About Amateur Radio
What is amateur radio?
Amateur radio is an
FCC-licensed radio service for individuals who enjoy radio communication as a
hobby, and who wish to further their understanding of electronics and radio
principles. It is much different from Citizens Band (CB) in that amateur
radio requires operators to pass electronic and radio theory examinations and
Morse code examinations to use the assigned spectrum. Amateurs also have
a virtually unlimited number of channels on which to communicate legally, as
opposed to the small number available to CB operators. Amateurs may run over
one hundred times as much power as CB'ers if needed, and they follow
time-honored operating principles. Amateurs communicate as professionals,
but cannot receive compensation for any service rendered. Amateurs also are
prohibited from using their radios to facilitate business communications.
Amateur radio is NOT low-power AM/FM nor is it a
broadcast service. Amateurs do not "broadcast," they "transmit."
Broadcasting is the transmission of messages intended for the general public;
amateurs may only communicate with each other.
Who can I talk
Amateur radio operators have
frequency allocations in all portions of the radio spectrum--from just above
the AM broadcast band to microwaves. We can use the HF bands to talk
worldwide on a regular basis, and can communicate across the county and the
Northwest Alabama area on VHF, the band we use for our emergency
communications. We don't just talk--we can also communicate with CW (Morse
code), and various digital modes from RTTY (Radio teletype) to high-speed
Packet radio which is similar to using a computer modem.
connection with amateur radio and public service?
There is a reason Amateur radio
is called the Amateur Radio Service: Amateurs are one of the most
valuable resources in times of need. Our communications networks are the most
reliable in the world, and we can get through when nothing else can. Cell
phones, the Internet, and even normal telephone systems become overloaded and
unusable in crises, but Amateur radio will work.
How does one
enter the Amateur Radio Service?
(updated 2007 to reflect new license requirements and
Amateur operators, unlike CB ops, must be
licensed with a callsign. To earn a license, you must pass at least one written theory
test to gain privileges. As of December 2006, Morse code proficiency is no
longer required for any class of license.
The Technician license class gives operators privileges
in portions of four HF bands and all privileges above 50 MHz (VHF and UHF).
The HF allocations are Morse-code only with the exception of the Technician 10
meter allocation between 28.300 and 28.500 MHz. In these segments, you can
communicate with amateurs across the country and around the world when
The General class license is the next step, requiring a
slightly more difficult written test. This gives much wider operating
privileges in the HF bands, and conveys access to portions of each amateur HF
band. The General class license is your ticket to everyday country- and
The Extra class license is the highest class of amateur
license, and requires passing a rigorous 50-question exam on rules, privileges,
and advanced electronics and RF concepts. It conveys all privileges
available to amateur radio operators.
Earning a license is not difficult, but it does require
some studying. The questions on license exams are taken from a large pool
of questions which are publicly available. The entry-level (technician
class) license exam has 35 multiple-choice questions taken from a pool of 396
(as of July 1, 2006). One can purchase a study guide from the
ARRL or learn directly from the
question pool. Exams
are given across the country periodically; visit the
ARRL's web site and
W5YI's web site for
exam locations. Some areas also offer amateur radio classes, and they may
soon be available in Franklin County. Visit this site's homepage for
For more information about amateur radio, visit the
ARRL's web site. The ARRL is the
national association for amateur radio and is full of information on this great
I plan on posting more information related to getting
started in amateur radio soon--stay tuned!