What is HAM or Amateur Radio?
Amateur Radio, popularly known as HAM Radio, is a scientific hobby of wireless communication. It is a hobby of self training, intercommunication and investigation in worldwide radio communications by means of private two-way radio conducted by duly authorised person without any pecuniary interest. It simply means that amateur radio operator tinker around or play with radios and in the process develop skills and knowledge of electronics and telecommunications.
This hobby has been in existence right from the days when Marconi and Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose demonstrated to the unbelieving world that it was possible to instantaneously send a message from one place to another without the use of wires and thus was born “wireless” communication that we take for granted today. It is hard to explain the thrills of a wireless exchange with another amateur in an age when one can simply pick up a cellular phone and call anywhere in the world. Yet for those of us who are hooked on the hobby, we still marvel at the magic of radio waves travelling to another side of the world with no intermidiate organization or medium other than waves generated in a wire antenna and sent with just the power equivalent to turning on a 50-100 watt bulb.
The word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station CALL SIGN of the first Amateur Wireless Station operated by some amateurs of the Harward Radio Club. They were Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy and Poogie Murray. In the begining, they called their station “Hyman-Almy-Murray”. Typing out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to “Hy-Al-My”, using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless stations “Hy-Al-Mu” and a Mexican Ship named “Hyalmo”. They then decided to use only the first letters of each name and the station Call Sign became “HAM”. In early pioneer days of unregulated amateur radio, operators picked up their own frequency and and Call Signs or Call Letters. Then as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed tocritically limit amateur radio activity. In 1911, Albert Hyman chose the controversial Wireless Regulation Bill as the topic for the Thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator David S. Walsh, a member of one of the comittees hearing the Bill. The Senetor was so impressed with the Thesis that he asked Hyman to appear before the committee. Albert Hyman took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the Bill went through they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fee and all the other requirements, which the Bill imposed on amateur stations. Congerssional debate began on the Wireless Regulation Bill and the little station “HAM” became the symbol of all the little stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didnt want them around. The Bill finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the “…….poor little station HAM.’ Thats how it all started. You can find the whole story in the Congressional Record. Nation wide publicity was associated with the station “HAM” by amateur radio operators. From that day to this, and probably until the end of time in radio, an amateur is a “HAM”.
(…..Extract from Florida Skip Magazine, 1959.)
HAMs are interested in radio communication. It may be by talking (voice mode), through Morse Code (CW) or by telex (RTTY) or even using their computer to talk to another HAMs computer (Packet Radio) etc. While some HAMs may be satisfied with just talking to other nearby or far away HAMs, many others may conduct experiments in radio communication by bouncing their signals off the moon or find out if they can contact very far off stations using extremely low transmitter power.
Even though HAM Radio is essentially a hobby, HAMs also perform public services in many ways. For example during emergencies and disasters like Bhopal Gas tragedy, Orissa Super Cyclone, flood & earthquakes in Latur and Gujrat, Tsunamis and the recent cloudburst at Uttarkhand, HAMs are usually the first on the scene to set up their radio stations to help the administration by providing highly reliable radio networks. HAMs also help the administration during big events like the annual Ganga Sagar Mela and the Durga Pujas, the Kumbh Mela etc. Al times like these, HAMs may ask for blood for transfusion or may urgently want life saving medicines or specialist medical advice or seek some other help. In such cases, the HAMs may try to organise the necessary assistance as fast as possible. But please note, all this is done on a purely voluntary basis, without expecting any recognition or award or compensation.
How can I become an Amateur Radio Operator?
Almost anybody, boy or girl, man or woman can become an Amateur Radio Operator (HAM). We have HAMs from all sections of the society and ages ranging from school student to the senior citizen, retired people, housewives, astronauts, businessman,politician, policeman, army personnel, lawyers, doctors, film stars et al. There is no minimum qualification required, the only condition is that you must be at least 12 years of age and have to qualify A. S. O. C. (Amateur Service Operator’s Certificate) Examination. Amateur Radio Licensing Examinations are conducted and licenses awarded by W. P. C. Wing (Wireless Planning & Coordination) of the Department of Telecom in the Ministry of Communications, Government of India.
There are two grades of license: General Grade and Restricted Grade. The syllabus for the theory part (Sections A and B) is the same for both the Grades, except for the Restricted Grade candidates are not required to know morse code and thereby their entitlement are less than the General Grade with respect to the radio frequency power output and types of emissions.
The A. S. O. C. Examination has two parts: The first part is a written examination of multiple choice answers consisting of two sections – (A) Radio Theory and Practice and (B) Radio Rules and Regulations. The second part is practical test in sending and receiving Morse Code. You can prepare for the examination by self study on this blog, or by joining a training session conducted by me and other trained HAMs at various schools, colleges and HAM radio clubs in your city or town. The examination is not difficult, even school students pass it with flying colours by preparing for about 1 – 2 hours a day for about 6 to 8 weeks.
If you are declared successful in the examination, your application will be processed by the W. P. C. Wing and the Home Ministry at New Delhi. If all is satisfactory, an Amateur Wireless Telegraph License will be isued to you.
The examination fee is Rs. 100 for each Grade. On passing the examination you will have to pay a license fee of Rs. 1000/- or Rs. 2000/- for license duration upto 20 years or lifetime respectively.
To answer this question, you must first understand that communication through radio depends on a number of factors. Assuming your uncle in the U.S.A. is also a HAM, both of you must be operating your amateur radio stations in one of the several different modes suited for long distance communication (usually H. F.). Your uncle must be listening on the same frequency, which you are calling out to him. Unlike the telephone, HAM radio has no “Dialing” facility to call a particular person. HAM radio is not meant to replace the telephone, it is intended for you to experiment and communicate with the whole HAM community, and not just your uncle or aunt etc.
The Amateur Radio rules allow HAMs to communicate messages of technical interest or personal nature. News, music, recordings, discussions of political or religious nature or third party messages are not allowed.
Can I use HAM Radio for my business?
No. Definately Not. You cannot discuss business or money transactions over HAM radio.
Can I earn money through HAM radio?
HAM radio is a hobby, a pastime – it cannot be used in business, nor can it be used in any matter relating to money. Nobody who takes up any hobby should expect the hobby to be a source income. But, the knowledge on various topics and contacts you get from HAM Radio can be used for many purposes like businesses, production and manufacturing etc. It is a scientific hobby, which keeps you up-to-date in all respect.
If I become a HAM, can my family members also use it?
This license is given only to individuals or to clubs, societies, education institutions etc., As a licensee, only you are authorised to use your HAM radio to communicate with other HAMs. Your family members cannot use your HAM radio unless they are also HAM radio operators.
Books for guidance:
1. ‘ HAM Radio ‘ by Prof. A. Ponnusamy (VU2APS)
2. ‘ A B C of Amateur Radio ‘ by Rajesh Verma (VU2RVM)
Some Famous HAMs:
Rajiv Gandhi, VU2RG, Late Prime Minister of India.
Sonia Gandhi, VU2SON, President AICC.
Amitabh Bachchan, VU2AMY, Big B, Film Star.
Kamal Hasan, VU2HAS, Film Star.
Sarika Kamal, VU2SIK, Film Actress wife of Kamal Hasan.
Charu Hasan, VU2SCU, Film Star.
Kalpana Chawla, KD5ESI, NASA Astronaut, Indian born.
King Hussain, JY1, Late King of Jordon.
Space Station Crew uses HAM Radio to call earth……