Why should you join an Amateur Radio Club? I
can think of many reasons. First and foremost among them, the opportunity to meet and get to know other ham operators in your
community. There are almost one million amateur radio operators in The United States, but within your local community they
are probably not on every block. Ham radio is no different than any other hobby, be it model aircraft builders or Civil War
re-enactors. We are a minority of the general public, so we band together to assist each other with our hobby, and to socialize
with like minded individuals. Particularly for the newcomer, joining a club is almost a necessity, and here is why.
When anyone first gets into a hobby, they have
questions, lots of questions. Some of the answers can be found in books or on line, but like any hobby, ham radio has a lingo
all its own. For the newcomer, the lingo can be very intimidating. Being in a club allows one to absorb some of the language
just by hearing it in context. Most hams are only too happy to explain it to someone else as well.
Where the question of equipment is concerned,
the choices are overwhelming. Club members can make sense of the choices and direct the tyro to solutions that make sense
for his or her unique situation. People live in different kinds of communities and have different restrictions on what they
can put up for antennas. Within the home, the space available for amateur radio might be a whole room, or it might be just
a little space on a desk somewhere. Spouses also have different ideas on what and where they will be happy with radios in
the house or the car. Since family always must come first, the advice of more experienced operators can be invaluable in getting
amateur radio and your own personal zoning board to happily co-exist.
Inevitably, at some point the new ham operator
is going to come up against a problem. It could be equipment related or antenna related or any of dozens of other problems.
Trying to work it out alone can be difficult to say the least. If you belong to a club, it is a simple task to ask another
member with more experience for help or advice. Down the road, someone will be asking you similar questions and suddenly you
realize that you have become the expert that newcomers look to for help.
Most ham operators have more interests than just
amateur radio. They may be expert gardeners or woodworkers or collectors. By joining a club and participating actively in
it, you can avail yourself of the friendships and social contacts that the club provides. Who knows, you likely bring a skill
or an experience level to the club that others will see as valuable too.
Another area where belonging to a club brings
benefits is in the area of what I call "the big project". If there is a need for a tower to be erected, or some other large
job, club members can be counted on to band together to get it done, whether for the club as a group, or for the benefit of
an individual member. Just remember to reciprocate on the next "big project" for someone else.
To find an ARRL affiliated club in your area,
go to http://www.arrl.org and look up clubs in your area by zip code, section or state. Visit several of them to find one that suits your interests.
Then join one or more of them. Also JOIN THE ARRL. The services provided
to the members and the publications they put out are a cornerstone of the hobby. You will find the ARRL Handbook (as just
one example) on the bookshelf of almost every professional electronics engineer in the world. The ARRL is amateur radio's
most important representative to the FCC and to the world. They protect our spectrum from encroachment by vested interests
and speak for us to the government. They also do much more, but that would take a whole book to describe. Just a few of the
benefits are affordable insurance on your radio equipment, awards, email forwarding, license renewal, technical information,
regulatory information and on and on. The cost is only 39 dollars per year and no better bargain is to be had anywhere.
Geoff Haines, N1GY