With radio tech going mainstream late in the nineteenth century, the world began to witness an evolution in how people communicated across all spheres of life. Radio soon cemented its place in the early twentieth century as the best way to send and receive messages at official levels.
But that was only a start as people also realized that they could incorporate it into their causal activities as a sort of recreation. This was the turning point that led to the birth of what we now know today as HAM RADIO.
Although there might be newer communication technologies outperforming radio in the communication sphere, Ham Radio (also called Amateur Radio) has remained a widely used tool for operators around the world. Let's dive in and take a much closer look at Amateur Radio, its origins, and why radio lovers remain fascinated by it.
What is Ham Radio?
The term “ham radio” has always been a source of confusion for many. Well, it's another name for amateur radio. Both “ham” and “amateur” usually refer to a broadcaster over the frequency. But that doesn't in any way imply that hams are literal amateurs because so many of them have spent lots of years doing this and have become experts.
So when we say amateur radio, it's just a way of referring to the community’s designated radio frequencies. Such frequencies are exclusive to enthusiasts and are non-commercial bands.
Back in 1909, it is known that ham radios were used in 89 radio call stations. And while enjoying a remarkable history, the global armature community has contributed immensely to many fields. The radio itself can be deployed to monitor disasters, perform in computer networking, and even serve as wireless communication for users, showing that it is far from finished.
Where Did the Name, "Hams", Come From?
In the early days, landline telegraphers would leave their offices to work at coastal stations or go to sea. These were the first wireless operators, and they brought along with them their experience from their former profession along with their language.
Since stations back then with broad spark signal took up the entire spectrum, coastal stations, ships, government stations, and amateur operators all had to compete for signal and time. Back then, amateur stations had so much power that they could jam any other operation within the area. That led commercial operators to refer to them as “hams” when speaking about any interference from the ham radio.
Over the years, amateurs seemed to adopt the word and apply it to themselves. It’s safe to assume that they did so without ever knowing the original meaning.
Today, a typical ham can be anyone from a professional to your next-door neighbor. Amateur Radio operators come from any age, country, sex, and socioeconomic level. All hams connect to the world using different means such as satellite-relayed messages, handheld radio, or Morse code.
What is Required to Become a Ham?
Anyone can decide to become an amateur for different reasons. But to qualify, you are expected to know the basics of radio tech, as well as its principles of operation. You'll also have to acquire a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by writing and passing an examination. The license proves that you are capable of operating on radio frequencies (Amateur Bands) designated to ham operators by the FCC.
The key reason why this service was created by the FCC is to ensure that there is no shortage of backup professionals who can perform during emergencies. Although being a hobby, the FCC understands that amateur radio has what it takes to boost international goodwill while advancing radio communication and tech skills.
Hams have helped to save lives by acting as emergency communicators, providing a valuable service during disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes.
Is the License Expensive?
You'll have to spend around $40 to acquire the basic study materials needed to pass the exam and get licensed. Some prospective hams love to connect and interact before the exams, so you will find local groups that organize classes that you can join.
On getting licensed, you can then set up your equipment in a simple way and grow from there. Expect to shell out around $200 to get your equipment set up so you can connect with other amateurs. But you might decide to go for used equipment which is usually sold at ham radio flea mar markets. That should help you save some money.
What Can You Do With a Ham Radio?
Amateur radio is more of a social movement and has become a favorite hobby for many. You get the opportunity to connect with fellow hams around your area, at conventions, and even around the world. What’s most important is that you're joining a network of awesome people
As an amateur radio operator, you can do fun things like collecting QSL cards or going for awards related to the postcard collection. Yes, you can get awarded for confirming a specified number of amateurs in different countries.
You may also decide to do other interesting things. You could travel, go on an expedition, and operate in a very remote location which also helps other hams get contacts with such rare places. Being a ham brings so much excitement. Like other hams, setting up your radio or designing it yourself should be fun. You will find amateurs that love to experiment with just about everything, including creating radical antenna designs.
Hams also volunteer for public service and have become an essential feature of popular events such as marathons and fund walks where they provide communication support. Such events are usually characterized by clogged and unreliable cellular systems because you have so many people trying to use their phones all at once. But amateur radios don’t experience such problems ever.
In emergencies like hurricanes, hams have also shown that they are a valuable asset. For example, when the principal networks for communication are down during such situations, hams can provide emergency communications. That’s why they are trained and equipped.
Does the radio communications sphere excite you? If yes, then becoming a radio amateur is one of the best ways to explore that interest. And while doing so, you will have the opportunity to build valuable relationships with people who share the same hobby.
There’s just no way to tell the kind of people you’ll connect with over the air but it’ll sure be exciting. With the help of radio clubs around your locality, you will get all the assistance needed to grow and develop into a ham while engaging in family-friendly activities.
If you're ready to get your Ham Radio License, check out our flashcard set! it has all 864 possible questions from the Ham Radio Technician Exam. Get ready to ace the test!