Some people think of ham radio as limited to laboriously tapping out messages in Morse Code. It is much more than that. Ham radio operators were into real "talk radio" long before it became popular on commercial radio stations. Many ham radio operators today also communicate using computer controlled packet radio, television signals, satellites, and even meteor trails! Some ham radio operators use their equipment and skills to operate radio-controlled airplanes and other devices, talk with the space shuttle crews, and even bounce signals off the moon. It is a hobby with endless possibilities.
When our older son Joel was approaching his senior year of high school in Papua New Guinea, we began to think about how we might be able to keep in touch after he went back to the USA to attend college and establish his life there. Since we both were interested in high tech things, ham radio seemed to be the answer, and could also become a life-long hobby as well. We studied amateur radio theory together, practiced our Morse code and took our FCC exams. We passed and got our General Class licenses in April 1995. My US call sign is KC5OJX and Joel's was KC5OJW (lapsed). More recently, Lenore and Jason studied for their first ham radio licenses and joined the hobby. Lenore's call is KD5HCH and Jason's is KD5GSV (lapsed).
In February 1997 I upgraded my license to Advanced class and also got my Papua New Guinea Amateur Radio license. My call sign while I was operating in PNG was P29BM (now lapsed). My first ham radio ("rig") was a Kenwood TS830S, which I operated from in Papua New Guinea. It fed into a tri-band Yagi antenna up 14 meters (45 feet) on a metal tower. In May 1999 I upgraded my main rig to a Yaesu FT-847. I also have a Yaesu FT-8100R installed in my car, and can often be seen with a Yaesu FT-50R in my hand. In November 1999 Lenore earned her PNG limited amateur radio license. Her PNG call sign was P29ZLM (now lapsed).
Since amateur radio is non-commercial by nature, ham radio operators do not accept monetary reimbursement for any of their services. They enjoy providing free public communication services for events ranging from community parades to times of emergencies and natural disasters. Many amateur radio operators in the USA are active in Skywarn, the National Weather Service (NWS) program of trained volunteer severe weather spotters.
Bill calling "CQ" during ham radio contest at Ukarumpa