Amateur Radio

Amateur radio has long been a part of the American broadcasting landscape. Current advents in technology have changed in some ways, the manner in which people communicate through amateur radio. The purpose of this discussion is to examine Amateur radio as it relates to what it is, how it works, who uses it, the educational application and the telecommunications systems associated with the use of amateur radio.

What is Amateur Radio?

When most people think of amateur radio they envision an individual tinkering around with some home made contraption. Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, came about in the early part of the 20th century (Hilmes, 2007). Amateur radio began as two-way radio communication in which operators created radio sets with little more than wires, tubes and switches (Hilmes, 2007). Operators then used Morse code to communicate over the airwaves.

The author points out that in the decades since, changes in technology and shifts in the culture have diminished the romance of radio amateurs, but not their numbers. Today, they can still be found in basements and garages, logging distant contacts and keeping up with regulars on the frequencies that remain available to them (Hilmes, 2007; pg 103)."

Toto (2004) also explains that conversations on Amateur radio can usually be picked up by any individual with the proper equipment who accesses the frequency being utilized. However the majority of conversations take place between two people. Amateur radio operators have the ability to communicate with some one across the street or on the other side of the world (Toto, 2004).

The author also points out that even though diplomatic relations between the United States and other nations has been problematic in recent years, amateur radio operators seem to be able to communicate regardless of their country of residence (Toto, 2004).

How does Amateur Radio Work?

Toto (2004) asserts that amateur radio operators, utilize the frequencies of the radio dial that are not as well-known. Although the AM radio frequency ranges from 540 to 1600 kilohertz, the band surpasses these parameters. It is within these parameters that amateur radio operates. Toto (2004) contends that Ham Radio operators utilize nine groups of frequencies within the high-frequency range (between 1800 and 29,700 kilohertz) and seven bands in the super high frequency, ultrahigh frequency, and very high-frequency ranges. The author explains further that in most cases signals bend upward toward the stratum of electrically charged atoms in the Earth's atmosphere that expands from approximately 50 to 300 miles above the exterior of the earth; this is known as the ionosphere. The actual signals can land anywhere in the world there is no way to control where the signal bounces down (Toto, 2004). However, the quality of the signal can be controlled with a good antenna (Toto, 2004).

The author also explains that signal have even bounced of the moon prior to landing on the earth's surface (Toto, 2004).

Amateur radio is different from CB radio transmissions in that it provides more powerful frequencies and more channels (Toto, 2004). A good Amateur radio systems or kit is inclusive of a transmitter, antenna, and receiver (Toto, 2004). Some units combine the transmitter and the receiver into a "transceiver." used amateur radio system cost about $100 while the price of a new system can be more than a thousand dollars (Toto, 2004).

Who Uses it?

According to the national association for Amateur Radio there are many reasons why people become engaged with amateur radio ("What is Ham Radio?"). Most operators have a basic understanding of radio technology and the various operating principles associated with amateur radio ("What is Ham Radio?"). In addition, all amateur radio operators in the United States have to complete an FCC examination to get a license to use Amateur Band radio frequencies ("What is Ham Radio?").

Amateur bands are held in reserve by the FCC for use by amateur radio operators at "intervals from just above the AM broadcast band all the way up into extremely high microwave frequencies radio frequencies ("What is Ham Radio?")."

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts, cosmonauts and mission specialists also utilize amateur radio while in space. NASA explains that Ham Radios were first used in space in 1983 and since that time these radios have been used on more than 24 missions. NASA explains that many astronauts have been associated with the Space Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), which has allowed astronauts to communicate with thousands of school children while in orbit. In addition, NASA asserts that Ham radio has assisted in the development of space radio experimentation, as well as television, text messaging and voice communication (International Space Station Reference, n.d.). Russian astronauts had a similar program for the Russian Space Station Mir (International Space Station Reference, n.d.).

In fact when American astronauts were on Mir on their way to the international space station, amateur radio was used to communicate (International Space Station Reference, n.d.).

In addition, to utilizing Amateur Radio for the purposes of entertainment, education, and hobby, Amateur radio is also utilized as an Emergency Service; this is known as Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).

Hams that are members of ARES are licensed and have to be registered to use their equipment for communication in the event that an emergency occurs (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service). All licensed amateur can become a member of ARES regardless of whether or not they have memberships to other national or local organizations. They need only to have a license and have a desire to serve the public in this capacity (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service). Only amateurs can become members of ARES and although it is desirable that members of ARES have emergency powered equipment it is not necessary to become a member of ARES (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service).

The national association for amateur radio explains that the ARES has four levels: national, sectional, district and local. At the national level, the ARRL Field and Educational Services Manager oversee the coordination takes place at the ARRL headquarters (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service). The manager is responsible for advising all ARES officials as it relates to problems, maintaining contact with national officials and with carrying out regulations regarding emergency communications (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service).

As it relates to the section level, a Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) is chosen by the Section Manager and the coordinator works under the direction of the SEC. The article points out that some sections are extremely organized while other sections are unorganized. The amount of organization is usually dependent upon who the section manager is and their ability to organize (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service).

Districts come about when there are large sections, and coordinating these sections becomes problematic because of their size. To deal with this issue SECs have the authority to group their EC jurisdictions into districts. When this occurs District EC's are chosen to organize the activities of the local ECs within the district (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service).

Finally, the article explains that the local level is usually responsible for real or the most critical emergency organization. This is the case because the majority of crises occur at the local level, and as such a greater level of preparation and organization must be present. The local Emergency Coordinator is an important contact within the ARES. This individual is selected by the SEC, typically based on the suggestion of the District Emergency Coordinator (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service). In some instances, the EC may have authority over a small community or a large city. Regardless of the size of the jurisdiction, the Emergency Coordinator manages all ARES activities within the jurisdiction (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service).

Regardless of the manner in which Amateur radio is utilized it plays an important role in the sphere of communications. It serves as a fun way to communicate with individuals throughout the world and it also serves as a way to respond to emergencies. Although many people are unaware of amateur radio it has assisted in perpetuating the various types of communications. The next section of this discussion will focus on the educational applications of Amateur Radio.

What are the Educational Applications of Amateur Radio?

In addition to the aforementioned uses of Ham Radio, it is also used in the field of education. Amateur Radio can be used as an educational tool and many educators have adapted amateur radio. As it relates to educational applications the amateur radio education and technology program has become an essential tool in many American classrooms. According to the association, educational applications of amateur radio are important because it provides students with the skills needed to operate in a world that is global and technologically advanced.

The association also asserts there are several reasons why teachers should utilize Amateur radio in the Classroom. For instance, access to Amateur radio allows students to interact with the international space center. This program is known as Amateur Radio International Space Station (ARISS). ARISS organizes amateur radio…