Become a Ham

Amateur Radio StationWhat is Amateur Radio?

Amateur Radio, otherwise known as Ham Radio, is a rewarding and exciting hobby and service using allocated radio frequencies for recreational, non-commercial, experimental, and/or emergency communications. There are no age restrictions and there is a facet of the hobby that can usually accommodate all interests from social to technical. In case of emergencies when cell phone and internet service may be inoperable, ham radio operators are still able to communicate.

While the hobby can be very expensive, a beginner can usaully get on the air for less than $50 for an inexpensive handheld dual band radio.

Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These bands are radio frequencies reserved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by ham radio operators.

Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US there are three license classes—Technician, General and Extra.

Why Become a HAM

  1. Enjoyable Activities
    1. Contests
      1. DXCC = Contact 100 countries or more
      2. Work All States (WAS) – Contact every state in the US
      3. DXing – Make distant contacts
      4. Field Day – Set up communications in the field
      5. Fox Hunting – Locate hidden transmitters
    2. Public Service
      1. Help people in distress
      2. Provide communications during disasters
      3. Radio Amateur Communication Emergency Service (RACES) – Assist local emergency agencies
      4. Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) – Provide emergency communications
      5. Skywarn – Report sever weather conditions
    3. Various forms of Communication
      1. Satellite – Utilize satellites for long distance communications
      2. Digital – Use digital techniques including computers for effective communications
      3. Television – Send and receive pictures
      4. GPS – Locate geographical positions of transmitters and receivers
      5. Morse Code – Communicate when other modes fail or where simplicity is desired
  2. Build things – Although much commercial ham equipment is available for purchase there always exists the opportunity to build specialized equipment
    1. Radio receivers and transmitters
    2. Television equipment
    3. Test equipment
    4. Antenna tuners
    5. Antennas
    6. Computer controls and interfaces
    7.  And even amateur radio satellites (AMSAT)
  3. Career networking – Hams serve as mentors, help find employment and even award scholarships (e.g., look at FAR or ARRL.) You’ll find Hams employed in all types of organizations:
    1. Industry
    2. Research
    3. Education
  4. Lifelong friendships – Hams are constantly meeting new friends as they communicate with other hams from around the world. They can be
    1. Young or old
    2. Male or female
    3. In school
    4. Employed
    5. Retired
  5. Foreign languages – What better way to brush up on or learn a foreign language than talking with people in other countries
    1. South America
    2. Mexico
    3. France
    4. Russia
    5. Japan
    6. Germany
  6. Knowledge – It’s a great way to educate oneself. It’s a hobby that fosters learning. To name just a few
    1. Radio propagation
    2. Electrical and electronic principles
    3. Digital communications
    4. Geography, earth and space science
    5. Communication skills