Amateur or the Ham radio is meant to be a means of communication for the public while being a fun hobby at the same time. The word “Ham” seems ambiguous sometimes because of its unknown origin with respect to this amazing service but it is widely accepted, though. Some people take it as a nickname for the Amateur radio operators while the others use it in a negative sense. Hams have their unique motives to pursue this hobby but the things that unite them are know-how of the radio technology, strict adherence to the rules of the service and decent way of operating over the network.
What makes ham radio special?
Ham radio is simply another way of connecting with the world without any wires but in this case, the medium is the airwaves. This field is quite interesting because it lets you try something new every time. It gives you a wide scope of operations too. If you have a license, then you are free to communicate across the border and even across the planet into the universe! Amateur radio is the nucleus of the large worldwide community that uses the dynamically wide frequency spectrum and many interesting transmitting modes for connecting with each other.
Frequencies and Transmitting Modes
Hams have access to plenty of frequencies to fulfill their desire for worldwide connectivity. Those who don’t have a Ham license can only listen to these frequencies. Hams can also navigate through various bands of frequencies freely because it is their legal privilege. Starting from the AM broadcast band to the microwave region, these guys can utilize any frequency of choice. The scope of operation extends to the frequencies located above the AM radio band (1.6 MHz) to those found in the citizen’s band (27 MHz). If you plan to operate during daytime, 15 to 27 MHz is a recommended band for making your transmissions reach farther places. On the other hand, 1.6 to 15 MHz is recommended for long-distance communications. Both these bands are popularly known as the short-wave bands. We all known that the FM radio stations and TV stations can only use the frequencies that restrict them to 40 or 50 miles, the short-waves can do much more than that. These waves are more enhanced and reflected at greater angles by the Ionosphere, particularly during the Skywave propagation. As the frequency of the wave increases, its wavelength decreases. As a result, these waves are able to travel greater distances and can connect you to any part of the world in no time.There are hams who still depend on the Morse code but the majority of them use the voice. Hams also, have the choice of using different digital modes and radio modems to enhance their communication.
Ham Radio Activities
Hams do not operate their devices like the normal people do while listening to their radios. When we talk about the AM or FM radio, there is a disk jockey who sends a well-designed transmission out on the airwaves and all the people having a radio catching that frequency are able to hear the transmission. Hams, unlike the disk jockey, are involved in two-way conversations that might be with other individual members of the Ham community or with the Ham roundtables. Whether you talk to a Ham within your country or across the border largely depends on the frequency you are using and the particular time of the day you are running your Ham radio on. Hams also participate in nets that are unique networks operating at fixed frequencies and times and are meant to convey the third-party messages. Ham radios give their major benefit at the time of disasters when every ham is busy giving useful information regarding health and safety to the public or other hams . Nowadays these professionals are used to operating with the radioteletype (RTTY) and the computer screens. For beginners, VHF FM is a good place to start. For convenience, they usually use the battery- operated hand-held transceivers that run on a preset mode. They further obtain FM repeaters from the local radio clubs and use them to broaden the antenna space and increase the range.
Requirements for the License
For being a legal Amateur radio operator, you need to have a license earned from the FCC. For that, you are required to take and clear an exam. The syllabus for the exam consists of the theories related to electronics and rules and regulations for operators set by the FCC. There is plenty of reference material available for self-study. Anyone of any age can give it a try and earn a license. There are different licensing arrangements in each country. The frequency bands used by the hams in the United States are also employed by the ham operators in many other countries. There are different license classes and each of them gives access to particular bands and modes. As the class of license gets higher, ham operators have more privileges and they can enjoy more frequency bands.As compared to the past practices, getting an Amateur radio license has never been so easy as it is now because there is no Morse code to be learned for clearing the exam. You only need to successfully complete a 35-question written exam and you are done. You can prepare for the test yourself and can easily get success by obtaining the required score.
Ham Radio Equipment
A ham radio is basically a transceiver that performs both functions of transmitting and receiving. The latest models of these transceivers are available with more sophisticated controls that can be understood using the manual that accompanies the equipment. Beginner scan starts with the older models because they are easy to understand and operate because of their analog controls. There are antennas specifically designed for and integrated with the hand-held transceivers. A majority of the hams operate their equipment from within their vehicle so they prefer using a magnetic mount antenna that is connected either to an under-dash transceiver or a hand-held radio.
Hamfests are one-stop shops for the hams or the markets specifically made for the Hams. You can spread your Ham network by meeting new members, take license test for any class or purchase your transceiver, all from this platform. You can also find some exceptional used equipment here and save money. Many vendors also offer computer parts in good condition. You can also ask someone at the local radio club to help you make a wise purchase from a hamfest.
There are various kinds of antennas used based on the frequency you are using. At lower frequencies, larger antennas are required. These antennas are available in various forms that are more manageable and can be mounted on any high point where they can effectively receive and transmit. You can always try something new with your Ham radio equipment but make sure your antenna is well-protected from the lightning hazard.
Stepping into the Ham Radio World
Before starting, first listen to what is going on at various Amateur Radio Frequency Bands (U.S.). You can do that with your radio scanner or a short-wave receiver. Make sure your short-wave receiver is single sideband (SSB) enabled. For most of the time, you will be able to hear the local ham operators using the frequency range of 144 to 148 MHz and using the repeaters there.Do remember to communicate in person with the experienced hams or the "Elmers" for valuable insights. Use the call signs of the hams to follow them up and contact them.
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