What is Amateur Radio?
“You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.”
--Albert Einstein, when asked to describe radio
Amateur radio or “ham radio” is a multifaceted hobby for public service and personal accomplishment and enjoyment. Hams make hundreds of friends while operating two-way radio stations from their homes, cars and the out-of-doors. Public service includes providing emergency communications to public officials and private citizens in times of emergency and disaster when commercial communications are disabled. Examples are weather related storms, floods, and earthquakes. Personal accomplishment includes learning new technical details relating to radio theory, radio propagation, and digital communication.
Additionally they visit via radio with other hams across town or across the world, using the simplest (or most sophisticated and expensive) of radio setups and antennas, and they have great fun! As has been chronicled with the internet, many a romance has been fostered through the facilities of amateur radio.
- Who Are Hams?
Ham Radio folks
The vintage radio station of Brian, W9HLQ, Tinley Park, Illinois
Shown is Hallicrafters SX-115 and matching speaker.
On the right is a Johnson Viking Valiant AM/CW transmitter.
Amateur radio is a hobby of personal enjoyment. But in times of need, hams are transformed into self-trained public service communicators, ready and able to help their neighbors during emergencies and natural disasters. Hams enjoy practicing for these times by sending Radiograms — free personal messages— from anyone to anyone, anywhere in the United States.
As with most hobbies, you have a multitude of choices about how much time and money you invest. You can contact another continent using the simplest radio setup and antenna.
Many famous people are hams, but the majority are ordinary folks who like making new friends every day. Nearly anyone can use ham radio to open the door on the world. Handheld radios allow easy communications whenever necessary, and can be carried wherever you go, day or night, providing instant contact with friends.