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When I was growing up, I lived about three blocks from a Heathkit, and envied every device on the shelves. Now that I'm older, am teaching myself electronics and have a background in film and television broadcasting, I think I'm coming down with the ham radio sickness. :)

However, I know precious little about where to even start understanding what's available and learning the correct search terminology that'll help Google give me relevant results for DIY kits and what I need to get started.

What are some good sites that help newbies understand the basics of the different types of amateur radios that're out there, understanding the right questions to ask of vendors, and hooking up with other local operators for networking and support?

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  • $\begingroup$ There are many, many kits available, so this question might be considered too broad for the site. Are you looking to building a full transceiver, or just a receiver? Does it need to do more than CW? Are you interested in SDR rather than analog radios? $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Dec 19 '13 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ Still really broad. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Dec 19 '13 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ I would add to that, what do you want to do? Do you want to wind your own coils, solder microscopic surface mount parts under a magnifying glass, interconnect a set of preassembled circuit boards and mount into a case, or just what? What kit providers are you aware of (Elecraft, Ten Tec, TAPR, others)? $\endgroup$ – Paul Dec 25 '13 at 7:15
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The first place I'd start is joining a local ham radio club. Depending on where you are, just simply google and see what comes up. Or try looking on the ARRL site and see if there's one nearby. Being involved with other hams will really whet your appetite for all sorts of sides to the hobby. As per the previous comments, the question is broad, but so is the hobby. Some people like to operate TV in the GHz bands, others like me, prefer low power CW at HF, some like optical communication and others like satellite communication or moon bounce, data modes, ssb, the list goes on. There really is something for everyone, but finding what interests you is the name of the game.

As for starting out in the homebrew side of things, a good website I regularly use is Eamon Skeltons homebrew page. He writes in the RSGB Radcom magazine here in the UK and his projects are so simple, well thought through, documented and things to really get your teeth into.

Anyway, keep us posted on what you're up to, always great to hear of people getting involved.

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I found that finding schematics of respected kits and knocking circuits together was a really good way to get started - I built a clone of a Ramsey 80m QRP receiver as my first "hammy" project and it was great fun. Ramsey make a whole load of kits, most of which are reasonably simple and they're a good way to get in to low(ish) cost, low(ish) part count circuits. Try http://www.ramseyelectronics.com/b/6290131011 for a selection of ham related kits. Schematics and board layouts can be found if you want to go your own way rather than buy the kits.

A page I find myself looking at repeatedly is http://www.qsl.net/va3iul/Homebrew_RF_Circuit_Design_Ideas/Homebrew_RF_Circuit_Design_Ideas.htm

Breadboards are OK, but I personally prefer working on perforated copperless board, then drawing up prototype circuits in Eagle and etching the boards myself. I'm just a RXer at the moment, I want to get to grips with as much theory as I can before getting a license.

If you want to Google around, try "QRP" as a search term, along with "homebrew". You'll soon see terms which pop up again and again (HF, QRP, nicknames of the various bands, radio circuit types like TRF, reflex, superhet and so on). Whatever route you take, have a great time - I've learned more about electonics from a year of hacking about than I did in the previous 30-odd years!

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I see two questions. The title asks about kits. A really useful option is one of those solderless breadboards. You just plug in ICs or discreet components, and the interconnects allow frapid prototyping. Here is one: http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/922306/922306-ND/180285

Join the ARRL! Gotta do that. You get QST. Read a few back issues at the library and you will come up to speed quickly.

Bump 1 on joining a local ham club.

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