Amateur radio

I’m slowly but steadily making progress on my amateur radio license project. From the ARRL FCC Rule Book:

Q. Can we sing “Happy Birthday” to our friend on the local 2-meter repeater?

A. No. Singing is music, and is prohibited, no matter how badly you sing.

The reason for this rule (and lots of others) is that the content of the amateur’s communication “must be such that no party would be compelled to use the public telecommunications system to communicate the same information” — in order to protect various revenue flows. Amateur bands aren’t supposed to replace the phone system or the broadcasting network. In the words of the ARRL, “[t]hese rules protect the amateur service from encroachment by commercial news media [and other media] that would use Amateur Radio as an inexpensive alternative to its more expensive systems.”

Hence – no music, and no business communications (or at least no daily business communications). There are certainly exceptions. You can communicate encoded music. “As long as no musical notes can be detected on the air, you’re okay.” You can mention prices for apparatus you want to sell — “but the ‘haggling’ should be handled on the telephone.”

In the early days of radio, there was essentially no limit to the content of amateur messages. That all changed in the 1930s, according to the ARRL, “at the insistence of European governments for whom the telecommunications monopoly was a source of considerable revenue.” It took a while for the FCC to start regulating the content of what amateurs were doing, but starting in 1972 the Commission began prohibiting business communications.

Amateurs are supposed to be dedicated to “advancing of communication and technical skills,” according to the ARRL. The tradeoff: As long as they’re not paid for it, amateurs have a great deal of flexibility in transmitting and receiving.

I found this inspiring: “Dr Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), received his Amateur Radio license October 8. Toure, who holds the call sign HB9EHT, is from Mali. He has a Master’s Degree in electrical engineering from the Technical Institute of Electronics and Telecommunications of Leningrad and a PhD from the University of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics of Moscow.”

(I can hear the Michigan marching band playing ‘Hail to the Victors‘ through my office window. I guess there’s always a need to rehearse. They just better not try doing that on the amateur bands.)

6 thoughts on “Amateur radio

  1. Susan, best of luck sitting for your ticket! What inspired you to become a ham?

    Please let me know if I can help.

    73 (Best),

    Michael Erdman, Esq.

  2. Early hams put lots of general-interest programs on the air, including concerts and boxing matches. Was it the Radio Act of 1927 that banned hams from pretty much everything except talking about radios? Whichever broadcaster-backed law it was, it had the same effect as restricting non-commercial web sites to bug tracking systems and man pages

    Don Marti, KG6INA

  3. Hi to both – Michael, I am really interested in what amateur radio operators can do, and the regulatory freedom they have. Plus, I like gadgets. Your comment is really inspiring to me – it’s been a little hard to find time to study the manual, but I’m redoubling my efforts.

    Don – The ARRL FCC Rule Book says that hams can’t make business communications on a “regular basis” [97.113(a)(5], and interprets that rule to mean no daily business. I agree with you that this is a blatantly industry-protective rule, but the tradeoff is that hams have a lot of flexibility.


  4. The “industry protective” rule also protects the amateur service from industry.

  5. very true. thanks for that. Susan

  6. Hi Susan,

    Way to go on sitting for your ticket. I did it in March (right after the code component was removed) and you can too. I’d love to have a few more people my own age to talk to on the ham band.

    I did it for a lot the same reasons that you are, plus one more. I was an early commercial-internet type guy, and wound up starting an ISP because I was so entranced. A lot of the geeks that I really admired were hams, and somehow joining that community is a way for me to honor and acknowledge them.

    I am building up a little web site, on my call-letter-based domain name (, that chronicles some of the stuff that I’m discovering. I really encourage you to do the same — both getting your call-letters as a domain, and recording your experiences.

    It would also be completely nifty to start a geek/ICANN/FCC ‘net once you’ve got your ticket. I bet there are a bunch of us who’d join you in that conversation.

    Welcome! Mike O’Connor — KZ0C

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