Ham Radio Has Pursuits of Interest for Everyone!
Ham radio has many “special interest” niche groups and ACARA has members in many. Emergency Communications has always been a major part of ham radio and we’ve given it its own full EmComm page. ACARA has several ARES members and we support a repeater to provide basic emcomm service as well as for individual use. More repeater info & photos.
Read about the different areas of interest below and see if something grabs your attention. If this is all new to you, know that folks often move from one thing to another until something finally catches them—not everyone gets bitten right away! Check out the links page for sites related to the interests below.
Two-way radio voice communication over any distance, local to worldwide, with other hams (licensed radio amateurs). This is the most common method of ham radio communications. “Phone” is often used synonymously with “voice.”
Communication via morse code over radio, generally used over distances greater than local. Particularly useful when signals are very weak or noisy, and for emergency communications when voice communication is inadequate due to atmospheric noise interference.
Keyboard-to-keyboard communication via radio. Several sophisticated types of software have been developed by hams to obtain reliable communication even when signals are very weak or noisy. Operators type messages on the computer's keyboard, the computer sends a digital code to the radio, and the radio transmits the code. On the receive end, the radio code is converted back to a display on the computer monitor.
High Frequency radio is used for communication between radio amateurs domestically and worldwide because the signals can travel long distances. This range of frequencies is used by shortwave broadcasters, who also want worldwide transmission.
Very High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency radio used for communication over shorter distances, typically 25–300 miles, often via handheld or mobile radios.
Super High Frequency point-to-point radio using highly directive dish antennas. Distance typically limited to line of sight, hence those who pursue this interest tend to frequently find themselves climbing tall mountains—loaded to the gills with heavy radio gear and batteries.
Making radio contact with radio amateurs in distant countries or entities. Entities are distinct geographical areas that may not be countries (such as territories, or remote, sometimes uninhabited, islands). Many have very small or no native ham populations, so they are activated by visiting ham operators (DX-peditions).
Competitive events organized by national or regional amateur radio organizations for periods of 12 to 48 hours with the objective of making as many contacts as possible in the allocated time. During a contest, contacts are brief—just an exchange of call sign and the standard information specified for that contest—then on to the next. Contesting provides good experience and constant practice for emergency communications where stress can be high and signals weak, requiring well-honed operator skills.
The challenge of making radio contacts with minimal transmitting power. Requires extra cleverness/capabilities in antenna design, propagation knowledge, and operating skill. Often it requires extra patience and a lot of time.
Slow Scan Television. The exchange of video images via radio with hams around the world.
Typically located in high locations (high buildings, mountain tops) to increase coverage for VHF—UHF mobile and portable operation by retransmitting the signals over a wider area.
Radio direction finding of small, hidden transmitters on foot or by car, in a competitive setting. Use of specialized hand-held antennas and radios to use a technique known as “direction finding” to find a hidden transmitter (the Fox) by detecting the signal it emits.
Making radio contact via dedicated amateur radio satellites circling the earth. Also, contact with the International Space Station. AMSAT (Amateur Radio Satellite Corp.) has, over the years, been instrumental in the launching of a substantial number of ham radio satellites into orbits around the earth. These can be tracked and used to relay ham radio signals. The International Space Station has a fully equipped ham radio station onboard and typically carries 1 or 2 astronauts who are licensed hams.
Earth-Moon-Earth: Worldwide ham radio contacts by bouncing signals off the moon.
Collecting and restoring older radios, typically tube-type.
Designing, building and testing of ham radio transmitters, receivers, antennas and accessories in the home shop. Many important electronic inventions over the past 100 years can be attributed to hams experimenting in their basement workshops.
Many national and international ham radio organizations offer award certificates for completing certain types and numbers of contacts. The most coveted one is probably “DXCC” offered by the American Radio Relay League for having proof of contact with at least 100 of the 337 countries in the world. The official DXCC list of countries and entities is defined and kept by the ARRL.
Helping other hams, especially those newly licensed, with getting on the air, trouble shooting equipment, antenna building, etc. Elmering is a long-stranding tradition in ham radio. Few of us would have made any headway without an Elmer standing by!