Frequently Asked Questions

What is HAM RADIO?
The Amateur Radio Service (a.k.a. "ham radio") is defined in Part 97 of the Rules of the Federal Communications Commission as an assembly of Federally licensed radio operators who may voluntarily serve as an alternate means of communication in times of disaster. In non-emergency situations, licensed amateur radio operators can use their equipment to perform experiments, hone skills, or simply chat with other hams from all over the world. So, it's a hobby with a purpose.

Some people have no idea what ham radio is. It is not "CB".  It is not commercial broadcast (no news or music). Those who are familiar with ham radio usually picture a house full of electronics, antennas to the sky, and some operator "rag chewing" with some distant ("DX") station. While that is part of the story, ham radio also offers many other modes of operation, Morse code, satellite, television, and even data (i.e., using a modem with radio instead of a phone line).

Amateur radio or ham radio is a fascinating hobby that has captivated the interest of countless thousands of people since its inception around 1898. Radio amateurs have lead the field in many aspects of radio development and today they are still trailblazing many areas of technology. Yet the hobby can also be a relaxation. Many radio amateurs or hams enjoy talking to friends around the globe. Others enjoy contacting people in far and distant lands, while others enjoy constructing their own equipment. What ever one's interest, ham radio has something for everyone.

Amateur radio is one of the most exciting hobbies today. There are over a million radio amateurs or "hams" around the world and this is an indication of its popularity. Since the first amateur radio experimenters at the beginning of the twentieth century, the number of people interested in the hobby have grown.

There are many aspects of amateur radio. Many people enjoy talking to "DX" stations at all corners of the globe. It is possible to talk to someone on the other side of the globe, or on a small island in the middle of an ocean, or just someone from the other side of town. All this can be done from your armchair. Even in today's high technology world there is a great fascination about being able to communicate with other radio hams, possibly using equipment you built yourself.

Other people enjoy linking their computers to their amateur radio gear. There are many ways in which computers can be linked to amateur radio gear. They can be used to perform many tasks such as predicting the propagation conditions, or logging the stations that have been contacted. However they can form an integral part of the station for use with the many data modes that are available nowadays. Using the computer as the controller and interface it is possible to send messages via a network of "mailboxes" to be picked up by the recipient when he next logs in.

Some enjoy the challenge of constructing their own equipment. Although much of today's equipment can be very technically advanced there is still a major place in the hobby for home construction. There is a variety of kits on the market that can be built.  There is an enormous feeling of achievement when the first contact is made on equipment you have built.

There are other areas where the amateur can experiment. Often people enjoy trying out new forms of antenna. As the performance of the antenna governs the performance of the whole station, even small improvements in the performance of the antenna can pay great dividends.

Amateur radio is often used for the benefit of society. Hams often provide emergency communications support to the rescue and other essential services after a disaster. On several occasions amateur radio has provided the only form of communications to and from a storm hit island. Even where such major disasters are not quite so catastrophic, amateurs train and offer their equipment and unique expertise for when it might be needed.

Amateur radio can also lead into an interesting and rewarding career. Many people who have started in amateur radio have gone on to successful careers in radio or electronics. The blend of experimentation and challenges the hobby offers mean that many employers look for radio amateurs in preference to other candidates. This is particularly true with the booming growth in the cellular telephone industry where radio frequency skills are at a premium. 

What is a REPEATER?
A repeater is a term for a device often used in amateur radio as well as commercial and emergency radio communications. It typically consists of a transmitter, a receiver, a controller (the "brains" of the system) and a duplexer (so you can use one antenna for simultaneous transmit and receive operations).  A repeater receives signals and rebroadcasts them on a different frequency.  A repeater is used for increasing the distance that stations can communicate.

Say you want to chat with a friend on another side of a hill. Your radio transmissions can't make it to the other side of the hill and vice-versa. So what to do? Why not put a repeater on top of the hill? Both of you can now talk to each other, and often many other hams still further away will be able to to you too (depending on the height of the hill upon which the repeater sits).

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What is CTCSS?
CTCSS stands for Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System.  It is a sub audible tone that is included with a transmitted signal that helps reduce the annoyance of listening to other users on a frequency.

What is APRS?
APRS: Automatic Position Report System.  Read more about APRS.

What is a NET?
When a "Net" officially begins, the Net Control Operator will give a "preamble" which describes the net and how it functions. As you listen to the Net progress, you'll hear stations all over San Diego as well as other parts of Southern California check-in. Sometimes you'll hear them say they're "mobile." Some of them are out camping. Some of them are just at home in their shack. Listen for very long, and you'll start to feel like you've got some old friends all over Southern California.

I read that a CTCSS of 67.0, used when accessing the Sharp Hospital Repeater will trigger the Otay remote receiver.  How does this work?
The Otay site has a remote 2M receiver for the Sharp Hospital repeater. If you use the regular 107.2 CTCSS tone then you will access the hospital receiver. If you use the alternate 67.0 tone the Otay receiver is accessed and linked to the hospital transmitter.

Why do I have to be licensed?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires anyone operating on the amateur radio frequencies to be properly licensed.

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How do I get licensed?
We suggest that you visit the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) on-line for information on licensing.

How much does testing cost?
SANDRA does not provide ham radio testing.  However, SANDARC (San Diego Amateur Radio Council) does.  There is a testing fee to defray expenses. For current fees and other details, please visit the San Diego Amateur Radio Council (SANDARC) VE testing site.

Where do I take the test?
Testing takes place at a different location each Saturday of the month.  For more details, please visit the San Diego Amateur Radio Council (SANDARC) VE testing site.

Do I have to be licensed to join SANDRA?
Yes.  Membership in the San Diego Repeater Association is open to all licensed amateur radio operators.  An Amateur Radio License is required prior to accessing any of the SANDRA radio systems.

I'm licensed, live in another state, but frequently spend time in the San Diego area. May I join SANDRA?
Yes. Please see our Join Us page.

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How do I join?
Membership applications may be processed on-line or through the mail.  Please visit our Join Us page to learn more.  Also, please familiarize yourself with our operating guidelines and Terms of Service before submitting your application.

How does SANDRA support public safety?
Please visit our About SANDRA page.

I want to support your organization with a donation--how do I send a donation?
SANDRA currently accepts donations through the US Mail. If you wish to make a donation, please see our donations page.

How do I request permission to use a SANDRA repeater for a Net or special event?
Access our on-line form.

Do I have to be a member to use a SANDRA repeater for a Net or special event?
No.  Neither you nor those who plan to participate in your activity must be a SANDRA member to use a SANDRA repeater for a net or special event.  We do ask, however, that you request to use the repeater for your net or event to make sure that the day and time of your event doesn't conflict with something already scheduled. 

I need to update my membership information.  What should I do?
Please visit our Join Us page and fill out the membership form.  Indicate that you are updating your existing information.  When you submit your form, our membership chairman will receive your request and update the database.


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