If you were to tune a radio across the ham bands, what would you hear ham radio operators doing?
By far the most common type of activity for ham radio operators is just engaging in conversation, which is called chewing the rag; such contacts are called ragchews. Ragchews take place between continents or across town. You don’t have to know another ham to have a great ragchew.
Nets: are organized on-the-air meetings scheduled
for hams with a similar interest or purpose. Some of the nets you can
Traffic nets: These are part of the North American system that moves
text messages or traffic via ham radio. Operators meet to exchange or
relay messages, sometimes handling dozens in a day. Messages range
from the mundane to emergency health-and-welfare.
Emergency service nets: Most of the time, these nets just meet for training
and practice. When disasters or other emergencies strike, ham radio operators organize around these nets and provide crucial communications.
Technical Service: These nets are like radio call-in programs in which
ham radio stations call with specific questions or problems. The net control station may help, but more frequently, one of the listening stations contributes
ALE Mailboxes and Bulletin Boards: Instead of transmitting 1s and 0s as voltages on wires, hams use tones.ALE stands for Automatic Link Establishment and means that a computer system is monitoring a frequency all the time so that others can connect to it and send or retrieve messages. Sailors and other travelers use ham radio where the Internet isn’t available.
Swap Nets: In between the in-person ham fests and flea markets, in many
areas a weekly swap net allows hams to list items for sale or things they
need. A net control station moderates the process and business is generally
conducted over the phone once the parties have been put in contact
with each other.