What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur Radio, or Ham Radio as it is also known, is a fun and fascinating hobby that allows millions of people around the world to communicate with each other wirelessly and without the Internet, experiment with technology (radios, computers, weather stations, satellites, TV, etc.) and learn new skills at the same time.

Amateur Radio spans all ages

Don’t think that Amateur Radio is a hobby just for old folk, it isn’t. Within the membership of our club we have teenagers, young adults, middle-aged folk, and some more mature members; there’s a terrific age spread. Most of our younger folk have taken to radio communications very easily as they are already used to handling new technology and learning how it works and how to use it; Amateur Radio is simply an extension of the inquisitive nature they already exhibit.

Amateur Radio isn’t just for those in the industry

True, a lot of electronics and computer engineers become Amateur Radio operators. However, this doesn’t mean that other folk can’t join the hobby and gain a tremendous amount of fun from it. Our club boasts teachers, air conditioning engineers, school children, college students, business managers, national health employees, doctors, shop workers, etc. Just about anybody can take up this hobby. We also have a good mix of male and female members.

What do Amateur Radio operators do?

Communicate wirelessly without the Internet

Amateur Radio operators communicate. They do this by talking to each other, transmitting Morse code, sending images to each other, creating TV shows and transmitting them to other licensed operators, linking computers together loosely, or in networks and other such activities. All of this can be done on a local scale, or over thousands of miles with, or without, the aid of the Internet.

Communicate using Internet technologies

Some Amateur Radio operators build radio systems that link to the Internet, known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems. VoIP systems enable local Amateur Radio operators to communicate with their peers right around the globe using a simple low powered handheld radio. We are lucky enough to have several members in our club who have built two VoIP systems for local Amateur Radio operators to use free of charge; the Southport Repeater (GB3OA) and the G7LFC node located in Ormskirk.

Communicate using SSTV and FSTV

Slow Scan TV (SSTV) is the transmission of still images and Fast Scan TV (FSTV) is the transmission of moving images and sound. SSTV can be enjoyed with very little additional equipment, other than a computer and a cheap home-built interface to link it to your radio. FSTV is a little more specialised, but if video is your thing, then this aspect of the hobby is for you.

Experiment

The Amateur Radio license is, primarily, a license to learn and experiment with different electronics and communications techniques. Learning could as simple as obtaining the skills to communicate effectively with other people, though some prefer to experiment in the electronics side of the hobby. Some build radios, others antennas, whilst some develop the ideas of others and hone and improve them into working models. If you are a dabbler, someone who likes to see what’s beneath the lid and know how things work, this is the ideal hobby for you.

Provide emergency communications

Organisations, such as RAYNET (the Radio Amateurs Emergency Network), provide emergency radio cover for local charitable events and also in times of disaster. Many of our members are also members of a local RAYNET group and have marshalled and provided messaging services for local charity walks, car rallies, and other such events. Some of our members were also involved in providing communications on behalf of the Police and the NHS in the Lake District when bridges were washed away carrying all-important communications cables that left the emergency services in somewhat of a dilemma. Amateur Radio operators stood in and took up the communications roles that the disabled commercial systems could not deliver.

Amateur Radio doesn’t trail the industry

You’d expect that Amateur Radio, since it is just a hobby, to lag behind the cutting-edge technology used in industry. However, you’ll find that Amateur Radio operators are developing and using some of the most advanced and up-to-date equipment and systems available today including; computer networking systems that work over thousands of miles, digital television methods just like those used by commercial broadcast companies, the latest state-of-the-art communications satellites orbiting the earth in space, GPS-based positioning systems that provide real-time tracking, the latest VoIP systems that integrate wireless radio communication with an Internet-based backbone for worldwide communication and much, much more. Amateur Radio is at the forefront of technology and, in some cases, is actually leading it.

It is a hobby that truly spans age, social classes, sexual gender, religious beliefs and international boundaries. Regardless of whether you want to talk to friends, ‘work’ the world, practise Morse code, operate through satellites, talk to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), enter contests, or experiment with computers, Amateur Radio has something to interest you.

Further information

If you would like further information about Amateur Radio, contact us and we will be happy to discuss this great hobby with you further.