Foundations of Amateur Radio

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Starting in the wonderful hobby of Amateur or HAM Radio can be daunting and challenging but can be very rewarding. Every week I look at a different aspect of the hobby, how you might fit in and get the very best from the 1000 hobbies that Amateur Radio represents. Note that this podcast started in 2011 as "What use is an F-call?".

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Foundations of Amateur Radio navigateright Episode

So, you want to be an amateur?

Foundations of Amateur Radio


The other day I stumbled on a social media post titled "So, you want to be an astronomer..." by /u/Andromeda321 on reddit. Look it up if you're interested how she puts together the prerequisites from her perspective as an astronomer.


Apart from the fact that a few of my friends are astronomers, one even a radio amateur - and I have to confess, that's a combination that is exciting and intriguing - it got me considering how you become a radio amateur.


In my mind I started putting together lists and links and other prerequisites that help you become an amateur when it occurred to me that being an amateur is in my view a state of mind.


While it's true that there is a licensing process that gives you transmission privileges, that to me is not what makes an amateur.


When I started my amateur radio involvement in 2010 I'd seen amateur radio exactly twice. Once as a sea-scout during a Jamboree on the Air at the end of the 1970's and once when my manager parked his tiny car, I think it was a champagne coloured Daihatsu Charade, with a massive 40m or 80m vertical in the car park at work.


As I started learning about amateur radio and passed my test I'd commenced the journey into what I now consider to be membership of the amateur community. That same journey is undertaken by people across the planet. For some it starts like mine, with a course. For others it starts with a neighbour or a parent, a friend or an aunt. They might start with listening to short-wave radio, or playing with electronics.


People start their journey at all different places and times in their life.


There is a perspective within the amateur radio community that says that you're not a real amateur until you've passed a test.


I don't think that's right. Passing a test is part of the experience and you may or may not start there, or even pursue the test. That doesn't describe your radio amateur status, that's just giving you responsibilities and regulations that permit you to expand your thirst for knowledge.


In my experience, the real test of being an amateur lies in something much simpler than that.


Being a radio amateur isn't a profession, it's a hobby. An amazing one, but a hobby. I know that there are plenty of amateurs that will argue that it's a service. I don't deny that there is a service aspect, but that doesn't take away the rest of the community, it adds to it.


You might wonder why I'm even bringing this up. The reason is that all too often our community erects fences. "You don't have a license", "You don't know Morse", "You only have an introductory license", "You only own a cheap Chinese hand held", followed by: "You're not a real amateur."


I think that you're an amateur when you decide to be one.


So, if you're not yet here, what's stopping you?


I'm Onno VK6FLAB