Becoming a Ham
Here's your invitation to a friendly, high-tech hobby that has something fun for everyone! You can become an Amateur Radio operator--no matter what age, gender, or physical ability. People from all walks of life pass their entry-level exams and earn their Amateur (ham) Radio licenses. They all share the diverse world of activities you can explore with ham radio. You never know who you'll run into when communicating with Amateur Radio: Young people, retirees, teachers and students, engineers and scientists, doctors, mechanics and technicians, homemakers, politicians...
Ham radio operators use two-way radio stations from their homes, cars, boats and outdoors to make hundreds of friends around town and around the world. They communicate with each other using voice, computers, and Morse code. Some hams bounce their signals off the upper regions of the atmosphere, so they can talk with hams on the other side of the world. Other hams use satellites. Many use hand-held radios that fit in their pockets.
Hams exchange pictures of each other using television. Some also like to work on electronic circuits, building their own radios and antennas. A few pioneers in Amateur Radio have even contributed to advances in technology that we all enjoy today. There are even ham-astronauts who take radios with them on space shuttle missions and thrill thousands of hams on earth with a call from space!
Using even the simplest of radio setups and antennas, amateurs communicate with each other for fun, during emergencies, and even in contests. They handle messages for police and other public service organizations during all kinds of emergencies.
The rules for earning an Amateur Radio license vary depending on which country you live in. In the US, there are three license levels, or "license classes." These licenses are granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The most popular license for beginners is the Technician Class license, which no longer requires a Morse Code examination and gives you all ham radio privileges above 30 MHz. These privileges include the very popular 2-meter band. Many Technician licensees enjoy using small hand-held radios to stay in touch with other hams in their area. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes. They can even make international radio contacts via satellites using relatively simple equipment. You'll need to pass the Technician written exam to earn a Technician license. This is usually a multiple-choice test, written with beginners in mind. You'll study topics such as radio operating practices, FCC rules, and basic electrical theory.
Getting started in Amateur Radio has never been easier. Although we only occasionally organize ham radio licensing classes, some clubs in your area may regularly offer classes. If you'd like, you may attend one of our meetings to get more information.
Amateur Radio license examinations are administered by ham radio volunteers. When you're ready to take your exam, you'll need to locate an exam session near you.
If you're a self-starter, we recommend that you purchase the book Now You're Talking!, ISBN 0-87259-797-0, about $20. You can purchase this book locally at Gateway Electronics or through the ARRL On-Line Catalog--choose the License Manuals, Video, and More product category. After you read it, call Ron Lemons, KBØDIY, at 314-510-3223. Ron is the most prolific of the local Volunteer Examiner Coordinators and offers monthly exam sessions at the St. Louis Senior Center at 5602 Arsenal (3 blocks East of Hampton). Tests are typically on the third Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. Ron requires pre-registration, no walk-ins permitted.
You may also want to try Ham University. Ham University is a Windows program for helping you pass your FCC Exams. It contains all the questions for all FCC written exams. You can browse the questions, quiz yourself on your weak areas, or set yourself up in a mock exam. It also provides you with three ways to learn Morse code including formal lessons which introduce the code one letter at a time, transmission exercises, and a game that makes acquiring the code effortless.
The members of the Boeing Employees' Amateur Radio Society-St. Louis thank you for your interest in our hobby. 73! (that's ham radio jargon for "best regards").