• How do I obtain an amateur radio (HAM) license?

  • Discussion related to railroad radio frequencies, railroad communication practices, equipment, and more.
Discussion related to railroad radio frequencies, railroad communication practices, equipment, and more.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by Aa3rt
prt1607j-Amateur radio (also known as "Ham" radio) allows you to communicate with other licensed amateurs via two-way radio. Obviously, the most often used form of communication is with voice transmissions, but you can also use Morse Code (cw), amateur television, satellites and computers (connected to a transmitter) in many designated parts of the frequency spectrum. In the US, amateurs are licensed by the FCC and are assigned designated frequencies to operate on.

There are many aspects of amateur radio, more than space allows here.
It's easier than ever to obtain your amateur license. A study guide will cost you $ 10-15, the exam is administered by a team of three Volunteer Examiners (VE's) and depending on where you take your exam, some clubs will administer the test for free.

Check out the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) website at:


and you'll find a section on "Learn about amateur radio". Additionally, you can find a listing of clubs. Hopefully you'll find one in your area. Most clubs welcome new members into their ranks and you may meet someone who will be willing to work with you and make the test easier. They might even invite you into their home to show off their "shack" (radio shack) and let you experience the many modes of operation.

I've taught two classes for the Charles County (MD) Amateur Radio Club in the last two years and have seen 11 people, ranging in age from 14 to 57 obtain their licenses. Good luck, and if we can be of any further help, don't hesitate to ask. :)

  by IslesFan
Can you reccomdend any good Morse Code Learning items(prefer free) as well as anything to upgrade to a General Class License.


  by Aa3rt
IslesFan-for on-line study of the General test, check out:


Scroll down on the left side and you'll see a section for licensing. There are practice exams there for all three (Technician, General, Extra) levels of amateur licenses.

As far as the Morse Code training, the ARRL offers "Your Introduction to Morse Code" on either tape or CD for less than $ 15.00. But since you used the "F" word (Free :wink:) try this link:


There are a number of links here to on-line Morse Code tutors.

A personal aside: I tried learning Morse Code and made a number of false starts. I guess I just don't have the discipline to learn something like that on my own. I enrolled in an amateur radio training class, having already been licensed for eight years, simply to learn Morse Code. I passed the exam (at age 46) and was working on 13 WPM when the FCC dropped the bombshell of doing away with the 13 & 20 WPM requirements for advancement. To me, learning Morse is a lot like a math course-it needs daily practice-you can't just pick up a book and cram two hours before class time and learn it.

Good Luck! Sabres Fan sends, 73 de AA3RT

  by Ken W2KB

There are a couple of active ham radio clubs in Bergen County that hold periodic classes on getting a license. Look at the ARRL website for "affiliated clubs" and/or e-mail the ARRL for the list of contacts. The clubs will be happy to help you, I'm sure.

  by kc2bhx
Check out www.aa9pw.com . He has a CW tutoring program there, as well as currant practice exams.

Chuck Smith

Seneca County NY EC


  by EdM
Radio (morse) code: First, it is (or will be) no longer required for HF operations. Learning it: The 5 wpm is about the speed you will be capable of if you just sit down and memorize the code... As the self designated worlds leader in procrastination, it took me 22 years while licensed to raise my code speed from 5 wpm to the (then 1977) required 13 wpm for the test. I finally did it in a month by listening to W1AW EVERY night, sometimes only for a minute or so, sometime for the full 1/2 hour. Now, a total of 48 years later, my code speed is about 15-18... ANYBODY can learn the code.... Ed K2LCK
Last edited by EdM on Thu Mar 18, 2004 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Aa3rt
"As the self designated worlds leader in procrastination,..."

Ed-I'll challenge you for that title...when I'm ready. :wink:

73, de AA3RT
Last edited by Aa3rt on Thu Mar 18, 2004 5:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.

  by EdM
Last edited by EdM on Thu Mar 18, 2004 4:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  by kc2bhx
WHOA!!! Easy there big guy. The original post asked about getting involved with Amateur Radio. Screaming at him about something he doesn't understand won't help anyone.

As EdM pointed out, CW (Morse Code) is or soon will be a thing of the past, whether for good or ill has yet to be seen. The currant Technician level license has no code requirement, General and Extra Classes have a 5 wpm requirement which is very easily learned. While code may not be required in the near future, give it a try anyway, it's a lot of fun. I know someone will challenge me, so I'll state right now that I passed my 20 wpm some years ago, so it CAN be done, even by an idiot like me!

Chuck Smith

... ._.

  by kc2bhx
let's try ... _._ !

  by EdM

  by Aa3rt
Gentlemen-I fear I may have erred by not changing the title of the initial post. (And I would if I could figure out how! :( ) Yes, officially it is known as an "Amateur Radio License", otherwise referred to in ham jargon as a "ticket".

(Updated 19 Mar. 2004-figured it out, thus the new thread title.)

And, as I stated in my initial reply,
It's easier than ever to obtain your amateur license.
The highest speed that you are now required to learn the Morse Code is at 5 WPM (Words Per Minute).

Let's encourage those with an interest in amateur (ham) radio. Part of the learning process is picking up on a new jargon or slang-just like railfanning.:)
Last edited by Aa3rt on Fri Mar 19, 2004 1:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Schuylkill Valley
How the HAM came about . is back in the 40`s there was a man that was Frank Hamloch . He and some of his budies were talking and other guys said they were hamming it out with hamloch. the name stuck .

I was told that by a man that was into HAM radio in the late 1980`s
The Late WA3URW

For thoses who have a AARL call book look him up.


  by Aa3rt
Len-sorry to dispute you but the term "ham" predates radio itself. I believe the term originated when referring to "ham-fisted" or "ham-handed" telegraph operators.

Check this link to the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) for their explanation:


I have also read a reference saying that "ham" operators were named after "ham" actors who used to tour from village to village giving presentations.

Personally, I prefer "amateur radio operator". Sure it's three words, but I think it gives a bit of dignity to the name. But, I also prefer railway enthusiast to railfan. To each his own! :wink: