No-Nonsense Guide to Amateur Radio: VEs make taking the test easier

Back in the old days, you had to take amateur radio license exams at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) district office. I was pretty lucky in this regard. Since I lived in the Detroit area, and it was relatively easy to get to the FCC office in the Federal Building in downtown Detroit, where they gave the tests once per week.

Other guys weren’t so lucky. They had to travel a fair distance to take the test, sometimes paying to stay overnight in a hotel.

That changed in 1984 when Volunteer Examiners (VEs) took over the administration of amateur radio license tests. Now, VE teams administer tests all over the country, and it’s very easy to find a test session near you at a time that’s convenient for you.

When most people go looking for an exam session, they go to the ARRL website or the W5YI website

  • Anchorage Amateur Radio Club VEC (AL)
  • Central America CAVEC (AL)
  • Golden Empire Amateur Radio Society (CA)
  • Greater LA Amateur Radio Group (CA)
  • Jefferson Amateur Radio Club VEC
  • Laurel VEC (AZ, FL, IL, MD, MI, MS, NY, OH, PA, VA)
  • Milwaukee Radio Amateur’s Club VEC(WI)
  • SanDARC-VEC (CA)
  • Sunnyvale VEC ARC, Inc. (CA)
  • W4VEC (CA, FL, GA, IN, MS, MO, NC, OK, PR, SC, TN, VA)
  • Western Carolina ARS VEC (NC, TN)
  • No-Nonsense Guide to Amateur Radio: Do they still do that?

    My next book is going to be titled, The No-Nonsense Guide to Amateur Radio. What I’m shooting for is a combination of  Ham Radio for Dummies, AC6V’s DXing 101, and the ARRL Operating Manual.

    As with my latest book, 21 Things to Do After You Get Your Amateur Radio License, I’m going to be posting chapters here for comments. Feel free to blast away…..Dan

    Do they still do that?

    I am the station manager for WA2HOM, the amateur radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. I spend a lot of time down at the museum operating the station, demonstrating amateur radio to the museum’s visitors, and answering questions about amateur radio.

    Without question, the most common question I get is, “Do they still do that?” My answer, of course, is “YES, we still do!” There are more licensed amateur radio operators now than there ever were, with more than 700,000 in the U.S. alone and more than 2 million around the world.

    Probably the second most frequent question is, “Isn’t ham radio old technology?” My answer is always a resounding, “NO!” Modern amateur radio gear, I point out, is quite sophisticated. The transceiver we use at the museum, for example, has several embedded processors and uses some of the latest digital signal processing (DSP) technology. Hams may not build their own equipment—like they did in the old days—but there are still lots of us out there working to “advance the state of the radio art.”

    What else do hams do?
    If I haven’t lost them at that point, I try to tell them about all the services that amateur radio provides and all the other fun stuff that amateur radio operators do. This includes:

    • Emergency communications,
    • SkyWarn,
    • Operating Morse Code,
    • DXing,
    • Building kits,
    • Contesting,
    • Experimenting with computers like the Raspberry Pi,
    • EchoLink and IRLP,
    • Satellites,
    • Vintage radio,
    • QRP (using low-power transmitters),
    • Etc., etc., etc.

    Of course I never have enough time to tell them all about amateur radio. So, that’s what I’m going to try to do with this book. I want this book to not only serve to get folks interested in amateur radio, but also to help newcomers get involved in our hobby. If I do my job right this book will be a combination of Ham Radio for Dummies, AC6V’s DXing 101, and the ARRL Operating Manual.

    There’s a lot of nonsense floating around out there about amateur radio, and I’m making it my job to get it straight, so that the amateur radio can be both the public service and the hobby that it was meant to be. That’s my “no-nonsense” approach to ham radio.

    SIDEBAR: Why is it called ham radio?
    “Ham radio” is a nickname for amateur radio. There are many theories about how our hobby came to be known as ham radio, but the one I like comes from the days when all radio communications was in Morse Code and many men (and women, too) made their livings as professional telegraphers. These telegraphers were proud of how well they could send Morse Code. They chided the amateur radio telegraphers as being “ham-fisted operators,” meaning that their sending was awkward and inefficient. Along the way, this got shortened to “ham operators” and the hobby became known as “ham radio.”

    Whether or not this story is true, the ham in ham radio is definitely not an acronym, and should never be spelled HAM. Nor should the hobby be referred to as simply “ham” without the word radio. I prefer to call it “amateur radio” myself, and even that term doesn’t describe all that we do.