Amateur radio operators ('radio hams') are able to make short-wave radio contact with fellow enthusiasts all around the world. Unlike Citizens Band, which was introduced in the 1980s and intended to provide short-range personal communication, radio hams use their knowledge of short-wave propagation and antennas to make contacts around the world, often using no more radio power than 100 watts – the same as a domestic light bulb.
There are many facets to the hobby of amateur radio. Some people use it to keep in regular contact with friends or family living far from home. Some spend most of their time on the air contacting as many countries as possible and communicating with many exotic locations world-wide: there are over 330 different countries to be contacted.
Others concentrate on designing or constructing equipment or antennas, while some get involved with emergency communications following disasters, such as hurricanes or floods. Through their hobby, most radio hams gain an insight into the people and cultures of other countries, and for young hams it can open up a path into a career in electronics or communications.
Interested?... thinking of becoming a radio ham?
World-wide to become a radio ham a level of proficiency needs to be demonstrated (by examination) to gain a transmitting licence. In the UK the amateur radio licence is structured in three levels that need to be passed in succession - foundation, intermediate and finally the full licence - each level offering more operating privileges. It is down to personal choice how quickly individuals progress through the licence levels towards the full licence.
The foundation licence gives a good grounding in safe responsible operating at low transmit power - enough to make world-wide contacts using most of the amateur bands, and gives new starters a good appreciation of the hobby with minimal investment of their time to get their first licence.
The intermediate licence gives more privileges and finally the full licence with all UK operating privileges including the ability to operate outside of the UK e.g. while on holiday (or aboard a vessel at sea) subject to local regulations and the country visited.
Cray Valley runs a Foundation licence course every year during Feburary and in November an Intermediate or Full licence (alternate years).  For more information about Cray Valley and other local SE London / NW Kent radio ham training opportunities please see our Training section