Ham radio has been around for decades, but has been viewed as a rather quaint form of communication for some time now. That has only increased in the age of the smartphone: why bother with all of that equipment when I can use the device in my pocket to talk to almost anyone on the planet in seconds?

As a result, ham radio operators are often put in the same category as vinyl and VHS collectors, hanging on to an outdated technology just to be contrarian. However, as with record and videotape fanatics, there is more to it than that.

Worldwide, there are well over 2 million licensed ham radio operators, almost half of them residing in Japan alone. Like any hobby, you can stick your toe in the water or dive in head first. Some ham radio operators use old equipment, while others have entire rooms full of top of the line gear and devote a large percentage of their time to this pursuit.

Ham radio is sometimes used for public service, such as tracking the details for a storm or forest fire for those in that area. However, it is often simply a fun form of communication for people of all ages. Many hams try to see how far their gear can reach by talking to people on the other side of the world. Some voices you hear once and then never again, while others becomes trusted companions and even lifelong friends. You can even talk to astronauts in outer space (I’ll bet your cellphone contract probably doesn’t cover that).

Also, like many hobbies, ham operators can develop a real sense of community via annual events based upon their hobby. There are no restrictions on who can talk on a ham, so you will get a cross section that mirrors everyday life.

It’s not the most up to date technology, but it’s quaint, it’s reliable, and many people swear by it. Why not give ham radio a try?