Introduction to Ham Radio

Welcome to the fun and exciting hi-tech hobby of amateur radio! Amateur radio, or “ham” radio, has been around for over ninety years, and is for people of all ages, including teens. It’s a unique way to communicate over the airwaves to other people around the world of various ages, professions and cultures.

The amateur radio service requires its users to have a valid amateur radio license in order to operate legally. Once licensed, hams may operate on designated bands for their license class. License holders are also permitted to design, build, modify and repair their own equipment!

The Basics

Ham radio operators use two-way radios from their homes, cars, boats and on the go with handheld handie talkies, or “HTs”. Hams make many friends over the air as close as in their own neighborhood, to as far as around the world. They communicate in a variety of operating modes, including voice, digital modes via computers, and some operators even enjoy the mode that started it all in the 1800’s  -  Morse code.

Some really dedicated hams enjoy taking the hobby to the extreme. This includes using satellites, bouncing signals off the moon, connecting local radio systems around the world through real-time Internet streaming audio, and even amateur television where operators can see each other as they talk!

Public Safety

Ham radio is not only a fun pastime, but also helps out the general public in times of communication needs. This includes public events such as road races and marathons, and even extends to natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados and floods when conventional communications methods are out of service.

Two major organizations, ARES and SKYWARN, serve a big part in the amateur radio service. ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) is a public service organization headed by the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) that consists of licensed hams who have volunteered their qualifications and equipment for communications when disaster strikes or for public events. SKYWARN, on the other hand, is a plan sponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS), which includes using volunteer amateur radio observers for reporting all types of hazardous weather.

If you're interested in joining SPARC's public service organization (ARES/RACES), please complete the information form and return it to K7GLM.

A Brief History of Ham Radio

Getting Your Amateur Radio License