About Amateur Radio:
First of all, it's fun.
You can also get involved with public service. Hams help out in disaster communication -- be it a flood, hurricane, tornado, monsoon, or .. (you get the idea) ... Often the only link between disaster agencies and the field are hams. "Professional" organizations such as the National Weather Service regard hams as professionals. A high standard of conduct and protocol helps make this possible. Local clubs also provide communications for events such as bike tours or foot races.
Many hams build their own equipment, and love to learn about radio theory. Half the fun is getting there, and lots of hams love seeing a project of their own design get on the air. Some people make transmitters out of scrap parts for pennies (or free), so lots of money isn't required to be a ham. Or you could build your own antenna, and have the hottest mobile or base station around.
How do I become a licensed Amateur Radio (Ham) Operator?
All licensing is assigned and maintained by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and you must have a license to transmit on Ham bands. Once you get a license, you get your own call sign and must identify with it when you transmit. (At least every 10 minutes and at the end of each QSO.)
You can stop by the FCC Amateur Radio web page for a *very* comprehensive explanation. Or, simply stop by a club meeting or ask a member. Testing is administered periodically (approximately every other month) by the Red River Radio Amateurs in Fargo, and costs a nominal amount (to cover the cost of administration). Getting a license is easier than you think, especially since a Technician license (or "No Code Tech") doesn't require Morse Code, and gives you operation privileges above 50 MHz.
Click Here for frequency allocations allowed for each license class.
Activities for Busy Hams...
How many people can you reach in North Dakota? Can you get QSL cards from every state? Contests are held all the time, each with different requirements and frequencies. You can test your operation skills and make contacts worldwide while taking part in a contest.
Awards chasing is one of the most exciting facets of Amateur Radio operating. It's a major motivating force of so many QSOs that occur on the bands day after day. Indeed, it's a vital aspect that--if you want it--makes each and every radio contact a key element in your present or future Amateur Radio success. So transform those QSOs into beautiful certificates or plaques for your ham-shack wall!
Aside from the fun of operating itself, awards chasing is also a good way to get maximum performance from your station, become familiar with propagation, and even learn about the geography, history or culture of places near and far. The League sponsors some of the more popular operating awards (if you are in the US and Possessions, Canada and Puerto Rico, you must be a full-fledged League member to participate).
Hamfests and Conventions
A great way to pick up used radio gear (or sell some stuff in your basement or garage) and meet with other hams. Hamfests are held across the nation. For example, the Twin Cities hams host at least three Hamfests each year.
Public service communication has been a traditional responsibility of the Amateur Radio Service since 1913. In today's Amateur Radio, disaster work is a highly organized and worthwhile part of day-to-day operation, implemented principally through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS), both sponsored by ARRL. The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), independent nets and other amateur public service groups are also a part of ARRL-recognized Amateur Radio public service efforts. Hams also take part in local community events to provide essential communication -- bike tours, canoe races, fun runs, etc.
Weather Spotting (Skywarn)
The National SKYWARN Homepage is a repository of other sites useful to SKYWARN members and amateur radio operators throughout the nation. SKYWARN is an organization of amateur radio operators, citizen band operators, and local spotters working in co-operation with the National Weather Service, the American Radio Relay League and local Forecast Offices throughout the United States to protect lives and property from damage caused by severe weather.
Much of this information is from the American Radio Relay League web pages.