Ham Radio is one of many hobbies people have. You install radio communication equipment (Transmitter, Receiver, Antenna) in your home most cases, but in your car, boat, airplane, office, school ...... also, wherever convenient for you, and communicate with people having same hobby all over the world. There are millions of men and women  just like you with all kind of occupation, at every age, 6-7 years old through 70-80 years old, looking for you to talk over the radio whenever they find some spare time to enjoy ham radio operation all over the world from a large country like U.S.A. to tiny island somewhere in Pacific or Indian Ocean which name you might have never heard.

The real name of HAM RADIO is AMATEUR RADIO. No one knows exactly why Amateur Radio has become Ham Radio. The most reasonable theory is it is from "AM" - the first two letter of Amateur - and "H" is added for pronunciation convenience. Only Amateur Radio is called Ham Radio and Radio Amateur is called "HAM", no other Amateur.

The start of ham radio is same as the start of radio communication, as the Marconi, the inventor of radio communication, can be called as the first ham in the world, as he invented it for the personal interest, not as a profession to make money.

There are many different types of hams in the world.

The most popular hams are "Rag Chewers". They love talking with some strangers over the world as well as the neighbors. The subject usually starts from the introduction of himself/herself, his/her equipment, signal strength/clarity, weather where he/she lives, etc. etc. However, as they meet again and again and become friend, the subject can be any thing, just like you chat with your friends - other hobbies, movies recently seen, last golf plays if both are golfers, news around him/her....... as far as it is non racial, non religious and non political, which might hurt feeling of the other party. Though the English is used mostly, you can use any language in the world as far as you can communicate each other.

The next popular type is we call "DXer". "DX" is the radio communication code of "Long Distance" and "DXer" means hams looking for other hams far a way which is usually more difficult to communicate. The American Radio Relay Leage (ARRL), the ham organization in U.S.A., created about 370 countries in the world. Each independent state is a country. But any territory far from mainland is also a separate country - such as Alaska, Guam and Hawaii. DXers are competing each other how many countries they have ever contacted. It is a dream of DXers to communicate with every countries in the world and only a few of them have achieved it.

There are "Contestants" in ham world. Many contests are held regionally or world wide almost every week. The contest is held usually for 2-3 weekend days competing each other to contact as many hams in as many areas - like countries - as possible in the limited contest period. During this contest, the participating hams operates his/her ham radio station continuously even without sleep most cases to win, though all he get winning the contest is only the honor with one piece of certificate and publicity as the winner in ham radio publications.

There are also "Engineering Hams". They do not communicate much but have fun building and improving equipment. Once the performance of new equipment they have created are confirmed, they start new project. They are the pioneers of radio communication world, as they have pioneered the Short Wave Communication at the very early radio communication. (Long Wave for domestic communication has been used in commercial radio until hams have proven the short wave can communicate much longer distance such as U.S. and Europe with far less power in early radio communication after several years of hard experiments.) 

Those are just a few examples and a ham can not be classified to one of these groups only, as one ham will be a rag-chewer most of times, but DXer some times, joins contests and spends quite a time to improve his/her equipment always. Therefore most of hams are combination of these categories.

There are also many ways of ham radio communication. Most popular communication is either voice (phone) or CW (telegraph). However, there are all kinds of communication method used in ham radio just as commercial radio stations are using these days - such as teletype, computer to computer communication, ham TV sending and receiving each other's picture. Short wave is most popular frequency hams are using. However, some hams are interested in communication through satellite, Earth-Moon-Earth bounce, Line of Sight Microwave communication etc. etc. just to communicate or to renew the world record.

To become a ham and enjoy this scientific hobby, you have to pass a government test (FCC in U.S.) taking examination of radio theory, regulations and a certain skill sending and receiving telegraphy. Once you pass it, FCC will issue you a license to operate ham radio station (Operator License) and assign a call sign for your ham radio station (Station License). Then, it is up to you where and when you install ham radio station and enjoy this king of hobby.

You have to have Transmitter, Receiver and Antenna to communicate through radio wave. Transmitter and Receiver are combined into one unit these days and called Transceiver. You can start with cheaper equipment to talk with neighbors (neighbors means hundreds of miles away) but it requires larger and more expensive rigs (equipment) and antenna to communicate world wide. You can see many photos of ham radio stations in this HAM RADIO section including my old HM1AJ, KB6IR and KE6AJ stations clicking each call sign at left.

Recently, as the Interent became more and more popular, Hams started to communicate each other through Internet. Since it is computer to computer comunication using Internet link called "Echo Link", you don't need any ham radio equipment (transmitter/receiver) nor antenna, but a computer. You just log in to Internet with your computer (desktop or notebook), find another Ham worldwide, connect to him and talk just like an Internet telephone conversation. As it does not require huge expensive antenna tower in your backyard, which is always big headache for Hams, to communicate with opposite corner of the earth and you can get always clear voice quality just like a local telephone, this Internet communication is becoming more and more popular these days.

Every radio station in the world has own call sign which start with Prefix - the first one or two letter(s) identifying the nationality of the station. This prefixes are assigned by ITU, International Telecommunications Union which is an organization of United Nations, for AAA-ZZZ and 2AA-9ZZ. Some examples are - Korea :    HLA-HMZ,  DSA-DTZ,  6KA-6NZ, U.S.A. : AAA-ALZ, KAA-KZZ, NAA-NZZ, WAA-WZZ. This is why all U.S. broadcasting stations have call signs starting with either K (KBHK or KCBS etc.) or W. You have also seen Nxxxx on the body of American airplane or HLxxxx of Korean airplane which is the call sign of radio station in that airplane. The ham radio stations' call signs are consisted of "Prefix" + "Call Area Number" + " Suffix". U.S. is divided into 10 Call Areas (Only ham radio has Call Area) and "6" indicates California. Suffix is issued from A-Z, AA-ZZ and AAA-ZZZ. My call signs of KE6AJ and KB6IR identify they are ham radio stations in California, U.S.A. and HM1AJ in Seoul, Korea. (Call Area "1" in Korea is Seoul). Suffix is generally issued in sequence of license, but reissued from any previously held but cancelled call signs.

Because call sign is issued this way internationally, there is no same call sign in the world and the call sign indicates the nationality and more detailed area he is operating (or lives). Especially, ham radio call sign is very personal as it is issued to an individual. Therefore, ham is using this call sign as another name of him/her - the international name. There are many Chos but only one KE6AJ in the world.

I hope this very brief explanation has helped you to understand somewhat what the hell the HAM RADIO is.

D. I. Cho, KE6AJ/ex-HM1AJ/KB6IR