Becoming an "Ham" or Amateur Radio Operator
What is Ham Radio?
Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. It's fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need.
Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the "Amateur Bands." These bands are radio frequencies allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by ham radio operators.
The American Radio Relay League is a great resource for more information. Visit the ARRL page here for more information.
Getting your License
Before you can get on the air, you need to be licensed and know the rules to operate legally. US licenses are good for 10 years before renewal and anyone may hold one except a representative of a foreign government. In the US there are three license classes—Technician, General and Extra. More information on getting licensed can be found on the ARRL website here.
There are numerous publications and online resources (such as hamstudy.org) for studying for your examination. Local hams are also friendly and willing to help with your education. The ARRL's website has a "Learning Programs" section on their website and our friends to the north at the PenBay Amateur Radio Club plan on running a continuing education program in the fall of 2023 and more information will be forthcoming. Their website is https://penbayarc.org/
Once you are ready to take an examination reach out to the coordinator as many exams are currently not accepting walk-ins. Local examinations are run here in Lincoln County, posted on our website under events, and regional sessions are posted on the ARRL website here.
Prior to your examination, you will need to establish an account with the FCC. Use this FCC website to create your account. When you create this account, you will be issued an FRN number. You will bring this number to the examination session. At this time, do not pay the $35.00 fee. Once you take your examination, the FCC will issue you an invoice for $35.00. After you pay the FCC fee, they will issue you your license. The only fee you will pay at the examination session is the exam fee.
The ARRL has an excellent summary of what you need to bring to the exam session on the ARRL website, here.