Tag Archives: License Exams

Where do we go from hear

ARRL Registered Instructor

Good Technician class this last weekend. Small, but a lot of fun. The best part of all was the 100% pass rate for the exam.

Okay, now the confession, it was a two student class. Still, I am happy about the two newly minted hams.

Last weekend was a VE weekend, so I was examining not teaching. As is the norm, when we are not grading exams, we jack-jaw. Mostly about radio operations, sometimes the conversation leans technical. In recent months we have been haveing

In recent months the chatter has been about the ham population. Two specific areas have topped the conversations. The first is centered on the retention of Volunteer Examiners and engaging the VE community.  The second topic of conversation has to do with a special anniversary coming up in a few days.

February 23, 2007,  was the date the FCC dropped the CW (Morse code) requirements from all amateur radio licenses. Back in February 1991, the FCC dropped the code requirement for the Technician class license but it was the 2007 removal of code that made it upgrading a no-code Tech possible.

There was a boost to the number of new hams in the early 90s, but the number of new hams, and upgrades, since 2007 has been record breaking.  So this is all great news for hams right?

Well, maybe. The truth is, there is no telling what’s going to happen. Part of what makes this an interesting subject is that we don’t know why all these new hams have been drawn to amateur radio.

There are a number of possibilities, some centered around the huge and ever-growing population of DIYers and Makers, many of whom show interest in RF, at least on some level. There are the growing number of drone enthusiasts; some need a ham license to control the aircraft itself, others are looking for telemetry, and/or looking at RF video feeds.

What does someone’s reason for becoming a ham have to do with anything? It has to do with retention. Ham licenses are valid for ten years. That’s a long time. Someone who is deeply invested in the hobby is more likely to renew their license. Someone who is involved at a more casual level is less invested and may not feel the need to renew.

Here we are. It’s now ten years later and the first upgrades without a CW requirement are beginning to expire. The big question is will they renew.

My hope, of course, is that the attrition rate will not grow at the same pace as the influx of new hams over the last ten years. Only time will tell.

New Classes Posted

Welcome to 2017!

ARRL-VEC Volunteer Examiner

Not to put too fine a point on it, 2016 had a few issues. Too many beloved performers became silent keys, and more than a few other things that will affect us all went a bit sideways. I’m not even going to get started on politics.

To start the year off on a positive note I worked a VE session in the morning January 7th and spent the rest of the day putting together a new class schedule for Technician and General classes licenses and getting started with the promotion work, posting classes and prepping presentations.

Registered W5YI Instructor

I have six classes coming up, 4 Tech and 2 General January through April. All of them are 2-day weekend classes. This time around I am using the W5YI books by  Gordon West instead of the ARRL books. My main motivation to switch books is Gordo’s reorganizing of the FCC questions into a more logical order.

While the change will save time in class, I now have to tweak a lot of slides. There’ll be no time savings on the prep side this go, but I am optimistic that the reorg will make things a lot smoother in class.

ARRL Registered Instructor

If you, or someone you know, is interested in getting their ham radio license or upgrading from Tech to General and they are local to San Jose, please pass along a link to my site. Classes are listed here.

All of the classes have been posted to both the W5YI and ARRL class listings. As I write this, they are the only classes listed in the south Bay Area. The closest classes on ARRL’s list are San Francisco and Sacramento. There are no classes listed for the area on W5YI. They won’t show up until Monday or Tuesday (2/9-10) because all class postings need to be approved by a human.

I am hoping to greatly expand my teaching and hosting exam sessions later this year. All things in their time.


Tech License Test Prep Class

KK6GXG-MakingWavesJust a short update on getting a Technician ham license for interested locals (Silicon Valley area).

I am teaching a Technician Class license test prep class July 8th, 9th, and 10th (all three days for the one class, see the Class Notice below)


Class Notice

We have reached the minimum number of participants for the 7/8 – 7/10 Amateur Radio Technician exam prep class to take place. Below is an overview of what you can expect. I know this is a long email, but please take the time to read it thoroughly .

