Ham Radio is the ability to communicate -- across the street, around the world, or even with people and satellites in space! Even when the power's out, and the land lines and cell phones don't work, with a battery, a radio, and a wire, ham radio is there.
Ham Radio lets us enjoy life-long friends, and a hands-on technical education. It provides the resources and encouragement to experiment with new things and to design and build on the latest communications technologies.
You can't say that the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon! You can go anywhere you want, without boundaries, and amateur radio can help you get there!
What is Amateur Radio?
When cell phones, regular phones, the internet and other systems are down or overloaded, Amateur Radio still gets the message through. Radio amateurs, often called "hams," enjoy radio technology as a hobby. But it's also a service -a vital service that has saved lives when regular communication systems failed.
Amateur Radio is a great way to learn about communications technology and make friends all over the world. Getting involved in this fascinating hobby is very easy and won't cost and arm and a leg.
Radio Amateurs, or "Hams" use two-way radio communication to make contact with other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use satellites and on occasion speak with astronauts. Radio Hams can do this from home or while mobile in cars, boats or on foot.
Radio Hams have a full range or communication modes at their disposal. These include plain voice, Morse code, numerous digital computer modes and even graphical modes like television. As a licensed amateur radio operator you will be able to join in experiments using all these modes.
Amateur radio can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, even the most severely disabled can make friends around the world from their own home. This hobby knows no boundaries.
Using even the simplest of radio setups and antennas, amateurs communicate with each other for fun, during emergencies, and in contests. Through HAMNET they may be called upon to handle messages for police and other public service organisations during all kinds of emergencies.
Amateur radio, or ham radio, is a fun and exciting hobby including a vast array of activities:
Talking around the world without wires.
Talking locally through repeaters.
Public service communications.
Contests and awards.
Legacy communication modes like Morse code and Radioteletype (RTTY).
New communication modes like digital packet, Automatic Position Reporting System (APRS), and spread spectrum.
Amateur radio satellites in space.
Foxhunting (using "radio direction finding" techniques to find a hidden transmitter).
Moonbounce (talking by bouncing radio waves off the moon).
And much, much more...
Who are Hams?
Amateur / Ham Radio operators come from all walks of life like: movie stars, missionaries, doctors, students, politicians, students, kids, truck drivers and regular people. They are all ages, sexes and income levels linked by their interest in wireless communications technologies. . Whether through Morse Code on an old brass telegraph key, voice communication on a hand-held radio or computerized messages transmitted via satellite, all hams use radio to reach out to the world. There are more licensed Amateur Radio operators now than ever before in history.
How do I get my licence?
Because radio amateurs are permitted to use a wide range of frequencies and types of transmission, they must be qualified operators. In South Africa like most countries around the world, Amateur Radio is regulated by the Government Department of Communication. Licensing is dealt with by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa ( ICASA ).
South African regulations require you to write a small exam, which is set to test your understanding of the basic principles of radio and the regulations governing amateur radio operators.
This exam is simple enough for anyone with high school education and an interest in the hobby to pass.
In most cities and towns around the country there are clubs that provide classes for the RAE and facilitate the writing of the test.
While license application requirements vary by country, the Amateur Radio Service is also controlled by international law and agreements because radio waves do not stop for international borders. In its regulations (Part 97), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recognizes the ability of the hobby not only to advance radio communication and technical skills, but also to enhance international goodwill.
Why Do You Need a License?
The FCC created this service to fill the need for a pool of experts who could provide backup during emergencies. In addition, the FCC acknowledged the ability of the hobby to advance the communication and technical skills of radio and to enhance international goodwill. Countless lives have been saved where skilled hobbyists act as emergency communicators to render aid, whether it's during an earthquake in Italy or a hurricane in the U.S.
What's the appeal of Ham Radio?
Hams are at the cutting edge of many technologies. They provide thousands of hours of volunteer community and emergency services when normal communications go down or are overloaded. All of them enjoy being creators, not just consumers, of wireless technology.
You can communicate from the top of a mountain, your home or behind the wheel of your car, all without relying on the Internet or a cell phone network You can take radio wherever you go! In times of disaster, when regular communications channels fail, hams can swing into action assisting emergency communications efforts and working with public service agencies. For instance, the Amateur Radio Service kept New York City agencies in touch with each other after their command center was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio also came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina, where all other communications failed, and the devastating flooding in Colorado in 2013.
You can communicate with other hams using your voice and a microphone, interface a radio with your computer or tablet to send data, text or images, or Morse code, which remains incredibly popular. You can even talk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station, talk to other hams through one of several satellites in space, or bounce signals off the moon and back to Earth!
Some hams like to build and experiment with electronics. Computer hobbyists enjoy using Amateur Radio's digital communications opportunities. Others compete in "DX contests," where the object is to see how many hams in distant locations they can contact. Mostly we use ham radio to form friendships over the air or through participation in one of more than 2000 Amateur Radio clubs throughout the country. There are over 600,000 radio amateurs in the United States and over 2,000,000 worldwide.
What are some of the other ways radio hams communicate?
There is a great variety of ways that Amateur Radio operators are able to communicate. Using voice is just one. Morse code is still widely used. Packet, Radio Teletype (often called Ritty), and PSK are three more ways to communicate. Even faster transmissions are being developed using methods which can send almost any form of digital data. Hams also use television to send pictures over the air.