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What is amateur radio?

Amateur radio is a popular technical hobby and volunteer public service. As a radio amateur, you can transmit and receive radio signals on frequency bands allocated for use by amateur radio amateurs. Amateur radio operators use these designated bands of radio frequencies for non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communications. A 1910 announcement by the then HM Postmaster General licensed 'experimental wireless', which still uniquely gives radio amateurs the ability to innovate without commercial or statutory controls even in the closely regulated environment of the 21st century. Amateur radio is the only hobby governed by international treaty.

Amateur radio operators use the amateur radio bands for a variety of purposes.

Contacting people all over the world by radio which often leads to developing international friendships
Competing in international competitions to test the effectiveness of their equipment and their skill as a radio operator
Technical experimentation  - many of the leaps forward in radio technology have been initiated by radio amateurs
Communication through amateur space satellites or with the International Space Station (which carries an amateur radio station)
Providing communications at times of emergencies and undertaking exercises to maintain that capability

There is no better way to explore the fascinating world of radio communications than by becoming a radio amateur.

What can I do with a ham radio?

Local operation with F.M. repeaters
Long distance (around the world) operation with H.F.
"Chat" with text over the radio with R.T.T.Y. (Radio Teletype)
Network computers over the radio with Packet
Send video over the radio with A.T.V. (Amateur Television)

Design and build antennasEmergency Communications Amateur Radio Emergency Service Grey County
Assist others to join the hobby through radio courses

Many ham radio operators volunteer their time and use ham radio primarily for local public service events such as races, parades, city festivals, etc. Skills learned helping with such things are useful in emergencies when regular local communications such as home telephones and cell phones are not available due to disasters such as terrorism, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.
Some hams like to communicate across the country or the other side of the globe. There are some that like to use satellites or bounce their signal off of the moon and others have even spoken with astronauts on the International Space Station.

Ham radio will begin new friendships for you either through an amateur radio club that may be located in your town or over the air.

Why use ham radio?

Ham radio is still relevant today because it is two-way communication that can endure earthquakes, hurricanes, and most any other disaster. Ham radio operators can make their wireless signal reach far beyond the distance of cell phones, family radios, or even CB radios because of the higher transmitting power allowed to them. It is essential to any emergency situation to include the use of ham radio for communication.

Ham radio helps build communication skills by talking and communicating with others. It is one of the lost skills in this era where we find ourselves talking more to computers than real people.

How is ham radio different than cell phones?

Ham radio can be used independently of central towers or communication infrastructure. Ham radio operators can communicate radio to radio and over great distances.

Cellular phone technology is fragile and dependent upon tall cell towers to work. When the cell tower is knocked out or overloaded cellular phones cannot be used to communicate with others when it is time critical to protecting life and property.

Ham radio for fun or practice!

Like any tool, it must be practiced and used often to be effective. Fortunately there are many opportunities to use your ham radio license in any community:

Giving service to your local parades or long distance races.
Talking to people around your local community on ham radio repeaters
Talking to people around the country and world on the HF radio bands
Keeping track of your family members on vacations.
Experimenting with radio technology by building your own radios from kits or scratch
Joining the  Auxilliary Communications System ACS (A.R.E.S.) and R.A.C.E.S. groups to practice communicating in an emergency

Radio Amateurs are called "HAM'S"

The word HAM as applied to 1908 was the station call of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club. They were Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy and Poogie Murray. At first they called their station
Hyman-Almy-Murray. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to Hy-Al-Mu, using the first two letters of each of their names.

Early in 1909 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station HYALMU and a Mexican ship named HYALMO. They then decided to use only the first letter of each name and the station call became HAM.
In those early pioneer days of unregulated radio, amateur operators picked their own frequency and call letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity.

Dual Band Antennass
In 1911, Albert Hyman chose the controversial Wireless Regulation Bill as the topic for his thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator David I. Walsh, a member of one of the committees hearing the bill. The senator was so impressed with the thesis that he asked Hyman to appear before the committee. Albert Hyman took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the bill went through they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the bill imposed on amateur stations.
Congressional debate began on the Wireless Regulation Bill and little station HAM became the symbol for all the little amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn't want them around. The bill finally got to the floor of congress and every speaker talked about.. poor little station HAM.

That's how it all started. You will find the whole story in the Congressional Record.
Nation-wide publicity associated station HAM with amateur radio operators. From that day to this and probably till the end of time in radio, an amateur is a HAM.

And now you know