What is Amateur Radio or “Ham Radio”?


Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is a fascinating and friendly hobby enjoyed by six hundred and fifty thousand people in the United States and by millions of people worldwide.  “Hams” communicate with one another for fun and friendship, for contesting and DXpeditions and to assist in emergency situations.  Nobody knows for sure why amateur radio operators call themselves "radio hams" or simply "hams”.  To become a radio ham, you must pass an examination and earn a license.  In the US, there are three license levels, or "license classes" (Technician class, General class and Extra Class). These licenses are granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).


Contesting:  Many hams love participating in contesting events because it gives them opportunities to compete against other hams, practice using their amateur radio equipment, improve their operating skills and enjoy the company of other contesters. There are many contesting categories and the winner in each category is the station  which gets the most points in that category.


Dxpeditions:  Dxpeditions are great fun for hams!  DX means long distance and DXpeditions are special trips taken to distant countries by a ham and/or groups of hams (DXers) with their amateur radio equipment in tow.   Dxpeditions are often filled with challenging adventures for the hams as many of the sites they visit are remote and inhospitable!  Hams around the world learn of these special Dxpeditions and enjoy making contact and exchanging  QSL cards with the DXers!


Public Service and Civic Responsibility:  Hams are committed to public service and helping others in need. During a state of emergency, when all other communication services and systems fail, you can count on hams to provide emergency communication services to their communities!


©Natasha Bochkov, M.C.S., Martin Bayes, Ph.D., and Donna LaRoche, M.Ed.