Understanding Amateur Radio
Amateur Radio means many things to many people. However, first and foremost, it is a hobby. People get into amateur radio because they have found something in it that they enjoy. For some, it’s the idea of being able to talk to someone half a world away without relying on any sort of infrastructure. A radio, a battery, and some wire will get you on the air. Others just want to talk to local friends on the repeater. Still others are into building things, and amateur radio is a great outlet for that. Up until recent years, “technical people” have been in the minority. Finding a diverse group of technically minded people to talk with has always been a challenge. Amateur Radio provides a medium for technical people to come across each other and enjoy a sense of community.
While there is a licensing test to take (involving technical questions and some legalese), the learning curve is not that hard. You see, Amateur Radio operators are granted the largest chunk of the wireless spectrum and given the most amount of freedom in how they can operate. A commercial radio station has to operate within very tight restrictions. Unlicensed operators must use FCC Part 90 certified low-power, “locked down” equipment. But in Amateur Radio, the onus is on the operator to ensure that they are within regulations. The test is in place to ensure that an aspiring operator understands what they are working with and the potential interference that they can cause.
Does this mean you have to be a technical genius in order to get into Amateur Radio? *Absolutely not!** The test requirements are designed to allow as many people as possible to get on the air. Children as young as 8-years old have studied for and passed the FCC License exam. Many Boy and Girl Scouts will seek out an amateur license as part of a merit badge requirement. Young, old, deaf, and blind people have taken and passed the test. What’s a deaf person doing on the radio? Most likely they’re participating in a digital mode such as Radio TeleType (RTTY). From voice communications to packet radio to talking with the Internation Space Station, Amateur Radio has just about something for everyone to enjoy.