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Tue, March 19

Amateur radio: why and how

Have you ever wondered about amateur radio? The people who are involved in the hobby are called hams. Most of us are unsure of the origin of the “ham” title, but we do generally like to “ham it up” on our radios.

For the uninitiated, amateur radio is a licensed form of communication over moderate to very long distance, using two-way radio. Many old-timers got involved long before the introduction of computers and cellphones. So, many people today think of the ham radio operator as a historical oddity. However, there are far more licensed radio amateurs today than ever before. Why?

Amateur radio is a hobby with some serious aspects.

First, like many other hobbies, it is fun. Most of us enjoy chatting on the radio with other hams around the area. Others seek out contacts with hams around the country or the world. But then there are the many amateurs who help out in emergency communications through ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service). And those who provide support for public service events such as the Whiskey Row Marathon and several bike races held in the Prescott area. These folks are trained in proper radio technique for the services they perform. Today, many new amateurs got started because of an interest in being personally prepared for accidents or disasters.

Before you think that the later group are all a strange clan of weird doomsday freaks, consider that our electric power network (the grid) is getting old and seriously in need of updating. We all depend on communications of some type daily. What if the power in the area were down for only a few days? No television, phone or newspaper. Cellphone service depends on electricity for its network as well. Most amateurs today use radios powered by batteries. Power can be derived from our autos or small solar arrays as well.

If I have peaked at least a little interest, perhaps you would like to learn more. The Yavapai Amateur Radio Club in Prescott is the largest amateur radio organization in Arizona. In addition to the monthly meetings, the club offers periodic license classes and conducts the FCC license tests needed to get on the air.

This June, the club is hosting two events for hams and for those interested in learning more about amateur radio. On June 9-10, the Prescott Hamfest will be held at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. On the afternoon of June 9, a number of presentations about amateur radio will be offered free of charge to those wanting to learn more. Saturday, June 10, will be a radio swap meet and commercial vendors as well as more presentations and a high altitude balloon launch; all for a small admission. ERAU is located at 3700 Willow Creek Road, Prescott.

The second event is a national amateur radio gathering called Field Day. Thousands of amateurs will be working their radios across the country trying to score the most contacts in a contest format. During Field Day, clubs offer introductions to interested folks through literature, visits to club or private amateur stations and GOTA (get on the air) stations where visitors can grab the microphone and talk to an amateur in another state. YARC will participate in Field Day from the club station in the Jeep Posse building in Pioneer Park, located behind the outdoor hockey rink, off Commerce Drive, Prescott. Field Day is June 24. Anyone is welcome to visit, learn about ham radio and maybe get on the air.

Donald Bauer broadcasts under the call sign WB7TPH.


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