Ham radio license classes, exam this weekend

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An intensive three-day training session scheduled for this weekend at Speare Hall on the New Mexico Tech campus should prepare students to pass the Federal Communications Commission Technician Class Amateur Radio Operator’s license examination. People interested in upgrading their ham radio license can also take exams on Sunday afternoon.

Classes preparing for the entry-level license will meet from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Exams for all license classes will be given from 3-6 p.m. on Sunday. The training session costs $25, or $50 if the trainee has not purchased the two required textbooks.

Trainees should read the textbooks before they show up for the training sessions and take some of the free practice online exams, said Socorro Amateur Radio Association secretary Prescott Grey. To purchase textbooks, contact Jim Boswell at 575-835-7427 or jboswell@nrao.edu. Practice exams are available at www.eHam.net/exams.

The charge for additional exams to qualify for the General and Extra licenses is $15 per exam.

People wanting to take the higher-level exams should plan to study books targeted to that level, Grey said. These books can be purchased online through www.Amazon.com.

Interested persons can enroll for the class at the Radio Shack store on California Street or by emailing secretary@socorroara.org or KASSIW@yahoo.com.

An amateur radio license is the only FCC license that allows experimentation with radio.

“We can communicate using either tried-and-true analog radio or digitally,” Grey said. “We can legally build and modify our own equipment to broadcast non-commercial content over the air.”

“You can talk to each other, you can provide emergency communications during disasters and even broadcast amateur TV over radio frequencies,” Grey said.

Ham radio works even during emergencies, unlike cell service and Internet connections, so ham radio operators often help during disasters.

“Last year after the big Ruidoso fire, ham radio operators were actually dispatched with the clean-up crews,” said ARA treasurer Jim Lommen. “They went out mostly in areas with no cell service so the crews could be contacted by radio to get to high ground during the flash flooding that happened after the fire.”

Want to tap out messages just like olden times? Well, you can if you’re a ham radio operator.

“Ham radio operators learn continuous wave transmission — Morse code — even though it’s not required anymore,” Grey said. “Continuous wave transmission works well in adverse conditions when there’s a lot of interference or when weather conditions are not right. You communicate around the world with CW.”

But what about the ham moniker?

“No one has come up with a definitive origin of the name ‘ham’ as applied to amateur radio operators,” Lommen said.