by Dave Schultheis WB6KHP
Amateur radio is a Federally-licensed hobby; that's one way of looking at it. Amateur radio operators, or "hams," take written and Morse Code tests to show their knowledge and ability to operate radio equipment safely. The restructured "Technician Class" license has attracted a lot of computer-oriented people because it offers fairly extensive privileges while not requiring knowledge of the Morse Code.
The American Radio Relay League (A.R.R.L.) and other organizations publish training materials for various license classes, particularly "Now You're Talking" for the Technician Class license. The price is in the $15-20 range, available at radio electronics stores.
Amateur licensing is handled by hams themselves through the Volunteer Examiner program. It is not necessary to appear in person at an F.C.C. office to take a test. There are volunteer examiners in all areas of the country. Some are listed on my Amateur Radio page (below). Check your local radio electronics store for additional information.