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Experience the world of amateur radio

January 31, 2011

“The reports of my death,” Mark Twain once famously quipped, “are greatly exaggerated.”

If you listen and read the comments offered in recent years, you’d swear that amateur radio is on life support, or worse. Kids just aren’t interested anymore, so the story goes, and why should they be? With the internet, cell phones, and computer games, young people have too many other “fun” things to do and can communicate with just about anyone in the world instantaneously. Where in the world does amateur radio fit anymore?

Good question, and I’m glad you asked. True, the hobby has gone through great changes in recent years. The advent of sophisticated communications equipment has eliminated the need for building one’s own station. Plug and play is the norm today. (Although many amateur radio operators — “hams” to us — still build their own mini radios, antennas, and other equipment.)

According to the January 2011 issue of  QST, there are more than 705,000 amateur radio operators in the United States. Granted, not all operate regularly, but at least they remain a part of this exciting hobby. It’s been growing, too; slowly, for sure, but growing.

The days when a young boy — and it often was a boy back then — built his simple Morse code radio, tossed a wire into a nearby tree, and sent his dits and dashes all over the country are pretty much over. But amazingly many young people, boys and girls, are getting into the hobby. Sure, they still tinker at home, but these spirited young people also contribute to their communities, and in the process derive as much or more satisfaction as before.

Public service is extremely important to amateur radio operators, who regularly volunteer to help their fellow citizens. They provide much-needed communications support for charity walks and runs. But where hams really shine is during crises; those catastrophic events that so devastate a community or region as to tax its every resource. Amateur radio operators stand ready to respond any time of the day, seven days a week. Among the more recent disasters, hams have provided additional communications during:

– Hurricane Katrina
– Hurricanes that hit Texas in 2008
– Numerous incidents since then

The next time you’re riding your bike to raise money for cancer research or some other noble cause, tip your helmet to the many ham radio operators who selflessly give of their time to help make your event a successful one. Look around: You may even spot a young person at the rest stop or finish line. They represent the future — yes, the future — of amateur radio.

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From → Amateur radio

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