So you now have your license and you are ready to get on the air. The most important thing to do before beginning is to listen and observe how other hams are making their contacts. This is always the best thing to do no matter if your a new ham or a seasoned veteran. As different modes and bands seem to have slightly different approaches it helps to have heard a few exchanges on a band before you make that first contact.
Depending on your radio and license you may have to decide on where and how you want to begin operating. If you are using a hand-held transceiver(HT) you may begin through a local repeater or direct (simplex) on the VHF and UHF bands. If you passed a CW test you may begin on some of the HF bands using CW or SSB. So let's give a quick run-down of each of these operations.
A Repeater is an electronic device that receives a weak or low-level amateur radio signal and retransmits it at a higher level or higher power, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. Many repeaters are located on hilltops or on tall buildings as the higher location increases their coverage area, sometimes referred to as the radio horizon, or "footprint".
In amateur radio, repeaters are typically maintained by individual hobbyists or local groups of amateur radio operators. Many repeaters are provided openly to other amateur radio operators and typically not used as a remote base station by a single user or group. In some areas multiple repeaters are linked together to form a wide-coverage network that may span several counties, and entire state, multiple states or even could be linked across the country or world using ILRP or Echolink (see the Echolink page).
When repeaters are linked together in order to form what is known as a linked repeater system or linked repeater network someone on one repeater can communicate with someone who is in range of another repeater in the lined system. In such a system, when one repeater is keyed-up by receiving a signal, all the other repeaters in the network are also activated and will transmit the same signal. The connections between the repeaters are made via radio (usually on a different frequency from the published transmitting frequency) for maximum reliability. Such a system allows coverage over a wide area, enabling communication between amateurs often hundreds of miles (several hundred km) apart. All the user has to know is which channel to use in which area.In order to get better receive coverage over a wide area, a similar linked setup can also be done in a more local area with what is known as a voted receiver system. In a voted receiver, there are several satellite receivers set up to receive on the same frequency (the one that the users transmit on). All of the satellite receivers are linked to a voting selector panel that switches from receiver to receiver based on the best quieting (strongest) signal, and the output of the selector will actually trigger the central repeater transmitter. This is way that the ARTS Club W4CN Repeater is setup.
Many amateurs begin by getting the Technician class license. By far the most common mode of operation for them is the HT through a local repeater. Assuming you have the HT set up to the appropriate frequency, offset, and if necessary, CTCSS(aka PL) tone then you are ready to make your first contact.
It may seem obvious but you do need to know your call sign before you begin. It is helpful for new Ham's to keep it handy, I remember forgetting mine a few times when I first got my license. You might also want to review the appropriate phonetics in case someone asks you to clarify your call sign.
Also a quick note about 'kerchunking'. Kerchunking is a term used in ham radio that refers to the act of transmitting a momentary signal to check a repeater without identifying. This is violation of FCC regulations, and should be absolutely avoided. All transmission must be identified even if they are test transmissions. If you want to check the repeater, or your signal, just say your callsign and that your testing, like "KZ4ABC testing", then your making a legal transmission.
Here is some basic tips for new hams on how to use a repeater.
1. Press the mike button on the HT and say "KZ4ABC listening." Of course you would use your own call sign.
That might be all you need for a response. But if there is no response (which is quite likely) then you might try again but this time say "KZ4ABC is monitoring and listening for a call."
Usually you don't need to call CQ on a repeater.
2. You get a response something like "KZ4ABC this is W9KLM in New Albany. My name is Phil. Back to you. W9KLM"
At this point you want to wait for the repeater's tone to indicate it is okay to proceed.
3. Press your mike button and respond. At this point the discussion can be whatever you make it. Give your name and location and any other information you wish to Phil and when you are ready say "Back to you."
It is a good idea and the law to give your call sign at lest once every 10 minutes, so after a longer transmission you might add say "W9KLM this is KZ4ABC. Back to you."
The use of the terms "over" or "back to you" are a courtesy that lets the other operating know that you are finished talking and are turning the operation back to him or her. As you get into the flow of things you will see that they are not needed to be used for every exchange once your in a conversation.
4. At the end of the contact you would finally say goodbye or 73 and sign off by saying "W9KLM 73, this is KZ4ABC clear and monitoring." That is if you intend to continue to monitor. If not you could say "...clear and QRT" instead.
To respond to a call over the repeater with a HT you would take on the role of the opposite person in the above discussion. You hear W9KLM calling on the repeater so answer as follows after the repeater tone drops:
1. "W9KLM this is KZ4ABC. Good morning my name is Don and my location is J-town. Over to you."
2. Basically the exchange would proceed as discussed above. Be sure to identify your station occasionally to meet the 10minutes requirement, and identify yourself at the end of the contact as explained above.
That's all there is to it.
To use the ARTS Club W4CN Repeater, set your radio up like this.
The frequency is 147.180 MHz, with a PL(CTCSS) Tone of 79.7.
It has a +600KHz offset, which means when you key the radio to transmit it will transmit 600Khz higher, or 146.580 (147.180 + .600).
Now, lets here you on the ARTS Club W4CN Repeater! And join us on the weekly net, which is a easy to do structured net and is a great way for new hams to get any mic fright they might have.
Here are some useful links: