With the advent of the internet, cellphones, text-messaging and all the methods of global communications at our fingertips today, why would anyone be interested in amateur (ham) radio?
It’s a hell of alot of fun!
There are a gazillion and one ways to learn about computers, networking, the internet etc. Amateur radio is just about the only way I can think of where you can learn about how radio works in a “fun” way.
We’re in the middle of a world-wide “wireless revolution”. Computer and wireless technologies are converging. I’ve heard many a cellphone technician tell me that it’s really easy to train folks on the “computer side” of the business. But it’s really hard to train folks on the “RF” side of things. Given a choice between training someone on the computer side or the RF side of things, they’d rather train them on the computer side of the business.
Amateur Radio is one of the few ways there are of providing instant long-distance communications with little or no expensive human-made infrastructure required.
You don’t need telephone lines, computers, complex network switching systems and satellites in outer space for it to work.
You just need a radio, antenna and some means of powering it which could mean a generator, car or marine battery in an emergency. You can even keep a battery charged up these days with a relatively cheap solar panel or a small wind generator.
Because of this, its perfect for communications in a disaster area. Just ask those involved in providing communications for Hurricane Katrina or the Asian Tsunami. Amateur radio worked, when landline telephones, the internet, and cellphones did not.
Not only that, but most amateur radio operators are trained, disciplined communicators. It’s part of “ham radio culture”. Just about any ham radio operator can connect a radio up to a generator or car battery, and can construct and erect some kind of antenna within an hour.
These are the kinds of folks you need around in a disaster area.
Isn’t amateur radio “old-fashioned”?
Most amateur radio operators are very much in tune with today’s “hi tech” world and tend to be “early adopters” of emerging technologies. Alot of hams work in hi tech. For example the Finnish cellphone giant Nokia recruits a large part of its workforce from the local ham radio community.
Ham radio clubs built VHF radio repeater systems with links into the telephone system long before cellphones came into widespread usage. Ham radio operators had also built a world-wide VOIP (Voice over IP network) prior to this reaching widespread consumer use.
Hams built their own world-wide e-mail and bulletin board system long before most folks heard of the internet.
Hams were also early adopters of GPS systems for tracking vehicles through the APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System).
At any given time the amateur radio community has at least half a dozen operational satellites in orbit around the earth. Hams also experiment with bouncing radio signals off the moon, the aurora borealis and tropospheric ducts when they appear.
They interface computer soundcards with their radios to operate a wide variety of digital text modes of communications.
Does this sound like an “old-fashioned” hobby to you?
You’ll meet some great people and make some life-long friends. Amateur radio was the planet’s very first electronic social network!
No matter where you travel in the world, just give another ham your callsign and you’ve got an instant friend! Politics, language, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and what you ate for breakfast this morning are irrelevant.