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What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur (ham) radio is a hobby where people use radios to communicate with each other. An international agreement between the countries of the world has set aside a portion of the radio spectrum for private citizens to use and experiment with. You can transmit on these frequencies after passing a short licensing test. This is different from commercial broadcasting stations, in which both the equipment and the licensing is prohibitively expensive for individuals, and citizens' band (CB) or other unlicensed services which do not require a license at all to operate in. In return for required licensing and some restrictions, amateur radio allows you to do many things that CB or other unlicensed services do not.

What do hams do?

Amateur radio operators (called hams) operate radio stations and experiment with wireless technology. There are many things you can do with amateur radio. You can remotely control model vehicles, spacecraft, or high-altitude balloons. You can run your own weather station and share the data with other people. You can track vehicles or runners in a race. You can send text messages or emails to people over radio without having a working cell or internet connection. You can talk to people around the world or even on the International Space Station. You can relay your radio signal through a satellite, or reflect it off the moon, or even bounce it off meteor showers and the aurora. You can design, build, and talk to other people using equipment you made.

How do I get a license and callsign?

  • First locate a test center to schedule a test.
  • Prepare for the exam.
    • There are three levels of licenses. The first license level is the Technician Class license.
    • The exam is 35 questions long. You need to answer 26 correctly to pass the exam. You do not need to learn Morse code.
    • The questions are pulled from a pool of around 400 questions. The questions are published publicly for review and study.
    • Study the exam prep materials online. provides explanations to the answers to the questions.
  • Take the exam.
    • Bring $15, a pencil, pen, photo ID, and a calculator. A four function calculator should be fine for the technician exam. The ARRL has a list of things you can bring.
    • After passing, your call sign should show up in the FCC database within a few weeks.
    • You can start operating as soon as you show up in the FCC database online.
    • Your paper license will arrive in the mail later.

Where can I find used equipment?

  • Ebay and other online marketplaces are a useful resource. - eBay
  • Hamfests, such as Stone Mountain in the fall and Huntsville Hamfest in the spring, are full of used (and new) equipment and parts. You can also search the ARRL database for hamfests in your area. - LocalHamfests

How do I make my first contact on air?

What do I do next?

  • Participate in contests.
  • Log DX contacts and go for the DXCC award, or just say hi to people around the world.
  • Collect QSL cards.
  • Try to contact every state and go for the Worked All States award.
  • Learn Morse Code.
  • Work on projects.
newbie_guide.txt · Last modified: 2015/05/19 09:03 by cwh0009