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The Top Three Ignorant1 Questions that we ham radio operators hear all the time

Common Law Copyright asserted by David M. Ritter. All rights of authorship reserved.

1. a. How far can you talk on a ham radio?

I can talk to any place on Earth, but I can’t do it at will.

1. b. What does that mean?

It means that a ham radio is not a telephone... I cannot just decide to “dial up” Australia or Norway or France. We connect to other hams by shortwave radio, and shortwave radio is completely at the mercy of the ionosphere and solar conditions, so I can only talk to where the bands are going. If I hear Australia “coming through” then I can reach out and talk to an Australian; if Australia is not “coming through” then nothing I can do can reach them by shortwave radio.

2. How much does a ham radio cost?

If you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer. It’s like asking “how much does a camera cost?” You can buy a camera for $6.95 that will take pictures, and you can buy a $2000 camera that will also take pictures. Until you specify what kind of ham radio you are talking about I can’t answer that question. The fact is that there are many kinds of radios with many different features and capabilities, and they all have different prices. More importantly, a radio all-by-itself is pretty much useless. Specifically, a ham radio is absolutely useless without an antenna. (Many hams spend more for their antenna systems than they do for their radio... and consider it money well spent!) Here is the correct question: How much does a complete ham radio station built around a [insert model/type here] cost? Otherwise, the only truthful answer to the question “how much does a ham radio cost” is “somewhere between $50 and $20,000.”

3. Is ham radio like CB?

No, absolutely not. Ham Radio is absolutely, positively nothing at all like CB radio. Hams and CB’ers are as different as Christians and Moslems. The only thing we have in common is that we both use radios... and ours are not compatible with theirs and, no, we can’t talk to each other. To continue the religious metaphor, hams and CB’ers are like Christians and Moslems: we regard them as heathen and barbarians who serve a false god. They are law breakers who disregard FCC regulations and operate their radios with illegally high power on non-authorized frequencies. Such people are nothing like we law-abiding, civilized ham radio operators.

1 “Ignorant” is not a synonym for “stupid.” Stupid means that you have an IQ of a single digit and couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel. Ignorant means you simply don’t know: you have no knowledge or information about the topic at hand.

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