About Ham Radio Operators

Some facts for non-hams and pre-hams

© 2003-2011 by Harold Melton, KV5R. All Rights Reserved.

Facts You May Not Know…

  • The Amateur Radio service is not CB — it isn’t anything like CB. Amateur operators are trained, tested, licensed, legal, and usually polite.
  • Amateur radio operators (“Hams”) are licensed by the FCC, after passing complex examinations covering federal and international radio regulations, many types of radio communications operations, radio and electronic theory, and many other topics. Many Amateurs are also volunteer Storm Spotters and emergency communicators, providing vital services to government and relief agencies, and public events — and it’s always free.
  • Amateurs have developed virtually all of the major radio, television, and digital communications technologies in the past 100 years.
  • Amateurs have repeater-based local VHF-FM communications comparable to police and other public service agencies. Some even have radio-computer networks and two-way television.
  • Amateurs have international, worldwide short-wave and satellite communications, voice and digital, comparable or superior to many national governments and commercial international newswire services.
  • Amateur radio communications networks are usually backed up by emergency power, and survive natural and man-made disasters, even when commercial and public services fail.
  • Over 600 Amateurs volunteered over a six-week period, providing communications services to law enforcement and rescue personnel after the 911 disasters in NYC and the Pentagon. This service costs taxpayers nothing, and is typical of Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and other emergency communications service groups.
  • Amateur Radio is the de facto emergency communications unit for National, State, and local Homeland Security. No one else has the training, expertise, infrastructure, and equipment to fill this role.
  • Volunteer Amateurs operate radiogram traffic nets, daily, in continual preparation and readiness for disasters, such as hurricanes and tsunamis. Several governments around the Indian Ocean have recently praised Amateur Radio operators for saving tens of thousand of lives by providing the only means of communications into and out of the tsunami disaster areas.
  • Amateurs have training (and many technical books) in the subject of radio interference, and are usually happy to help resolve any interference problems — most of which are caused by poorly-designed consumer electronics with inadequate shielding and filtering. In other words, if a properly operating Amateur radio is getting into your cordless phone or TV, it’s your responsibility to make the device immune to the interference (contact the manufacturer), according to the FCC. In any case, most Amateurs will help you resolve the problem, as long as the matter is conducted on a cordial level. No interference problem has ever been resolved by threats, demands, or emotions — it just doesn’t work that way. It’s a radio technical problem, and when you have a radio technical problem, your best friend is the Ham!

Ham Radio is not CB

The differences are almost innumerable! Here are a few:

  • Not everyone with a radio antenna is a CBer.
  • CB radio is an unlicensed, unaccountable “free-for-all.”
  • Ham radio is trained, tested, licensed, and accountable.
  • Conduct on CB radio is frequently vulgar and rude.
  • Conduct on Ham radio is usually clean and polite.
  • CB radio uses 40 channels around 27 megaHertz. This portion of the short-wave band is frequently unusable.
  • Ham radio is not channelized, and operators use many frequency bands from Medium Wave (just above the AM band) to microwaves. Various short-wave bands are “open” when others are not, so Hams can always communicate.
  • CBers may not legally operate beyond 200 miles, and are limited to 4 watts.
  • Ham radio operators may legally talk around the world (and to spacecraft), using many frequency bands and many modes of propagation, including the ionosphere, satellites, and even moon reflection — using power up to 1500 watts (in the USA).
  • CBers may not use repeaters or satellites.
  • Ham radio uses repeaters and satellites, just like commercial services, police and military.
  • CBers may not legally build, repair, nor modify their radios. Many CBers use illegal equipment that causes interference to legal radio services.
  • Ham radio is the only radio service in the world where operators may legally build, repair, and modify their own equipment. There is very little illegal activity or equipment in Ham radio.
  • CBers rarely are able to provide assistance in emergencies.
  • Ham radio operators regularly provide volunteer emergency communications services in all types of disasters.
  • CB radio is not a reliable means of communication.
  • Because of all the frequency bands and modes of propagation, Ham radio is a reliable means of communication, both local and world-wide. Even manned spacecraft and the International Space Station carry and use Ham radio.
  • CBers have never developed a new means of communication.
  • Ham radio operators have developed most of the communications technologies that we use today. This includes the technologies behind radio, cellular phones, television, and the Internet.
  • Because of skip, noise, and interference, the Citizen’s Band was a bad idea right from the start. Non-hams needing local communications may now use GMRS and FRS, which is a quiet UHF-FM radio service.
4 thoughts on “About Ham Radio Operators
  1. 11 meters has MANY MORE cons than pros. At one time it was part of the ham bands. It’s biggest con prior to TV going digital was the 2nd,3rd, well sometimes, the 4th and 5th harmonic of the CB channels.

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