Amateur Radio Communications

Why amateur radio (aka Ham Radio)?

In 2012, Amateur Radio will celebrate 100-years of contributions to international relations, communications, technological innovation and community service.  Much has been written and spoken about the importance and value of amateur radio to local/global community efforts over the years. With nominal investments in equipment and depending on license class (which defines privileges for access to bands and modes of transmission), Amateur “ham” Radio Operators (ARO) communicate with others around the world (and around their local communities) using voice, Morse code, and other modes of digital data including teletype, fax and slow-scan TV.

Beautifully decentralized, adaptable and represented by millions of women and men worldwide, ham radio provides an affordable (basically free) communication alternative to purchased commercial and corporate communication systems — it is not necessarily better; simply another resource option.

Equipment can be purchased new or used, as build-kits or even made as “home brew” projects — and operated with alternative energy systems and wire antennas! Check QTH.com for classifieds and eHam.net for product reviews.

Depending on weather and various atmospheric conditions including time of day/night, I can “skip” (as the graphic below portrays) 1000’s of miles and typically reach many parts of the world from my home in West Seattle, Washington — in one evening recently, I made contacts with ARO’s in Honshu, Japan; Kona, Hawaii; Portland, OR and Palmer, Alaska — as well as with folks around Puget Sound.

And, the “amateur” in amateur radio should not imply second rate in any way — the skills, services and technological developments of the volunteer amateur radio operator are often equal to those expected of paid professionals. ARO’s do not “broadcast” to anonymous audiences (like FM radio stations) — rather, they transmit “person-to-person” to other licensed ARO’s as identified by their call signs.  So, ARO’s hold on-air educational and public service nets, discuss science, politics, weather and so on, but do not play music, conduct business, or other activities as a commercial broadcast station might.

Thus, amateur radio is an excellent choice for connecting people involved in or wanting to learn about sustainability topics.  Indeed, for a little historical context, read about how residents of The Farm in Summertown, TN used ham radio back in the ’70s to connect and collaborate with others around the world.

Licensing

Unlike CB (Citizen’s Band) radio, operating an amateur radio station requires varying levels of training and a license (issued by one’s governmental telecommunication agency (i.e. FCC in U.S.).  In the US, there are three license levels or “classes”: Technician class, General class and Amateur Extra Class. These licenses are granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Testing is administered by Volunteer Examination Coordinators (fellow ARO’s) and licenses are held for life with 10-year renewable terms. Go here to read more via Wikipedia.

After passing a license test, each amateur radio operator around the world is issued a license from their respective government agency, each with a unique call sign which includes the standard prefix of her/his country from which the license was issued.

Here are two documents identifying the U.S. Amateur Radio Bands and International Call Sign Prefix Assignments.

The rules for earning an Amateur Radio license vary depending on which country you live in.  The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) represents the interests of amateur radio to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). It is made up of 144 national amateur radio societies throughout the world and is recognized as the official voice of the Amateur Service.

Study guides are widely available, as are courses and workshops.  I recommend a few study guides here.

What next?

  • Look below for more resources.
  • Check out the Seattle Amateur Radio Training courses.
  • Send me an email if you have questions or would like to talk about a topic for on-air discussion.
  • Tune your radio to 14.285Mhz (+/-5Khz) at 0100 UTC (7:00pm PST) on the second Saturday of every month.

See you on the air!

Jonathan, KK7PW

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Amateur (Ham) Radio Resources

Community & Micro-radio Resources

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