What is Amateur (Ham) Radio?

What does it take to become a Radio Amateur?   

To be an Amateur 'or Ham' Radio Operator, you need to be licensed by the appopriate Government Agency in your Country.

In every case, all it takes is an interest in the hobby and the willpower and time to prepare for, sit, and pass an examination or two.

The entry level examination in Australia is called a 'Foundation License' examination and in my opinion, is no more difficult than studying for a motor car license theory exam.

Most people who attend a two day weekend lecture course qualify for the license on the Sundary afternoon and successful candidates have ranged from 8 to 80 years of age.

As you become more proficient in radio theory and electronics, you can sit more complex examinations and qualify for more advanced licenses which allow greater operating privileges, more radio spectum coverage and high power operation.

Many people find it useful to join a local Amateur Radio Club.   There they often find information about how to become involved in the hobby, get first hand experience without having to purchase equipment and get introduced to knowledgeable amateurs that are prepared to assist and mentor newcomers seeking to qualify for their own license.

A Google search for 'Amateur Radio Club' or groups such as the Wireless Institute of Australia, the Radio Society of Great Britain and the Americal Radio Relay League are great places to start.

Once you pass the exam and are qualified, your Goverment Agency can issue you with a license and your personal and unique 'callsign'.   The callsign is used to identify yourself when communicating with other radio amateurs. 

In 2004, there were approximately 3 million licensed Amateur Radio Operators worldwide.   Once you're licensed, you're qualified for life.

For further information on obtaining a VK3 (Victorian) Amateur Radio Licence, visit Amateur Radio Victoria's Web Site at https://www.amateurradio.com.au/licence/foundation and select the license that you're interested in under 'Get your licence'

Radio amateurs or 'hams' use two-way radio systems from their homes, cars, boats, aircraft or portable locations to talk across town or across the world.  They communicate with each other via voice, data, video, typed messages or even Morse Code.   

Unlike the term suggests, many Amateur Radio Operators are not unskilled, but rather quite advanced in radio theory, electronics and other technical fields.   The term 'Amateur' actually refers to the fact that the participants are not permitted to use their communications equipment for commercial or money making purposes.

Amateur Radio arose in the early 1900's and was strongly associated with experimenters and hobbyists who made their own equipment out of interest rather than real necessity.

Nevertheless, research and discoveries by amateurs changed many facets of a wide range of technologies; significantly contributing to advances in science, engineering, industry and human services and saving lives in times of emergency.

Whilst early ham operators used Morse Code or simple Amplitude Modulation to communicate, many modern day operators use highly sophisticated equipment capable of operating on many modes and over a wide range of the frequency spectrum. 

Today, amateur radio operators use radio, along with lasers, microwaves, and digital equipment to communicate with others over long distances either direct, via the upper atmosphere, using satellites or the International Space Station, or by 'bouncing' radio transmissions off meteor showers, high flying aircraft, or objects such as the moon.   

As the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) in the U.S. cites on its Web Site, "Ham Radio provides the broadest and most powerful wireless communications capability available to any private citizen anywhere in the world".

So, does this mean that you have to be a rocket scientist to get involved in Amateur Radio? 

Absolutely not!
Amateur Radio, often called "Ham Radio", is a unique hobby in which participants use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs, either for experimental purposes, self-training, or in public service or disaster response roles.

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