The hobby of amateur radio is based around an FCC regulated, point to point, non-commercial communication system. The first step in becoming an amateur radio operator is to acquire a license from the FCC by passing a short multiple choice examination, which demonstrates your knowledge of the rules, regulations, operating procedures, and technology prevalent in amateur radio. A unique callsign (such as W7BSA) will be assigned once the license is granted. Although other modes of radio communication such as CB and FRS are open to the public without a license, the possibilities of amateur radio are far superior. The allowed output power is higher and there are a far larger number of frequencies that can be used compared to other non-licensed alternatives. With greater power comes a greater responsibility to avoid interfering with other stations, polluting the airways for commercial interests, or creating an environment which isn't suitable for all parties, hence the somewhat stricter nature of amateur radio licensing. After obtaining a license, you can get on the radio and talk with people all around the world using a variety of modes.
What can Amateur Radio operators do?
- Most amateur radio operators enjoy chatting with each other on the radio via voice, Morse code, and digital modes. Whether it be a conversation about the latest news or simply exchanging information about the weather and traffic in different parts of the world, amateur radio provides a method for people to have friendly conversations over long distances. Sometimes amateur operators will schedule times to get on and talk with specific individuals, while other times they will simply call out CQ (an abbreviation of 'seek you', which has become a standard protocol for seeking out any station to talk to) into the electromagnetic spectrum for anyone to answer. The unknown nature of such a call can be exciting. Someone may respond from a boat in the middle of the ocean, the basement of their home with a home made transceiver, a small island on the other side of the world, or in a car driving across the country. They might be a professor, a security guard, an engineer, or an athlete. No matter who they are, you'll likely find something to talk about, since if nothing else you'll share the common attribute of being an amateur radio operator.
- Emergency Communications
- With cell phone towers in every city and along major highways, it's easy to forget that being without communication is still a possibility. However, there are many areas where cell phones do not reach, or are ill suited for the forms of communication that are desired. Amateur radio, with it's history well rooted in emergency communication, excels in these areas. Whether it be mountain bike races in the outskirts of rural areas, marathons within city limits, or testing of emergency sirens for power plants, amateur radio can provide a useful service. Volunteers often provide amateur radio networks for such events, exchanging information between aid stations, event managers, traffic control, and local authorities.
- Contests and Awards
- Participating in contests and acquiring awards can be greatly rewarding for the amateur radio operators compelled by competition and concrete accomplishments. Contests usually consist of attempting to contact and exchange snippets of information with as many people as possible during a short time period (12 hours, 24 hours, a week). Within a single 24 hour period of operation, thousands of people can be contacted. Depending on the rules of the contest, scores can often be bolstered by multipliers from contacting people in a number of areas, or under certain conditions (low power, battery only, etc). In addition to contests, the ARRL provides many awards for accomplishments such as talking to someone in every state, every county, or a certain number of countries.
- Man walked on the face of the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Similarly, amateur radio enthusiasts often like to experiment with interesting technologies and modes of operation that aren't easy, but challenge what can be done with the technology. Digital information can be compressed and sent over the radio, such as video and photographs. High frequency radio waves not only bounce off the regular layers of the atmosphere to achieve longer communication distances, but with enough power and directionality can be bounced off the moon and ionized charges left over by meteors. Repeaters stand upon the apexes of the tallest mountain tops, providing a radio coverage view not otherwise attainable. Large helium balloons carrying amateur radio equipment float to the edges of the atmosphere; automated amateur radio stations have been launched as orbital satellites, and there's even an amateur radio station aboard the International Space Station.
What is the Explorer Post 599?
The Explorer Post 599 is an amateur radio club for youth. With the average age of radio operators slowly rising, the post encourages the younger generation to get interested in the hobby. Lead by many experienced adult amateur radio operators (known as post advisers), the explorer post has weekly informal meetings with occasional presenters, projects, and educational activities. The official age bracket for Explorer Post 599 members is 14 to 21, but younger members are allowed to become associate members, and adults can become advisers.