A Ham's Eye View
9/29/2011 10:13 AM EDT
Welcome to the first installment of a new blog in the EETimes empire. First, a few words of introduction…I’m Doug Grant, amateur radio callsign K1DG. Like many of you, my interest in electronics began in my teenage years when I discovered shortwave radio, then took the exams and got my ham radio license. This led to a degree in Electrical Engineering, and a career in the electronics industry. I was fortunate to work for a chip manufacturer that did some pretty cool analog and mixed-signal ICs, and eventually got into RF chips. One thing led to another, and now I am a freelance consultant, specializing in analog/mixed-signal and wireless marketing projects. And I have time to get caught up on ham radio projects that were postponed when I had higher-priority job and family obligations.
I’m going to blog from time to time about things I see in the industry and in the amateur radio hobby. I may comment on new chips I see come into the market, companies I see doing good things in wireless ICs, and trends in both. Some of these observations may be complimentary, some may not please certain folks, but I hope you’ll find them interesting. For now, let me hear from you (hit the comments section below) – did you get your start in electronics through ham radio? Do you have a license today? Are you active? Did you have a license once and let it expire when other things got in the way? Ever think about getting back into it?
If you’ve been away from the hobby for a while, let me get you caught up a bit. The Morse code test scared a lot of technically-oriented people from their ham licenses. In fact, the code was a lot harder for me than the technical exams. The FCC some time ago decided to eliminate the code requirement for a ham license, so that’s no longer an issue. The same situation exists in most other countries as well.
The exams are now administered differently. In the old days, an FCC official administered the exam at an FCC office. Now, the FCC has outsourced the testing program to already-licensed hams who serve as Volunteer Examiners, and those activities are overseen by several Volunteer Examiner Coordinator organizations.
All the exam questions (which are multiple-choice), are now in the public domain, along with the right and wrong answers. This is a lot different from the old days, when the exam included essay-style questions requiring the application to draw schematics of oscillators, etc. It’s now possible, if you have a pretty good memory, to cram for a weekend and pass the test and get a ham license.
I’m often asked “Ham radio? Do people still do that? Why?” That’s a question with a long answer that I’ll answer in another blog.