After getting my No-Code Technician's amateur radio license back in 2005 I was active on 2M for a couple years, but haven't done much with it lately. The FCC finally eliminated all Morse Code requirements in 2007 but I never got around to upgrading. Recently, I came to the conclusion after the bout of storms we've had ove the past year and a half or so that I should get back into it, and upgrade my license.
So, last Thursday I took the FCC's Element 3 exam and upgraded my license to General Class. The update hasn't shown up yet in the FCC's Universal Licensing System database, but I have my CSCE.
To prepare for the exam I used three resources:
- The ARRL's General Class License Manual
- Free online practice questions from QRZ.com
- Free online practice questions from Hamexam.org
Although QRZ.com and Hamexam.org contain the same pool of questions, they present the questions differently. When you take a practice test at QRZ they are shown to you one question per page, and immediately graded. However, when you take a practice test at Hamexam all 35 questions are presented on one page, and not graded until you click a button after finishing all of them. I found Hamexam's format to render better on my iPad, but I found QRZ's format better for learning.
With my newly acquired HF privileges I need to get a new radio. The modes I'm interested in operating on HF are SSB, PSK-31, and Olivia MFSK, on 10M to 40M. 60M and 80M would be cool, too, but I don't know yet if I'll be able to setup an antenna suitable for them.
After seeking input on Arfcom and doing a lot of online research, I am leaning heavily to the Icom IC-718. It's been out for awhile and gets good reviews on eHam.net. Plus, compared with radios like the Yaesu FT-857 of -897, or similar Icom and Kenwood HF/VHF/UHF capable units, it's less menu driven, which should make it easier to use. The IC-718 does 160M to 10M, lacking 6M, VHF, and UHF. For the latter two I have a Yaesu FT-7800R and VX-5RS. While 6M might be nice to have I don't think I'll really miss it that much.
Along with the new radio I'll need a new antenna and an antenna tuner. Due to space constraints I'm leaning towards an Ultimax 100 strung between the roof of my house and a short mast near my back fence. (At least I don't need to deal with a homeowner's association.)
For mobile use I'll also pick up some sort of portable vertical antenna and/or a multiband dipole that I can string up between a couple of trees.
This should be fun.