History of the New England Radio Discussion Society
One fine early afternoon in 2010, W1PIE (Dave Sawyer, SK), N1YX (Igor Kosvin), and AI2Q (Alex Mendelsohn) were rag chewing over lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. In the course of conversation the idea of an Amateur Radio technical discussion group came up.
While all three hams agreed that conventional radio clubs were good and necessary, the concept was entertained of a dues-free organization focusing on the technical side of ham radio. With tongue in cheek Alex suggested calling the group the New England Radio Discussion Society, and thus the NERDS was born!
The first NERDS meeting was held at the Wells, Maine recreational site, which was previously used by the Southern Maine Amateur Radio Club for its 2010 ARRL Field Day. At that time it was suggested we re-name the group with perhaps a more dignified moniker, such as the New England Radio Development Service. In any case, the original name seemed cast in stone, and persists to this day. The NERDS credo of Friendship Through Amateur Radio also remains.
The NERDS group has no constitution, no affiliation with other organizations, such as the American Radio Relay League, no dues or fees, and conducts no formal business meetings. The NERDS meets every two weeks throughout the year. At alternate meetings the group presents technical discussions. The NERDS group also conducts an ARRL Field Day event, and meets for refreshments on a regular basis. Membership is open to all, whether licensed Radio Amateurs, or not.
What is Amateur Radio?
Amateur Radio is a radio communication service used by licensed operators, authorized by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Amateur Radio operators, also called Hams, use their skills to communicate with each other, explore and experiment with technology with their licensed privilege. They also provide communications during emergency and disaster events.
There are over 745,000 licensed Amateur Radio operators in the US. This does not include our fellow ham operators in US Territories. Click here for current FCC License Counts and other interesting details. These numbers do not reflect ham radio operators throughout the world.
Why is a license required, and how does one get a license?
Amateur Radio operators must comply with FCC regulations in order to keep a certain organization and structure over the radio air waves. Operators must stay within the frequencies allowed by their license, and be mindful not to interfere with neighboring frequencies which could be used by other Amateur Radio operators or by commercial broadcasters.
The FCC has designed a three-level
license process to suit the needs and interests of the ham operator.
... Technician license is a popular entry level for new hams, but this is in no way meant as disparagement. Technician operators make up the majority of Amateur Radio licenses. With a Technician license, the operator can use some High Frequency (HF), all Very High Frequency (VHF), and all Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radios to communicate with other hams or to experiment using old or new technology such as digital transmissions. Imagine, talking to friends down the street, or across the world! Send radio signals to satellites specifically designed for Amateur Radio, or send a signal to bounce off the moon and back to earth! The International Space Station circles the world in 90 minutes, and when in the range of your VHF/UHF radio, you are able not only to hear the astronauts who also hold a FCC license, but to speak to them as well. On their schedule, of course!
The Technician license is issued upon passing a written exam of 35 questions. It covers FCC regulations, operating procedures, simple math, and electronic theory. There are many resources available for preparing for the exam; check your local library, the Internet, or a local Amateur Radio club. The 35 questions are taken randomly from a pool of 426 questions, so studying the entire material is recommended.
... General license allows access to more frequencies on HF. The exam of 35 questions is pulled from a pool of 462 questions. The questions cover FCC regulations, operating procedures, math, and electronic theory in more detail than the exam for Technician license.
... Extra license allows for complete access to all frequencies allowed to Amateur Radio by FCC. The exam is 50 questions pulled from a pool of 712 questions. The questions cover FCC regulations, operating procedures, math, and more advanced electronic theory.
As mentioned, there are many resources for anyone interested in Amateur Radio, but perhaps the best single place to begin is Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) which has a wealth of information about what's going on in your local area and beyond. For example, ARRL divides the US into several Sections in which it then provides details of local contacts, clubs, events, and testing schedules.