Ham radio? What’s that… does it come with cheese?
Ham radio is a nickname for Amateur Radio. Okay… many say it’s a dying hobby, but it still has it’s place and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Blue hair and members of the Greatest Generation? Not quite.
Although folks like to think everyone has internet, and nobody has a landline any longer, I assure you there are still places without internet – and with a landline. (According to the FCC, “39 percent of rural Americans (23 million people) lack access” to high speed internet. Another source says over 9.1 million Americans still use dial-up internet! Crazy, right?) With this prospect, Amateur Radio brings great utility to emergency and long range communications – without the internet. When your cell phone, internet and landline are all not working… amateur radio will be working great. But more on that in another post…
The goal of this article is to display all FCC licensed amateur radio operators – hams – in a given area on an interactive Google Map.
Let’s say you are considering getting a ham radio license – and you want to meet someone nearby to tell you a little more about it. (The best place would probably be a local ham club.) Many hams are very proud of their hobby and would be happy to tell you more. Or maybe you’re an experienced amateur and would like to see a map of other hams in your area. This article will describe how to see a Google Map of the hams in your area. In fact, unlicensed and seasoned licensed hams alike may find this article helpful.
Step 1 – Define, search & obtain license data.
For this, we use the FCC Universal License System, Amateur License Search.
First, enter your search criteria. I searched just by zip code – using 28803 – which is for Asheville, NC. I also limited search to ACTIVE licensees. You could easily use other criteria, such as licenses after granted after or before a certain date. When ready, click SEARCH.
Second, request and download Query Download. Take a quick look at search results and see if it looks correct. If so, click the Query Download near top of page. Enter your email address. You’ll receive a confirmation email, then another email shortly thereafter with link to download txt file. Click the link found in second email to download file. Since it’s a .txt file, it may open in your web browser. If so, click FILE, SAVE-AS from top browser menu. Or just make note of the .TXT file location.
Third, import to your favorite spreadsheet software. This is a txt delineated file, with a .TXT extension. Open new spreadsheet, and import with ‘|’ (vertical bar character) as separator. Delete all rows except those which begin with EN. You will find rows above and below the EN rows. Now you’re ready for the map!
Step 2 – Create Google Map of your data.
There are several sites that offer free import of spreadsheet data, and then import entries for display on an interactive Google Map. My favorites require no registration, and simple as copy and paste. I Googled ‘easy google map maker’ and www.easymapmaker.com was one of the top results.
Select data in spreadsheet created above, then copy and paste into the map website you found. If using easymapmaker.com, after paste, set map options and assign appropriate fields to address, city, state,zip. Then click MAKE MAP.
I think there may be a limit to the number of records at easymapmaker.com, and depending on their server load it could take several minutes. The list I was working with created above was less than 100 entries.
There you have it. After complete, you should have a customized, real-time (as of FCC database) data, and graphical representation on interactive Google map. Not complicated, but you might spend awhile discovering how to do it. I found a few other websites that map FCC data, but it doesn’t seem to be in real time, nor specific area – just zip code.
Yes, I know there are various other options, including but not limited to my favorite qrz.com. But I don’t think that is necessarily compiled directly from FCC data, lots of data seems to be missing or inaccurate on QRZ. And, okay… there were more than two steps. But you have a ‘real time’ map now. Have fun and ham on.
*By the way, I am a ham myself. KD8OOQ. That’s Kilo Delta Eight Oscar Oscar Quebec. Although licensed for a long time, better part of a half decade, I’m not active. I have a Yaesu FT60R handheld 2m/70cm, but only turn on and check in a few times a year. It’s more for emergency purposes for me than a full blown hobby. But ham radio rocks. Get your license today… no morse code required any longer!!
UPDATE: OTHER OPTIONS TO PLOT AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE DATA
I’ve not done detailed research on the following sites, but I’ve been receiving feedback on other options available. It appears none seem to be ‘real time’ as direct method above offers, but then again, most won’t need such up-to-date information.
Fellow ham K1FM over at k1fm.us setup Ham Finder at https://k1fm.us/hamfinder/. It’s a nice looking tool that’s obviously been put together by someone well more web savvy than I, but appears to do everything I wrote about above… automatically. I think data may not be ‘real time’ as possible if you do it yourself, directly from FCC website, but Alain De Carolis’s K1FM site is worth the visit.
QRZ.com has map ham radio licenses at https://www.qrz.com/hamgrid – however, it’s been experienced and reported that data is not always entirely accurate. It could be data import method, mismatched address data, or other technical issue. I believe it’s also possible to sign up for QRZ account, then manually change your location information.