What is Ham Radio?

First of all, “Ham” is a nickname for “Amateur”…

There are almost 5 times as many US hams today as there were in the 1950’s! The number of Amateur Radio license holders in the US has gone from 144,000 back in 1955 to over 735,000 in 2012. Predictions that the internet, computers, cell phones and other digital systems would “end Amateur Radio” were mistaken. Instead, hams have incorporated digital systems into their wireless activities – and the hobby is more robust and diversified than ever!

Technological Innovation

The Amateur Radio bands are the last remaining place in the radio spectrum where individuals can experiment with wireless communications. Radio Amateurs can make, test and design their own equipment – something you cannot do with your cell phone.

Hands-on Learning

Amateur Radio has been the place where thousands of today’s engineers got their first practical experience in electronics. The ARRL (American Radio Relay League, http://www.arrl.org) began it’s initiatives in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) years before the STEM term was even coined. The ARRL is a premier source of wireless electronics information and publications.

We Do That

Using satellites, bouncing signals off meteors and even the moon, creating hybrid radio-internet systems that provide Internet capabilities where there is no Internet, voice and digital messaging, television, automatic positional reporting systems, medical inventions for cancer and neurosurgery – all these are a part of today’s many Amateur Radio activities.

Community Service

Amateur Radio operators are an integral part of every state’s emergency plans, involved with CERT team initiatives, FEMA, DHS, NOAA, ARC and many local and regional response groups. When called to serve, Amateur Radio operators amongst groups such as ARES and local clubs are prepared to sacrifice time and talent to provide free and tireless emergency communications to disaster-stricken served agencies and community services such as the American Red Cross, local hospital and local law enforcement.

Just plain FUN

Radio Amateurs enjoy many activities with other hams, whether it be on the air separated by thousands of miles, or together within club settings. Amateurs enjoy working with electronics and building kits. They love holding on-air contests and collecting many prestigious awards. Amateurs especially enjoy making news friends all over the world and appreciates sharing time with all walks of life.
Radio Amateurs are not paid for their services. The countless hours and millions of dollars worth of their own equipment is used in service to their communities and because it simply is fun to do.
The enjoyment of being non-dependent on others to communicate is a Radio Amateur’s delight.

How Do I Become a Ham?