Class Sessions

This class meets over three days and will review all of the information needed to pass your FCC Amateur Radio Technician Class license exam.

  • Friday 7/8 we meet from 8 pm to 10 pm for an introduction and presentation.
  • Saturday 7/9 we meet from 9 am to 5 pm for the main portion of the class. There will be a 1 hour lunch break.
  • Sunday 7/10 we meet from 9 am to 3 pm for a wrap-up and test review before the 1 hour lunch break. After lunch we will finish the review followed by the exam.


I use the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual as the student manual and study guide. Each student is responsible for obtaining this manual BEFORE the class begins. Students are expected to read the manual before the class begins. Make notes on your questions as you read through the manual so we can go over them during the class. This is just a cursory reading, don’t dwell on anything too much. (The manual is NOT included in the class fee)

Links for online purchase of the manual
ARRL – http://www.arrl.org/shop/ARRL-Ham-Radio-License-Manual-3rd-Edition/
Amazon – https://amzn.com/1625950136

Stores that sometimes have copies in stock
HSC Electronic Supply (Sunnyvale) http://www.halted.com/
Ham Radio Outlet (Sunnyvale) http://www.hamradio.com/locations.cfm?storeid=2


An ARRL Volunteer Examiner team will provide testing on-site after the class.

The VEC testing fee is NOT included with the class, so you will need to bring $15 cash for your exam, please bring exact change.

The VE team does NOT accept credit/debit cards.

The Small Print

Each class requires a minimum of 5 students enrolled for it to take place. The minimum number of students must be preregistered at least 5 days before the start date for a class or the class will be canceled.

If the number of registrations drops below the minimum due to student cancellations BEFORE Tuesday 7/5, the week of class, it may be canceled.

In the event of a class cancellation all student enrollments will be refunded.

Student cancellations AFTER Tuesday 7/5 will NOT be refunded. Student cancellations Tuesday 7/5, or BEFORE will be refunded.


To complete your enrollment email me and I will bring you up to speed (jon at kk6gxg dot com) The class fee is $35.


Along with registering for the class, I recommend creating your account with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the Commission Registration System site (CORES) https://apps.fcc.gov/coresWeb/publicHome.do Once you have set up your account you will be given your FCC Registration Number (FRN). This process is free.

Your FRN is used on the Amateur Radio license application (Form 605) and having it before you take your license exam speeds up the process. You will also need your FRN to log into the Universal Licensing System (ULS) http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home and find out what your new call sign is after passing your exam. 🙂

Back from Maker Faire Bay Area 2016

MF16_BA_180x150Just got home from Maker Faire SF Bay Area. Pulled a double shift at the Ham Exam booth. 8am to 6pm and I only managed about 20 minutes away from the booth and about 15 minutes off my feet. This is not a complaint, I’m just saying…

I had a great time. We had 14 candidates throughout the day, so we did get a lot of STS time (Shoot-the-stuff) but we managed to stay busy most of the time.

Lots of chatting about VE stuff in the morning along with a generous helping of radio stuff mixed in. Mostly radio stuff in the afternoon. I even had a visit from a friend scoping out the faire.


That’s all for the moment, but I do have a project coming up this week, a TNC to connect a radio to a computer for use with digital modes. More to come…


First week of May

First week of may, and ain’t got much to say!

JT65JT9No build projects progressing, not much time OTA, none actually, but I have managed to get some reading in. I picked up a copy of one of the new ARRL books Work The World With JT65 and JT9.

Not bad, a short read, though I must admit, I don’t really see myself using the TJx mode any time soon. It looks like its pretty much a contesting mode. I’m not much interested in contesting until I get more of a station built up, and even then… I dunno.

HighSpeedMultiMediaWith some luck the UPS guy will bring me the also new ARRL book High Speed Multimedia for Amateur Radio book today. I still don’t have a TNC or HF radio up and running, but I do have some spare/old 802.11 units lying around… hmmmmmm…

There could be a project with HSMM on the horizon.

