Ham Ham Radio. What is it?

          More correctly, it should be called Amateur Radio. The roots of amateur radio run back many years. It really began with the work of Marconi and Tesla as they conducted their experiments. The way that the term "ham" got applied to ham radio is at times explained thus: The poorer, less fortunate vaudeville actors of the day would use ham fat to remove their heavy stage makeup because they couldn't afford the better cold cream or other removers. Thus they became known as "hamfatters" which was used as another term for an "amateur" and usually in an unkind way. Somewhere along the line, radio operators took the title and wore it with pride. There are other stories and explanations of how the term came to be. This is just one.

          The term 'amateur' is at many times taken to mean a non-professional or less than the best. That definition in no way applies to the world of ham radio! In it's infancy, there were many developments made that paved the way to the modern technologies that we so often take for granted. In many ways, we would not have what we have today had it not been due the 'amateur' or 'ham' radio operators that have gone before us.
Here are just a few of those things that were either pioneered by hams or things that hams had a part of:

  • Radar
  • Microwave ovens
  • Touch Tone dialing (for those of you that still have a land line)
  • Cell phones
Ham Shack A fine example of a very professional amateur's radio room or 'shack'.

          Since then it has evolved into much more than a simple spark jumping across a gap and creating an electromagnetic pulse. Today, it is a somewhat more refined technology. Ham radio is really nothing more than 2-way radio communications. What sets it apart from a simple set of walkie-talkies is the different ways in which hams can use radio waves and the methods of sending / receiving signals. The modern ham can integrate the use of computers with radio signals to produce many different digital modes, tv pictures, teletype, Morse code and satellite communications. Heck, there are even some that build elaborate antenna arrays and reflect signals off of the moon! This is all in addition to standard voice communication. Another unique thing of ham radio that expands capabilities is the ability to use a wide range of frequencies and very high levels of energy to send signals. Ham radio communication is global. Due to the unique aspects of ham radio, a license is required to operate a station.

Question License? Why and How

As already stated, a license is required. The whole process is layed out for you on the Getting Licensed page on this website.

Ham Why Ham Radio?

The first reason is it can be fun and it's a great way to get involved with a lot of great people. Another reason, and this can be a BIG one, is that ham radio is a VERY valuable resource in the case of disasters. Hams have historically been heavily involved with recovery from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, missing person searches, storm spotting and other aspects of public service. Think about this…in the case of a disaster, it's very likely that the internet, phone and cellular communications will be either overloaded or non-existent. This is where ham radio fills a niche easily. With the equipment that can be provided, set up, and operated by volunteers, public service agencies can continue to operate. Health and welfare messages, assistance to evacuees, shelter operations and public safety needs can all be aided through ham radio. You will find that there are so many different ways to be involved with ham radio, there is sure to be at least one that will keep you involved for a lifetime.


There is just NO WAY for all the information to be fit on a page. Here are a few links and resources that will have more answers and likely generate more questions. There is just so much to this hobby.

ARRL (American Radio Relay League)
This is the flagship organization for ham radio enthusiasts. www.arrl.org

QRZ Forum
This is a discussion forum for ham radio enthusiasts. There are many topics, subjects and aspects of ham radio here. You do not need to be a ham to read and learn. QRZ Forums