What is Ham Radio?
Ham Radio, or Amateur Radio, is an activity where people, called “Hams,” message each other over radio on specific frequencies for non-commercial purposes. It’s a mode of communication that’ll get through when cell phones fail, when the internet doesn’t work, and when all other systems are down.
In other words, it’s a place where particular nerds like to congregate and prepare for the apocalypse… or other natural disasters.
Can I get into it?
Yes! Anyone from any walk of life can become a Ham. There’s even a radio on the International Space Station. You do need a license to operate the amateur radio frequencies though. That’s because radio frequencies don’t stop at international borders and radio is regulated by international laws.
I got my license earlier this year by testing at my local Red Cross. The older folks were pretty surprised to see a young woman walking in for the exam but they were also very welcoming.
How difficult is it to get a license?
The test itself is not very difficult. Most of it is common sense with a little bit of Ohms law and new terminology sprinkled in. After you studied your butt off (psssst the question pools are all posted online), all you need is $10, a photo ID, your social security number, and a pencil.
There are three levels of licenses. In order of increasing difficulty to get and privileges, the three levels are Technicians, General, and Amateur Extra.
What radio do I get?
It seems like the most popular way to go is to get a short-range handheld radio that you can hook up to a repeater (radio towers that can send your signal a farther distance than your radio can), to talk to people all over the country. I ran into a little problem very early on. I got a Baofeng UV-5R, but the repeaters in my area are all dead silent! Either I’m not in range of a popular repeater that all the Ham’s in my town are gathering at or I haven’t found the right frequency. I’m not giving up Ham Radio yet though! I’m currently in the process of setting up Echolink. With Echolink, computers work as transceivers. Hams can talk to each other over the internet! Oh the endless possibilities.
I’m currently waiting for my callsign to get validated but once it is, stay tuned for a very exciting first contact!
If there are any Ham’s out there, let me know! And lend me your wisdom! I’ve been struggling a bit but I’m so excited to discover more. I’ve already learned so much about IP addresses, radio frequencies, morse code (which isn’t a requirement for a license anymore), antennas, and met amazing people.