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What is "Ham Radio"?   
An introduction to Amateur Radio

What is Ham Radio?

"Ham Radio" (also known as Amateur Radio) is a multi-faceted hobby enjoyed by roughly 3 million licensed operators world-wide. Every day, ham radio operators communicate from their homes, vehicles, and remote locations with others for a variety of reasons.  Some enjoy talking around the world - perhaps to chat about cultural differences and similarities. Others enjoy contacts with local buddies on a regularly scheduled basis. 

Some ham radio operators are active in emergency preparedness groups and work on natural disaster communications coordination teams. Others may not be as interested in communicating with others as much as the technical aspects of the hobby.

Although ham radio is a hobby that has essentially existed since the first days of radio itself, hams continue to pursue new technical challenges. For example, ham radio operators were among the first to explore using microwave frequencies for communication, among the first to use meteor tails and the moon as a satellite (moon-bounce radio signals), and ham radio operators have been and continue to be pioneers in antenna design, signaling protocols, low-power/emergency radio station design (solar panels, backup equipment, etc.), radio propagation and many other topics.

The process of acquiring a ham radio license varies from country to country. In the United States, it's a matter of taking a written FCC exam in front of volunteer examiners. The FCC publishes the question pool and there are many study guides and courses to help your prepare for your ham radio exam.


Ham Radio and your interests....

Because ham radio has so many interesting facets, it attracts a broad range of people to the hobby itself. Perhaps ham radio offers something that interests you?

Ham Radio Operators handling critical messages at a severe weather center near Chicago.

Quite often, someone will enter ham radio thinking that their interest is strictly one particular facet; for example, using FM repeaters to participate in storm spotting activities or to talk with buddies across town. Many of these hams are surprised to discover a new aspect of the hobby that originally had no interest to them.  Local ham radio clubs, magazines or "elmers" (ham radio mentors) are usually a catalyst - opening a door to a part of the hobby for others to explore.

That is one of the things that makes ham radio great - if you ever get bored with one part of the hobby, there are plenty of other challenges around the corner; and a great collection of resources to help you get started.

Here is a list of activities within Ham Radio that may interest you. Maybe you weren't aware that ham radio operators were active in these things and you'll be encouraged to dig a little deeper into the hobby and even pursue obtaining a ham radio license. I hope you will.


  1. Technical / Experimentation facets of ham radio
    • Antenna design
    • Propagation studies
    • Circuit design
    • Kit building
  2. Social facets of ham radio
    • Local contacts with your buddies
    • Emergency preparedness
      Communications when other means fail
  3. Operating Skills
    • Contesting
  4. Global facets of ham radio
    • DXing - contact with far away places. What better way to learn world geography?