For some reason, I'm not having the ability to form my thought on this into words, without it sounding derogatory. Please don't take my comments as me thinking this is "just a stupid hobby"....
What is on the air waves during the course of a day, usually? I mean, it is more like CB radio channel 19... Trucker radio? Random people talking, with no real order (Other than where the cops and accidents are).... as an example.... Or... I don't know... I've read where some people have talked (Or just listened) to the space station. Have any of you done that?
I'm all for a "technical" hobby like this... I just wonder if I would get bored with it over time.
Several HAMS here in Pahrump, and some in Las Vegas as well as in Salt Lake City and a few other locales nearby, work a net every day on the HF side of the hobby, where they provide communications for a number of ships at sea.
These ships are commercial as well as pleasure craft, and a great many of them rely on the HAM Maritime Mobile Net to pass messages to loved ones.
We don't (we are prohibited by law) pass traffic of a commercial nature, for example, we don't tell a shipping company that their ship just radioed that they are going to be a day late getting to port.
We would relay a message from a crew member, for example to his or her family to let them know that they will be late arriving home.
We also , through the MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) pass messages home for Solders serving over seas.
And we provide backup communications for a great many city, county, state, and federal agencies during emergencies.
When the power was out to all of Pahrump for more than a day back in January of 2007, the phones were all dead as well. We Hams provided communications for the Nye County Emergency Services to both Carson City, and to Reno and Las Vegas. We also provided communications for the local hospital with hospitals in Las Vegas, and we provided backup communications for the Sheriffs Office and the Fire and Rescue Department.
This event and our handling of all that emergency traffic impressed the County sufficiently that they have since allowed us (the local ARES/RACES Radio Club) to put our antennas and repeaters on their tower sites as well as on other county sites.
And it convinced them to purchase and install VHF/UHF/HF radios with multiple backup power supplies in the hospitals here in Pahrump, in Beatty, and Tonopah, and to have employees there trained by us so that they could easily pass the license exams so as to be able to operate those radios directly.
Further they also requested and received volunteers from amongst our local HAMS to man the radios at the hospitals, and the radio room that we HAMs helped build out at the Nye County Emergency Operations Center.
Sure, they have their own radio systems, However, they are USERS not true operators. They are not accustomed to passing large amounts of informational traffic, and if the radio doesn't work when they press the "ON" button, they are lost.
The county has ONE radio repair tech, to cover the nearly 19,000 square miles of the county and all it's systems. So we HAMS volunteer our time to perform system checks for them, and do a number of repairs as well.
The county has no one in their employ certified to climb radio towers to effect repairs on the cables and antennas, but they do have me as a volunteer, and I am certified to climb towers and make those repairs, so instead of waiting for outside help, they call us.
HAMS are used to improvising, adapting, modifying and making radio systems work. We have demonstrated this to the county on several occasions, improvising antenna systems for example, when theirs were damaged by environmental conditions.
So we provide a lot of useful functions, all of which keep our skills sharp for real emergencies. We also have periodic training exercises to keep them sharp.
Geo and I just participated in such a state wide exercise last weekend.
And of course we do just talk to one another to pass the time.
A number of us have communicated with the space station, it's quite easy and can be done with a 5 watt hand held radio and a good Yagi (gain type/ beam ) antenna.
You can talk to the far side of the Earth with that same set up using a technique called EME , Earth Moon Earth, where you bounce the signal off the moon, and it hits the far side of the earth, again with a 5 watt hand held.
There are also satellites (AMSATS) you can bounce a signal off of, or through a repeater on board, and communicate with the far side of the planet with just 5 watts on VHF bands.
Otherwise you need the HF bands to effectively communicate long distances with low power.
It is possible to cover some tremendous distances on the HF bands with just one tenth (1/10) of a watt of power going out the antenna.
We also make use of Slow Scan TV transmissions, and Fast Scan TV also now.
HAM radio works and communicates when all else fails. Where there is no cell phone coverage, no land line phones, and no one else around, you can generally always get a signal out, and there is a good chance someone will hear you and respond to your need for help if that's what it is.
You might want to read one of my earlier posts on the subject, about a buddy of mine who got himself out of a jam many miles from nowhere in Death Valley last December, by contacting me via his 5 watt handheld and a magnetic mount antenna on the roof of his 4x4. It was "Broken Down in Death Valley"
He was able to hit a repeater on Mt. Potosi, over 120 miles away (he had a straight line of sight to the repeater at the time) and request assistance from a very remote spot with no cell coverage at all. Would have been a long walk out otherwise.
So it definitely has it's many and varied uses as you can see.
You can build your own radios, although that requires a good working knowledge of electronics and radio theory. You can easily build your own antennas for pennies on the dollar with just a rudimentary working knowledge of antenna theory and basic math skills (add, subtract, divide, multiply I mean).
You can find the equipment used at some very good prices, you can buy new, basic equipment that will serve your needs at very good prices and that will last you lifetime.
Many times when you become a ham, someone you know, but who you may or may not have known was a ham, will give you their extra, or older equipment.
You can have one helluva set up for VHF,UHF and HF, both mobile, and in your home (base station) , for less than the cost of a new AR15 and a case of ammo for it. WAAAY less if you shop around, build your own antennas, etc.
Or you can go nuts and spend more on one radio than most folks do on a car, say, $15,000K for a fully optioned Yaesu FT9000 HF rig, plus another $7,500 for a top of the line Alpha 1,500 watt linear amplifier, $5k for a top of the line Step IR antenna, and $25,000 for a 100 foot tall tower for the antenna.
But you could communicate just as effectively as that guy above with your $200 used Yaesu FT100 VHF/UHF/HF radio, and a $5 length of wire strung up between two trees. I work the world with that very setup, except that FT100 was given to me, so all I am out is the $5 for the wire, and another $50 for some coax cable to connect to it.
Geo goes wild world wide with a $500 Icom HF rig and a $55 G5RV antenna. To each his own. You can put as much or as little into it Dollar wise as you want to.
And you will get as much use and / or pleasure out of it as you put into it.