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Extra class license
I have recently upgraded to general (not at all difficult, if you put forth a bit of effort), and can now talk all over the world. Even more recently I have taken the final step and upgraded to extra - the highest license in amateur radio. I am now considering getting my GROL, which is the commercial radio operator's license.
I have always been a big fan of short-wave, CB radio, police, and air band scanners. The addition of the more sophisticated, powerful, and long range gear available to the licensed ham should greatly enhance some of my boating and outdoor activities. This section should grow as I mature in the hobby. In the meantime, I have provided some links, and set down some of what little I know. I do eventually want to put up some frequency charts, and try to give a better idea of the rewards of this fascinating hobby.
Notice the gentleman ham operator to the right. He is wearing a tie, and sitting in his comfy chair. It is after work, and he is about to relax with a beer, kindly brought in by his wife. It just shows you how times have changed. This is not how I operate my ham radios. For one thing, most of my operations take place in the wee hours of the morning, and I tend to be bleary eyed, unshaven, and slouching at the mike in front of my desk. I do not wear a tie. Sometimes I do not wear pants. Amateur radio is a hobby that you can enjoy in your underwear. It is also a great hobby for middle aged guys like myself, because it can largely be done while sitting down, and requires no great physical strength or stamina - though it is amazing how long some guys can talk without having to take a breath.
While I have poked a little fun, the picture is accurate in a couple of respects. Ham radio operators tend to be gracious, helpful, and responsible. Most are conservative, intelligent, and technical or professional. The hobby draws a large number of engineers and technicians. Sadly, they also tend to be older. There are not a large number of younger people in the hobby at the moment. There is a traditional, even old fashioned, aspect to the hobby. This may be part of its draw.
Gentlemen of the airwaves existed in the twenties, thirties and forties. Radios were developed by men who wore suits to work and labored in workrooms filled with brass and wood. When working a difficult problem, these men rolled up their sleeves and went to work. These days, there are no sleeves to roll up, as we all go to work in polo shirts, sweats or scrubs. Ocean liners had wireless rooms were highly trained operators kept contact with civilization from the far parts of the Earth.
Today, everyone is involved with computers, and there is little elegance about it. A computer is a plastic box, containing electronics about which most users know little to nothing. Where ham operators were always tweaking, adjusting, rebuilding, or enhancing, most computer hobbyists are not technically astute. Though amateur radio operators call themselves ham radio operators, none would suffer the indignity of being referred to as a hacker. The whole hacker and computer hobby culture is very much a thing of the late seventies and early eighties. Ironically, ham operators were one of the earliest groups, back in the 70's and 80's to get really involved with computers.
Though I have been a computer hobbyist for decades, I have to admit that the computer version of the photo above would consist of a younger guy in a sloppy t-shirt, unshaven and surrounded by junk food, in the midst of a cluttered room. His girlfriend (or possibly his mother) would be bringing him another two liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Instead of maps and contact cards on the walls, there would be Star Trek posters. He would be in his 18th straight hour of on-line gaming, and will probably call in sick for work again. Such is the nature of what we now call progress.
The table below shows some, but by no means all, of the frequencies available. The ranges given are not allowed to all users. Transmission on some frequencies, or in some modes, may require the General, or Extra ratings. I have not shown the extremely high frequency ranges, since most hams do not use them, and I am not yet certain what their ranges or limitations are. I also have not listed power levels for VHF and UHF, because they are often determined by region or area. I plan on going into more detail on these as I add to my knowledge. In the meantime, I direct the curious to my links section. A very good general guide to the frequencies available and the types of emissions allowed is at http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Hambands_color.pdf .
The Citizens Band Services
Some of the Citizen's Band Radio Services can be confusing. They go by discreet channels, rather than being tunable by frequencies. The table below shows the channels and power levels allowed. GMRS, and FRS, are particularly confusing, due to the sharing of some frequencies, and the split channel operation of part of the GMRS. You might note that FRS/GMRS are rather near the 70cm amateur frequencies, while CB is rather near the amateur 10 meter frequencies, and MUR is rather near the 2 meter ham frequencies. It is possible, and sometimes legal, to extend the range of some amateur radios and use them with these other services. In the golden age of CB radio, many users would set up amateur 10 meter radios, or 10 meter linear amplifiers to use far more than the maximum legal power allowed on CB.