Michigan State University Amateur Radio Club
© 2007-2008
2121 Engineering Bldg
East Lansing, MI 48825

Introduction to Amateur Radio


Amateur Radio licensing exams cost between 10 to 15 dollars, and once you pass it is free for life.

KB6NU provides free study guides for Amateur Radio Exams:

Amateur Radio Exam Study Guides (Select the Technician Guide)

The exam is fairly easy, and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) provides practice exams on their website.
Practice Exams from the ARRL
(You want the Technician exam)

The ARRL also offers an licensing exam manual which includes the entire exam question pool and its answers:
ARRL Amateur Radio Licensing Exam Manual

Many people find the Technician license covers all they need--you can communicate worldwide (and into outer space) with a small walkie-talkie and the Echolink Internet radio linking system.

The local licensing exam is administered by the Central Michigan Amateur Radio Club in Lansing, and occurs once every month. It takes a short time to study for the exam.

Find out more here: CMARC Amateur Radio Exam Administration Information

You can also find more test sessions near your local area by using the exam search tool at:
Find an Exam Session

A couple typical radios that MSU students use are the Yaesu VX2 for $145, or the Yaesu FT60 for $175. The FT60 has 5 Watts of power vs. 1.5 Watts of the VX2 (not so important actually), but the main difference is that the FT60 has a DTMF keypad, while the VX2 does not. A DTMF keypad is how you send commands to the Echolink Internet radio linking system, if that is a use you are interested in.

I would suggest the FT60. I myself have a Yaesu VX7, which is $300 but maybe overkill for many users. I got it because I am involved in ham radio a lot.

You will want a "dual-band" radio, since most area repeaters are on the 2 meter/144MHz band, but others such as MSU's are on 70cm/440MHz band.

Here is a list of Amateur Radio producers and also a list of Amateur Radio retailers.
See more information about current radios that are available by following the links in the "Amateur Radio Producers" list.
For purchasing options, see the "Amateur Radio Retailers" list.

Amateur Radio Producers:
Yaesu - Select "Prodcuts"
Kenwood - Select "Communications" and then "Amateur Radio"

Amateur Radio Retailers:
Ham Radio Outlet
DX Engineering

Amateur Radio has always been about experimentation in RF and microwave, along with communicating and connecting with other people, whether across the street or across the world (or in orbit!).

NO Morse Code testing is involved for ANY class of amateur license--and the exams are not that difficult--people from all walks of life are amateur radio operators.

Amateur radio operators enjoy personal two-way communications with friends, family members, and complete strangers, all of whom must also be licensed. They support the larger public community with emergency and disaster communications. Increasing a person's knowledge of electronics and radio theory as well as radio contesting are also popular aspects of amateur radio.

However, the explosion in computing power has led to a boom in digital text & image modes. Amateur radio operators led in the development of wireless digital data transmission, including experimentation with long-range Wi-Fi equipment. Special digital modualation techniques have been developed allowing communication with desired signal levels over 100 times weaker than the ambient noise level!

The modes noted above are typically used in direct, radio-to-radio communication. On VHF and higher frequencies, "repeaters" are frequently used to increase radio range. A repeater allows the radio amateur to communicate over hundreds of square miles using a cell-phone sized radio. Repeaters can also be linked together via the Internet to achieve world-wide coverage, within its connected network.

While many hams just enjoy talking to friends, others pursue interests such as:

  • antenna theory
  • microwave circuit design and experimentation
  • communications for a community emergency response team
  • communication via satellite
  • disaster response
  • severe weather spotting
  • DX communication over thousands of miles using the ionosphere to refract radio waves
  • Echolink--a composite network of radio and the Internet
  • Automatic Position Reporting System (APRS)--a location reporting, text messaging, and Internet gateway network
  • Contesting (seeing how many contacts can be made over a given area in limited time
  • Radio Direction Finding
  • High Speed Telegraphy
  • micro-power operation

MSUARC's radio room is in the Engineering Building, Room 2121.