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What is Amateur Radio?

If you're thinking of becoming an amateur radio operator, congratulations! Ham radio, as it's affectionately known, is an incredible hobby that's a lot of fun and a great learning experience. In what other hobby can you talk to astronauts, people all over the earth, send pictures anywhere, videoconference at the full TV framerate (without needing the internet), bounce signals off the moon, build your own transmitters, run wireless ethernet at power levels and with antenna designs not legal for non-licensed operators, and design and run your own radio controlled models? What other set of hobbyists has their own set of satellites and their own class A IP subnet (44.x.x.x)? What other set of hobbyists are called upon to facilitate emergency communications when normal communications services get overloaded or just plain don't work? You bet it isn't the model train collectors!

There are so many facets of the Amateur Radio passtime that there probably isn't a ham who has tried it all!

How do I start?

Becoming a ham is really simple these days. The entry-level license requires you to take a 35-question multiple choice test. The questions on this test are taken from a publically available question pool. You can study up on that and then take some of the online practice tests from qrz.com or from aa9pw.com. You then need to find a Volunteer Examiner testing session. Volunteer examiners are amateur radio operators who are certified to administer amateur radio tests. These people volunteer their time to make amateur radio possible, since the FCC doesn't have time to do this anymore. Ask your VEs for the "Element 2" test. That's the test for the entry-level "Technician" class license. The test will cost you $14, and if you pass it, you can always try to take the next level test for free. USECA holds regular VE testing sessions in Mount Clemens.

With that entry-level license you can talk to satellites, run TCP/IP over the air, talk to astronauts and satellites, transmit pictures and video, and remote control models. You can also meet like-minded people on the air who can help you with your next project or your next license upgrade.

When you pass the Element 2 test, let me recommend to you to join a local club. Fellow club members are the ultimate information resources for the new ham. How convenient that you're already at the website of the largest amateur radio club in Southeast Michigan!