Amateur radio, often called ham radio, is both a hobby and a service in which participants, called “hams,” use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs for public service, recreation and self-training.
Amateur radio operators enjoy personal (and often worldwide) wireless communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications if necessary, while increasing their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. An estimated six million people throughout the world are regularly involved with amateur radio.
The term “amateur” reflects the principle that Amateur Radio and its skilled operators are committed to helping communities without financial compensation; whereas Commercial Radio operates purely for profit.
There are 660,000+ Amateur Radio operators in the USA and over two million in nearly every country in the world. They come from all walks of life – movie stars, missionaries, doctors, students, politicians, truck drivers and just plain folks. They are all ages, sexes and income levels linked by their interest in wireless communications technologies.
Although hams get involved in the hobby for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of today’s wireless technologies, regulations and operating principles. In the U.S., this is demonstrated by passing an examination for a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These are reserved by the FCC for use by hams at intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up into extremely high microwave frequencies.
To become a radio amateur you will need to get a license. Basically different levels of license gives different privileges on the ham bands. The more challenging the license requirements the more privileges that are granted and the more interesting and enjoyable ham radio becomes.
Technician Class: This license is granted after passing a 35-question test on basic regulations, operating practices, and electronic theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications. No Morse code is required. With a Technician Class license, you will have all ham radio privileges above 30 megahertz (MHz) including the 2-meter band. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other modes. Technicians may also operate on the 80, 40, and 15 meter HF bands using CW, and on the 10 meter band using CW, voice, and digital modes.
Technician Class Resources
General Class: Technicians upgrade to General Class by passing a 35-question examination on regulations, operating practices, and electronics theory. No Morse code is required. In addition to Technician Class, General Class operators may use high power transmitters and have access to the 160, 30, 17, 12, and 10 meter bands and access to major parts of the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands.
General Class Resources
Extra Class: An upgrade to Extra Class is accomplished by passing a 50-question examination on regulations, specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design. No Morse code is required. While this may seem a challenge it results in the privilege of operating on all authorized Amateur Radio frequencies.
Extra Class Resources
Amateur Radio Exams are given locally in Erie, PA by the Wattsburg Wireless Society and in Jamestown, NY by the Chautauqua Amateur Radio Service. Volunteer Examiners team conducts amateur radio license exams.