Ham Radio: People, Electronics, and Communication

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by Om Sharma


I was looking for something that intersects people, electronics, and communication together. I came to WONC in the search of Ham radio, also known as Amateur Radio, a popular hobby. People use Ham radio to talk around the world, and even to space. Not requiring internet or cell phones, Ham radio operators are extremely important in keeping communication alive in case of any emergency. In April of 2015, an earthquake in Nepal killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000 more. HAMs (Ham Radio Operators) helped mobilizing emergency services.

The earthquake destroyed power and internet in almost all the parts of Nepal, but HAMs were still able to communicate. One important aspects of HAMs are volunteers, as all the HAMs are volunteers. Ham radio operators come from many backgrounds, professions, nationalities and income levels. They’re men and women, young and old. Astronauts, royalty, and celebrities like Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and actor Tim Allen.

The communication can be voice communication to digital transfer of information across the globe. Amateur radio signals bounce off to the ionosphere to get their global range, and you can even use your radio to talk to the International Space Station. Hams use their radios for fun, as well as critical emergency communication during disasters.

Before you can operate a ham radio, you must first obtain an amateur radio license from your country’s regulatory authority. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the governing body. The entry level license is called a Technician License. That grants permission to transmitting on the Very High Frequency (VHF) band and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band for local communication. Each Ham radio operator is assigned a unique call which is used to identify them and their location and is typically a combination of letters and numbers.

One of the interesting aspects of HAM is you can receive satellite images. You can receive pictures from the ISS, as astronauts send pictures from space over amateur radio. Another unique thing Ham radio offers is Jamboree on the Air, which provides the opportunity for millions of Scouts around the world to meet on the air via Amateur Radio.

To get involved, there are local clubs in many places that will serve as a place to learn or provide equipment you may not have access to. All you have to do is to reach out and someone will be more than happy to help you. Study up, get your license, and start your ham radio journey.

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