So you've got your license, your first radio, the battery is all charged and your ready to go. You turn on your rig and..... hmmmm..... now what?
The best, and most important piece of advice one can give to any new ham, is to listen, listen, listen. Listen at how the contacts are made, listen to what information is being exchanged, listen so you don't talk over anybody!
Know the local frequencies. Just about every major metropolitan area, including small cities have a repeater, or two or three, that are popular hang-outs for the local's. Some are sponsored by clubs, others by individuals, and even some by the actual radio manufactures. Most of these are also "open" to all licensed amateurs. There are many lists online that document the various frequencies, you can also get printed books, and smartphone apps. There is no cost to use them, but if you do find yourself attached to a particular repeater, it might be worth it to join the club that sponsors it. Chances are you will already know many of the club members as they probably also hang-out on the "machine" and your club dues often go towards the maintenance of the equipment. After all the repeater is free to use, but not free to maintain!
If you happen to be in an area without a repeater, or wish to throw out a "CQ" into the wild, the national calling frequency for 2M / 144 Mhz is 146.520Mhz.
Ok, so I found a repeater, the locals seem to have like minded interests with me, now what? It's time, time to use the PTT button, the big one on the side that you have been scared to push, until now. A typical exchange will go like this.
"YOURCALL monitoring" or "YOURCALL listening" You might not get a response the first go around. Thats ok, wait a minute and try again.
You might hear another operator announce that they are "monitoring"
"THEIRCALL monitoring" you would answer back with "THEIRCALL this is YOURCALL, name here is YOURNAME"
The other operator would now take their turn in the QSO
"YOURCALL this is THEIRCALL, nice to meet you YOURNAME, name here is THEIRNAME" and from there you talk about what ever comes up. Hams like to talk about things like equipment, radios, antennas, the weather, etc...
Again, the most important piece of advice for any new ham is to listen. You will gain a lot more confidence, and have a much easier time pressing that big ol' PTT button for the first time. Who knows, you might even meet some new friends!
So just how do I program my radio? Thats a good question. If you have a Wouxun / Baofeng the easiest way is via computer and software. The programming software can typically be downloaded free of charge from the radio manufacture. A good programming cable is a necessity. Inexpensive cables are often not compatible with newer computers and will simply frustrate you more than anything. For best results Fleetwood Digital recommends the Wouxun PCO-001 USB Programming Cable.