Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, serves as both hobby and service in which participants (called “hams,” by the way) use different types of radio communications equipment in order to communicate with other hams mainly for public services and recreation.
Some people wonder why the hobby is referred to as ham radio. Originally back in 1908, someone overheard a hobbyist’s radio transmission which included the following statement: “Say, do you know the fellow who is putting up a new station out your way? I think he is a ham.” And there you have it.
Oftentimes, hams converse with each other on a worldwide basis – and the number of hams continue to grow. There are now about six million people throughout the world that are regularly involved with amateur radio.
It should be noted that the reason why it is called amateur radio has nothing to do with the experience of the radio operators. These skilled operators are simply committed to helping communities out without any financial gain, unlike commercial radio which operates for profit.
Often, hams convene to participate in round table discussion groups (“rag chew sessions”) on the air. Regularly scheduled on-air meetings (also called “nets”) can also be found, which are wonderful forums for operators to learn about specific interests or learn procedures for emergencies.
Many newcomers to the amateur radio world begin their involvement by finding a local club, or study independently via books and other materials. Many also are brought into the fold by a friend or mentor (also referred to as “Elmers”).
Many countries have national amateur radio societies that actually encourage newcomers. By and large, these work with government communications regulation authorities. The oldest of such societies is the Wireless Institute of Australia, which was formed in 1910. Others include the Radio Society of Great Britain, the American Radio Relay League, the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters, Radio Amateurs of Canada and South African Radio League.
Every ham has a unique call sign, which is used to legally identify the operator or station during radio communications. In some places, an operator may select a “vanity” call sign, as long as they conform with the issuing government’s structure and allocation that’s used for Amateur Radio call signs – in some jurisdictions, there’s a fee to be paid for vanity signs (the US), but not so in other places (the UK).
The general convention of call sign structure includes the following coded information, which is broken down into three main parts:
1. The first part indicates the country from where the call sign originates and might also indicate the license class.
2. The second part gives the subdivision of the country or territory that’s indicated in the first part