What Is Ham Radio?
In a world of digital communication, where we can talk to people face to face on the other side of the planet, it may seem odd to consider that radio is still used. We’re not talking about the entertainment version – that will always be around – but the one-to-one communication radio systems, often known as ham or amateur radio.
What is the point in setting up a ‘radio shack’ as the enthusiast likes to call their operating station when there are more accessible and less complex ways of getting in touch? Well, you may be surprised to find that shortwave radio is used not only by amateurs but also by many other commercial users.
Aircraft communicate with each other and the ground control via a shortwave system. The same is true of ships and other vessels at sea, as it is the sole maritime method of communication. The military in most countries uses short waves, as do emergency services. So, why does the widespread enthusiasm for ham radio persist? Let’s talk about that next.
Why is Ham Radio Popular?
Why is any hobby popular? The general answer is that people enjoy ham radio because it gives them access to a wide range of frequencies that they can scroll through to find exciting and unusual broadcasts. They may find people interested in the same subjects and strike up friendships. Some iconic and interesting ham stations also provide a mystery.
Among the more curious are the ‘Numbers Stations.’ These are exciting and anonymous broadcasts at regular times that feature simply a continuous string of numbers, usually in a synthesized voice. Their purpose has been speculated about to a great degree. But some countries run them by their secret services to transmit coded messages to their operatives.
A famous example was known as ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher because as an interval, it used a few bars of a folk song by that name. It was last transmitted in June 2008 and is believed to have been managed by the British Intelligence service MI6 and broadcast from an RAF base in Cyprus. Many numbers stations still broadcast and are readily monitored by ham enthusiasts. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when talking about the use of ham radio.
Who Uses Ham Radio?
If you check out Crunch Reviews, you’ll see a great selection of handheld ham radios. We’ll talk more about what you need to take up the hobby shortly, but first, who uses ham radio? As we’ve touched on above, it’s not just enthusiasts, as we have mentioned secret service usage. However, it is mainly a large group of dedicated enthusiasts who regularly contact others in often remote parts of the world. So, what do you need to become a ham radio user? That’s our next subject.
What Do I Need to Become a Ham Radio User?
You will need to apply for a ham radio license to use one in the USA. There are three types of licenses, the first being the ‘technician’ level. This allows you to use ham radio across select frequencies. It involves an exam requiring you to display basic radio and amateur radio knowledge. Once you pass this exam, you are given your call sign. Only persons with a call sign are permitted to operate on amateur radio.
Now that you have your license, you can start looking at equipment. That Crunch Reviews link should give you a good idea of what the cheapest handheld models of transmitter and receiver will cost – in fact, not a great deal. Those are the ideal first step into ham radio if you want to give it a go. Still, suppose you decide to be more serious. In that case, you may invest in a separate transmitter and receiver, plus an antenna and a variety of additional equipment that enables you to transmit and receive to and from further afield.
It’s at this point that you may find yourself spending a lot of money, although we do recommend checking out second-hand equipment. You will also need to ‘learn the lingo’ as ham users speak in code a lot of the time to save time, but this is something you can learn as you go.
When Ham Radio Becomes Essential
When we talked about the uses of ham radio, we mentioned the military use, and it’s certainly worth looking at where ham radio comes into its own. Let’s take an example of a natural disaster devastating a town. The power may likely be taken out, so there will be no internet link. However, ham radio – many of which use battery power – would not be affected.
In crises, ham radio users can rise to the occasion and become the only source of contact with emergency services and the outside world. This has been seen in certain military coups where the militia takes the radio stations down and off the Internet. They can’t do anything about amateur radio, which transmits from various bases across the world.
Ham radio is also helpful for persons working remotely without an internet connection. Because of the versatility of amateur radio and the capability of shortwave transmissions, there is a need for this mode of communication in many places. This may include rescue missions, explorations, and construction or research work where teams can need to be literally in the middle of nowhere.
The Future of Ham Radio
The Internet may be the communication method of choice and is undoubtedly the most significant breakthrough of the latter part of the 20th century. However, radio – including ham radio – is still vital in world affairs. Whether you are interested because you think it will be helpful or fun, you will be joining millions of other amateur radio users worldwide who enjoy the benefits of long-distance transmissions for many reasons.