For the past couple Saturdays, my husband and I have been taking an amateur radio class and today we took the exam for obtaining our technician license. Considering that studying for the exam involved digging deep into things that I may have learned/forgotten ages such how the troposphere affects radio waves bouncing back down to Earth and also a great many things I’m certain my little noodle brain never encountered before, I went into this exam day with little hope of passing. The exam has 35 questions and you have to get at least 26 in order to pass. And me?
I got 28 out of 35 – so I PASSED! (My husband, being Mr. Awesome, got 34 out of 35). Luckily for me, today was mostly review for the four-hour class portion before the exam and I studied on-line flash cards and practice questions like crazy during that precious time. For those not familiar with amateur radio (what a lot of folks call ham radio), what does passing my technician license exam mean? Well, according to my dear, sweet husband it means this:
Since even after passing the exam today, I know there’s still a LOT I need to keep learning so I don’t quite think I’ve earned the Queen of Nerds title – but I’ll take it for now. But what exactly is ham/amateur radio? Well, a few months ago before my husband found the class and suggested taking it, this is what immediately came to mind:
Tasty but not quite. I think the fine folks at ARRL (The National Association for Amateur Radio in the US) say it simply and best: “Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together.” Here’s a link to that part of their site since there’s a ton more information they have available than what I could even think of including in one measly post: http://www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio
To be honest, I decided to give the class a try as a something to do together with my husband and by the end of the first class I was wondering what exactly I’d gotten myself into as my brain rattled with jargon like electromagnetic wave propagation and the knife-edge effect. And I’m not entirely certain that I’ll ever get as jazzed about possibly chatting with folks on a space station as he is, though that’s admittedly pretty cool. But what really got me more interested personally was learning that “hams” can actually help provide public service during natural disasters and there’s even organized groups within amateur radio, such as SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) and ARES (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service®), that are focused on just that.
The class instructor shared how he had driven alongside emergency personnel during a snow storm and others talked about helping out during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’m hardly where I would need to be in terms of knowledge and training for any sort of emergency response right now but maybe one day.
Whew, that means more studying in my future! (Thank goodness for flash cards and practice tests).