Is Your Household Ready for Ham Radio?

If you haven’t heard of Ham radio but you want to know more, you’ve come to the right place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ham radio is a rewarding mixture of fun, public service, friendship and convenience; amateur radio can bring you this and much more. Although no one is really quite sure where the term “ham” came from, most assume it comes from the first syllable of the word “amateur.” All in all, the amateur radio society is composed of people who enjoy communicating with each other using a wide frequency spectrum and a variety of types of wireless transmitting modes. There are over 675,000 amateur radio operators in the United States and more than 2.5 million around the world, so once you get involved, you’ll have plenty of people to talk and listen to.

Is Ham radio for you? That depends- do you like to communicate with others wirelessly and experiment socially and with technology? Are you willing to do the paperwork necessary to become a licensed amateur radio operator? If so, you may be ready to communicate with others in your county, across the country, and maybe even in outer space.

But how does it work? Amateur radio DJs (called “hams”) use a wide spectrum of frequencies to communicate, and non-hams can then listen to those frequencies using their own receivers or radio scanners. The frequencies allocated to hams are managed by the FCC for amateur use; their allotted frequency range tends to start from just over the AM broadcast band all the way up to the microwave region (in the gigaherz range). There are even ham bands tucked in the frequency range that goes from above the AM radio band (1.6 MHz) to just above the citizens band (27 MHz). These bands are often called “short-wave bands”, in reference to their short wave radio frequencies. While FM radio stations and TV stations use frequency modulation to transmit radio waves and therefore can only broadcast out to a 40 or 50 mile range, short-wave frequencies are said to “bounce” off the ionosphere from the transmitter to the receiver’s antenna- that means short-wave bands can actually broadcast at long distances.

hammSome ham radio operators aren’t trying to broadcast anything nearly as complicated as music- there are a few out there still using Morse code. Others use their voice. Then there’s those who use digital modes of communication and ham radio modems to allow that communication to reach various networks.

While a more professional radio DJ might broadcast out to 1,000 listeners, Ham radio DJ’s tend to conduct two-way conversations with another ham or even a group of hams in an informal “round table” not unlike an internet chat room. The hams may be from the same town, state, country or continent, or they may even come from a mix of any of these. Hams even form into networks, called nets, at predetermined times and frequencies in order to exchange messages. Some even exchange emergency information in case of disasters when cell service may not longer function. Wouldn’t you like a HAM radio set up in your next home?

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