Ham radio isn't a hobby. It's 99 hobbies.
Hey guys, I have a question about ham radio. Why would I go through all the trouble of getting a license and buying equipment ...
We are all in it for differet reasons, most of which have to do with fun, not SHTF. SHTF communications is a nice excuse to buy more gear when we need an excuse though.
Common Ham activities:
With a Technician license people will:
* Just be social on all the local repeaters. Chat at home, in the car, out in the (near by) woods with a handheld.
* Volunteer and work communications at large outdoor events like the Boston Marathon, parades or any event that covers a lot of area.
* Take a 4 hr class become a Skywarn weather spotter. In nasty weather you call in sever weather events, flooding, downed power lines,...
* Volunteer for emergency communications. This is a commitment where you work with a local agency: Police, fire,... and when power and normal communications go down you set up with them and manage communications outside the area.
With the next license up (General license) you can talk all around the country or world.
* Just be chatty with people in the US.
* Make friends in far away places and chat with them.
* Make it a sport and try to talk to all 50 states or as many countries around the world as you can.
* Get into contesting. On certain weekends everyone gets on the air and tries to talk to as many people as they can.
Most people buy their gear, but lots still make their own gear. Anything from antennas, boxes and brackets to hold your gear in a compact "go kit" for emergencies to full blown 1,500W transmitters.
There's digital modes where you are basically texting over the airwaves with a computer (or iPad) connected to your radio.
There's Ham satellites that act as repeaters. I've talked to people several states away bouncing off a 3' cube flying through space at 17,000 mph. There are people that actually talk by bouncing the signals off the moon (1/2 million mile round trip with 3 second delay).
You can go retro and use Morse code. It's the best way to get around the world. Morse operators are the original text messagers. Conversations often end with CUAGN (see you again).
The learning never ends.