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I guess it's fair to say you could pick up your cellphone and somehow find a number for someone in Belarus that you never heard of, call him and start talking about whatever pops into your mind. I guess you could also expect him to figure you for an escapee from some rubber-room, and just hang up.
But with ham radio, you can explore the bands, choosing a frequency that is enjoying good activity, hear someone talking, make a contact with him via your radio, and have the pleasure of a friendly, informative conversation with him! You can communicate from your home or behind the wheel of your car, even on a cruise ship. You can take radio wherever you go!
During disasters like the devastating Hurricane Wilma, when regular communications channels completely fail, hams can swing into action assisting emergency communications efforts and working with public service agencies. Hey, you can even talk to astronauts in the space shuttle do what's called "moon bounce". You can use telegraphy, voice, digital modes, or television images in communication with other hams.
A very interesting aspect to the ham radio hobby is the spirit of cooperation among those involved. It is not unusual for someone to approach another group of hams at a club or "hamfest" and seek assistance, maybe with getting an antenna installed or something similar, and what results is an "antenna rasing" where they all show up to help, even though they may not have met before. This sort of attitude has been a hallmark of amateur radio since its beginnings.
There are some who think that because there is so much digital technology available now, ham radio is all but dead. But hams have embraced the new technology and there are many modes of communication that incorporate your computer to communicate with the world via amateur radio. This hobby will never die, and you can be part of it!