An Introduction to Amateur Radio
The hobby of Amateur Radio (also known as 'Ham Radio') has been around for well over 100 years. This hobby basically involves qualified people communicating with each other using their amateur radios. Amateur Radio operators, also known as 'Hams' come from all walks of life. From engineers and doctors to bricklayers and teachers, Hams now number about 3 million people, worldwide. Ages range from about 8 years to people well into their 90's. There are more women Hams these days than ever before.
Amateur Radio attracts people for a number of reasons. For most people, I believe, the appeal is the technical aspects of the hobby. As their involvement in the hobby deepens, their interests within it can and often do change. For me and I think a lot of people, the mystery and fascination of being able to communicate with someone wirelessly, who is some distance away, is something which excites the imagination and curiosity. The desire to understand how this phenomenon works is a driving force. Hams are able to communicate with each other in a variety of ways and also over long distances using their radios. Around the world communication is the priority for a lot of Hams, while for others it may be chatting to someone close by or even to a Ham Radio operator on board the International Space Station. Outdoor antennas are generally needed to transmit and receive the radio signals.
Ham radios are able to be used in a wide variety of ways. Of course, using a microphone to chat to someone and hearing their voice coming in from possibly thousands of miles away is always a thrill. Morse code is still used today by thousands of Hams around the world. With the coming of computers, various forms of digital communications are now wide spread within the Ham Radio community. For example, you can communicate using your computer keyboard by typing a message. Remote operating is now becoming popular. This means that even though you may be thousands of miles away from your equipment, using an Internet connection to it, you can still operate your Ham Radio station. Various Internet related modes are also used. Pictures can be sent via radio using Slow Scan Television (SSTV). Ham Radio signals are able to be sent to the moon and reflected back to earth so that operators on the other side of the earth are able to receive the reflected signals. This is known as 'Moon Bounce'. Many satellites made by Amateurs are in earth orbit. These 'Birds' receive Amateur signals directed at them and retransmit the signals back to earth so that the signals are able to travel further around the planet. An Amateur Radio station is located on board the International Space Station and contacts from there are often made to classes of school children on earth. Ham radios are also used while operating mobile. From push bikes, motor bikes, motor cars and boats to aeroplanes. They are also operated by Hams in hard to get to places. From various remote islands and mountains around the world to inhospitable locations like Antarctica. Public Service is at the forefront of Ham Radio. Hams often provide valuable help to the public in times of need. It may be relaying information about the advances of a wild fire in central Australia or the well being of people who have experienced an earthquake in Chile, South America.
There are many other aspects to Amateur Radio as well.
This hobby often leads people to a career in electronics and associated fields of employment. Many Amateur Radio operators have contributed to the technological advancement of our societies.
Ham Radio Clubs are wide spread throughout many countries. Regular meetings are held where licensed Amateurs and aspiring Hams come together to share their common interest. Lessons are given and different grades of license examinations can be taken here to qualify for your Ham Radio license. A basic knowledge in radio theory and operating is all that is needed to acquire the basic license. Young children are able to pass this test and become licensed Ham Radio operators.
Each licensed Ham Radio operator is given a callsign to identify him or her. The callsign also indicates the country in which they live. 'QSL cards' are often exchanged between Hams to confirm their contact or conversation. A few QSL cards can be seen below.
Amateur Radio operators include nobel prize winners, singer/songwriters, musicians, hollywood movie producers/directors, actors, composers, authors, politicians, professors, astronauts and scientists. Well known Ham Radio personalities include country and western singers Patty Loveless KD4WUJ and Chet Atkins W4CGP sk, singer Donnie Osmond WD4SKT, The Eagles band member Joe Walsh WB6ACU, newsreader Walter Cronkite KB2GSD sk, actor Marlon Brando FO5GJ sk, Priscilla Presley NY6YOS, King Hussein of Jordan JY1 sk and Dick Smith VK2DIK.
Amateur Radio is an activity which helps you to feel good and is enjoyed by all kinds of people through out the world. If you have an interest in this hobby, I encourage you to take the first step towards a rewarding past time and google 'Amateur Radio Association' or similar in your country or city. This will lead you to a hobby which can enable you to make friends around the world and change your life for the better.
Worldwide Ham Radio Communication
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