What is Ham Radio

The Hobby of Amateur Radio

By Chad Nelson


What is Amateur Radio.

Amateur, or otherwise known as Ham radio is a non-commercial radio service that an individual can become licensed to use. This radio service is used to pass messages in times of emergency, providing assistance for public service events such as Marathons and much more. Ham radio uses what are called radio frequencies that are allocated by the Federal Communications Commission, (FCC). These frequencies are used to engage in normal everyday communications across the city, or around the world. This hobby is strictly voluntary and no payment of any kind can be accepted. A collection of radios, or even one radio is called a Ham station, this station can be set up in a vehicle, a fixed location such as a house, or similar location, or can be small enough to be carried on your belt. There are many activities that hams like to do, one of which is called Fox Hunting, this activity is usually a sport or game. During the Fox hunt, a radio operator is stationed in an undisclosed location, and another group of hams use what is called direction finding to locate the hidden transmitter. This is a fun activity but is also used to help track down interference. Amateur radio can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, as a matter of fact, the youngest ham operator licensed was 5 years old.

How to earn an Amateur Radio license.

Obtaining a new Amateur radio license is significantly easier than it was 25 years ago. A 35 question multiple choice exam is required with 70% to pass, which works out to be a total of 9 wrong answers and still be able to pass. The Technitian class Question pool has a total of 426 questions which are divided into 10 subelements. Subelements are subdivided into question groups (topics).  There are 35 topics represented in the question pool.  One question will be randomly selected from each topic to make up a Technician exam.  You must correctly answer a minimum of 26 questions on the exam to obtain a Technician license (NC4FB.ORG).

The term of any Amateur radio license is a maximum of 10 years, after which it can be renewed for another 10 year term, a retest is never required after the first license exam is passed. There is no cost for being an Amateur radio operator, however there is a small one time fee of approximately $15.00 to cover administrative costs.

Amateur Radio and Disabilities.

If a person wants to become ham operator who has a disability, there is an organization located in Golden Valley Minnesota called Handi Hams. This organization offers a plethora of resources to assist those wishing to become a ham to learn about the hobby, and also helps them become licensed.

The Courage Kenny Handiham Program provides tools for people with disabilities to learn Amateur Radio and technology skills, and to earn their Amateur

Radio licenses. This sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but what is really happening behind the scenes is that people with disabilities who join

our program are going to quickly learn about new technologies, including assistive technologies that will help them in other aspects of their lives, not

just amateur radio. By working through the process of earning an amateur radio license, Handiham members become familiar with setting goals and following

a plan to achieve them.

Our handiham members also become part of a worldwide community of amateur radio operators. This community is alive with opportunities for all sorts of

life enhancing activities. One can make friends on the air, stay in touch with other Handiham members who might use similar assistive technology such as

blind-friendly computing systems and radios, take part in competitions throughout the year thanks to the many awards and contests going on nearly all the

time, and learn more about “STEM”, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

An important aspect of amateur radio has always been to offer assistance to one’s community and to one’s fellow amateur radio operators. The Handiham Program

emphasizes these values and encourages our members with disabilities to “give back” by participating in public service through their local amateur radio

clubs and to volunteer to help others.

The mission of our parent organization, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, is “To empower people with disabilities to reach their full potential in

every aspect of life.” The Handiham Program takes its members through a process that builds confidence, achievement, planning, friendships, and volunteerism

in service to others. While these values have always been a part of amateur radio, we realize that they transfer to all aspects of a successful and happy

life (https://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/218).


In conclusion, Amateur radio has a lot of different avenues to explore and can open the door to a lifelong learning experience. Whether one is disabled, young, old, or just likes to talk around town, Amateur radio can be a very rewarding hobby. Remember though that Amateur radio is a lot of fun, but also provides a serious aspect to emergency communications from hurricane watch communications, and even search and rescue operations. Lots of lives have been saved due to the dedicated work of Amateur radio operators.


Last updated: Saturday, October 14, 2017