What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur radio is a community of people that use radio transmitters and receivers to communicate with other Amateur radio operators. The things that amateur radio operators do with their radios are diverse as the people themselves. Amateur radio operators are often called ham radio operators or simply "hams." (The origin of this nickname is for all practical purposes lost. Although some people still speculate about, few agree and even few care. Amateur radio operators proudly call themselves hams and nobody knows why.) There are about 600 thousand hams in the United States.

Ham radio operators are licensed by the United States Government (the FCC) and enjoy far more priviledges of radio operation than "CB" radio operators do. With these priviledges come responisbilities and rules for the operation of an amateur radio station. Specifically, there are a few things that hams are not allowed to do:

  1. Hams are not allowed to do anything with their radios that makes them money in way. Bummer. Ham radio is a hobby, but that doesn't mean it's completely frivoulous. (Read on!)
  2. Ham radio operator cannot `broadcast' to the public. This means that ham radio transmissions are meant to be received by other ham radio operatators. While a short-wave radio or scanner will allow you to listen to the ham radio bands, what you will hear is hams talking to other hams and not music or other radio programs of `general' interest.

Within these (and other) guidelines, however, hams are empowered to do just about everything that goverment and private radio stations are allowed to do.


Things you can to do with amateur radio

This is just a very general list, there's a lot more to it!


How to become an amateur radio operator

All hams in the United States are licensed by the FCC. Getting a "D" on a mutliple-choice test and paying about fifteen dollars is all it takes. The FCC doesn't even give the test! Instead, local hams volunteer to give the test to people that want to become hams. These volunteer examiners (VE's) then file the paperwork with the FCC and your ham radio license is sent to you in the mail.

There are many ways to go about preparing for and taking your ham radio license test.

Please see our links page for sites to go to for more detailed information!