Amateur radio operator

Amateur radio operator

An amateur radio operator is an individual who typically uses equipment at an amateur radio station to engage in two-way personal communications with other similar individuals on radio frequencies assigned to the amateur radio service. Most amateur radio operators have been granted an amateur radio license by a governmental regulatory authority. As a component of their license, most amateur radio operators are assigned a call sign that they use to identify themselves during communication. There are about three million amateur radio operators worldwide.cite book |title=Ham Radio for Dummies |first=H Ward |last=Silver |publisher=Wiley Publishing |location=Indianapolis |date=2004-04-23 |isbn=978-0-7645-5987-7 |oclc=55092631]

Amateur radio operators are also known as radio amateurs or hams. The term 'ham' as a nickname for amateur radio operators originated in a pejorative usage by operators in commercial and professional radio communities. The word was subsequently welcomed by amateur radio operators, and it stuck. An amateur radio operator who has died is referred to by other amateur radio operators as a "silent key", and the suffix /SK is appended to his or her callsign.


Demographics of amateur radio operators

Few governments maintain detailed demographic statistics of their amateur radio operator populations, aside from recording the total number of licensed operators. The majority of amateur radio operators worldwide reside in Japan, the United States, Thailand, South Korea, and the nations of Europe. Only the governments of Yemen and North Korea currently prohibit their citizens from becoming amateur radio operators. In some countries, acquiring an amateur radio license is difficult because of the bureaucratic processes or fees that place access to a license out of reach for most citizens. Most nations permit foreign nationals to earn an amateur radio license, but very few amateur radio operators are licensed in multiple countries.


In the vast majority of countries, the population of amateur radio operators is overwhelmingly male. In the United States, approximately 15% of amateur radio operators are women.cite news |url= |title=A Study of Amateur Radio Gender Demographics | |first=Kenneth E |last=Harker |date=2005-03-15 |accessdate=2007-07-13] In China, only 12% of amateur radio operators are women.cite conference |url= |title=The Current Status of Amateur Radio in the Mainland of China |booktitle=Proceedings of the International Amateur Radio Union's Region 3 Twelfth Regional Conference |author=Chinese Radio Sports Association |year=2004 |id=Document No. 04/XII/057] The Young Ladies Radio League is an international organization of female amateur radio operators.

A male amateur radio operator can be referred to as an OM, an abbreviation used in Morse code telegraphy for "old man", regardless of the operator's age. A female amateur radio operator can be referred to as a YL, from the abbreviation used for "young lady", regardless of the operator's age. XYL was once used by amateur radio operators to refer to an unlicensed woman, usually the wife of a male amateur radio operator; today, the term has come to mean any female spouse of an amateur radio operator, licensed or not. Although these codes are derived from English language abbreviations, their use is common among amateur radio operators worldwide.


In most countries there is no minimum age requirement to earn an amateur radio license and become an amateur radio operator. Although the number of amateur radio operators in many countries increases from year to yearFact|date=September 2007, the average age of amateur radio operators is quite high. In some countries, the average age is over 60 years old, with most amateur radio operators earning their license in their 40s or 50s.

Some national radio societies have responded to this by developing programs specifically to encourage youth participation in amateur radio, such as the American Radio Relay League's Amateur Radio Education and Technology Program.cite web |url= |title=The ARRL Amateur Radio Education & Technology Program | |accessdate=2007-07-13] The World Wide Young Contesters organization promotes youth involvement, particularly amongst Europeans, in competitive radio contesting. A strong tie also exists between the amateur radio community and the Scouting movement to introduce radio technology to youth. WOSM's annual Jamboree On The Air is Scouting's largest activity, with a half million Scouts and Guides speaking with each other using amateur radio each October.cite web |url= |title=All about JOTA | |date=September 2006 |accessdate=2008-04-30]


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