How Ham Radio Works

By: Gary Brown  | 

Ham Radio Equipment

Vintage tube-type short-wave receiver

A typical ham radio is a transmitter and a receiver, usually purchased as one unit, called a transceiver. Hand-held transceivers have their own antennas. Many hams choose to do most of their operating from their automobile during commute times, using a magnetic mount antenna connected to an under-dash transceiver or a hand-held radio.

Ham radio station in automobile

Depending on the size (hand-held or desktop), power can be from a few milliwatts to 1,500 watts. Many new hams are graduates from citizens band (CB) radio. Unlike the 5-watt limit on CB, hams can use quite a bit more power.


The ham radio can fit in your shirt pocket, take up half of an attic or garage, sit on a desk next to the computer or go into a car.