Ham radio is a licensed radio service that enables you to communicate all around the world and even outer space with your own equipment. It’s vital for emergency communications, technological advancement, and it’s an incredible hobby with over 750,000 licensed hams in the United States.
So let’s start with how it got the nickname “ham radio”, which is short for the official name “Amateur radio”.
Not surprisingly, it doesn’t have anything to do with the ham you put on a sandwich. The nickname “ham radio” goes all the way back to the 1890s.
At that time, radio communication wasn’t invented yet – telegraph operators still sent morse code over cables that used physical wires.
But that all changed in 1894 when the world’s first amateur radio operator, inventor Guglielmo Marconi, created the first successful wireless radio contact with his homemade antenna and station.
Marconi’s invention launched a movement and soon other amateur radio operators started building their own antennas and stations.
But the professional telegraph operators of the time thought this new group of amateur radio operators sending Morse code over the airwaves sounded “ham fisted” so they started using the term “ham” as a smear to mock the new amateur operators.
Instead of being offended, the new amateurs wore the term as a badge of honor and embraced the new label, and it caught on. That’s why today, “ham radio” and “amateur radio” mean the same thing, and you can use them interchangeably. By the way, the word “amateur” here doesn’t mean we operate unprofessionally, it just means we don’t get paid for our work.
The amateur and amateur-satellite services are for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. These services present an opportunity for self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations. Twenty-nine small frequency bands throughout the spectrum are allocated to this service internationally. Some 1,300 digital, analog, pulse, and spread-spectrum emission types may be transmitted.
Millions of amateur operators in all areas of the world communicate with each other directly or through ad hoc relay systems and amateur-satellites. They exchange messages by voice, teleprinting, telegraphy, facsimile, and television. In areas where the FCC regulates the services, an amateur operator must have an FCC or Canadian license. FCC-issued Reciprocal Permit for Alien Amateur Licensee are no longer needed. Reciprocal operation in the U.S. is now authorized by Section 47 C.F.R. § 97.107.
All frequencies are shared. No frequency is assigned for the exclusive use of any amateur station. Station control operators cooperate in selecting transmitting channels to make the most effective use of the frequencies. They design, construct, modify, and repair their stations. The FCC equipment authorization program does not generally apply to amateur station transmitters.