A Brief History of Ham Radio

Radio communication has been around since the late 1800s when Heinrich Hertz provided evidence for the existence of electromagnetic waves. This was picked up by Italian electrical engineer and inventor Guglielmo Macroni who helped spawn a revolution in telecommunications that allowed long-distance messages to be instantly sent and received wirelessly. These innovations provided the foundation for what would become the cherished hobby known as American Ham. “Ham” radio, as it’s called, involves the use of amateur radios to communicate for entertainment purposes, rather than for advertising or broadcasting.

There is a designated frequency range reserved for amateur radio enthusiasts between 3 kHz to 300 GHz. There are no restrictions or regulations governing the purchasing of amateur radio equipment or the use of ham radios for listening purposes. However, in order to transmit on ham radios, an FCC license must be obtained. This differs from CB radios, in that CB radios do not require a license, have limited channels and can only broadcast in the 11-meter band (27 MHz). American Ham enthusiasts have literally thousands of frequencies from which to choose ranging from 160 meters and beyond. Amateur radio operators also have AM (Amplitude Modulation), FM (Frequency Modulation), CW (Continuous Wave) and various other analog and digital outlets from which to choose.

Once radio communications took off, there was an explosion of transmitters and antennas set up to create a robust communications network allowing for the transmission of ham radio messages across the country and around the world. This created rampant interference with military and other radio systems. This caused the United States government to create the Radio Act of 1912, which mandated that radio frequencies and stations be regulated. With the designation of the various radio bands on the electromagnetic spectrum, radio broadcasting has become organized and efficient while still providing plenty of freedom and enjoyment.

Today’s American Ham enthusiasts enjoy a radio communications network so advanced, Hertz and Macroni would likely not recognize it. The features and functionality inherent in today’s ham radios far surpasses the knowledge and abilities of American Ham founders with innovations and breakthroughs arising each day. Thanks to technological advances and increasingly affordable prices, there has never been a better time to get involved with ham radio communications. Working with ham radios is fun, educational and keeps alive a valuable, cherished practice that dates back over 100 years. With everything American Ham radios have to offer, what are you waiting for?

Share your most interesting ham radio stories and experiences with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!


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