It’s hard to believe I’ve had my license for twelve years. I got started in radio a lot later in life than most people do, but I guess it came along at the right time. My career in information technology has kept me more than occupied learning new things, but ham radio is like an extension of all the communications-related things that ever interested me. I started with an HT (handheld transceiver) and now I have a pile of them, a base rig in my home office and a mobile radio in my Jeep. Along the way my wife also got her technicians license and her own call sign.
Ham radio has become a bigger hobby than I ever thought it would, but it naturally plays to my affection for technology and communication. The roots of amateur radio are old, dating back to the early 1900s. Today there are many radio technologies that simply didn’t exist then. Most communication in the early days of ham radio were made using Morse Code, often called simply CW or ‘The Code’ now. But people communicate by voice and many digital forms of modulation, as well as transmitting images digitally and by slow scan television format.
As the Internet has become more popular, it seems fewer people are interested in amateur radio, but even with interesting waning, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) estimates there are approximately two million operators world-wide. These operators communicate for casual conversation, often contacting people near and far, collecting ‘contacts’ in log books. Dedicated operator hobbyists strive to work contacts in every geographical area of the world and often participate in contests to see who can gain the most contacts and the most geographical diversity during the contest period.
One of the things that interested me was the aspect of emergency communication. A handheld transceiver can communicate for more than a mile over open terrain and even farther if the distant station is at some elevation. Mobile radios installed in vehicles can reach much farther, sometimes up to 25 miles. Fixed base stations with large antennas and powerful amplifiers can communicate around the world when atmospheric conditions are favorable! Special trained operators can participate in disaster relief and emergency response situations in cooperation with FEMA and local disaster preparedness agencies.
The web site QRZ.com lists active radio operators from the United States and even around the world. The service is free, supported by advertising and operators are offered the opportunity to create a biography. Many amateur operators have banded together with others in their area to form clubs. I belong the club in my county. Our web site is https://w8jxn.org
An FCC license is required to transmit on the amateur frequency bands. You may listen or monitor the bands with an inexpensive scanner, no license required. A listing of amateur radio frequencies in use in your locality is available at radioreference.com. If you’re interested in amateur radio I suggest getting in touch with your local club. A listing of clubs is available at the ARRL web site. Resources to study for your license exam and links to schedule a license exam are available at hamstudy.org. I’m currently the president of the amateur radio club in Jackson, Michigan. Our web site is www.w8jxn.org.