Amateur Radio, also known as “ham radio”, has been around for over 100 years, and allows enthusiasts to transmit to other amateurs, and experiment with all aspects of radio. If you have an interest in any aspect of radio broadcasting or electronics, then this could be the hobby for you.
Why would I want to become a ham?
If you’ve ever been interested in, or dabbled with, any of the following, then amateur radio could be for you:
- Played with a walkie-talkie as a kid, and want to learn how radio works?
- Used a CB Radio in the past, and are looking to explore other areas of the radio spectrum?
- Into shortwave radio listening?
- Interested in electronics or gadgets?
- Want to understand how radio works?
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, and there are many amateur radio clubs that can teach you the basics, and help you to take the first steps. Beginners to the hobby can take a short Foundation course. This is typically a six-week course lasting a couple of hours a week. There are some practical exercises to help you understand the 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
Once you’ve passed, you can then progress to an Intermediate licence, and then go for the full licence as your knowledge grows.
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
- Learn and operate morse code (known as CW), and communicate around the world
- Link your computer to your radio using technologies such as EchoLink (think MSN for Amateurs), PSK31 and CQ100
- Talk to the International Space Station – Most astronauts are licensed amateurs and are often up for a chat as they fly over
- Experiment with radio – Investigate different aerial types, radios and transmission modes. Some amateurs are even bouncing signals off the moon
- Join contests – See how far you can get, and how many contacts you can make
- Special events – Amateurs are often out-and-about spreading the word (see our Essex Amateur Radio Events page)
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.