RTTY-PSK32I also have a copy of RTTY/PSK31 for Radio Amateurs 2nd Edition on the way which I think will see more action in the near future than anything else. I have a USB/Serial cable and enough toroids and cabling that I might fourgo the TNC a little longer and build an interface myself just to see if I can get it up and running.

The down side is that I will still only be running whatever digital mode on 2 meter FM rather than SSB, but that will get resolved at a later date.

ARRL-VEC VEIn other news, there is another VE session tomorrow (Saturday, May 7, 2016 08:00-10:00) at the Saratoga Fire Station. This session will be my 30th VE session!

Also this month, Maker Faire is here in San Mateo and I will be working both the morning and afternoon VE sessions at the faire. More info is available on the SF Bay Area Maker Faire VE Session website.

One last thing. I’m not going to post it yet, but since we have been planning on relocating, I worked up a new QSL card to reflect the new location. Once we are confirmed with a new QTH and Grid Location I will post a preview of the new card. Speaking of which, if you would like a QSL from my current QTH email me with your address and I will send one out right away.

Oh, one more thing… I am back to studying for my RADAR add-on to my commercial license.

I guess I have been doing stuff.


First week of April

Here we are, the first week of April. What has KK6GXG been up to since posting last month. Not a whole lot.

ARRL-VEC VEOne significant note, I have surpassed the 25 session count as a Volunteer Examiner! I am now up to 27 sessions. Yesterday (4/4) was also my 1 year anniversary with the Silicon Valley VE Group. I have been a VE since December 2014, but I didn’t begin working sessions until April 2015.

Working the sessions as an examiner is something I enjoy a great deal and I am always excited to see who shows up to the sessions. It is such a diverse group of people coming together in a common interest. Amateur Radio is all about diversity, and sharing common interests often regardless of  geopolitical boundaries.

I love to see youngsters at sessions pursuing their ham radio licenses, especially young ladies. While there are a lot of women in radio of all ages, it’s nice to see girls getting into radio at a young age. Radio is a place that tends to level all socioeconomic and cultural playing fields. A fellow ham is a fellow ham, period.

A couple of things have been nagging at the back of my head as of late. One is to get back to homebrew projects; get that 40 meter DSB finished and on the air. Another is to get back to studying CW, and of course build transceivers for more bands. Lastly, for now, is to get involved more.

With our QTH situation in flux for the next 6 months, it makes more sense to be involved in something less geographically ridged and that doesn’t require operating capabilities I don’t have right now or can’t build quickly and inexpensively.

This points to something administrative rather than operational. One place I would like to be more involved is with the VEC. I love being a VE, but I would like to be more involved with the process. I have no idea how I could be of service to the VEC, but I would like to.

Another thing I want to do before we change QTH is get back to the Bay Area Builders Club monthly meetings. Fortunately this one is just a matter of making the time to get over to the meeting. See you guys on Sunday 😉

KK6GXG-MakingWavesNo concrete plans, just some aspirations. For the moment that’s all I can muster. Life and the Day Job have been at the forefront but no playtime makes for cranky-pants, so I need to figure out a way to make some time. This post is one attempt at making some time.

Til next time… 73.

Another month gone by

foto001mdOkay, it’s now March 11th, and I have done just about NOTHING radio related except attending VE testing sessions since what, December?

Not entirely true I suppose. I pulled down the 70cm and 40m antennas from the Hillbilly mast rig, and I have done some poking around at the 40m DSB project, though I haven’t done any real work on it.  Also the VE sessions have been a saving grace in many ways. One, I am still “participating” in the community. Two, we have been engaging is some interesting discussions in the back of the room while waiting for exams to grade. Three, I did reach a milestone in so much as I sat my 25th session this last Saturday. That at least, is something I can honestly say I am proud of.

