Ham radio is cool, but it can be very nerve wracking to talk to someone using it. Talking to someone using ham radio is commonly known as a 'QSO' or a 'contact'. Although it can seem really scary at first, you won't regret a moment of it. And after a few 'contacts', you'll be wanting to make more and more. There are many ways to make a QSO, some of the most common being through morse code (CW), phone (voice communications), and data (RTTY, teletype).
So, how exactly do you make a QSO using ham radio?
Well first, you must pass an exam and get a license...
If you are from the UK, you may consult M0HIZ for questions about the exam process as this Instructable is structured around the US process of licensing.
Step 1: Licensing
First off, you must get be licensed to operate on ham radio frequencies. It requires some basic knowledge and studying, but can easily be accomplished. Children as young as 8 years old have gotten licensed, or as hams say, got their 'ticket'.
How do you get a license, or 'ticket'?
First, you must purchase study material. There are different forms of studying material, and you should use whichever you feel most comfortable with. I, myself have studied using both online programs and books. There are different types of licenses. Each type gives you a certain amount of privileges. These are the different types:
Allows you to operate on a limited range of frequencies. You can transmit using no more than 100 watts.
Allows you to operate on a much larger range of frequencies. You can transmit a maximum of 1500 watts.
Allows you to operate on all ham bands and frequencies. You can transmit a maximum of 1500 watts.
What are the frequencies each licensee can transmit on? Click here to see what frequencies each licensee can transmit on.
For you to make a QSO, all you really need is a Technician class license. With the proper equipment, you can talk to people very far away using way less than 100 watts. But General and Extra licenses offer much more frequencies to transmit on and more power. The General and Extra frequencies often are better to use to make a contact with someone farther away. Why? Unfortunately there is only so much I can write in this how-to. However, you don't need more than 100 watts to have a QSO with someone anywhere in the world (as long as the conditions are good or the skip is in!).
What do you mean when you say 'conditions are good' or 'the skip is in'. Are you talking about the weather? Well, yes. However, I don't mean that when conditions are good, it's partly cloudy and the temperature is 80°F. It refers to the atmospheric conditions. If the skip is in, you could probably make a contact with someone across the globe using way less than 100 watts! And that is a huge accomplishment.
What are these study materials you talked about earlier?
There are many different programs and authors, but here are some of the most popular:
Online Programs: http://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/ , http://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/ , http://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/
Literature (Books and Online Literature): http://www.arrl.org/shop/Licensing-Education-and-T... , http://www.arrl.org/shop/Licensing-Education-and-T...
I've studied and taken the online practice exams. What now? Now, you take the real exam. Where? The ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) website has a whole section that advertises ham radio exams in your area. There are no online exams, so you must drive to the nearest place where there is an exam. ALWAYS email the examiner before going, because sometimes they cancel without notice. You can find the nearest one to you here: http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license... .
What do I bring to an exam? You should always bring 2 sharpened pencils, a pen, ~$20, legal photo ID (such as a passport or driver's license), but if you have no legal photo ID, you may bring two of the following items: Social Security Number, birth certificate, library card, or a utility bill.
Great! I passed, now what? Now you must get the proper equipment to make a QSO...