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1) Because it's shorter, we usually say "HAM" instead of "amateur radio". No one actually knows where the word "HAM" came from, but some of us think it might stand for "Hardly Any Money"!-)

2) Speaking of MONEY, it costs CONSIDERABLY LESS to be a HAM than it does to have a cellphone:

* HAM-license study materials are available on the Internet

* It costs about $15 to take the test

* It costs less than $30 for a dual-band VHF/UHF "handi-talkie" radio from or

* On the other hand, if you have gobs of money, you can spend it in HAM radio ... just as you can spend gobs of money on other hobbies (fancy cars/boats/airplanes, golf clubs, horses, home-entertainment systems, giant-screen TV's, ....) [FWIW, while I have owned and still own more-expensive radios, I paid $200 in 1975 (about $800 in today's inflated greenies) for my favorite HAM rig, a Ten-Tec Triton IV (aka Model 540) which is still going strong!]

3) Speaking of TESTS, although Morse code is still a fun mode of communication, Morse code has NOT been REQUIRED since 2007

4) Although "repeaters" are often used to extend the range of low-power radios, they are not necessary, whereas most cellphones REQUIRE a nearby cellphone tower.

5) A cellphone allows one to talk with ONE other person at a time, but HAMs can (but do not have to) have GROUP discussions. On the other hand, a HAM cannot "dial" another HAM's radio like you can dial a phone; HAMs have to be "on the air" to talk.

6) In 1991, a FIVE-YEAR-OLD girl earned a HAM license (and she passed the Morse-code test, too)! Last January, a FIVE-YEAR-OLD boy earned his HAM license (but he didn't have to pass the Morse-code test).

7) HAM radio is a FUN hobby:

* Do you want to talk to a HAM on the other side of the world by bouncing your signal off the moon? HAMs do this, but it will take more and better equipment than a $30 handi-talkie! Incidentally, this is called EME: Earth-Moon-Earth communication, and HAMs first did this in 1964.

* Do you want to talk to a HAM on the other side of the world by relaying your signal through a satellite? HAMs do this! FWIW, the first HAM satellite, OSCAR 1 (OSCAR stands for Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) was launched in 1961, over 100 HAM satellites have been launched altogether, there are currently 76 still in orbit, and 67 of them are still working. About a third of amateur-radio satellites were built by United States HAMS and others were built by HAMs in Argentina, China, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and I'm sure I missed some other countries.

* Do you want to talk to HAMs on the International Space Station? HAMs do this (but the ISS HAMs are usually busy doing something else)! FWIW, there are currently (July '15) FOUR HAMs on the ISS.

* Do you want to communicate with a HAM by bouncing your signal off of an ionized meteor trail? HAMs do this!

* Do you want to BUILD and/or MODIFY radio transmitters? HAMs do this -- and legally, too!

* Do you want to talk to someone in EVERY ONE of the 3,077 counties (parishes on Louisiana, boroughs in Alaska) in the United States? It was first done in 1965, and 1230 HAMs have done it since then.

* Do you like the idea of talking to people in foreign countries but can't afford to travel there in person? HAMs do this all the time!

* Do you want to be a storm spotter in Riley County? HAMs do this.

* Do you like the idea of long-distance bike rides but aren't able to go-the-distance yourself? HAMs help with such bike rides and provide emergency communication where cellphones don't have coverage.

* Do you like mountain climbing but are hesitant because you might fall and need help and you know there's usually no cellphone coverage in mountainous area. Personally, I don't climb mountains and I would NOT *DEPEND* on HAM radio to save MY life, but there are many reports of HAM radio saving lives on mountains and elsewhere.

8) There are many, Many, MANY more aspects of HAM radio. To learn more, search Wikipedia for "ham radio" or visit < >, the website of The American Radio Relay League, the largest membership association of amateur radio enthusiasts in the USA. --


Myron A. Calhoun,
RACES Radio Officer for Riley County and
ARES Emergency Coordinator for Riley, Clay and Geary Counties

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