Tips For Buying An Emergency Ham Radio

Some people consider ham radios a hobby, but in the event of an emergency, it could be the only communication available.

Since ham radios, also known as amateur radios, don't use telephone lines, wires or connections, they are very handy for everyday usage as well as emergency applications. Ham radios do not broadcast music or talk programs and are meant to be communication posts for other "hams". They can talk between themselves from across the street or across the continent. Although this type of radio originally used Morse code, you can now use them knowing no Morse code at all.

First you'll need to decide which modes of transmission you'll be using. Continuous wave, or CW, is the simplest form. With these, the output of the transmitter is switched on and off, forming characters of Morse code. This is one of the least expensive of ham radio sets, usually occupying less than 500Hz. Another form is the amplitude modulation, or AM. When talking in to the mike on these, your voice is converted to a varying voltage. These are noisier and more expensive types of ham radios. There are also single sidebands, or SSB radios, which are far more complicated, but offer better performance than smaller radios. Frequency Modulation or FM radio has one of the biggest advantages because of the quality of the audio and the ability to resist intrusive sounds, like static and electrical noises. Digital modes are the most modern of ham radios. Digital modes can organize info into "packets" that contain address fields, facts about the transmission protocol, data and more. The packets are received in any order, then reorganized into the form of the original message. Using packets, one can send sound graphics and video. The digital modes are complex, though, and require much knowledge of receiving and transmitting gear. Many hams build their own radios, but you must be able to use a soldering iron with a vast understanding of circuit boards and integrated circuits.

Unless you have someone who can give you hands-on training, you'll likely end up reading many different ham radio books. These range from how to obtain your license to which equipment is the best for your needs. Don't make large investments in equipment, assuming it's the best there is by the price tag. Even the most expensive equipment won't offer good performance without a suitable antenna. Some features to look for when purchasing a ham radio are high performance output, power transistors, main circuit board, mike and jack, power cords, along with additional cords, wires and antennae. You can decide by examining the models which one is right for you with the amount of space you have. You'll also have to decide whether you want to dabble in the hobby or go all out with the best equipment on the market today. When purchasing mobile radios, look for new modern qualities such as dual band and wide receiver coverage. Cross band is also popular, especially when featuring hundreds of memory channels. For handheld units, two-way communications and monitoring is usually desired, and when choosing a stationary model, alpha-numeric display and front-facing speaker are popular features. Since ham radios are becoming more of a trend, but not widespread, manufacturers are not plentiful, but you can find websites or area buffs that may be able to offer assistance. Before making any decisions about which ham radio and equipment you will purchase, join a club, get advice from a ham or read up on the subject until you feel comfortable enough to make wise decisions. This hobby, like many other hobbies can be quite expensive, so get to know the subject, the hardware, the requirements and the laws.

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