Looking for a new hobby that uses cutting edge technology; a hobby that can be fun, rewarding, and challenging, all at the same time? Join the world of Ham radio, where people with the same interest in communications, in many countries, and of all ages and backgrounds, are waiting to say hello and to talk with you about their interests, their families, their culture, and their friendships.
The world-wide fascination in amateur radio has grown enormously ever since the cold, wintry day of December 23, 1900. On that day, Canadian-born Reginald Fessenden, working with a crude radio-transmitter prototype on Roanoke Island, N.C., called out to his assistant stationed fifty miles away. “Hello! Test, 1, 2, 3, 4. Is it snowing where you are Mr. Thiessen?” With these words, the very first spoken over the airwaves, a new chapter in telecommunications history was opened.
Today, amateur radio operators in the United States, popularly known as “Hams”, are always ready to accept new converts into their organization. (The origin of the term Ham in this context is unclear but some refer to the early connotations of the word as slang for someone who is a poor operator or incompetent.) There are local radio clubs that will assist members and organizations such as the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) where members can obtain a myriad of technical information as well as its monthly magazine. For those interested in becoming a Ham radio operator, there are several steps one must go through first, all of which have costs such as:
- Cost of study material for passing the FCC exam
- Cost of the FCC exam
- Cost for the radio equipment
First of all, to transmit over the airwaves an operator must have a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). An unlicensed operator can only listen in on his or her receiver – not transmit. The FCC issues licenses in three different classes, each authorizing varying levels of privileges based on the degree of skill and knowledge for operating a Ham radio station. They are the Technician Class, the General Class, and the Amateur Extra Class. Most new amateur operators begin at the Technician Class and then advance up to the other classes. In the Technician Class, the license holder can basically transmit on channels in any of the 17 amateur short wave frequency bands above 30 MHz, and on some High Frequency bands. The holder of a General Class license can operate in all 27 amateur bands and most High Frequency bands, and the privilege of an Amateur Extra license is the use of all the High Frequency bands.