How to Buy the Right Amateur Radio Equipment

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How to Buy the Right Amateur Radio Equipment

Amateur radio is known as "ham radio", and its users are often called "hams". It is a worldwide network of people who are assigned special radio frequencies for amateur and recreational communication purposes. The ethos that lies behind amateur radio are public service, fun, and friendship, all mixed together for the advancement of human cooperation.

Ham operators communicate with those in neighbouring communities, or anywhere in the world, which all takes place outside the professional realm. This is made possible by gaining the necessary license, thereby extending their radio access and gaining worldwide frequency coverage. Naturally, this process expands their opportunities enormously from the otherwise 50 to 70 kilometre coverage they would have as unlicensed operators.

With so many communication alternatives today, amateur radio has, to some extent, been relegated to the margins of people's daily experiences, and it is perhaps not taken as seriously as it once was. However, amateur radio is now returning to the fore with a new vigour as its romanticised vision once again comes into focus.

Through necessity, the world of amateur radio is diversifying, and many amateur radio users are expanding their operations through developing internet compatible equipment to enhance their experiences and adapt to new technology. This is essential if the hobby is to move into the next phase so as not to be left behind and to attract young people to this exciting venture that has captured a passionate worldwide community for several generations. The online shop eBay is the ideal place to look for amateur radio equipment, whether for outfitting an existing rig with additional components, or building a radio transmissions deck from the ground up.

A Brief History of Amateur Radio

With a long history spanning several decades, amateur radio is evolving into a modern communications medium. Amateur radio began as Morse code in 1895 when Nikola Tesla received signals from his New York lab from a distance of 80 kilometres. Over the next 15 years, Morse code amateur radio exploded into widespread use.

The amateur service was interrupted during the First World War but re-commenced in 1919. The Germans arrested Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe during World War II on suspicion of espionage through his amateur radio activities. He was martyred to spare the life of another prisoner and was canonised in 1982. Today, he is regarded by some as the Patron Saint of ham radio.

Essential Equipment

Acquiring new amateur radio equipment may be the hobbyist's dream, but there seems to be an endless list of radio accessories which can enhance, extend and diversify communication possibilities. The range of equipment available on eBay is clearly categorised to help the buyer search for specific items.

Amateur radio equipment covers a broad range of products; however, specific components are easily discovered on eBay through conducting item-specific searches, such as "ham amateur radio", The first and foremost piece of equipment that forms the basis for any radio rig, however, is the transceiver.

The High Frequency Transceiver

A transceiver is a unit that contains both a transmitter and receiver, providing two-way radio transmission. The HF transceiver uses RF modules for transmitting data at high speed and potentially allows for worldwide communication pending the necessary license. The high signal to noise ratio and wide dynamic range makes long distance communication clear and simple.

Transceivers are available in three frequency ranges: high frequency, very high frequency, and ultra high frequency. There are many HF, VHF and UHF transceivers on eBay, which is the best place to start shopping for components to build an amateur radio rig.

Portable HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver

The portable transceiver is used for a wide range of activities that necessitate handheld use. They are popular for many outdoor recreation activities and a non-negotiable item to take when bush walking or mountain climbing. Most portable transceivers, however, have a limited signal range of around 30 kilometres.

Mobile HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver

Mobile transceivers are vehicle mounted and are designed for communication among transport users. Various ham radio users utilise them for all sorts of purposes as distinct from CB radio, which is on a separately allocated band and serves a somewhat more specific purpose.

Base Station Transceiver

The base station transceiver is a fixed position radio rig that sends and receives signals from all devices on its network channels. It has higher wattage than portable and mobile units and a far greater signal range. Licensed amateur radio enthusiasts can enjoy virtually unlimited communication throughout the world through specially assigned channels. As amateur radio users operate in non-essential and often relaxed, domestic settings, base station rigs are most ideal for those who like to indulge their hobby with like-minded souls from all over the world.

Available Channels

Different radio channels are assigned to different segments of the community according to their intended use. There are separate radio frequencies assigned to the military and special operations groups, just as there are those assigned to government agencies, and commercial industry.

An amateur radio licensee has access to a range of designated channels that are set aside for amateur radio use. Operators can choose between any in a given range, most of them being on the FM band. The chart below outlines amateur bands and their corresponding range of frequencies available in the U.K.

Band Name (m)

From (Mhz)

To (Mhz)

160 a.k.a. Top-Band

1.800

2.000

80

3.500

3.800

40

7.1000

7.200

30

10.100

10.150

17

18.068

18.168

15

21.000

21.450

12

24.800

24.990

10

28.000

29.700

6

50.000

52.000

4

70.000

70.500

2

144.000

146.000

0.7

430.000

440.000

The listed frequencies are listed as Mhz instead of kHz to comply with standard modern radio scanners. The above chart provides an overview for amateurs to look to as a starting guide.

Equipment to Avoid

Second-hand equipment can either save the customer money or cost them more in the long term. Some types of older equipment, therefore, are best avoided to prevent complications later on.

All Valve Transceivers

Transceivers that operate on old valve technology should be avoided. These units may be at least 30 years old and pose extreme difficulty when trying to attain high voltage components, valve replacements, and transformers. They are also less sensitive and more difficult to use effectively in portable or mobile operation.

Old Equipment

Not only is old equipment vastly superseded with better technology of newer systems and the parts difficult to acquire, but old also generally means worn out or about to become a serious liability. Avoid falling for the "bargain" gag unless you simply want a souvenir. Older transceivers and other equipment types may have been manufactured to a higher standard than much of what is available today, but that is of little advantage 30 or 50 years later.

How to Buy the Right Amateur Radio Equipment on eBay

When purchasing radio equipment on eBay, the important thing to remember is that radio equipment is delicate. The way it is handled can affect its ability to perform correctly. When you understand this, you can apply this to your online radio-buying practices.

As you can make savings on eBay that would be rare in retail stores, it is a good opportunity to take advantage of purchasing equipment from the most reputable brands, such as Kenwood and Pioneer. To search for your needed equipment, enter search keywords and add filters to bring up the relevant returns, such as "new amateur radio equipment", and note carefully what the search returns. If you do not find what you are looking for, try more specific searches until you locate your sought-after item. It is wise to be slightly over-critical when assessing an item online, rather than taking it on face value. Ask every question you can muster to satisfy that your designated item can perform how you need it to.

You need to make every effort to determine if you can trust your seller, and this involves checking their feedback and ratings score, as well as sending them emails with your questions and gauging their responses. An essential detail to check is the return policy. As with electrical equipment in general, only accept to buy if you can determine that a hassle-free returns policy is available.

Conclusion

Amateur radio is a great way to stay in touch with distant friends and family or make new friends and network with people who share similar interests all over the world. The key to attaining real satisfaction with amateur radio is to gain a license. This is granted to those who pass the required test and who can verify that they have no commercial interest in their radio endeavours. Licensed users are then permitted to transmit in designated shortwave amateur frequencies that give them much broader signal coverage than would be possible without a license.

Many people today insist on digital or VoIP mediums for all sorts of communications needs. They can, after all, be the most ideal for many conferencing and interviewing circumstances with the added feature of the webcam. These facilities are efficient, clear and simple, yet they all lack the startlingly obvious appeal of radio: the ability to ignite passion and stir the imagination.

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