It may surprise you to know that there are over 70,000 licensed radio amateurs (hams) in the UK. Even more surprising is that there are around 2.6 million licensed radio amateurs in the world.

Amateur radio is a hobby for all ages and abilities; it transcends: age, culture, sex, religious beliefs, national boundaries and even language.

Most of us have idly turned the dial on a radio looking for interesting radio stations or searching for the World Service whilst holidaying in foreign parts; maybe, even, eavesdropped on aircraft at the local airport, shipping in coastal regions or Citizens Band (CB) Radio. To be a listener requires no licence and if the listening extends to the short wave bands, you become known as a S.W.L (short wave listener).

However, short wave listening can have a much wider scope, such as monitoring all of the amateur bands and amateur modes.

It may come as a surprise to discover how many different frequency bands are allocated to the world's radio amateurs. Equally, the range of operating modes permitted under an amateur licence is quite remarkable. These range from: simple Morse Code, speech using AM, FM or SSB, computer data, teletype, video, microwave, and amateur satellites. It is this range and opportunity that makes amateur radio such an absorbing hobby. If you took a dozen or more of the 70,000+ licensed amateurs and asked them what it was that they enjoyed about amateur radio you'd get at least half a dozen different answers.

Amateur radio is an ideal hobby for the newly retired, providing a perfect way of keeping 'the little grey cells' active. For the young, a pass in the Amateur Radio Examination on your C.V. can enhance your chances of getting a job ahead of other applicants.

Getting Licensed

To transmit on the amateur bands you must prove your technical competence by passing an amateur radio exam. There are currently 3 levels of licence: Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced. Each confers increasing privileges and is progressively more testing in the depth of knowledge required to demonstrate technical and operational competency.

We run courses designed to teach you the knowledge required to pass these exams and can tailor the courses to suit the capability and background of the students. The entry level Foundation Exam, is designed so that people with no radio background are able to reach a level of knowledge allowing them to get on air and experiment. Once their experience increases they can move to the higher qualifications gaining access to other bands, greater power and other privileges.

Our courses are run at a pace to suit the students abilities and take place at the South Bristol Amateur Radio Club on Thursday evenings from around 20:00 to 21:00. Students are invited to turn up about 7:45PM or earlier and spend a bit of time talking with the wider membership, there is a wealth of knowledge to be tapped.

Foundation and Intermediate Exams can be held more or less on demand, subject to our own timetables and programmes and the required 2 weeks notice for the RSGB to prepare exam papers. They can be assessed on the night so an indicative result is available immediately, but the result is not confirmed until the papers are returned to the RSGB. Those who pass an exam can usually expect to be in possession of their new callsign within a 10 days of the exam, although commonly only a week is required. Advanced Exams require 4 weeks notice to prepare the exam papers and are marked centrally at HQ with no indicative marks given on the night. There is usually a 2 – 4 week period until results are available.