October 5, 2020

Why Be A Ham

Amateur Radio, Why?


Amateur Radio is still relevant

In a world full of cell phones and FRS/GMRS radios and the Internet, amateur radio’s role in society has changed. Amateur Radio still provides a fun, challenging and rewarding experience including:

  • Mobile two-way communications via well situated VHF FM Repeaters around the country – This is not a substitute for cell phones of course, but still provides a party line style of communications that still has a place in modern society.
  • Worldwide Shortwave Communications via the HF Bands – Not a substitute for the Internet, but still a fun and practical way to contact someone around the world with just a radio, an antenna and no additional infrastructure.
  • Digital Communications – The PC with sound-card has revolutionized methods for sending digital data over the ham bands. Many applications relay messages much like cell phone texting.
  • Morse Code, but only if you want – Morse code is no longer a requirement for testing and some are saddened by this change. However, this has elevated morse code from a must-do task to a voluntary and skillful art-form. Don’t let the code hold you back from getting your license. You can ignore it or learn it at your own pace. Shhh, I’ll tell you a secret… Some of us use our sound-cards to decode morse ; )
  • Confidence – Being a ham means you have more communications options to help yourself, your family and others in need. In the very rare chance infrastructure fails, you have one more trick up your sleeve. As unlikely as this is, additional peace of mind is nice.
  • Public Service – Occasionally hams receive requests to help provide communications for various events. In the 21st century, these needs can often be met with other means. For the times where the unique qualities of ham radio equipment and operating techniques are helpful, local radio clubs often can muster volunteers from their ranks to help.
  • Emergency Communications (EMCOMM) – While quite rare, amateur radio does occasionally provide a measurable benefit to society via simply having the radio gear and the knowledge to use it when trouble arises. If a more organized emergency team is your goal, several organizations (like SATERN, ARES, etc.) exist to help. However, the biggest public service any practicing ham can provide is simply having the “ham option” available when confronted with an unfortunate situation.
  • Personal EMCOMM – Keeping in mind all the benefits listed above, how about becoming an amateur radio operator to save yourself? That’s exactly what one member of my club did when he used a sophisticated relay system built into his mobile VHF/UHF radio to call for help after suffering a serious injury well outside his cell phone’s coverage area. Amateur Radio might save your own hide… just sayin’.