I’ve been a licensed amateur “ham” radio operator since I was 11 years old. (For those who care, my callsigns have been WN2UDS, WA2UDS, KA7BZM, and currently KB7UV.)
Ham Radio had a lot to do with my television broadcast career. For general and USA-specific Amateur Radio information, check out the website of ARRL - the national association for amateur radio in the USA.
So What Is Amateur ("Ham") Radio?
Even in the computer age, Amateur "Ham" Radio is an exciting hobby and service.
"Hams" can talk around the world, use (our own!) satellites, send television pictures, do computer-to-computer communications over-the-air, and more.
Usually "hams" are having fun — competing against each other in on-air contests, trying to talk to as many different countries (or states, or US counties, or islands, etc.) as they can for various operating awards, building or modifying antennas and radios, making new friends all over the world, or just chatting with old friends. This is the "hobby" aspect of Amateur Radio.
But when disaster strikes — earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, etc. —radio amateurs are quick to offer their expertise, experience, equipment, and, most of all, time to provide emergency communications when normal means of communications are inoperative, unavailable or overloaded. No matter what it takes, "hams" will find a way to get the message through. Hams also provide communications for a variety of public events such as marathons, bike races, walk-a-thons, “buggy” races, etc.) And this is all as volunteers, for it is in fact illegal to accept compensation for communications via Amateur Radio. (FCC rules in the USA, may differ in other jurisdictions.) This is part of the "service" aspect of Amateur Radio.
You can find an more in-depth, illustrated explanation of Amateur Radio on the ARRL's web site. (See below for more about the ARRL.)
Here are some things I’ve written that are amatuer radio related: