Amateur Radio

Just what is this amateur radio?

Amateur radio or as some call it, ham radio, is a hobby with millions of participants around the world.

While it is possible for anyone to listen in to the activities of these people, only an individual licensed by the regulating body of their country may participate directly by making transmissions. Within the United States that regulating group is the Federal Communications Commission.

Amateur Radio operators have an incredibly wide ranging array of capabilities at their disposal for communicating with other hobbyists.

The most common type of communication is voice. In this mode, an operator has a radio with a microphone connected and he can transmit to other individuals similarly equipped.

However that mode is only the beginning. Here are just a few of the other means by which radio operators may "talk" to each other.

Fast Scan TV - Just like your commercial TV, amateurs have mini TV studios which they capture pictures of themselves, their shacks (operating locations) and perhaps video tapes which they can send to other amateurs. Here is a Google Search on Fast Scan TV.

Slow Scan TV - This is similar to sending image attachments via email. You set up a picture in your computer then, using special software, the picture is turned into sound and that sound is transmitted via radio to a receiving station. They in turn convert the sounds received back into a picture. Here is a Google Search on Slow Scan TV.

Digital - There are many forms of digital communications, they all boil down to an operator sitting in front of a computer and typing text into a program that connects the computer with a radio. The radio transmits your text messages and receives messages from others. There are also other types of digital messages that can be automatically sent. For instance, you can connect a Global Positioning Receiver (GPS) to a radio (via a specialized interface) and have it automatically transmit your location. Other operators using specialized software are able to plot your location on maps automatically. They can watch you drive across the country. The system used to accomplish this is called Automatic Position Reporting System or APRS, and was created by Bob Bruninga WB4APR. It's pretty cool. The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio group or TAPR is one of the pre-eminent groups involved with various types of digital communications

Satellite - Amateur Radio Groups have launched more than 40 satellites into orbit. Using fairly modest ground station equipment they can talk through these satellites to other amateurs hundreds to thousands of miles away. AMSAT is a good gateway to those activities.

There are MANY, MANY more exciting ways to use amateur radio (EOSS comes to mind) too numerous to list here.

If you are interested in finding out more about the hobby visit the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) Introduction to Amateur Radio page on the WWW. They give a much more polished overview of the hobby and can even start you on the way to obtaining your own license to use the amateur radio bands. Visit the ARRL web site's introductory web page at:

And here's hoping we'll hear you on the radio someday!!

73 (that's best wishes) from your Web Master Rick, N0KKZ <-- that's my amateur radio callsign.