Almost everyone has heard the expression ‘Radio Ham’, but it often conveys an understandable image of a room full of big, hot power-hungry transmitters and the sound of Morse code impulses ringing through the air.
Amateur radio operators – as we are more more formally known, are members of a modern transformed hobby group that has changed with the advance of technology. In fact, Morse code is just one mode of communication available (in the early days it was the only one). Now we have many different communication modes including voice, television and the new digital methods where computers talk to other computers.
Modern ham radio is a hobby for all, young and old, and it sharpens mental and practical skills. Also it promotes social peer support and helps people to establish friendships right around the world. For more information see the ABC News clip explaining some more aspects of ham radio.
Modern technical aspects of the hobby are communication with satellites and the International Space Station; just one of many topics available to the modern amateur.
Because of the digital age, ham radio has fully embraced the technologies used in modern electronics and digital chips, so now the modern ham is often as much an electronics/computer person, as they are a ‘radio’ person.
Check out this link where a Raspberry Pi is used, without no more than $70 of external hardware is used to communicate around the world by radio! Check out this map – several of the stations might be Raspberry Pi’s!
To use it, you do need to get an amateur radio license. But these days the process is layered. There are license levels for beginners, intermediate and advanced. The entry level foundation license is typically gained by following a weekend study book. In addition, courses and help sessions are often run by local radio clubs such as ours, or available online.
Once you have your license you will be given a call-sign. That’s where the fun really starts! Australian amateur call signs usually start with the letters ‘VK’