So You Want To Be A Ham

Somehow, somewhere, you have heard about Amateur Radio, and now, you find yourself looking for more information. Good for you! You have come to a good place. People get involved in Amateur Radio for many different reasons. It’s a big activity and has something to offer almost everybody.

Some of us want to learn how to use radio to help communicate during emergencies. Others have a strong interest in electronics, and want to take their expertise to the next level. There are many who enjoy communicating with citizens of far-away countries all over the world. It is easy to make friends with someone in a foreign land who can barely speak your language when both of you have a common interest, and Amateur Radio really measures up in this regard.

The "Youth" team representing Russia: 20 year old Yury Khmelenko and 23 year old Anton Navnychko RX9TL

Thousands of hams worldwide engage in “Radiosport” or “Contesting” and frequently compete against tens of thousands of others in marathon, on-the-air competitions that go around the clock and around the world for several days straight. The winners are those teams and individuals who endure and contact the most other contestants in the most locations, and log the details of each contact with unerring precision.

There are hams who enjoy combining hiking adventure with Amateur Radio by packing portable amateur radio stations to remote mountaintops or wilderness areas to set up camp and communicate around the world with only the equipment they can carry, survival-style. Others plan ham radio vacations (called DXpeditions) to deserted islands, thousands of miles from the nearest humans, and use their radios to put the islands on the air. Thousands of hams around the world try to contact them at their rare location, to collect a “QSL Card” verifying the accomplisment.

Doug Wheelock uses ham radio in the ISS service module

Perhaps the ultimate exotic location to operate Amateur Radio is the International Space Station. There is a fully equipped VHF/UHF Amateur Radio station aboard the ISS, and a popular recreational activity for astronauts and technicians is to make contacts with hams all over the world from their lofty position in space. Duties permitting, the staion is on the air almost continuously, and during each orbit the astronauts, scientists and technicians all take turns making contact with their fellow hams on earth. NASA encourages every astronaut to obtain an amateur radio license, and many of the other ISS occupants are licensed hams as well. 1, 2, 3, 4

Radio Amateurs have always been at the forefront of Science and Technology. Hams have launched over 60 orbital satellites exclusively for use by all licensed hams around the world. Personal computers were invented and made popular by hams. The TCP/IP communications protocol which makes the Internet possible was originally implemented by Amateur Radio Packet Radio using the ax.25 protocol, proving the robustness and efficiency of digital communications.

From the recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina, to the earthquakes in Haiti and everywhere else there is massive destruction of commercial communications infrastructure, Radio Amateurs are recognized for their unique ability to set up a working radio station in minutes, and establish reliable communications without electricity, telephone or cellular coverage. Amateur Radio continues to be recognized by Federal, State and Local authorities as a valuable asset in time of need.

So you want to be a ham… The first step is to find other hams to help you get started. One of the best ways to meet friendly hams is at your local Amateur Radio Club. The Quad County Amateur Radio Club will be happy to help you to help you get your license and guide you in putting your first station on the air. We have monthly meetings, which are a great way to meet other hams. At each meeting we try to have an interesting, Amateur Radio related program, presented by an expert. We hold organized training classes for getting an amateur license, and we offer regularly-scheduled examination sessions, close to home.

This is our website, and you are welcome to look around and see what catches your interest. We have lists of hams in all our communities, and we encourage you to make contact with someone in your town. Make a plan to come to our next meeting—you will be more than welcome! If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll do our best to answer your questions and make you feel right at home!


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