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How Ham Radio Works

How Ham Radio Works

A teen in Florida makes friends over the airwaves with a ham in Germany. An aircraft engineer in Washington participates in an annual contest and exchanges call signs with hams in 100 countries during a single weekend. In North Carolina, volunteers pass health and welfare messages in the aftermath of a hurricane.

This mix of fun, public service, friendship and convenience is the main feature of amateur radio. The true origin of the term "ham" seems to have been lost, but there are several theories. It may simply be a shortcut way of saying the first syllable of amateur radio, or it may have originally been used as an insult. Hams start out in amateur radio for many reasons, but they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology, regulations and operating principles.

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