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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Part Four - Getting my Amateur (Ham) license and getting on the air.

The next week, back at LARC, the question came up as to when the FCC license would be issued. I had been checking the FCC database almost daily since August 1. Shannon, one of the people that I tested with happened to check the FCC database while we were sitting around a table talking, and found that his license had been issued. He checked my name and sure enough KG5UMH had been issued to me. I was now officially a ham radio operator. I could now legally talk on a prescribed set of radio frequencies in the 2M (144 MHz) and 70cm (444 MHz) bands. I could access and talk on all those repeaters. I could talk across the world, with the assistance of the Internet of course.
The first transmission on my hand-held radio happened the following Monday night during the LARC, ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) Radio Net. Basically, this is a chance to improve your radio skills, check your equipment and listen to others. In the event of a large “disaster” an amateur (ham) radio operator may be asked to assist in setting up communications links between multiple points, and this is what the Monday night Net tries to work on. 
Over the course of several “meetings” at LARC, I got the feeling that Echolink and IRPL were not in the fore-front of most of the member's minds. I heard more talk about 20 meter, 40 meters, 80 meters and the like. These were bands that I could not use (except some sections if I used Morse Code (CW)) for voice or “phone” communications. I also determined that a large percentage of the people in the group either built, repaired or otherwise dealt with used or previously owned radio equipment. Let’s face it, with the exception of, the made in China Baofeng, TYT, QYT, BFJ and many others, which are primarily in the 2m and 70cm bands, amateur radio gear is expensive. It is a limited market. There are only 801,424 licensed amateur radio operators in the US, that is only 0.248% of the population. It is not like wireless phones where there are about 1.5 devices for every person in the US. Japan has a higher number of licensed amateur radio operators then the US at 0.343% of their population.
I asked Chris in an email what his thoughts were about purchasing used equipment. His response was that he had forwarded the email to a few other members, but personally he liked to purchase new, but there were several other members who purchased everything used.
Several days later I received an email from Gary (aka Santa), asking if I knew which end of a soldering iron to hold as he had a Yaesu FT-757GXII that he thought had a bad power connection, internal in the radio at the power plug. If I was willing to take on the challenge, then he would provide the radio, power supply and his expertise if getting the radio back on the air. A monetary arrangement would be arrived at later.
I picked up the radio at a club meeting one Tuesday night in October 2017. The same night that I took my General exam. I told Gary to hang on to the radio, and if I did not pass then he could take it home. His response was – your going to pass, get in there and take the test.
Yep, I passed and took home the Yaesu FT-757 GXII. I had done a bit of research. I knew that there were three models of the FT-757. They all came out in the late 80s, early 90s. There was the standard FT-757, the FT-757 GX (some called this the Mark 1) and then the FT-757 GXII. The biggest difference between the GX and the GXII is the mode (LSB, USB, CW-W, CW-N, AM,FM) selector changed from rotary to a soft switch with lights indicating the mode. A few of the other controls were shifted, and the GXII has more switches than knobs. The tuner control changed from a mechanical detented one to a smooth electronic one. The GXII also came in two power levels, 100w (which I have) and a 10w. The FT-757 was one of the first Yaesu radios with CAT (Computer Aided Transceiver). But, I had a transceiver that would get me on the air in the 160m to 6m bands. I just had to fix it and put up an antenna.

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