Ham enthusiasts WERE the original Hacker community. Go read any of the thousands of Ham magazines from the past and you'll find that the majority of the articles were about building your own gear, modifying ex military equipment, or learning about the fundamentals.
And who do you think developed all the SDR hardware and software which is available today? Outside of military R&D, most of today's SDR hardware and software was developed by engineers who were licensed hams.
And FWIW, it was only recently that the idiot mainstream media hijacked the term "Hacker" to refer to the antisocial uses of electronics.
We need people pushing the limits of technology who aren't just doing it for profit, and that's where the amateur really shines. Doing things just to see if they can be done has a rich and rewarding history, and I'd like to see it continue.
A few months ago, I used a $25 dongle, GNU Radio, and made a VOR receiver, for the heck of it. VOR transmitters are used in aircraft navigation, and I can now firmly establish that I live EastNorthEast of the nearest VOR station to me. ;-)
Basically a ham guy would stop in some small town, and for a week he was the ONLY way to communicate with the outside world.
One guy needed energy medication. He was talking to a guy in New Hampshire who could use the phone to call another Ham who could access others in Florida via ham radio. So guy got his medication, through a bizarre chain of hams all across the East coast.
There were a bunch of stories like that. Then the more technical stories of how to setup a minivan for extended trips without access to gas electric, etc.
Likely taking some extended time off from work soon and am looking for a new hardware project to tinker around with.
Software defined radio makes it possible to receive 25-1300 Mhz for about $25, via a USB dongle, and open source software.
The Technician test is a few rules and Ohm's law, you learn what you need to pass that test in a few evenings of studying. The subsequent tests are more difficult, then way more difficult and will require some study. But Electronics and Radio are good skills to have, the learning to past the test has practical value if you really want to hack on electronics and particularly RF.
I recently got my foundation license (the UK version of Tech in the US) mostly motivated by watching Josh on that channel
I'm an electronics hacker, software developer, audio enthusiast, and ham radio nut. The lines between them are very, very blurry. Radio is just another nerd-toy to me.
The hand held radios themselves start at USD 35 for the Baofeng units ( though these are considered electrically noisy).
You can also install the EchoLink software on your smartphone and connect to the global Radio-Internet bridge network. No Amateur radio needed!
And it needn't be expensive, you can build a transmitter out of a dead TV or similar.
Traditionally Ham gear has focused on homebrew equipment.
While there indeed are various rules with respect to Amateur radio, these are related to which bands one is licensed to use ( since other adjacent bands are for other uses), communication conventions, the absence of encrypted communications, and the prevention of using an amateur band for commercial purposes.
Various countries may or may not mandate that one learn Morse code as well.
Amateur radio is also a technical hobby, with the expectation that participants learn to set up antennae, link to their radios, set up electrical safeguards from lightning for their own safety, and understand certain electronics of they wish to create or modify their equipment. Based on their understanding and competence, they are licensed to do various things ( eg a beginner is not allowed to mess about such that they interfere with the International Space Station from sheer ignorance).