Meeting People with Ham Radios

Many believe the first ham radio message was broadcasted in 1901 and sent from Newfoundland to England. With that transmission the culture of the amateur radio operator was born. By 1914, many Americans were using ham radios as hobbyists, attempting to communicate across states, countries and even galaxies. The popularity of ham radio compelled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set guidelines for using high frequency radio waves. Every ham operator must possess a valid novice, technician, or technician-plus license. After earning the proper license, just about anyone can join the ham radio culture by purchasing or building their own radio system, which typically consists of receivers, transmitters, microphones, antennas, and roofing filters.

  • Technique: MSNBC article looks at how ham operators use the airwaves, even when other communications are not possible. 
  • Licensing: Glossary explains the different licenses available for operating amateur ham radio.
  • Study Guide: A guide to prepare for earning a technician’s license.
  • Communicating with the Moon: Article discusses the common ham radio operator pastime of bouncing signals off the Moon.
  • Guide to Getting Started: This University of Nevada file (.pdf format) show has to set up a basic ham radio. Includes some terminology.
  • Maidenhead Grid: This website, which identifies different coordinate systems, discusses the common grid system used by ham operators.
  • High Frequency: This PowerPoint presentation by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discusses the high frequency radio wave system, the most popular of three systems used by ham radio operators.
  • List of Suppliers: This list directs people to places online where they can obtain equipment to set up ham radio operations.
  • Preparedness: An explanation of how the lack of dependence on wires and carriers makes ham radio perfect for emergency preparedness.
  • Basics: The primer explains the basics of what ham radio is and why people use it.

Ham radio enthusiasts do not operate in a bubble, although at first radio exploration is usually an isolated activity. The biggest lure of the amateur radio culture is that it affords the opportunity to meet strangers from around the world and socialize. Before chat rooms and forums existed on the Internet, ham radio meet-and-greet culture provided the means for people to go on air and meet across great distances while maintaining anonymity and speaking in code. Housewives, sports players, children, science geeks, people with disabilities, and even celebrities are among the types of people you might encounter while using a ham radio. All socio-economic classes, genders and races comprise the segment of society using ham radios.

Meeting people in ham radio now includes more than just surfing frequencies and broadcasting. Many amateur radio operators meet fellow hobbyists through state and national clubs; this is often called “eyeball meeting.” Often these organizations host yearly conferences where people can meet in one city to discuss ham radio and exchange equipment. The bond between “hams” is very strong and their short-hand radiospeak creates an intimacy and a wall that keeps out those who don’t know their inside lingo.

  • Union: The International Amateur Radio Union lists different membership groups for operators.
  • The Original SMS: Article discusses how ham radio communications preceded the short message test system for keeping in touch among friends.
  • Summer Camp: Articles looks at how the radio technology stays relevant for youngsters through summer camps.
  • Astronomy Connection: This article discusses the connection between ham radio operations and early radio astronomy.
  • FCC Guide: This Federal Communications Commission lists and answers frequently asked questions related to ham radio operations.
  • Astronomers Group: This Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers brings together people from around the world who use ham primarily for exploring the solar system.
  • Satellite Operations: This group helps radio operators interact with astronauts and space stations.
  • Radio Association: This is the website for the American Relay Radio League and the National Association for Amateur Radio. It includes licensing information, training, and venues to meet other operators in your geographic area.
  • Opportunities: This introductory page to ham radio culture explains the opportunities and benefits from practicing the hobby.
  • Hamvention: This site belongs to the organization which hosts a yearly convention for ham operators. The event consists of socializing and swapping equipment.
  • Ham Radio Social Network: is a social networking site that helps bring Ham's together from all over the world.
  • NH7C: This site is another great social networking tool for Hams to meet, and stay in contact with other hams.

Despite new technology like texting, wireless phones and laptops, the use of ham radios for communication continues. Each year, the FCC reports that more than half a million people apply for amateur radio licensing. The new technology might be faster and sleeker, but it can’t rival the ham radio’s ability to communicate with cosmonauts and possibly life forms on other planets.

  • Crash Course: A page tutorial on how to initiate yourself into the ham radio world.
  • Etiquette: A list of do’s and don’ts for broadcasting.
  • Lingo: This table lists some of the private abbreviations used by ham operators.
  • Museum: This museum site gives an online tour through the history of ham radio.
  • In Classrooms: Rice University PowerPoint presentation looks at how teachers are incorporating ham radios in classroom lessons.
  • Technology Clash: This USA Today article looks at how wireless technology is interfering with ham radio culture.
  • Government Use: CNN article explores how the Air Force uses ham radio frequencies for email.
  • Frequencies: This webpage offers an experiment for testing radio frequencies.
  • Emergency Protocol: Sites includes a table for what types of information to release over the airwaves during emergencies.
  • NASA: NASA details how and why cosmonauts and astronauts carry ham radios when visiting international space stations.

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