Originally posted by nmdavidb
Guys...since I have been working on my degree to quit doing stand up in clubs and get on the radio I have always been fascinated with messing around with the whole HAM radio deal.
Can anyone tell me what would be a good set up and the price range?
Oh and trust me I know all about the FCC and all...i do a clean act...which is why most of my gigs lately have been all corporate.
That depends on how you want to play the game. There are several varieties of amateur radio, entry level to the top level called Amateur extra. The entry level of novice allows you to talk on some bands while more advanced licenses give you more places on the radio dial to talk and other forms like digital mods. Here is a link to the bands allowed and the level of license it takes to get those bands.
It is a bit daunting to go through I know. But you can talk on some bands with the novice license and the tech license allows talking on some high frequency bands like 2 meters, which is 144 to 148 megahertz, a pretty big band, 4 megs wide. You can also learn morse code and do what is called CW or the dots and dashes like dit dit dit dah is V, and so forth. So the cheapest way to get into it would probably be at a hamfest where you have dozens and maybe hundreds of hams with the back of the van full of gear for sale cheap.
Another route to at least see what you would like is to get in touch with a local ham club, if you have a license, they may allow you to check out some club gear for a couple of weeks or months to see what you like. Generally, hams are in groups which are devoted to long distance communications, usually on the lower frequency bands, like 40 meters, around 7 megahertz ( you have to compete with foreign broadcasters there) but that band is a world wide band and takes usually at least a dipole antenna about 70 feet long strung up between two trees. The higher the frequency, the shorter the antenna. The band I talked about earlier is a more or less line of sight band, 144 to 148 Mhz, or '2 meters', a lot of repeaters are on that band so you can talk a lot farther than line of sight and you can be a novice or tech and use that band. If you want to confine yourself to that band, there are rigs you can buy for about 100 bucks used that will get you there and handhelds, walkie talkies that will work there and go WAY beyond the bare range of the walkie talkie because of the repeaters, receivers coupled to transmitters that rebroadcast your puny handheld signal and put an antenna up on top of a mountain or high building that really extends your range, much more than you would get from just one walkie talkie to another, which poops out after maybe 5 miles at best but that same rig can literally talk clear across the country because of the repeaters, some of which are linked together to get your voice thousands of miles away, from repeater to repeater. But the longest range is had by the lower frequency band, like on 20 meters once, 14 megahertz, I talked from my house in Slatington Pa directly to another ham in Antarctica and I was using a simple antenna. Its a long involved tale about all this so the best bet is to get to know someone local who can take you to a ham club and they will be more than willing to put you into ham classes and such, take morse code if you want, its no longer an absolute requirement to learn code but it does get you some more bands to use. There is an amazing amount of bandwidth that hams can legally use! I few hundred bucks can get you started with used gear. You can also spend tens of thousands if you are rich! I have invested a few thousand, maybe 3,000 bucks and have some nice rigs, Collins, a classic ham rig company big in the 50's and 60's and a newer incredible rig that does just about everything from a company called ICOM, the venerable 706. It is the size of a CB radio, about 800 bucks new I think and has way too many bands for one radio! Its a great little rig! I should stop while I am ahead, I tend to rattle on for hours if someone doesn't stop me! Good luck, eh.