Is HAM Radio Relevant in the Internet Age?


Not long ago I was watching “Last Man Standing” on ABC.  Tim Allen plays Mike Baxter KA0XTT, who is the manager of an outdoor sporting goods store. It has been a long time since I knew anyone who used HAM, but it got me interested.

In the age of instant communication via texting, internet, email, twitter, snapchat, and who knows how many other ways, why in the world would anyone choose to communicate via amateur radio? After a short bit of research I found my answer.

What do you do when your car stops working on a remote deserted highway and there isn’t any cell phone service? Or if the power goes out at your home or business and you lose internet connection and telephone? An earthquake, tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster can decimate standard communication systems relatively easily.  However, due to its simplicity, Amateur or HAM radio makes it a great tool to have in case of an emergency.  If the internet or telephone system stops working for whatever reason, Amateur radio will still function.  In fact nearly all regional and national disaster planning organizations utilize Amateur radio operators as part of their plans through groups like RACES and ARES.

At its most basic Amateur radio is communication between two or more people via radio waves.  Remember the old walkie talkies we had as kids.  It is like that but with much greater range, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles.  Each participant, or operator, needs to have their own transceiver hooked up to an antenna.  The equipment is relatively inexpensive, a simple handheld radio can cost less than $100.

It really isn’t too difficult to get started. First you need to get a license from the FCC. To do that you need to pass a test.  The test is only 35 questions and you only need to get 26 correct. I purchased the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual and I used the website to prepare myself.  Then I went to the Palm Springs HamFest a couple weeks ago, paid $5.00 and took the test.  I passed and they sent the paperwork off and about a week later I had a license.

That is as far as I’ve got to at this point.  Next steps for me are to join the local Desert R.A.T.S. club and go from there.

Let me know your thoughts and questions.

To Read more about Tim Allen, and the role HAM radio plays on “Last Man Standing” take a look at this article published by the ARRL. “Actor Tim Allen aGets HIs Ham Ticket For Real.”