Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Exponent Telegram


Getting the message out: Amateur radio a fun hobby

Stonewall Jackson Amateur Radio Associationn holds field day to talk to fellow operators, educate others

by Darlene J. Taylor
STAFF WRITER
     

CLARKSBRUG -- For those who enjoy communicating with others near and far for fun or assisting with public service or emergency communications, amateur radio may be just the ticket.

      The Amateur Radio Relay League Field Day was held Saturday on Lowndes Hill by the Stonewall Jackson Amateur Radio Association.

      Ham radio operators across the country and the world participate in this annual event to talk to fellow operators and educate others on what it's all about.

      There are currently more than 700,000 radio operators licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. About half of them nationwide volunteer their services in an organized pool of operators to provide primary and secondary communications links for governmental agencies or non profit organizations.

      Amateur radio is a hobby and service that combines both the old and new, according to Dave Anderson, president of the Stonewall Jackson Amateur Radio Association.

      "Last year, we talked to operators from all 50 states and Canadian provinces," Anderson said.

      While some amateur operators, all licensed by the Federal Communications Commission still operate the older type, others have incorporated digital and computerized technology into their communications.

      Jason Hatfield, 14, of Grafton (KD8FDD) got interested a couple years ago and during a camp out with Boy Scouts working for his radio merit badge.

      "I've talked to England and Southern California," he said. "Now, it's a family affair, I got my license first. Now my mom has one, too".

      Bill Williams, 77 (K8WWW) recalls when amateur radio operators were utilized more often for emergency situations, most notably the 1985 flood. Operators were originally required to learn Morse Code, which is no longer necessary for ham radio communications.

      Williams has worked with the American Red Cross and others to provide needed communications during natural disasters.

      "The communication role has changed for amateur radio operators, but there will always be a need for it," Williams said.

      Anderson explained local members have even had the opportunity to speak with astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle Amateur Radio EXperiment (SAREX) provides students with the unique opportunity to talk with astronauts while they orbit the Earth traveling 17,000 miles per hour.

      Ron Thorn (N8QYI) said amateur radio was a likely transition for him, who grew up listening to scanners and observing public service radio communications.

      "It's a great way to keep in touch with friends and make new friends," Thorn said.

      For more information, visit www.arrl.org or visit a meeting of the local association held the third Thursday of every month at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Clarksburg.


by Staff Photographer

KA5NYN & K8TPH



KD8FDD


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Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by email at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com