Amateur radio, as practiced today, did not begin until the early 1900s. The first listing of amateur radio stations is contained in the First Annual Official Wireless Blue Book of the Wireless Association of America in 1909. This first radio callbook lists wireless telegraph stations in Canada and the United States, including eighty-nine amateur radio stations.

Right Click for PDF Scan of Fourth Annual Official Wireless Blue Book

By 1917, World War I had put a stop to amateur radio. In the United States, Congress ordered all amateur radio operators to cease operation and even dismantle their equipment. These restrictions were lifted after World War I ended, and the amateur radio service restarted on October 1, 1919.
In 1921, a challenge was issued by American hams to their counterparts in the United Kingdom to receive radio contacts from across the Atlantic. Soon, many American stations were beginning to be heard in the UK, shortly followed by a UK amateur being heard in the US in December 1922.
November 27, 1923 marked the first transatlantic two-way contact between American amateur Fred Schnell and French amateur Leon Deloy. Shortly after, the first two way contact between the UK and USA was in December 1923, between London and West Hartford, Connecticut. In the following months 17 American and 13 European amateur stations were communicating.
Within the next year, communications between North and South America; South America and New Zealand; North America and New Zealand; and London and New Zealand were being made. These international Amateur contacts helped prompt the first International Radiotelegraph Conference, held in Washington, DC, USA in 1927-28. At the conference, standard international amateur radio bands of 80/75, 40, 20 and 10 meters and radio callsign prefixes were established by treaty.
In 1933 Robert Moore, W6DEI, begins single-sideband voice experiments on 75 meter lower sideband. By 1934, there were several ham stations on the air using single-sideband.
During the German occupation of Poland, the priest Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, SP3RN was arrested by the Germans. The Germans believed his amateur radio activities were somehow involved in espionage[22] and he was transferred to Auschwitz on May 28, 1941. After some prisoners escaped in 1941, the Germans ordered that 10 prisoners be killed in retribution. Fr. Kolbe was martyred when he volunteered to take the place of one of the condemned men. On October 10, 1982 he was canonized by Pope John Paul II as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Apostle of Consecration to Mary and declared a Martyr of charity. He is considered the Patron saint of Amateur radio operators.
Again during World War II, as it had done during the first World War, the United States Congress suspended all amateur radio operations. With most of the American amateur radio operators in the armed forces at this time, the US government created the War emergency radio service which would remain active through 1945. After the War the amateur radio service began operating again, with many hams converting war surplus radios to amateur use.

In 1947 the uppermost 300 kHz segment of the world allocation of the 10 meter band from 29.700 MHz to 30.000 MHz was taken away from amateur radio.

During the 1950s, hams helped pioneer the use of single-sideband modulation for HF voice communication.

In 1961 the first orbital satellite carrying amateur radio (OSCAR) was launched. Oscar I would be the first of a series of amateur radio satellites created throughout the world.

Ham radio enthusiasts were instrumental in keeping U.S. Navy personnel stationed in Antarctica in contact with loved ones back home during the International Geophysical Year during the late 1950s.

At the 1979 World administrative radio conference in Geneva, Switzerland, three new amateur radio bands were established: 30 meters, 17 meters and 12 meters. Today, these three bands are often referred to as the WARC bands by hams.

During the Falklands War in 1982, Argentine forces seized control of the phones and radio network on the islands and had cut off communications with London. Scottish amateur radio operator Les Hamilton, GM3ITN was able to relay crucial information from fellow hams Bob McLeod and Tony Pole-Evans on the islands to British military intelligence in London, including the details of troop deployment, bombing raids, radar bases and military activities. However, radio hams usually avoid controversal subjects and political situations and discussions as a part of the code of politeness of radio communications.

Major contributions to communications in the fields of automated message systems and packet radio were made by amateur radio operators throughout the 1980s. These computer controlled systems were used for the first time to distribute communications during and after disasters.

American entry-level Novice and Technician class licensees were granted CW and SSB segments on the 10 Meter Band in 1987. The frequency ranges allocated to them are still known today throughout much of the world as the Novice Sub Bands even though it is no longer possible to obtain a novice class license in the US.

Further advances in digital communications occurred in the 1990s as Amateurs used the power of PCs and sound cards to introduce such modes as PSK31 and began to incorporate Digital Signal Processing and Software-defined radio into their activities.


For many years, amateur radio operators were required by international agreement to demonstrate Morse Code proficiency in order to use frequencies below 30 MHz. In 2003 the World radiocommunications conference (WRC) met in Geneva, Switzerland, and voted to allow member countries of the International Telecommunications Union to eliminate Morse Code testing if they so wished . On December 15, 2006, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Report and Order eliminating all Morse code testing requirements for all American Amateur Radio License applicants, which took effect February 23, 2007.

The relaxing of Morse code tests has also occurred in most other countries, resulting in a boosting in the number of radio ham amateurs world-wide.

Most of Europe allows licensed operators from other countries to obtain permits to transmit in Europe during visits. Residential permits are available in many countries globally whereby a valid license from one country will be honored by other countries under international treaties.

In early 2010, only North Korea had an absolute ban on ham radio operator licenses, although many countries still maintain careful records of ham licensees, and limit their activities and frequency bands and transmit power output.

Many nations have national clubs which are good sources of licensing information. The American Radio Relay League (www.arrl.org) Web site has extensive information about this hobby.

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