What is Amateur (Ham) Radio?
A retired Teacher in Parramatta makes friends over the radio with a ham in Lithuania. A Sydney teenager uses her computer to upload a chess move to an orbiting space satellite, where it’s retrieved by a fellow chess enthusiast in Japan. A aircraft engineer in Queensland participating in a “DX contest” swaps call signs with hams in 100 countries during a single weekend. In Gosford, volunteers save lives as part of their involvement in an emergency communications net. At the scene of a traffic accident on a Victorian freeway, a ham calls for help by using a pocket-sized hand-held radio. And a Queensland teacher tracks his brother’s car driving around California. In Canberra a Ham send TV pictures to the UK.
This unique mix of fun, public service and convenience is the distinguishing characteristic of Amateur Radio. Although hams get involved in the hobby for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology, regulations and operating principles, demonstrated by passing an examination for a license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” The Australian Communications amd Media Authority (ACMA) for use reserves these by hams at intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up into extremely high microwave frequencies.
What’s the Appeal of Ham Radio?
Some hams are attracted by the ability to communicate across the country, around the globe, even with astronauts on space missions. Others build and experiment with electronics.
Computer hobbyists find packet radio to be a low-cost way to expand their ability to communicate. Those with a competitive streak enjoy “DX contests,” where the object is to see how many hams in distant locations they can contact. Some like the convenience of a technology that gives them portable communication. Others use it to open the door to new friendships over the air or through participation in one of more than 150 Amateur Radio clubs and groups throughout Australia, as well as 1000’s world wide
Who’s the typical Ham?
Amateur Radio operators come from all walks of life — movie stars, missionaries, doctors, students, politicians, truck drivers, and just about any other occupation you can think of. They are all ages, sexes, income levels and nationalities. But whether they prefer Morse code on an old brass telegraph key through a low-power transmitter, voice communication on a hand-held radio or computer messages transmitted through satellites, they all have an interest in what’s happening in the world, and they use radio to reach out.
The three best ways to learn about Amateur Radio are to listen to hams on the “Amateur Bands,” read about Amateur Radio in the numerous books and magazines devoted to the subject and, best of all, talk to hams face-to-face. Hams take pride in their ability to teach newcomers the ropes to get them started in the hobby. There are many Amateur Radio clubs throughout Australia that will welcome your interest. See our Links page for some great web site with stacks of info on becoming a Ham.