The American Radio Relay League or ARRL as refered to by hams, defines amateur radio as
Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) is a popular hobby and service in which licensed Amateur Radio operators (hams) operate communications equipment..
Imagine communicating with people all over the world with a simple antenna and transiever (radio)!
Whether you enjoy talking on local repeaters, DXing (talking to people in other countries), working CW (morse code), or taking advantage of many of the new digital modes, ham radio can be a lot of fun!
Many of us found our way into this hobby by word of mouth or through a family member, others started out as CBers or were just curious and had a fascination for radio communications. The Arkansas Diamond Amateur Radio Club would love to help (Elmer is the ham term) anyone interested in getting into this great hobby! Whether you like to play wtih soldering irons, build antennas, "chew the rag" on the radio, or are just generally interested in radios, there's something for everyone. Ham radio helps people learn to learn to communicate better, and encourages good public speaking skills as well.
Amateur radio operators are required to pass a license exam by the FCC. The ARRL works with the FCC to give testing and develop exams, they also have study materials available. Morse code is no longer required, they are written exams with multiple choice questions. If you have a hearing, vision or learning disability don't worry, our club can work with you to help you pass the exam. There are 3 license levels explained below:
This is the entry level exam. It isn't very difficult and consists of a lot of common sense questions, some about regulations and a little electrical/radio theory. 35 questions. You must pass the Tech before you can take the General exam. It may be the entry level license, but it gives a new operator a world of things to do. A tech has all privileges above 30 mhz, and a small amount on the 10 meter band. This means a new ham can talk on repeaters, DX on 10 meter, and have fun trying to catch the "Holy Grail" International Space Station contact all with this "entry" level icense, and that's just the start!
This license class will give you some privileges on all bands and with all modes. It literally blows the doors down in the world of ham radio in terms of what you can do. It allows the operator about 90% of all amateur radio privileges. The best part is, it's only slightly more difficult than the Tech exam, it even has some of the same questions!
Full amateur privileges on all bands and on all modes. You must have passed the General exam to take it. A 50 question test that is significantly more difficult than the other exams. It includes more advanced concepts of electricity radio communications.
The ARRL website has a handy search function that you can use to help find exams in your area. The Arkansas Diamond Amateur Radio Club also gives license exams on a regular basis. The bottom line is, if you want to test we can help! We all understand how scary it can be to get into this hobby; afterall most hobbies don't require a test. With that, we were all once studying and reaching out to hams to take our first license exam once, just like you may be.
The ARRL prints study material for each license level, a practice test book is available and a study guide. You can find these at the ARRL website, local bookstores, they are even available on the Kindle and on Amazon of coarse. Our club may be able to even loan you study materials as well. There are some online practice tests and youtube videos to help you study, even an Iphone/Android app for the practice test.
Once you become an amateur radio operator your part of a whole community that you probably didn't even know existed, and forever tied to you is your FCC issued call sign. Once you pass your license exam, the FCC issues you a call sign based on a sequential system. If your not happy with your call sign at this point, there are ways to change it, (within certain limitations) to a "vanity" sign as it's called. Hams can become quite attached to their call signs, most keep the same one throughout their life. When hams become Silent Keys (pass away), their call sign is usually listed next to their name in the obituary title. That's because this hobby is known for fostering life long friendships.