Ham radio, also known as amateur radio, is a hobby that has many different facets. Many people think that ham radio is mostly for people who like to stay up late at night and talk to people on the other side of the globe. Others mostly associate ham radio with morse code and complicated radio theory.
Well, ham radio can be those things, but it doesn't have to be. There are many areas of interest in the ham radio hobby. While it used to be that you had to pass a morse code test to get a ham radio license, that is no longer a requirement.
It is still required to get a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before you can transmit on the air. However, this is not a difficult task at all. To get a ham license today, you merely need to pass a fairly simple multiple choice test. The reason for the test is that the airwaves are regulated by the government and the test is to ensure that you know the rules and regulations, and know enough about radio to make sure you know enough to be able to comply with the rules. There are currently three classes of ham radio licenses. The Technician License is the simplest to obtain, and has the fewest privileges. The General class license is next, and the most difficult to obtain is the Amateur Extra License, which offers the holder ALL the privileges of ham radio.
Most ham radio operators (also known as hams) have certain areas of the hobby that they spend most of their time with, but there is no reason one couldn't engage in any or all of them if you have enough time.
Some hams like to tinker, and spend most of their time building equipment and gadgets. Some like to see how far they can talk to others and try to talk with someone in every state, or on every content, or even talk with someone in as many countries as they can. Hams that like to talk to far away places are called "DXers".
Other hams just like to talk. Some talk with other local hams, whereas others like to have conversations with people all over the world. Hams who like to talk are called "rag chewers". Some hams have a competitive spirit and like to participate in contests. There are many contests available. A typical contest is where hams try to talk with as many hams, in as many different places possible in a certain amount of time. Contesting can be important preparation for emergency communication.
One of the most important parts of the ham radio hobby is emergency service. Hams often volunteer to help in emergency situations when other modes of communication are not available, or when it is helpful to have still more communication capabilities. One of the main reasons that the government sets aside radio frequencies for ham radio is because they recognize the importance of having a cadre of trained amateur radio operators available to help in times of emergency.
Some hams work with local authorities and act as storm spotters during dangerous, or potentially dangerous weather conditions. They can go to different points to observe what is happening with the weather and report back to the authorities what they see.
All in all, Ham Radio offers a lot of different areas that a new ham can participate in. The first step is to get a ham radio license. Amateur radio license exams are administered by hams, so you will need to find hams that offer the exam in your area. A good way to find other hams in your area, and also to learn more about ham radio is to join a ham radio club. By joining a club you can see first hand what it is all about, you can learn more about the examinations, and you can make new friends. Some clubs even offer license classes to help you learn the material you need to know to pass the test. There are also many different materials that are available for purchase to help you learn more.
In summary, ham radio offers many different areas of specialization to hobbyists. The ham radio license is your ticket for entry into this great hobby!