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What is ham radio ?

It's a way to talk with people around the world, or even orbiting the world; to send e-mail without any sort of internet connection and to keep in touch with friends across town or across the country.

When cell phones, regular phones, the internet and other systems are down or overloaded, Amateur Radio still gets the message through. Radio amateurs, often called “hams,” enjoy radio technology as a hobby –that’s the fun part. But it's also a service –a vital service that has saved lives again and again when regular communication systems failed.

Amateur Radio kept New York City agencies in touch with each other on September 11th. When hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma destroyed other communications, ham radio provided vital life-and-death capabilities until systems could be rebuilt. Countless lives have been saved where skilled hams acted as emergency communicators to render aid, whether it's during fires, floods, earthquakes or a tornado. But most of the time, hams do what they do because it's just plain fun.

There are almost two million Amateur Radio operators in the world. They come from all walks of life – movie stars, missionaries, doctors, students, politicians, truck drivers and just plain folks. They are all ages, sexes and income levels linked by their interest in wireless communications technologies. There are more licensed American Amateur Radio operators now than ever before in history.

They form a worldwide community of licensed operators using the airwaves with every conceivable means of communications technology. It is made from people who enjoy learning and being able to transmit voice, data and pictures through the air to unusual places, both near and far, without depending on commercial systems.

The Amateur Radio frequencies are the last remaining place in the usable radio spectrum where you as an individual can develop and experiment with wireless communications. Hams not only can make and modify their equipment, but create whole new ways to do things.