Amateur Radio, also known as Ham Radio, is a hobby with activities involving communication using the radio frequency spectrum. Most enthusiasts are fascinated operating radio transmitters, receivers and antennas and how radio waves are able to propagate from one corner of the earth to another.
How is Amateur Radio fun?
DXing is making long distance (DX) radio contacts via Morse code, voice or digital modulation with another ham radio station in a another country, often thousands of kilometers away, with just your radio transmitter and an antenna using radio waves. There are over 300 countries (entities) for you to ‘work’. Some countries are extremely difficult to reach, because there aren’t any hams there. Listen to Nan, 9V1AC, in Singapore ‘working’ with a ham in the Netherlands.
This is like DXing, except that dedicated radio amateur satellites in low space orbits are used to relay the signals. Watch a ham in eastern Java, Indonesia work Siva 9V1SV in Singapore by using a handheld and a homebuilt high-gain antenna.
Collecting and Exchanging QSL cards
Just as there are stamp and coin collectors, there are hams, who collect and exchange QSL cards. A QSL card is a personalized card, which hams exchange as proof that a radio contact did happen. When a ham has has ‘worked’ 100 different countries, he can apply for the prestigious DXCC award.
Just simply having chat through the radio with a ham in Singapore, or with another ham in Japan or Australia can be quite interesting. You may both be old acquaintances or – more often – be meeting on the air for the first time. Talk about anything decent under the sun, except business, politics and religion.
Many Hams build electronic equipment and write software for their devices. We experiment with building transmitters, receivers, RF amplifiers, antennas, decoders, test equipment and software defined radios (SDR) within the limits of our license privileges. Quite often, radios are interfaced with the PC for digital communication modes, like FT8, PSK31, D-STAR or Packet Radio.
There are various international competitions (contests) conducted regularly by the various ham organizations around the world. Each contest has a theme, for example, in the CQ Worldwide DX contest, participants try to ‘work’ (contact) as many stations as possible in a 48 hour weekend period. Points are scored depending on the number of countries and region worked.
Imagine 6 hams from various countries, with 1850 kg of radio equipment, personal stuff and food, sailing on a ship for 2 weeks, to a remote island, with a difficult-to-pronounce-name in the South Atlantic Ocean, brazing sub-zero temperatures for 6 days, working in shifts to make radio contact with other hams around the world. This is extreme fun! Watch the 2007 BS7H DXpedition