A hobby popular with geeks before computers. There are over a half-million hams in the world.

In the US, to become a ham operator you must get a license from the FCC and set up a radio station, which may transmit up to 1500 watts.

Many advances in radio communication came about because of experiments by hams, and they have been helpful in hundreds of emergency situations.

For more information contact the ARRL.

Amateur radio is an old technical hobby that was directly responsible for development of some very significant technologies that are now taken completely for granted.

Amateur Radio regulations vary considerably around the world.

Linux and the Internet are considered by some to be the Amateur Radio of the 1990's.

Amateur Radio suffers considerably from an aging population, a slowing rate of innovation and considerable increases in cost.

A hobby like amateur radio is not for everyone, however it has a lot to offer to a wide variety of interests and people. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions, you may find that ham radio is for you!

Do you like to meet new people?

Ham radio is all about communication and getting to speak with other people around the world, many of whom will share the same interests as you.

Are you interested in learning about other cultures?

With ham radio it's not difficult to find English-speaking operators around the world who would be glad to tell you all about their country and culture. Many would be more than happy to speak with you for a while in their native tongue and help you learn more about their language. Best of all, even if you talk all night, it's absolutely free!

Are you on the go a lot?

Maybe you were thinking of taking that old CB radio out of the closet because you seem to be spending so much time on the road, but keep thinking twice because of the way the CB band has deteriorated over the years. A VHF band amateur radio is the answer. Thanks to a large network of repeater systems around the country, you can be almost anywhere and still have a crystal clear signal to dozens of other operators up to hundreds of miles away. Often the "drive time nets" are filled with commuters like you who exchange road condition reports and enjoy the company on their long commutes.

Do computers and technology fascinate you?

Because amateurs are so dedicated to new technology, the FCC created a license class without any morse code requirement in order to attract computer operators. Ham operators attach radios to their computers and operate from just about anywhere. Ham operators with HP palmtops and portable radios operate from their cars, bicycles, and homes all without wires and without any cellular charges. Many of the first private computers to hit the Internet were named after the ham calls of their owners because of the pioneering nature of these hams. Consider also that with the growth of the Internet, and the increasing demand for technically trained "knowledge workers," the hands-on experience you gain within ham radio in electronics, computers, and communications while working within our friendly, team environment may prove to be invaluable long after you graduate.

Do you think of yourself as a "tinkerer"?

While it's easily possible to go out and purchase a very good ham radio tranceiver, but some amateurs consider that "cheating" and would rather have the satisfaction of putting everything together with ingeniuty and elbow grease. At "hamfests", the gala flea markets of amateur radio, it's possible to find all the parts you need by negotiating and bartering for what you need.

Do you want to play a part in helping others in need?

Founded in 1952, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a public service that provides communication personnel to government agencies in times of extraordinary need. Amateur radio operators are the lifeblood of this system and have proven in the past to be invaluable in time of disaster or national emergency. Baltimore County, for instance, has a strong RACES group which has drills and exercises every month in order to keep their communication skills sharp.

Do you enjoy a good contest?

Amateur operators often participate in nationwide contests to see who can communicate with the greatest number of other operators within a specified time period. These contests bring a huge amount of people onto the airwaves and at times can be highly fast paced and exciting.

Do you enjoy the concept of "living history?"

The first telegram "What hath God wrought" has sent from the capitol in Washington to Baltimore on May 24, 1844. With a comparitively small amount of equipment here in 1998, you can send it back! Amateur radio operators use many "modes" of sending radio signals around, including FM, AM, SSB (single sideband, or "half" of AM), CW (or morse code), packet (computer data), RTTY (radio teletype), and many others. The same mode that was used back in 1844 and was used for decades in ships at sea and wartime communication is still alive and well in ham radio.

Do you want to try something new and innovative?

We have a wide range of interests and activities ranging from traditional (voice communications) to more advanced (space operations, data communications, electronics, and computer software). Experimentation is encouraged. Ham radio operators have used portable radios to control everything from model cars to alarm kill switches in their own vehicles. Amateur operators frequently operate in the UHF band with fast scan television signals.

What do you think?

Are you convinced yet that amateur radio is something that you could enjoy? If you have any other questions about amateur radio that this page didn't answer, try looking on the web page of the American Radio Relay League, one of the largest single groups of amateurs in the United States today.

PS: This isn't cut and paste. I wrote this back in 1998 as part of a club flyer, so all the words are mine.

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