Frequently Asked Questions
Why Amateur Radio?
- In support of the W3ADO Amateur Radio Club at USNA, one thing that may not be well understood is that there is nothing any more amateur about Amateur Radio than a private pilots license, or a drivers license. In fact, an Amateur Radio License is probably one of the most valuable "professional" licenses offered by the Federal Government. What makes it amateur is that licensees are prohibited from operating any "commercial" services in the broad spectrum allocated to them.
- An Amateur Radio license is the only license awarded by the Federal Communications Commission to individuals that permits broad experimentation in the radio art. No one else in the Government, Military, Commercial nor civilian can experiment to the extent of a duly licensed Amateur Radio Licensee. To get such a license, an individual must take a comprehensive test demonstrating specific knowledge of all aspects of the radio art. It includes FCC rules, international regulations, propagation, receivers, transmitters, antenna systems, modulations, digital techniques, and networks to name a few. Only after studying and demonstrating proficiency in these subjects and being duly licensed with the FCC can an individual operate an RF transmitter of any kind with the freedom offered in the Amateur Radio bands.
- Although the popularity of "wireless" technology seems to give any consumer access to the radio spectrum, these are all fixed frequency, fixed application, fixed range, off-the-shelf appliances. The individual cannot experiment, learn, improve, modify, nor invent anything that emits RF without being licensed by the FCC. Almost every aspect of "WIRELESS" was invented or developed on Amateur Radio; AM, FM, TV, Single Sideband, Slow-scan TV, Facsimile, Wireless LAN's, packet data networks, Ethernet, Radio Control and so forth. Once they became commercially viable, they could not be operated in the amateur spectrum and had to be moved to commercial bands under strict regulation by the FCC.
- Think of Amateur Radio as the National Parks of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. It is the only pristine spectrum remaining that has not been sold off to the highest bidder for specific commercial exploitation. Once commercialized, systems may only operate on fixed frequencies at fixed ranges under total regulation by the FCC. For example, a few channels for Marine VHF, 14 Channels for Family Radio, a few channels for VHF Aircraft, 600 channels for Cellular Phones, a dozen or so channels for Marine HF, etc. Only the Amateur Radio bands permit relatively unlimited operation over many bands and propagation modes and allowing experimentation by individuals in pursuit of knowledge of the radio art. As a comparison, there are hundreds of thousands of frequencies in over 20 Amateur Bands from HF to Microwaves for two way communications under all conditions, ranges and modes.
- As a military officer, there is no better way to learn every aspect of communications than with an Amateur Radio License. Junior Officers are frequently assigned the duty of Comm. Officer on board their first or second ship. There is no other way to gain the experience and practical knowledge of radio communications under varying conditions than in Amateur Radio. Among Radio Professionals, you will find a majority have their Amateur Radio License, and they will agree that there is no other access to the electromagnetic spectrum that offers as much to their careers than Amateur Radio. It is well known, that Radio Amateurs are always the first on the air after a disaster. Unfettered by bureaucracies and institutionalized communications which have no flexibility, amateur radio operators can always find a way to get the message out or piece together a transmitter from parts available.
- The Amateur Radio Club, W3ADO, at the Naval Academy is the oldest ECA, founded in 1928, before the FCC even began regulating the Electromagnetic Spectrum. At that point, it required all individual radio operators to get a license and demonstrate proficiency in the radio art. It has been in continuous operation ever since. No other ECA offers as much to the professional career of a Naval Officer, or Communications Officer or Combat System Engineer.
Why is it called HAM?
Well, it goes like this: The word "HAM" as applied in 1908 was the station Call of the first amateur wireless station operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club. They were Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy, and Poogie Murray.
At first they called their station "HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY". Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to "HY-AL-MU", using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1910 some confusion resulted between signals from the amateur wireless station "HYALMU" and the Mexican ship "HYALMO". They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became "HAM".
In the early pioneer days of unregulated radio, amateur operators picked their own frequencies and CALL-Letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity. In 1911, Albert Hyman chose the controversial Wireless Regulation Bill as the topic of his Thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator David I. Walsh, a member of one of the committees hearing the Bill. The Senator was so impressed with the Thesis that he asked Mr. Hyman to appear before the committee. Albert Hyman took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the Bill went through, they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the Bill imposed on amateur stations.
Congressional debate began on the Wireless Regulation Bill and the little station "HAM" became the symbol for all the other tiny amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn't want them around. The Bill finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the " ... poor little station HAM". That's how it all started. You can find the whole story in the Congressional Record.
Nation-wide publicity associated station "HAM" with amateur radio operators. Since that time to this day, and probably until the end of time, a radio amateur is referred to as a "HAM"
Now you know.
How can Amateur Radio apply to me?
Many people within the brigade and general populace are completely unaware of the world that exists in Amateur Radio, and the unlimited potential it has. People would likely be amazed at how HAM Radio can affect their activities in a positive manner. How can this be? Here are some examples:
- Flying: Backup for communications equipment.
- Mountaineering: Communications with ground crew or partners across distances, and emergency communications.
- Travel: Local information of the area traveled, talk to others while on the road, and emergency communications.
- Space: Communicate with the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, moon bounce (EME), radio telescope, and research.
- Hiking: Position reporting and Tracking, and Emergency communications
- Sailing/boating: Ship to shore communications, Maritime E-mail, and emergency communications.
- Military in general: You will deal with some form of communications equipment in almost every field in the military. Having even a basic Technicians license will set you far ahead and make you a valued asset the minute you walk aboard any command.
- Aviation: Sometimes communications can be difficult for new pilots. With amateur radio you are already proficient and confident on the radio and can move on to the job at hand, flying.
- SWO: Established familiarity with the operations and procedures associated with secure and unsecured communications that occur daily aboard Naval vessels.
- SUB: Provides a technical background in electronic systems beyond the boring equations in EE class that is fully applicable to the highly technical life of the submariner.
- Marines: The ability to communicate and disseminate information throughout the battlefield is arguably one of the most critical elements of success on the battlefield. Knowledge in communications, Jamming and direction finding enemy transmitters provides a huge advantage to any leader engaged in today's conflicts.
- SPECWAR: SEALs, EOD, Special Boats, and Divers use communications nearly everyday. They use cutting edge equipment, and are constantly pushing the envelope to develop better methods to communicate and pass information to include video and images. Everyone on the team has to be familiar with the equipment, procedures and protocols, so why not get a leg up on the competition?
- Most importantly, the oldest component of Amateur Radio: Community service. In natural disasters, HAM operators are often the only ones with the ability to reach the outside world for help. Emergency response managers are always in touch with the local HAM's in order to get help when needed. As an Amateur Radio Operator you could be the critical link to mission accomplishment.
Benefits of club membership:
MO's: several a semester
Challenging projects and contest, working with other Academies and the Special Warfare community.
FREE lessons, texts, exams
Access to current and vintage military radio equipment