many hams now use digital modes. One of the main benefits of these modes is that they can be decoded from weak signals, allowing more reliable long-range communication compared to CW or phone.
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For many, getting a ham license is a good way to learn about and experiment with radio technology. At least in the US, any licensed ham can design their own digital mode and use it on the air, as long as it meets certain restrictions and is publicly documented. For others, becoming a ham is a way to help with disaster response. Organizations like the American Red Cross depend on ham radio for communication when internet and cellular infrastructure fails. Yet another reason is simply as a way to meet new people. While the possibility for this is somewhat limited with modes like FT8, which are more “computer-to-computer” than “person-to-person”, many hams do publish their email addresses on sites such as QRZ.com, and most are happy to receive emails from people they have contacted on the air.
For those interested in getting a ham radio license, there are several resources available. The ARRL’s Licensing, Education, and Training web page would be a good place to start if you live in the US. HamStudy.org is an excellent resource for both studying for the test and finding an exam session; it provides study guides for the US and Canadian tests, though its exam finder only lists US sessions. Finally, an Internet search for “ham radio club in [your city/town]” will most likely find a club’s web site, which will probably either have contact information or more info on getting a license, or both.