If you've heard the term "ham radios" and were confused by the meaning, you aren't alone. Ham radio is another way of saying amateur radio as the person who broadcasts over the frequency is referred to as a "ham." While this may be known as amateur, it doesn't indicate that the ham is a novice in this hobby. Amateur simply refers to the designated radio frequencies used in the radio community; as they are non-commercial bands, reserved solely for the enthusiast. In order to operate ham radio equipment and communicate with other participants over amateur radio frequencies, a ham must become licensed.
History of Ham Radio
Ham radio enjoys a lengthy history dating back to the early twentieth century. With a global audience, amateur radio enthusiasts are part of a community that has made significant contributions to many fields. It is known that as far back as 1909, 89 radio call stations had been designated for amateur or ham radio use. Ham radio has become a universal phenomenon, with no signs of slowing down. From computer networking to monitoring disasters or simply as a form of wireless communication within the community, ham radio has proved it is here to stay.
Ham Radio Equipment
In order to operate as a ham you need the right equipment. Ham radio equipment has changed over the years, and as more ways to communicate are discovered, the equipment used changes. For instance, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) has enabled new types of ham radio equipment. For those interested in becoming a ham, the decision must be made as to what type of frequency or communication method you will use. Equipment will be selected based upon that decision.
For starters, ham radio equipment includes a radio and transceiver (handheld, mobile, or mounted). Depending upon your goals, you may choose to add computers, power cables, antennas, weather stations, scanners and receivers, towers, two-way radios, and more. Determine your end goals to ensure you select the best equipment for your needs. The equipment you select is imperative to your success as an operator. Choose your radio equipment wisely.
Terminology for Ham Radio
As with any hobby, the ham radio community uses their own terminology and lingo. Those participating in amateur radio will find that it is invaluable to spend time understanding various terms used by fellow hobbyists. While some words pertain to the science behind radio, there are other words that the enthusiasts have adopted over the years. Understanding the terminology associated with ham radio will not only help you communicate more effectively with other enthusiasts; but will also help you understand the best way to operate your radio equipment.
How to use Call Signs
A call sign is the alphanumerical code given to licensed ham radio operators so they are legally recognized as amateur radio operators. Call signs vary in length, but it's common to find that those with shorter call signs have greater flexibility as radio operators. Different governing bodies assign call signs worldwide. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigns amateur or ham radio call signs. A licensed radio operator must use his or her assigned call sign every time he or she transmits.
Ham Radio Organizations and Licensing
Organizations and licensing are two important factors to consider in the ham radio community. As amateur radio is a global community, there are different licensing procedures for each country. Joining organizations is an excellent way to stay current with the latest rules, regulations, and trends as well. Some organizations obtain call signs, making them their own closely-knit group of radio operators.