by John Ubele
Amateur radio also known as Ham radio is a powerful wireless communications medium that has been around since 1901. In the decades since the equipment used for amateur radio has developed along with commercial radio hardware. The creation of the transistor in the late 1950s helped lower the cost of Ham radios which allowed them to become more widely available. Other significant advancements include the creation of repeater networks and the integration of microprocessors into radio equipment.
Many Ham operators use their radios in place of cell phones and land based telephone services. This allows them to save a considerable amount of money on their communication costs.
There are three classes of amateur radio licenses; from lowest to highest they are Technician, General and Extra. The higher the license the greater the frequency privileges you receive. Before you can receive the General or Extra class licenses you have to pass the Technician test. The tests have to be passed in order because you can’t skip licenses.
To study for your exam you should get a copy of “Ham Radio License Manual(Technician Class)”. The book is very comprehensive and does an excellent job introducing the basics of Ham radio and all of the FCC regulations that govern it. The book is available through Amazon.com. All of the exam’s questions are located in the back of the book. You can also take practice tests online by clicking here.
The largest national membership organization for Ham operators is the American Radio Relay League(ARRL). The group publishes a monthly magazine for its members titled “QST”. Their website ARRL.org is a wealth of information and it has a list of testing centers throughout the U.S. The site also lists local Ham radio clubs.
Club meetings are a great place to socialize and learn more about Ham radio and the many facets of the hobby. At the meetings you’ll find highly experienced Ham operators who are referred to as “Elmers”, these individuals are a great wealth of knowledge and should be engaged when the opportunity arises.
Ham radios come in a variety of types and styles. There are handhelds, mobile systems for vehicles and base systems like those you would find at someone’s home or at a local Ham club. Two good sources for radios and accessories are universal-radio.com and hamcity.com.
You can also communicate with other Hams using echolink.org. This site uses voice over intent protocol(VoIP) to connect with other Ham users. The echolink system is very easy to use and you don’t need any radio equipment to access it.
Amateur radio has many facets which helps make it a very fun and rewarding hobby. Many young people who become involved with Ham radio go on to make a career for themselves in the electronics field.