Avocation - Amateur wireless Ham radio is something different for everyone.

What is it?

Amateur Radio (ham) is an excellent vehicle for a variety of people and interests. It is a different activity for everyone involved. Amateur radio is simply non-commercial wireless communications with frequency space across the spectrum.

For those of the technical persuasion it includes everything from digital to power and controls to rf signals and signal processing. It is the consummate wireless spectrum.

For those that are more interested in people interaction, it is an excellent forum to interface with new people around the world.

For those that like to tinker, research, or find out how things work, it is the consummate forum with others that are most willing to share ideas.

Amateur wireless has traditionally been the vehicle where many of the innovators and gurus of the wireless industry have done experimenting and proved their concepts.


Many local and regional clubs are available. Each may focus on some of the various variety of interests including computers, television, satellites, weather & storm chasing, disaster support, just talking, and activities for the family. Find a group that fits your interest.

The blending of the radio communications world and the internet is in full bloom. Echolink, www.echolink.org, provides a tremendous interface. You can literally access from your computer or from a handheld radio, via the web, to other radio repeaters around the world. What a deal.

The leading organization that promotes the interest is the ARRL at www.arrl.org. They have an excellent chart in pdf format that shows the amateur bands. The available amateur bands cover the spectrum from 1800 kHz to 300 gHz.

One of the excellent coordinators for developing training and helping individuals get started is W5YI at www.w5yi.org .

Getting started

Anyone can get started easily. Perhaps more people get help with the simple, straight-forward instruction books by Gordon West. The one that applies to the first license is Technician Class, Amateur Radio Element 2. Get it, read it, and you will pass the first license.

The first part of the process is registration with the FCC. http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls

The test question pool is available at the ARRL site. http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/pools.html

Getting the license is straightforward. Find a regional club that provides the exam. Have two forms of ID and the very small monetary fee to pay for the materials. There is no fee for the service. Because of international agreements, non-US citizens can also participate. Check information on foreign applicants.

A number of on-line companies provide material and support for the ham radio interests. This is not an endorsement or recommendation. It is simply a beginning list so you can do your investigations.

Universal Radio: www.universal-radio.com
Ham Radio Outlet: www.hamradio.com

First projects

" Now that I am a newly minted ham, what can I do, first?" Excellent question. There are myriad options. For my students, I suggest selecting one of these activities.

1.  For those of the wireless persuasion, obtain a small hand-held transceiver and talk to someone on a local repeater. Record their call-sign and time.

2.  For those of the computer persuasion, use Echolink to talk to someone in another country. Record their call-sign and time.

3.  For those of the tinkering persuasion, build a first receiver. This can be as simple as the classic diode and coil tuned to an AM band.

4.  For a more complex project, use a wireless link to send/receive a remote control or data.

5.  For a community service, monitor weather storm chasers or disaster relief. You can assist local groups. Record their call-sign and time.

Several additional projects and activities have been provided complements of other local hams.


My interest goes back to Mr. Verb Hicks who first showed a teenager his old MARS station many years ago. I did not follow through with getting the ham licenses until much older, nevertheless the curiosity persisted. My station license is the Amateur Extra Class, with callsign NM0D.


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