Amateur 'Ham' Radio


M0DID I first became a licensed radio amateur in March 2021. A couple of months later I took the intermediate exam, moving up a step. Of course I'm still a newbie. Amateur Radio - sometimes called Ham Radio is such a broad hobby that you could spend a lifetime learning. I can sometimes be heard on the 2m band in the West Midlands, where our local club has a net on 145.425 Megacycles, that is where a bunch of radio operators use a common frequency to have a natter. If I am on holiday you might hear me somewhere in the north of Scotland. Yes, I did say Megacycles, most folks say Megahertz these days, but I think Megacycles is quaint. Reminds me of the dials on vintage Radiograms and older stereos.

Amateur Radio, has been around for about as long as radio itself has. It is a hobby which allows people to experiment and learn about radio. It is an inclusive hobby which welcomes people of all ages, gender and nationality. It's not just the affluent older gentlema's hobby that many people consider it to be. The equipment can be a bit pricy, but the local Amateur Radio club has been very generous in getting me started.

By international treaty there are many bands across the radio spectrum which amateurs are allowed to use. An amateur must hold an appropriate licence to use these bands. What you can use and what power you can transmit with depends on your licence. Here in the United Kingdom we have Foundation, Intermediate and Full Licences. You must start at foundation and work your way up.

I think of the licences as Beginner, Ordinary and Guru. There are many new experiences and privelages which open up as you progress to a higher licence category. One of the headline grabbers is transmitting power. Generally foundation licensees are limited to 10 Watts, Intermediate 50 Watts and full 400 Watts. On some bands power levels may be lower than those figures. Using low power, sometimes known as operating QRP is no bad thing, in fact it can be challenging and quite fun.

Once you are licenced, you have an option of what methods of communication you would like to use and what bands you would like to use it on. Many use speech, but there are also data transmission modes which involve hooking up a computer to your radio. I am interested in learning CW (Continuous Wave), the mode of transmission used to send Morse Code. Some data modes such as RTTY where you type your messages on a keyboard look interesting, but others are not much more than two computers talking to each other.

A friend made a contact from Birmingham into Austria using just only five Watts and a good signal was reported by the Austrian operator. Atmospheric conditions can make a huge difference on how far your signal can travel. On the higher frequency bands known as VHF or UHF, local weather can make a big difference to your signal. Heavy rain or snow can really shorten your reach.

If you want to see what's on the air without having to buy any equipment, have a look at WWW Based Radios