Dave's Definition of Amateur (ham) Radio

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 and legally. The restructured "Technician Class" license has attracted a lot of computer-oriented people because it offers fairly extensive operating privileges while not requiring knowledge of the Morse Code.

Amateur (ham) radio operators conduct radio communications for non-commercial purposes. Besides day-to-day chit-chat and world-wide "DX" contacts, amateurs help the Red Cross, local police and fire agencies, local offices of emergency services, etc., during times of disaster, when normal communications facilities are overwhelmed. Hams also help local charities with emergency communications to keep bikeathons, walkathons, parades and other activities running safely and smoothly.

The American Radio Relay League and other organizations publish training materials for various license classes, particularly "Now You're Talking" (A.R.R.L.) 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's no longer necessary to appear in person at an F.C.C. (Federal Communications Commission) office to take a test. There are volunteer examiners in all areas of the country. Check your local radio electronics store for additional information.

If you have any other questions I might answer, please send e-mail.


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Created on June 3, 1996. Last updated at 09:50 on June 3, 1996.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA