Last year around this time, I was learning about amateur radio and, almost on a whim, took my Technician test. This year, I was a little more deliberate about it (and actually bought and read the ARRL guide), but I passed my General test on Tuesday with a 35 out of 35.
The testing occurred at the National Electronics Museum, gratis courtesy of the Maryland Mobileers (who are awesome). I’m not sure how many tested, but four of us upgraded to General, one upgraded to Extra, and fifteen achieved their initial technician license. Very cool. Walking around the museum after hours while waiting for the paperwork was just a bonus (esp. since I’d been there the previous weekend). Talking with other testers, mostly new hams, was pretty amusing, too. One gentleman who worked in health care (a nurse, maybe?) had become interested just two weeks earlier when a patient asked whether his radio gear would interfere with his new pacemaker. The ensuing conversation led to him testing this week.
Conveniently, this occurred just in time for ARRL Field Day this weekend. Much as I’ve been looking forward to that, however, I’m not sure I’m really going to participate, because I’m finally going home today after spending most of the month on the wrong side of the continent, and it’s just possible that I will decide I’d rather spend the weekend at home playing with my wife and kids. Still, I have a moderate sense of accomplishment, and now I can make much better use of the ridiculous volume of equipment I have acquired since last June.
As with the Tech exam, it’s not exactly rocket science and the parts you don’t fully understand you can simply memorize for the test. For just passing the test, I still recommend KB6NU’s No-Nonsense Study Guides (and I kicked in $10 today in recognition of his awesomeness), but I chose to buy the ARRL General guide to get a little more understanding this time around and I used both to prepare. I’d say I understood somewhere in the 85-90% range this time; I still need more grounding in electronics (pun intended, and I’m not sorry).
I also recently purchased the ARRL Antenna Book so I can get serious about understanding that end of the business. Since my current radio gear is all QRP-oriented and tops out at 5 watts, it’s all about the antennas.