Hi, everyone. I’m Sam. I could go with the cliche of, “I can’t believe I won!”, but statistically speaking, it was bound to happen at one point or another. However, it seems like the Listserve knows exactly when to drop that email in your lap: when a multitude of other important things is also happening!. For example, my girlfriend recently got into a car accident (she’s ok) and we are still dealing with those repercussions, my brother’s wedding is this week, I just voluntarily cosigned the first major debt in my life and it’s freaking me out, and the vice president of the ham radio club that my girlfriend and I belong to just resigned. And at 2 PM today is when the Listserve decides to send me an email that says, “You’ve got 48 hours to address 22,000 people!” I guess it’s a good thing that I knew this day would come eventually, and I have put some thought into what I might tell you all.
The first thing is, ham radio is still alive and well. For those of you that have never heard of amateur, or ham, radio, I encourage you to find out all that you can. And no, it’s not “just like C.B.” As a twenty nine year old, I am far below the average age of licensed hams, and I see no reason why that should be the case. There are so many different activities encompassed in ham radio, so there really is something for everyone, and so much that I could cover, but I do have a word count limit here.
There is a thriving maker movement, and hams were the original makers. Decades ago it was building from spare parts, and many still do today, but now it’s more finding ways to repurpose other items. As an example, look up RTL-SDR. It’s a $20 USB stick that originally was designed to be used as a TV receiver. Hams found a way to use it as a wide coverage receiver that allows listening to a very large chunk of frequencies. With it, you can monitor weather satellites, ham radio repeaters, public safety frequencies, and yes, even TV broadcasts.
We still provide valuable communications services in times of emergency. Right now as I type this there are emergency communications nets operating in the Hati, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida region helping to pass health and welfare traffic to and from areas affected by the hurricane.
There are two arguments I hear a lot against becoming a ham operator. “Why would I need to do that? I have a cell phone,” and “Isn’t it really expensive?” As mentioned above, cell towers can’t be relied upon in emergencies. After the storm clears, hams are able to very quickly set up temporary installations to pass communications. Beyond that, a cell phone allows you to talk to people you already know. Ham radio lets you talk to people you don’t know yet from all over the world for as long as you want without needing to pay for minutes.
As for the cost, any hobby can be expensive if you want it to be. It all depends on how much you want to spend, but getting the license is a $15 test fee, and you can pick up an entry-level Baofeng radio from Amazon for $35 with free shipping. The test is multiple choice, all of the answers are published online, and there is plenty of free study material. Even better, well established hams tend to upgrade their equipment often, so if you find a local club, someone is bound to be able to loan (or even give) you equipment. More information can be found at the Amateur Radio Relay League website (look for the ARRL on google), or ask me anything via the email below.
Don’t think that everyone who is licensed is in the technology sector. While the majority are in STEM fields, we do have a number of auto mechanics, teachers, marketing directors, dog walkers, students, librarians, construction workers, and more postal carriers than you can imagine. We come from all walks of life, and there’s always someone to talk to about more than just radio.
I could ham-vangelize for hours (and do on the regular), so I’ll move on. The second, and way more important thing, is that ham radio is what I’m passionate about, but everyone should have something that drives them forward to better themselves and the community around them. Find something you’re passionate about, and share it with as many people as you can. My best friend’s father took the time to introduce me to ham radio one day, and it changed my life in so many ways. It landed me my day job, brought me into a great community, and has given my life purpose.
Northern CT - FN31hd
P.s. If you are interested in supporting small business or metalworking look up Darkmoon Metals on YouTube and Google.