What is Amateur radio?

Amateur radio is approximately 75 years old and from the very beginning radio amateurs have contributed a great deal to the knowledge we have today about radio technology and propagation phenomena.

Radio amateurs are licensed individuals (they have to pass a technical and/or practical exam) who are allowed to experiment with radio on specific dedicated frequency bands.

Every radio amateur (also often called "ham") has an international unique identification or callsign. This callsign excists of a prefix (from which you can recognise the country from where the radio amateur is from), one or more numbers and a suffix.
My callsign is PH7AT. The prefix is PH7 (the prefixes PA-PI are assigned to the Netherlands), the suffix is AT.
Check the DXCC list for a complete list of prefixes.

Communication between two radio amateurs is called a QSO. As an acknowledgement of a QSO radio amateurs sent each other the QSL card of their station.

The "counterpart" of the licensed radio amateur is the socalled SWL or Short Wave Listener. You do not have to hold a license to be a SWL. SWLs listen to broadcast of amateur radio operators and can also exchange QSl cards if reporting heard communications.

Below you'll find a list of the most important techniques used by amateur radio operators:
  • Morse or CW (Continious Wave). Oldest technology for radio communication. Favourite mode of communication if conditions are poor.
  • Phone. Most used mode. Voice modulated signals (FM, AM, SSB).
  • ATV. Amateur Television. Used on UHF and up.
  • SSTV. Slow Scan Television. Used on HF bands.
  • EME. Earth-Moon-Earth. Use the moon to reflect signals back to the earth. Very high performance equipment is needed: large antenna arays or dishes.
  • Amateur satellites. Several satellites build by amateur radio operators orbit the earth and can be used to communicate with ham operators world wide regardless of atmospheric conditions.
  • Meteor Scatter. Use the reflective trails of meteors to communicate over large distances.
  • RTTY, AMTOR, PSK32. Radio Telex.
  • Packet Radio. Digital communication via amateur radio network nodes (e-mail, discussion groups, chat etc. Often based on the TCP/IP protocol suite)
  • APRS. Automatic Position Reporting System. Uses packet radio to transmit and receive position information. Can also be used via dedicated APRS amateur satellites.