Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What is the ham radio service

My love for radio

 Over the last few years, I have babbled on endlessly about radio and radio related items such as Police scanners and shortwave radios. I think radio most of the time, and work in a ham radio related online business. When I am not working on this Blog or other web sites I am working on a tube shortwave radio, or talking to friends from all over the world on one of my ham radios. I love almost every aspect of radio, from AM broadcasting to VHF and UHF.
 But what is this thing called "Ham radio" that I am constantly babbling about ?

Some common terms.

F.C.C. Federal Communications commission. Gov't office in charge of radio frequencies in U.S.
VHF Very High Frequency. Set of frequencies from 30MHZ to 300MHZ
UHF Ultra High Frequency. Set of frequencies from 300MHZ to 3000MHZ

What is Ham radio.

 Ham radio, or Amateur radio, is a licensed service by the F.C.C for radio and experimentation. Being a ham radio operator, I have a set of radio frequencies from below the AM broadcast band, up into the Microwave frequencies that I can use to talk to other ham radio operators from all over the world. I can take radio gear from other services such as police and Fire, and modify and use them on the ham bands. I can use different modes to communicate as well. From AM to FM and everything in between. I personally enjoy using Morse code (which is still very popular) on tube radio transmitters from the post WWII era, and listening to shortwave broadcasts from all over the world on tube receivers. 

Like to experiment with Electronics.

 One of the nicest things about ham radio is if you like to experiment with electronics, you can modify radio gear and use them on the Amateur Radio bands. You can also try one of the digital modes, that use a computer to transmit a signal, and receive and decode signals from all over the world. These modes have been gaining in popularity, and there are new modes being created all the time. 

So, in a nutshell, that is what I am babbling about all the time when I talk about ham radio. It is a great hobby for me. I have been involved with radio since the late 70's, when my dad brought home an old Kraco 23 channel CB and a big stick 11M vertical antenna. I have loved it since then, so Amateur radio was a natural step for me, allowing me to see just how far I can push a signal and talk to other radio operators from all over the world.

Ham radio serves a purpose.

 As ham radio operators, we also provide communications during emergencies when other forms of communications are down. This can be on a local level as well as state and nationwide. During a heavy rain storm a few years back, one town out here on the coast was completely cut off from the rest of the world  from mudslides that closed both ways in and out, as well as knocking out power and taking out cell phones and communications. Ham radio operators in the area were able to send and receive vital information to the closed off area, and pass information to the Coast Guard so they could get supplies in and out. By setting up radio gear at the local hospital, communications by emergency services were maintained, possibly saving lives. 

 Ham radio groups like ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) practice on a monthly basis and train for times when normal communications may be down. Ham radio clubs also have a yearly "Field day" where they set up radio's and antenna's in a remote location away from normal power sources and send and receive messages in a set time period. 

Ham radio is just FUN.

 If you find electronics or communications fun, and want to help out in your community, then Amateur radio may be the way to go. By taking a simple test, you can be licensed and on the air in just a few weeks. The hardest part is waiting around for your call sign to be issued by the F.C.C. These call letters can be checked online, and once they are issued you can get on the air and start talking to ham from all over the world. And since they dropped the Morse code requirements, getting a license has never been easier. Even the price of ham radio gear has become less expensive, and a dual band handheld radio (VHF/UHF) like the Baofeng UV-5R that can be purchased for less than $50.00 now. 

 Get started today, and join the Millions of ham radio operators from all over the world.