Ham radio, as it is often called, is a hobby. It is a non-commercial radio communication service whose primary aims are public service, technical training, experimenting with radio electronics, and leisure communication between private persons. Hams are noted for providing communications in times of emergency or disaster. Ham radio exists in nearly every country and on the same frequencies. This allows amateur radio operators to communicate internationally. Amateur Radio is governed by the Federal Communications Commission and by Part 97 of the Title 47 Telecommunications regulations.
By international treaty, the amateur and amateur-satellite services are for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. In areas where the services are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, an amateur operator must hold an FCC or Canadian license or be a foreign-licensed amateur whose country has entered into a reciprocal licensing/operating arrangement with the United States or who holds a CEPT or IARP license.
What can I do with a Ham License?
There are so many things, it's a difficult question to answer, but here's some ideas:
- Talk to people in foreign countries. DX'ing is a favorite of many hams!
- Talk to people (both local and far away) on your drive to work
- Help in emergencies and natural disasters by providing communications.
- Provide communications in parades or walkathons and other public service events.
- Help other people become hams. (We call it "Elmering.")
- Hook your computer to your radio and communicate "computer-to-computer." Hams use radio modems.
- Collect QSL cards (cards from other hams) from all over the United States and foreign countries and receive awards.
- Participate in contests or Field Day events.
- Provide radio communication services to your local Civil Defense organization through ARES (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service) or RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) ...or even FEMA, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency.)
- Aid members of the U.S. military by joining the Army, Air Force or Navy/Marine MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System). See our Links section
- Participate in transmitter hunt games and maybe build your own direction-finding equipment.
- Have someone to talk to on those sleepless nights at home.
- Receive weather pictures via satellites.
- Build radios, antennas, learn some electronics and radio theory.
- Talk to astronauts in space, or use the moon to bounce signals back to people on the Earth.
- Experiment with Amateur TV (ATV), Slow-Scan TV (SSTV), or send still-frame pictures by facsimile.
- Lash your ham radio to the public telephone system and call your friends toll free. (Auto patching)
- Communicate through orbiting satellites. (There are many in ham satellites in orbit that are owned and operated by the amateur community! And you can use them without any cost whatsoever!)