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I am the type that would go and get a license to start messing around with something like packet radio, but the last time I looked into it I encountered two things that I thought were huge road blocks.

First, the study material and sample questions were way out of my league. I studied physics in college so I am not completely ignorant when it comes to things like frequency, phase, modulation, etc. However, I could not figure out what the hell I was reading in the study guide.

Second was the cost. I am ok with building my own equipment out of repurposed electronics, or spending a few bucks on some type of add on card, but the guides I found were talking about $500 beginner radios.

It is quite possible that I was looking at some very advanced type of ham license and communications equipment. If so, what is the best place to start. If not, then y'all must be some kind of rich geniuses!

I really liked using https://hamstudy.org. I didn't feel like there were any surprises when I took the test. I took practice tests on hamstudy until I was sure I'd pass Tech, then found out the test date was nearly a month out so I started flipping through the test for General and ended up passing it.

When you test you take the first, if you pass you can take the second - no extra charge. Same with the third level.

It is easy and inexpensive. For a starter radio, as low quality as they are, a Baofeng UV-82HP is the way to go. Find out if you like it, use it and have anyone in your area to to talk to before spending the big bucks. I went more than a year with the cheap radio, learned who is in the community and which repeaters I want to use and finally put down the money for a decent mobile radio.

I invested some time in understanding the syllabus and clearing the ARRL exams. You may want to take it one step at a time.

Also, radio needn't been too expensive. Check out the Baofeng hand held units that retail for about USD 30 on Amazon. These are only for UHF and VHF. For HF (international), you could either use repeaters, or Radio gateways on the Internet, or EchoLink. I use EchoLink on my mobile phone when I'm in countries where I don't have a license to operate.

What's nice about the Baofeng VHF/UHF handhelds is that they correspond with the frequencies available to an entry level ("technician") US amateur radio license. When combined with an online study guide, the test fees and radio combined are less than $75, providing an inexpensive introduction to learning a lot about RF systems and proper radio operating procedures.

True -- And this is just the very tip of the iceberg. Not bad if you want to spend $35 to get started, but far less amazing than if you spend $100 on some simple HF gear.

The tests are not as hard as the study guide would make you believe. And frankly (at least when I took them a few years ago) were not put together very well. I wasn't working through practice test apps very long before I picked up a lot patterns to the questions and answers.

If you passed college physics, you can study enough to pass technician and probably general in a weekend. I passed all 3 in one sitting on my first go.

Memorize the book, and then test, you honestly only need to understand about 1/3rd of it later, the rest you'll pick up as you need. Second, used land mobile gear is a great way to get started, I can help you find a radio too.

Check out The No-Nonsense Study Guides[1]. They are stripped down to just the essential knowledge for the exams. They won't help you master the material, but will give you more than enough information to pass the exams.

I used them with great success to pass all three tests on my first attempt.

[1] http://www.kb6nu.com/study-guides/

I am certainly a layman when it comes to the sciences, and I had no problem passing the cert. Best thing to do is to check with local clubs, often there will be weekend or evening classes (only a few hours total) that you can take which will speed you through the process immensely. It's definitely the kind of thing you can learn by rote and then figure out the 'why' later on.

- There is a lot of gear available at low cost. Many people will mentor you and loan you some gear to get started.

> y'all must be some kind of rich geniuses!

The issue is that it's actually a really fun hobby, so it ends up feeling reasonable to spend a fair bit on it, but you certainly don't have to in order to have fun.

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