There are so many projects I want to get going on, I just can’t justify the time right now.  The family is working towards a relocation up to northwest 7 land, and I am really looking forward to the move. There is just so much swinging in the breeze right now, making any plans or starting any projects is just not a good idea.

We are heading up north in May to look at some property. We are hoping that this trip will provide a target for relocating by the end of September at which point, all hell’s gonna break loose and I’m going to be a very busy man.

I have no idea what I will be able to do radio-wise between now and then. I do know I am itching to do something though. I will just have to see what opportunities present themselves in the meantime.


The Future of Amateur Radio

children are the futureGoing through Yahoo group posts this morning I came across something on the Ham Instructors group that caught my attention, a discussion on the demographics of new hams and whether or not the focus for recruiting should continue to be centered on the idea that children are the future of ham radio.

Many hams, maybe even most hams, share a basic story line. They got interested in radio as a pre-teen or teen, usually exposed to radio by family, friends, or social event. Most drift away from radio as they go through various stages of life when they are swamped with the normal stuff life tends to throw at us all, school, marriage, having kids, career, the usual. Later on as things settle down radio creeps back into their life. Some manage to get licensed during that early exposure, some end up waiting several decades before getting a ticket.

In my opinion, providing the young an opportunity to catch the radio bug is the best bet. They may never actually get an amateur radio license and their attention may turn down many different paths. But the likelyhood of that exposure being beneficial to the amateur radio community down the road in some other form is immense. They would at least have some understanding and appreciation for amateur radio and its benefits to the community at large.

While I think the positions presented in the Yahoo group and associated blog posts K0NR and KB6NU are certainly worth looking into in greater depth, I think there is a more pressing matter that may affect the future of amateur radio.

Why is amateur radio experiencing a huge upswing? Basic statistics show the upswing began in 2008 shortly after the FCC dropped the code requirement for all amateur licenses. Wheather or not that decision was good for the service I will leave alone for now.

My ham path followed a derivation the one I described above. I got interested in radio as a teen back in the 80s but didn’t get my license until I was 46, only in part because of the code requirement. My reasons for finally getting my license were centered on personal emergency preparedness, serving the community, and to have fun experimenting and building RF electronics.

As a Volunteer Examiner I participate in license exam sessions and it seems that the predominant reasons for taking the license exams generally follow along with the age ranges:

Retirees & Pre-retirees are either upgrading an existing  license, had a licence but it expired and are getting back into the hobby, or always wanted to but hadn’t gotten around to it till now. Or you could say, the story we are so familiar with.

20s & 30s seem to be engineering students or engineers, Makers who have projects that require a license, or preppers.

Teens and under seem to either be in a social program like a school club or scouting. A few come from dedicated ham families.

Pretty much what you might expect, but there are a couple that might have an effect on the ham future landscape. Two categories that could pose concern.

I’ll start with Makers. By in large these are folks who embody the early spirit of amateur radio, they like to build stuff. While they bring to the table that early spirit of radio, how many of them participate in the radio community? Are they here because of one project they might need to be licensed for, or are they going to keep renewing their license and play radio alongside other Maker pursuits? Either way, I am glad they are here now. They do indeed advance the science and art of radio. Down the road however the passing interest MakerHam may drop the Ham part altogether.

The other group is of particular interest, preppers. My hats off to them if they actually get licensed, many more don’t. It is common practice for prepper groups to buy cheap Chinese ham-band radios and use them regularly on FRS/GMRS radio frequencies which is illegal, at least when it is not an emergency, but they are much less likely to get busted for that than using amateur frequencies without a callsign.

One thing to consider is the term prepper. There is a massive range of people who consider themselves preppers that covers the entire spectrum from keeping some extra food and water along with a flashlight, first aid kit, and blanket, something we all should have at a minimum by the way, to the massive underground hords and compounds guarded by paramilitary groups.

Another consideration is, do they further the science and art? Do they participate? If so, welcome aboard.

