Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is a hobby and service that millions of people throughout the world partake in. Various types of radio communications are used by participants, called "hams", for public services, recreation, and self-training. While some may think that the term "amateur" implies a lack of skill, the term amateur refers to the fact that the operators of the communication devices work outside of an official governmental or commercial position.
The practicing of amateur radio did not fully begin until the early 20th century, while origins trace back to at least the late 19th century. There are several different types of transmission by which participants communicate. Voice transmission is the most common form of communication amongst hams. Another form of communication, which dates back to the earliest days of radio, includes radiotelegraphy using Morse code, a system developed by Samuel Morse in the 19th century.
There are many countries that use amateur radio. All operators require a licensing exam in which participants display their knowledge and understanding of amateur radio. There are three different levels of an amateur radio-licensing exam: technician class, general class, and amateur extra class. In order to become involved the amateur radio world, it is best to start by looking for a local club. At these clubs, you can find licensing, operation, and technical information. Newcomers require independent studying by using books or receiving help from a teacher or mentor.
Call signs are a vital aspect of amateur radio. Operators must use specific call signs to legally identify themselves or their station in situations regarding national government issues. Radio amateurs may also modify any transmitting equipment without government permission or certification. As long as technical parameters are met, hams have a lot of freedom with the use of radio equipment.
For further information about amateur radio, visit the following websites:
ARRL (http://www.arrl.org): The American Radio Relay League, or ARRL, is the national association for amateur radio. On this site, information can be found regarding education/training, membership, and how to get involved.
Philadelphia ARES (http://www.harcnet.org/aresindex): Philadelphia ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) is dedicated to serving the community with up-to-date when disaster strikes and to build a relationship with amateur radios from other counties. Membership and training is available for those interested in joining the ARES of Philadelphia.
Ham Universe (http://www.hamuniverse.com): For all of you amateur radio needs, visit HamUniverse.com. Here you will find information regarding ham products, license studying, the different components of this high-tech hobby.