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dstate1933
  • Location: Sterling, MA
  • Age: 31
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What is Ham Radio & How Does it Work?

Posted

Ham radio (so called because its operators were originally derided as being 'hammy' in the 19th century, when the technology first emerged) is a term that applies to any form ofamateur radio broadcasting.



There are designated radio frequency spectra available solely for public use. Uses range from recreation to communication and the non-commercial exchange of ideas. 'Hams' take advantage of these frequencies in order to transmit any number of things

Strictly speaking, there should not be any money involved in amateur radio (hence the term 'amateur'). Although the majority of Ham radio practitioners are actually extremely knowledgeable about radio technology (don't let the 'ham' part fool you), they are not considered professionals because they do not profit from their endeavours. Conversely, commercial broadcasting involves (a lot of) money: royalties are paid, producers and performers are paid and the whole thing is ultimately a commercial exercise.

Hams use a large amount of frequency bands from all across the radio spectrum, but the majority of frequencies are to be found just above the AM band.

A lot of hams, however, use VHF FM, operating hand-held transceivers that send on one frequency and receive on another. Local radio clubs set up FM Repeaters (which borrow space from other broadcast devices such as towers and, in doing so, amplify the radio signal's strength hundreds of times over), so that hams can communicate with each other wirelessly over a distance of hundreds of miles.

As an example of what hams get up to, here's an excerpt from Gary Brown, of How Stuff Works.com

"Although a ham radio does broadcast in all directions, hams generally do not use their radios in a broadcast kind of way as a disk jockey would at a radio station. In normal AM or FM radio, one disk jockey transmits and thousands of people listen. Hams, on the other hand, conduct two-way conversations, often with another ham or with a group of hams in an informal roundtable. The roundtable of hams may be in the same town, county, state, country or continent or may consist of a mix of countries, depending on the frequency and the time of the day. Hams also participate in networks, often called nets, at predetermined times and frequencies to exchange third-party messages. In the case of disasters, hams exchange health and welfare information with other hams".

To become a ham, I recommend that you join a club. You'll need an amateur radio license, of course, but this won't break the bank, I'm sure.

I hope that helps, Melissa.

Walkie Talkie vs Two Way Radio?

Posted

Although the terms walkie-talkie and two-way radio can be used interchangeably, some minor differences between the two technologies do actually exist. In a professional context, it is best to know which device you are referring to before you refer to it (but this is substantially less important on a day-to-day level).

Essentially, a walkie-talkie is the same as a two-way radio; there is no overt difference between the two. However, because there are so many different radios on the market, a distinction has arisen. The term walkie-talkie tends to imply a hobby model, or an otherwise cheap radio. Conversely, the term two-way radio tends to be more readily accepted in a business, as well as any equipment specific, context.



Walkie-talkies were invented around the time of the Second World War and were principally used by the military. Although they came in different forms, the most common version featured a large handset, which had a long antenna protruding from it. Modern walkie-talkies, on the other hand, feature a smaller design, typically with a rugged outer casing and a short aerial. They usually operate via a PTT (Push To Talk) button and available models vary in range from cheap childrens toys to professional, military grade equipment.

Generally, walkie-talkies are limited to only a few watts of power and a relatively short signal range. To this end, radio services often use a repeater (a device that increases range and boosts signal by squashing unused frequencies) in order to improve the walkie-talkies operation.

For their part, two-way radios, although they are also portable hand-held transceivers (a device that can both TRANSmit and reCEIVE messages) and they also use the PTT system, are slightly different.

A two-way radio is likely to have a stronger range and a harder outer casing. This is because the term two-way radio denotes a better class of product (usually).

Some two-way radios are also capable of sending and receiving messages at the same time; this is called full duplex An example would be a mobile phone, which employs two different radio frequencies at the same time. However, although a mobile phone is technically a two-way radio, the device is very different from what we understand as either a walkie-talkie or a two-way.



The most important distinction is that two-way radio almost always refers to professional, licensed equipment, whereas walkie-talkie more often describes unlicensed, consumer-grade radios.