Amateur Radio, also known as "ham radio", allows enthusiasts to communicate with other amateurs around the world, and experiment with all aspects of radio. If you have an interest in anything to do with radio, communication or electronics, then amateur radio could be the hobby for you.
Why would I want to become a ham?
If you've ever been interested in, or dabbled with, radio or electronics, it's worth considering becoming a radio amateur to learn more about technology and radio. If any of the following apply to you, you might be interested in finding out more:
Interested in electronics or gadgets?
Into shortwave radio listening?
Want to understand how radio works?
Used a CB radio, and looking to explore other areas of the radio spectrum?
Played with a walkie-talkie as a kid, and want to know more?
Looking for a diverse technical hobby?
Keen to further your knowledge and technical understanding?
What you can do
There are so many directions that the hobby can take you in - here are just a few examples:
Chat to locals from your home and whilst 'mobile' using the 2 metre and 70cm bands
Talk to other operators in the UK, Europe and around the world
Link your computer to your radio and the Internet using technologies such as EchoLink (think Skype for Amateurs), PSK31 and JT65
Talk to the International Space Station - Most astronauts are licensed amateurs and are occasionally available for a contact as they fly over
Experiment with radio - Investigate different aerial types, radios and transmission modes. Some amateurs are even bouncing signals off the moon
Take part in contests - See how far you can get, and how many contacts you can make
Events in the community and helping out in emergencies
Learn and operate Morse code (known as CW), and communicate around the world
More than any of these though - amateur radio is about making friends. It's a community, and amateur radio operators are keen to share their knowledge and help others, through the shared language of radio.
How do I get started?
You have to get a licence to operate amateur radio equipment and to transmit on the amateur radio frequencies, but that's not a big deal. There are many amateur radio clubs that can teach you the basics, and help you to take the first steps. The following video clip gives you an overview of how to get started in the hobby:
Beginners to the hobby can take a short 'Foundation' training course. These are often short weekend or weekday evening courses, which include some practical exercises to help you understand the basics, plus training on the licence conditions and technical basics. At the end of the course, is a multiple choice exam, and assuming you pass, you can be on-air in a matter of days.
More: How to become a ham in Essex