to Rx has enabled me to do a ton of testing without frustrating my local hams by constantly doing Tx tests. I will definitely have to test my setup for Tx once I have my license but I have upgraded my antenna and moved it over a dozen times around my home to finally find a spot where I am able to get good reception on most of the local repeaters.

So what is my advice for new amateur radio enthusiasts waiting to take their test or for their license to hit the database? Listen, and listen a lot. Get on the local nets and see what they are all about. Try as many of them as possible. You will notice that the different repeaters attract different personalities and facilitate different types of conversations. That way, by the time you have your license you will be ready to participate and make great connections.

73 – Mike

Diving into Amateur Radio… The Beginning

Where did this hobby begin? How did I go down the rabbit hole so quickly? I think these are both questions all new hams ask themselves. It was about three weeks between the time I saw an interesting video on YouTube regarding ham radio and when I was sitting down for my technician license. Now, as I type this I am waiting for my license to show up in the FCC database. Honestly, I am taking a risk by starting this site with the vanity call sign I hope to get soon after my license is in the system.

What gear am I starting with? I went the stereotypical route and got a Baofeng UV-5R as my first radio. However, that only lasted a week before I realized I needed some upgrades. First, two new antennas. Yes, two. I went with the ExpertPower antenna for mobile operations. This gives me way better range than the stock rubber ducky antenna. I then purchased the N9TAX Slim Jim antenna as a home base antenna.

But of course the fun didn’t stop there. I purchased an inexpensive QYT-8900D mobile radio for the Jeep. That combined with a Tram 1180 antenna on an NMO lip mount provides fantastic reception when I am on the road. But that is all I know about it, because I haven’t actually been able to transmit with either of these setups. The second my license is in the database I will be sending out that first transmit and hoping to get a response.

I am going to post future pictures and videos of my setup to hopefully help some other new amateur radio operators. Hopefully I will also get some comments from veteran hams to help me improve my system.