Introduction Amateur radio, commonly referred to as ham radio, is a popular hobby and volunteer public service which uses specific radio frequencies to exchange messages, self-training, wireless experimentation and emergency communications. This is the only hobby that is regulated by an international treaty. Anybody can be a radio amateur. As an amateur, you can transmit signals on various frequency bands that are specifically allocated to radio amateurs. It is not CB Ham radio differs from CB (Citizen Band), Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service. These only permit local communications through strictly limited frequencies and modes. On the other hand, ham radio operators can use any mode of communication: AM, FM, SSB, RTTY, CW, ATV, SSTV and Packet among hundred other ways you don’t even know existed. As a ham, you have privilege across all the radio spectrum, from the shortwave spectrum to the microwave. You can talk with other hams in whichever part of the world they are in, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and from Antarctica to Greenland. Another way in which ham radio differs from CB is that it is a polite radio with no foul language seen in CB. Licensing requirements For anyone to use a ham radio, they must pass a written exam after which they will be assigned a unique call sign from FCC. That call sign is unique to you, and no one else has it. Not long ago, ham radio users were also required to pass a Morse code test before they could get a ham licenses. But this is no longer the case as the requirement was done away with. At the moment, the FCC has three different categories of amateur radio license, and these are Technical, General and Extra. The Technical license is the entry-level one, and its examination is fairly easy. It covers basic safety and operating practices, ham regulations and simple electronics. The exam contains 35 questions, and one has to answer at least 26 questions right to pass. What you can do with ham Simply put ham radio is just a social hobby. Whether you are talking around the world, around the town, at club meetings or even conventions, you will have an opportunity to know some nice people. Personally, I enjoy using ham radio for public service, providing information support for events such as Boston Marathon. Cellular systems tend to get quickly swamped and reliable when many people try using their cell phones at the same time in public events. But ham radio will always get the message through. Ham radio is also great for emergency communication. It’s not unusual for primary communication to fail during emergency situations like hurricane Katrina. Amateur radio operators have been trained on how to provide emergency communication during such instances. The appeal of Ham Radio The mix of public service, fun and friendship is the main draw of amateur radio. Hams are essentially the cutting edge of several technologies. They offer zillions of hours of volunteer service, and emergency services when the mainstream communications are overloaded or go down. All the hams relish the fact that they are creators, not just consumers of wireless technology.
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