After studying the necessary technicalities from electronics and rules and regulations, you have cleared the Amateur Station Operator Certification. Now, it is time to think of buying a radio set and applying for a license. Remember, you must have a valid license to have your first QSO with the Ham world.
But it may take some time to get the license and Call Sign or your unique identity on air. You may utilize this intervening time to plan and set up our radio station or shack.
We are now well aware that HF, VHF and UHF are different frequencies. Hence, you may need three different sets to work on all the frequencies. Of course, you can have an All-in-One set too, but that is costly and not much advisable to buy. Also, in case of its failure, all our radio communication will come to a halt. So it is better to have multiple sets. Besides, if there are fewer Hams in your vicinity, it is always advisable to have HF set first as HF gives you wider connectivity. But if you are well within Ham traffic, the first station for you is VHF.
To start with, VHF or ‘Line-of-sight Communication’ is much simpler. A lot of efforts on constant monitoring and tuning are needed in the case of HF. At the same time, HF sets are quite costlier (3 to 5 times that of VHF) as they cover more area of communication. So it is better to start with VHF set.
However, you must remember the most crucial thing in radio communication — at the start, always only listen, listen and listen. Don’t try to rush for Tx or Transmission. First, always become a ‘good listener’.
After a Ham set, the next question is about the model. I now need to shortlist the model, which is best suited for me. Initially, you may opt for a handheld device, but the base station is what makes your Rig the Basic Rig. Many traditional companies manufacture good VHF base stations. Some of them are Alinco, Icom, Yaesu, Motorola, Kenwood, etc. Almost all base stations are sturdy and are also made for outdoor performance, and their costs are about the same. You may get a second-hand or used VHF set at a low price with which you can start.
VHF Set is just one part. Remember, all the Ham equipment work on 12 V DC. Do not plug these sets directly into the AC socket. For this, you need a suitable power supply. A power supply converts AC to DC. However, exercise caution while connecting this power supply to your set. The positive end (mostly red) of the power supply must be attached to the positive terminal of the set power cable and the negative end (mostly black) to the negative end of the VHF Set power cable.
Many manufacturers provide extension cables having a fuse in them. With it, even if you connect the wires incorrectly, the set remains safe, and only the fuse gets damaged. The set also has an antenna to receive the signals. We have already learnt that VHF communication is a line-of-sight communication and that you need to have a VHF antenna. It should be placed at the maximum possible height to give us the maximum possible reach. An antenna can be purchased or can be homebrewed easily. In many cases, an omnidirectional antenna like monopole, dipole, or slim-jim is advisable. If your QTH is in the outskirts, Yagi or Directional antennas fit better.
To connect the antenna to the set, you need a good coaxial cable. Coax cable used for Ham radio must have 50-ohm impedance to match the output impedance of our set. Generally, the coaxial cable used for cable TV is of 75 ohms impedance. You can get 50-ohm impedance coaxial cable from local vendors. There are many types of coax cables available viz., RG58, RG8, RG213, LMR-200, LMR-400, etc.
These four things – set, power supply, cable and antenna, make up our entire set. After the installation, you are ready to test the set. We must first listen to various stations. A good Rx or receiving can lead us to good Tx or transmission.
Along with the set, you must have the following things ready near the station.
- Our official license or a copy of it
- A logbook to maintain the log of QSO
- Basic tool kit to fix cables, etc
- Rough book with a pencil to note down any information
- Well set Clock (for exact QTR)
- A world map if you are using the HF set
With all these things, you are set to go. Now, literally, ‘sky is the limit’ for you. All the best.