Why ham radio?

Occasionally people ask me a question about ham radio that could be summarized as “why?” Why ham radio?

Why are you standing in a parking lot with a bunch of electronic gear hung over your body and a big antenna in your hand aimed to space just to talk to someone a few states over? Why are you doing that when I can talk to people almost anywhere in the world with something I can hold in my hand?

If you’re not familiar with ham radio, you might think of it like crocheting. We have machines and industries that produce sweaters and other garments faster, cheaper, and potentially of higher quality (though maybe not as special as the one grandma made for us), but it’s still fun to figure out how to make a sweater yourself.

That’s kind of what ham radio is about. We have the internet, cell phones, and related technologies that are generally more dependable, capable, and versatile than ham radio, but it’s fun to be able to figure out how radio and electronic communication works all by yourself.

To the government, which regulates ham radio, there are two main reason it allows individuals wide swaths of limited and highly coveted radio spectrum. Ham radio serves as a backup to traditional communications in times of emergency like natural disasters.

The other reason is it provides technical people a way to learn and experiment with radio and electronics which helps build a pool of people that may potentially go on to work in industries that make the technologies you know and love!

These are some of the main reasons ham radio exists. There are many, many more, but hopefully these reasons gives you a little perspective to understand why people still do things that seem like they should have been relegated to the past.

As we say in ham radio, I say 73 to you, which means best wishes!

John Brier KG4AKV

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