Welcome to the diverse group of individuals who make up Amateur Radio! There are more than 700, 000 amateurs, or “hams, ” in the United States alone and 3, 000, 000 around the world. Hams come from all walks of life, all ages and every continent. Hams are busily communicating without regard to the geographic and political barriers that often separate humanity. This is the power of Amateur Radio — to communicate with each other directly, without requiring any other commercial or government communications systems.
Amateur Radio was born along with radio itself. Marconi, the father of radio, considered himself “an amateur” and many of the wireless technologies and systems we take for granted today had their origins in the workshops and imaginations of amateurs. Governments make room for Amateur Radio when valuable radio spectrum is allocated because they know and respect the flexibility and inventiveness of hams. Amateur Radio is an excellent training and educational opportunity for a country’s students and technicians. In the face of emergencies and disasters, the amateur’s ability to innovate and adapt is legendary.
Hams come to Amateur Radio from many walks of life and many interests. Perhaps you intend to provide emergency communications for yourself and your community. Technical experimentation might be your interest or you might be one of the burgeoning “do-it-yourself” community, discovering the pleasures of building, testing, using and learning. Making new friends via the radio, keeping in touch as you travel, or exploring where a wireless signal can take you — these are all valuable and valued parts of the Amateur service.
A time-honored ham tradition is that of helping newcomers learn about the ways and skills of Amateur Radio. These helpers — known as “Elmers” by other hams — are everywhere. You are almost certainly near another ham and probably an entire ham radio club! They’ll gladly help you get started. There’s more information in Chapter 1 about connecting with them. If you need assistance, the staff here at ARRL Headquarters will be more than happy to help too.
As you read this book, getting ready to pass your first ham radio licensing exam, you will find that there is a lot more material here than just the answers to exam questions. That’s the ARRL way of going the extra mile to help you learn about Amateur Radio. “Of, By and For the Amateur” is the ARRL’s motto. By providing this extra information, we help you learn the “why” behind each question so that you are prepared when ready to get on the air. Keep this book handy as a reference to help you understand how ham radio “works” and you’ll have more fun and be a more effective operator.