Voice and Morse code communications are still the most popular technologies
by which amateur radio operators talk to each other, but computer-based digital operation is gaining fast. The most common home station configuration today is a hybrid of the computer and radio. Some of the newer radios are exploring software defined radio (SDR) technology that allows reconfiguration of the circuitry that processes radio signals under software control.
Along with the equipment and computers, hams are students of antennas and
propagation, which is the means by which radio signals bounce around from
place to place. Amateur radio operators take an interest in solar cycles, sunspots, and how they affect the Earth’s ionosphere. For hams, weather takes on a whole new importance, generating static or fronts along which radio signals can sometimes travel long distances. Antennas, with which signals are launched to take advantage of all this propagation, provide a fertile universe for the station builder and experimenter.
Antenna experimentation is a hotbed of activity for ham radio operators. New designs are created every day and hams have contributed many advances and refinements to the antenna designer’s art. Antenna systems range from small patches of printed circuit board material to multiple towers festooned with large rotating arrays. All you need is some wire, a feed line, and a soldering iron.
Amateur radio operators also use radio technology in support of hobbies such as radio control (R/C), model rocketry, and meteorology. Amateur radio operators have special frequencies for R/C operation in the 6-meter band, away from the crowded unlicensed R/C frequencies. Miniature ham radio video transmitters are frequently flown in model aircraft, rockets, and balloons, beaming back pictures from heights of hundreds and thousands of feet. Ham radio data links are also used in support of astronomy, aviation, auto racing and rallies, and many other pastimes.