I mention these two groups of people not to place judgement, but rather to ask if they are a part of the ham community. The reason for asking is, what happens if they don’t renew their licenses? There was concern that the ham community was dwindling away, leading to a loss of tribal knowledge. What happens when non-invested license holders don’t see the benefit of keeping an unused license? Or just forget about it?

Amateure radio has been experiencing an unprecidented growth spurt over the last 8 years. We still have two years to go before the early no-code era hams begin to cycle for renewal. I would imagine the first few years after the start of the second ten-year cycle won’t see much of an effect either way, but what happens in 2020? Will we start to see a roll-off?

In general, we seem to be more focused on recruiting rather than retention. Back in the day, the code requirement acted as a filter. People with only a casual interest in amateur radio were less likely to pursue it. While it worked fairly well as such, it also filtered out people interested in radio, just not cw. Now we have no filter at all. The only impediment to getting licensed is $15 and some time studying the relatively small question pool. You can be a Technician class licensee in short order.

In life, most things are more valuable when you have to pay for them, monetarily or by blood, sweat, and tears. Personal commitment to seeing it through establishes the value. This basic principle would indicate that removal of the code requirement and as some would say, lowering the bar on the knowledge test, the sweat equity has been removed or at least lessened thereby the value, at least the perceived value for the licensee.

So now we have several issues to contend with; keeping the number of licensees up, ensuring that they keep their licenses renewed, and keeping some level of commitment to the hobby and community at large.

Frankly, I have no idea how to accomplish any of these. I don’t think we have enough data. Too many things have changed in the hobby in the last decade and we still don’t have any results from what I think may be the most impacting factor, the dropping of the code requirement. In all honesty, I doubt if we can even begin to answer these questions until 2020 and the effects can be quantified.

In the meantime, we should continue to do as we have always done, inspire and encourage the youth, at any age. Encourage fellowship among the community, Elmer whenever possible, maintain the highest personal standards, and reach out and engage the radio community and the general community at large.

The Amateur Radio preservation mantra,
“Engage, Inspire, Encourage, Educate, Participate”


Commercial Element 1

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeOne Commercial Element done!

I completed Element on of the commercial radio exams on Tuesday. If I sent in an application to the FCC this would qualify me for a Marine Radio Operator Permit. Since that is not a needed step for my goals I am holding on to the exam result sheet so I can turn it in with my Element 3 results after I take it and applying for the General Radio Operator Licence.  I should be ready for E3 in less than two weeks, maybe even next week. It all comes down to how much study I can get in.

Things are really busy at the day-job right now but my motivation is back up after doing well on Element 1, so I want to ride that wave as it were for as long as I can.  Once I finish E3 I plan on filing for the GROL and after that shows up in the database I will add the E8 exam and file for the RADAR rating.

The only other thing going on right now in radio for me is participation in ham radio license exam sessions as a VE (Volunteer Examiner.) Yesterday was my 13th session this year. I am hoping to pick up 6 extra sessions outside the normal 2 a month I have been doing since April when I started with the Silicon Valley VE group. I would like to complete 24 sessions this year.

That’s all for now, 73,



A First

ARRL-VEC VEToday marks a first for me. Today was the first time I participated in an amateur radio license exam session as a Volunteer Examiner.

The session went well and I had the opportunity to help usher in several new hams to the Amateur Radio Service.

Also on the hit parade this morning was an invite/recruitment to work as a VE at the 2015 Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo. I will be working the Sunday, May 17th, morning shift and then floating around the faire, most likely with frequent stops at anything ham or RF electronics related. It should be a lot of fun. For more information see the Maker Faire Ham Test flyer (PDF).

If you are interested in getting your Amateur Radio license there are a lot of resources, but if I were to give only one link to get you going it would be ARRL.org/getting-licensed. As always if you have any questions send me an email, tweet, or message through any of the social media links up at the top of the right column on this page. I am always happy to answer questions.

A resource page for hams and hams-to-be is in the works.