Hamming Up the Airwaves
When a giant tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., earlier this year, it destroyed more than homes, schools, and businesses. It also destroyed a large part of the city's communications infrastructure.
"Hospitals could not communicate, police could not communicate, and the only thing that was working was amateur radio," said Rick Spiegel, a "ham," or amateur radio operator.
I spoke with Spiegel and several of his colleagues on June 25 during the annual American Radio Relay League's Field Day. His group had set up five two-way radio stations in a park in Littleton, Colo., where they operated them for 24 consecutive hours over the weekend, using only battery power. That's how they stay on the air when cell phones and police and fire radio systems have been destroyed.
An estimated 30,000 hams across the country set up transmitters in public places this weekend to show off the emergency communications capabilities of their hobby, and to possibly attract new amateur radio enthusiasts. [...]
Read the whole thing if the topic interests you. But I'm going to print one more excerpt from the end:
[...] In the past, there were significant hurdles to becoming a ham. The radios themselves were expensive. In addition, a license from the Federal Communications Commission required hams to know Morse code, a telegraphic system that dates back to the 1890s. Morse code uses combinations of dots and dashes to represent individual letters of the alphabet, and is transmitted over the airwaves with a telegraph key.
Today a license is still required, but Morse code has been dropped from the exam.
Aspiring amateur radio operators today don't have to be rich, either, Brown said. He said that on eBay, entry-level, hand-held ham radios range from $100 to $300.
Actually, you can buy a NEW hand held transceiver, like the dual band Wouxun KG-UVD1P, for $99.95, plus shipping. I got one and have been using it for a while, and it's been working great. Good value for the money.
I got my technician license with a self-study book, it was fairly easy and enjoyable. There is no age limit, and I've heard of kids as young as 7, even 5, getting their licenses. There are free practice exams on-line, so it really is easier than it used to be. And IMO, it's also FUN.
H.T. to QRZ.COM where I got the link to the article.
Radio Communications in a Changing World
Learning Ham Radio; start with a Police Scanner?
The ARRL, my missed opportunity, and my fun new hobby
Oregon Emergency Amateur Radio in Action
No more magic: "Why should I get a ham license just so that I can talk to a bunch of old geezers about their latest heart bypass operations?"
Shortwave Radio Nostalgia for a Sunday
Nostalgia for "tube" radios, a.k.a. "boat anchors"
The convergence of Ham Radio with the Internet