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Amateur Radio Transceivers

Here are some brief notes on ham radios. For some background information and what to do once you have your radio, see GettingStartedWithAmateurRadio.

Your First Equipment

It's pretty easy to get your first equipment. The easiest device you could get is a handheld radio, also called a HT. It's a self-contained unit, can often run off battery power, and has an integrated "rubber duckie" antenna. These can be found for under $300 on sites like gigaparts.com.

The HT is portable, small, and useful for getting started. However, it has a number of disadvantages. They put out no more than 5W of power, which is rather low as far as these things go. They are sometimes used indoors or in cars, where radio signals don't penetrate well (usually people have antennas outside and run an antenna feedline into the house/car). If you have repeaters nearby, expect this to be useful when you're outside. If the repeaters are some distance away, you live in a valley, or you want to use it indoors or in a car, look for something else.

Despite all these, HT's can have surprising range and even work well indoors for some. Almost every amateur has one, because they're so small, portable, and handy. I always take mine with me when I travel because I enjoy talking to locals, and it's so portable. Bottom line: it's a worthwhile investment for most, but don't be surprised if it doesn't pull in many signals.

A VHF/UHF "mobile" radio is one designed to be mounted in a car, but can also be used indoors. There are often called "dual-band" or "2m/440" radios, since they work on the 2m and 70cm (440 MHz) bands. These also can be found for under $300 on sites like gigaparts. However, in addition to the radio, you will need:

You can often run the antenna feedline into the car by simply shutting it in a door. This generally won't hurt either the car or the cable (but don't try shutting it in a window!)

If you want to use it in the house, you would instead add these things to a radio:

Some Specific Ideas

Based on recommendations from experienced hams, I bought this equipment for these reasons:


WikiCompleteOrg: AmateurRadioTransceivers (last edited October 07, 2010 by JohnGoerzen)