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Amateur radio (also known as ham radio) is the licensed and private use of designated radio bands, for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication. Amateur radio, like other regulated radio services, operates under rules that limit the maximum power and the technical and operational characteristics of transmissions. Amateur radio stations are issued with a designated call sign to allow identification of stations. The power of amateur radio equipment is restricted, and operators must not cause interference to other authorized radio users. They may not broadcast to or communicate with the public with their equipment. They are only allowed to communicate with other licensed operators. National regulations governing amateur radio use are coordinated under international agreements since radio frequency transmissions can cross multiple national boundaries.

The term "amateur" is used to differentiate it from commercial and professional two-way radio services. Amateur radio operation is licensed by national governments throughout the world. Amateur radio operation rules are coordinated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). An estimated two million people throughout the world are regularly involved with amateur radio in one form or another.

Amateur Radio operators come from all walks of life - movie stars, radio personalities, missionaries, doctors, students, astronauts, politicians, truck drivers or your garden variety neighbor. Any person MAY easily become an Amateur Radio Operator. They are of all ages, sexes, income levels and nationalities. They say Hello to the world in many languages and many ways. But whether they prefer Morse code on an old brass telegraph key, voice communication on a hand-held radio, or computerized messages transmitted via satellite, they all have an interest in what's happening in the world, and they use radio to reach out.

The commonly used term "ham radio operator" stems from the definition of the word given in G. M. Dodge's "The Telegraph Instructor" even before there was radio. The definition has never changed in wire telegraphy. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession. In those early days, every station occupied the same wavelength or, more accurately put, every station occupied the whole spectrum with its broad spark signal. Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other's receivers. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful. Two amateurs, working each other across town, could effectively jam all the other operations in the area. Frustrated commercial operators would refer to the ham radio interference by calling them "hams." Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves in true "Yankee Doodle" fashion and wore it with pride. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared.