South Coast Reflector
Getting Started in Amateur Radio
An amateur radio operator is someone who uses equipment at an amateur radio station to engage in two-way personal communications with other amateur operators on radio frequencies assigned to the amateur radio service. Amateur radio operators have been granted an amateur radio license by a governmental regulatory authority after passing an examination on applicable regulations, electronics, radio theory, and radio operation. As a component of their license, amateur radio operators are assigned a call sign that they use to identify themselves during communication. There are about three million amateur radio operators worldwide. Amateur radio operators are also known as radio amateurs or hams. The term "ham" as a nickname for amateur radio operators originated in a pejorative usage (like "ham actor") by operators in commercial and professional radio communities, and dates to wired telegraphy. The word was subsequently adopted by amateur radio operators.
Age In most countries there is no minimum age requirement to earn an amateur radio license and become an amateur radio operator. Although the number of amateur radio operators in many countries increases from year to year, the average age of amateur radio operators is quite high. In some countries, the average age is over 80 years old, with most amateur radio operators earning their license in their 40s or 50s. Some national radio societies have responded to this by developing programs specifically to encourage youth participation in amateur radio, such as the American Radio Relay League's Amateur Radio Education and Technology Program. The World Wide Young Contesters organization promotes youth involvement, particularly amongst Europeans, in competitive radio contesting. A strong tie also exists between the amateur radio community and the Scouting movement to introduce radio technology to youth. WOSM's annual Jamboree On The Air is Scouting's largest activity, with a half million Scouts and Guides speaking with each other using amateur radio each October.
When referring to a person, the phrase Silent Key, and its abbreviation SK, is a euphemism for an amateur radio operator who is deceased. The procedural signal "SK" (or "VA") has historically been used in Morse code as the last signal sent from a station before ending operation, usually just before shutting off the transmitter. Since this was the last signal received by other operators, the code was adopted to refer to any amateur radio operator who is deceased, regardless of whether they were known to have used telegraphy in their communications.