What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur radio is a unique hobby in that it allows you to develop and experiment with radio equipment; for some amateurs, building equipment is the most satisfying part of the hobby.

Communication

Map displaying Amateur Radio prefixes, DXCC names, ITU and CQ Zones.
Map displaying Amateur Radio prefixes, DXCC names, ITU and CQ Zones.

It also enables you to communicate with other radio amateurs throughout the world. Most countries allow amateur radio operation, so regardless of your language, circumstances, age or cultural background, there will always be the excitement of a possible chance contact (which may lead to a life-long friendship) with someone hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

In this way amateur radio can be a great asset to those who are housebound, or find mobility a problem, because of the opportunity it provides to make friends. Even language differences need not be a barrier when you use Morse code and ‘Q’ codes (these are three-letter codes, which have the same meaning throughout the amateur radio world).

The hobby

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.
Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.

The hobby also enables you to help others. Many amateurs offer their services to the first aid organisations, and even the police, at public events and during disaster relief operations at home and abroad. For more than a hundred years radio amateurs have been at the forefront of developments in telecommunications.

Today you can even use your PC, if you wish, as an additional component of your amateur radio equipment, thereby combining IT and radio technology. You can also experiment with antennas, television, RTTY (radio teletype), data (including computer controlled communications such as packet radio and the internet), satellite communications and, of course, short range voice or Morse code transmissions.

Whether on the planet or above it amateur radio has never been such an exciting hobby.

CQ (call)
CQ is a code used by wireless operators, particularly those communicating in Morse code, (-.-. –.-), but also by voice operators, to make a general call (called a CQ call). Transmitting the letters CQ on a particular radio frequency is an invitation for any operators listening on that frequency to respond. It is still widely used in amateur radio.