Growing up in a rural part of North Carolina, most of us knew someone with a CB radio, but few knew someone who was a ham radio operator. I can remember sitting in the floor of my bedroom with an outdated CB radio someone discarded, talking to friends down the road, but not consistently talking much further than that. Being within a couple miles of a heavily traveled interstate highway, I got to experience the passing truckers and their colorful conversations, as they sped past in their rubber tire trains of commerce. From time to time, I would throw out a "Breaker, breaker one nine, this is big hoss, anybody got their ears on for a radio check?" but I couldn't reliably talk to friends who didn't live within walking distance of my house, let alone the far side of the county.
Years went by, and I didn't invest much effort into better communications. If I needed different comms than what a phone could provide, I'd either dig out a CB radio, or grab a set of big box store walkie talkies. Bottom line, I kept putting up with mediocrity. I knew there had to be a better way than just getting by, but assumed ham radio was too expensive, too difficult, and too mysterious. All I knew about ham radio, was... absolutely nothing.
I decided to start researching, and was fortunate enough to find a ham radio shop in my city. I dropped by with no expectations, an open mind, and lots of questions. What I experienced were Elmers(seasoned ham radio mentors) who helped with as much enthusiasm as I could muster with my inquisition.
Within weeks of taking that first step, my father, brother, wife, and I were all taking the test to to become licensed ham radio operators. Once the testing was over (we all passed, and my wife with a perfect score), it finally sunk in. The whirlwind of seemingly super difficult to attain, mysterious ham radio licensing was over. It finally hit home, just how simple it is, to get a call sign and get on the air.
With a few hours studying, practicing using a free downloadable app from the Google Play store, Apple store, or online, and $15, you too can be a part of this growing elite operator community (sounds tactical, doesn't it?). For as low as an additional $30, you can pick up a handheld UHF/VHF radio, which will legally transmit with as much power as the strongest legal CB in the United States. Becoming familiar with that radio and tapping into some more advanced techniques (more than just push-to-talk), you can talk to someone in outer space, around the world, or just your friends down the road.
This is Part 1 of a multi-topic series, that will increase in subject technicality with each publication.