What is Amateur Radio?
Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics, and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. It’s fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need.
Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These bands are radio frequencies allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by ham radio operators.
When cell phones, regular phones, the internet and other systems are down or overloaded, Amateur Radio still gets the message through. Radio amateurs often called “hams,” enjoy radio technology as a hobby. But it’s also a service –a vital service that has saved lives when regular communication systems failed.
How does one become an Amateur Radio Operator?
Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US there are three license classes—Technician, General, and Extra.
The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new ham radio operators. To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations, and operating practices. The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz, allowing these licensees the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America. It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called “shortwave”) bands used for international communications. Learn More
The General License
The General class license grants some operating privileges on all Amateur Radio bands and all operating modes. This license opens the door to worldwide communications. Earning the General class license requires passing a 35 question examination. General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination. Learn More
The Amateur Extra
The Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning the license is more difficult; it requires passing a thorough 50 question examination. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations. Learn More
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What is the appeal of being an Amateur Radio Operator?
You can communicate from the top of a mountain, your home or behind the wheel of your car, all without relying on the Internet or a cell phone network You can take radio wherever you go! In times of disaster, when regular communications channels fail, hams can swing into action assisting emergency communications efforts and working with public service agencies. For instance, the Amateur Radio Service kept New York City agencies in touch with each other after their command center was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio also came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina, where all other communications failed, and the devastating flooding in Colorado in 2013.
You can communicate with other hams using your voice and a microphone, interface a radio with your computer or tablet to send data, text or images, or Morse code, which remains incredibly popular. You can even talk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station, talk to other hams through one of several satellites in space, or bounce signals off the moon and back to Earth!
Some hams like to build and experiment with electronics. Computer hobbyists enjoy using Amateur Radio’s digital communications opportunities. Others compete in “DX contests,” where the object is to see how many hams in distant locations they can contact. Mostly we use ham radio to form friendships over the air or through participation in one of more than 2000 Amateur Radio clubs throughout the country.There are over 600,000 radio amateurs in the United States and over 2,000,000 worldwide.
Read real person comments in “Why I Love It!”
How do I get a license?
Here is an excellent video on the licensing process.
FCC Testing – The Kent County Amateur Radio Club offers FCC licensing testing periodically. Check our events calendar for our next testing session.
What are the most common radio bands we operate on?
HF radio use
The high-frequency band is very popular with amateur radio operators, who can take advantage of direct, long-distance (often inter-continental) communications and the “thrill factor” resulting from making contacts in variable conditions.
VHF propagation characteristics are ideal for short-distance terrestrial communication, with a range generally somewhat farther than line-of-sight from the transmitter. Unlike high frequencies (HF), the ionosphere does not usually reflect VHF radio and thus transmissions are restricted to the local area (and don’t interfere with transmissions thousands of kilometers away).
UHF radio use
UHF is the most commonly used frequency bands for transmission of television signals. Modern mobile phones also transmit and receive within the UHF spectrum. UHF is widely used by public service agencies for two-way radio communication, usually using narrowband frequency modulation, but digital services are on the rise.
As a new Amateur Radio Operator (Technician License) you can find your frequency privileges here.US Amateur Radio Technician Privileges
Why the Kent County Amateur Radio Club?
After you become a HAM you will want to seek out and join a club. The clubs have HAMS ranging from a few months to several decades of experience. You will want to find a good mentor. We call our mentors affectionately “Elmers.” You will find a good Elmer invaluable.
In addition, you will want the camaraderie and fellowship that a good club offers. You will find most HAMS ready to assist you with whatever question you have from buying your first radio to buying your first HF rig. They will help you with antennas and that ever elusive term called propagation.
The Kent County Amateur Radio is a good assembly of men and women who love the hobby and love each other. We do a lot of social things together and some not about radio. Radio brought us together but friendship keeps us together. So join us, we would love to have you.
If you are not located in the Kent County Delaware area you can still find a club (search here). However, if you are, we would love it if you joined us. We are a welcoming, friendly, group.
“When Everything Else Fails. Amateur Radio oftentimes is our last line of defense…When you need amateur radio, you really need them.”
The Hon. W. Craig Fugate KK4INZ
Administrator, US Department of Homeland Security, FEMA
*FAQS largely adapted from the ARRL website
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