ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Rotary Club met on Wednesday and learned about amateur radio from operators J.T. Bryan and Mac MacCallum.
Bryan told the group that, in the late 1800s, folks were building and learning how to use amateur radios. In 1912 Ham radio as we know it, began to develop. People had a need for a way to communicate and to bridge the distance with folks who were far away especially during times of natural disaster. Bryan said some folks got together began experimenting with amateur radios.
In 1914, the Amateur Radio Relay League, or ARRL, was created. Bryan said it was learned that signals could travel further through the use of organized relay stations.
“It has expanded so much today,” said Bryan.
He gave some examples fo where amateur radios can be found today. Bryan said the International Space Station has ham radio on board. “If something goes wrong they can communicate with Earth (using the Ham radio),” said Bryan.
Bryan said the true test and real value of Ham radio was learned following Hurricane Katrina when all of the power grids shorted out and communications in New Orleans and other impacted areas went down. Bryan explained that some Ham radio operators packed up their equipment and went and assisted the emergency management personnel.
Bryan said that one thing that makes amateur radio appealing as well as useful, is that when a disaster occurs, and you can get out, the operator can take his equipment and set it up, and communicate with other amateur radio operators and pass on needed information. He said that amateur radio use is more prominent in the Midwest due to storms and such.
“If we do enter into some kind of terrorist attack or some kind of natural disaster, and all communications go down, Hams can still communicate,” said Bryan.
To be a Ham operator, folks do need to obtain a license. Bryan said that the communication is through Morse Code and some people fear it. He added that you do need some knowledge and there is a website that offers information on licensing and other educational aspects for those that want to learn.
“It’s a gentleman’s radio. It’s not a political radio. It’s an emergency radio and a hobby,” said Bryan.
Bryan said he has talked to at least one person in each state and in several foreign countries. “It’s great to sit down and talk to someone from Australia,” said Bryan.
He displayed a certificate that is issued to Hams when they have made contact with someone each state in the United States.
Bryan said Bladen County does have ham radio equipment in the courthouse in the event all other forms of communication go down. He said W4BLA is the call sign for Bladen’s radio club.
Mac MaCallum told the Rotarians that Morse Code is similar to dance or music in that it consists of rhythm and notes.
Rotarians also learned that cell phones can link to a Ham tower. “When it gets real bad, they (emergency personnel) call the Ham radio operators,” said MacCallum.
Both Bryan and MacCallum said there are different events that Hams can take part in called Field Days. In a recent Field Day held at the Lake Waccamaw Boys & Girls Home, Hams made 300 contacts in 14 foreign countries. Those contacts now know about Boys Home at Lake Waccamaw, according to Bryan.
To learn more about Amateur Radio, go to http://www.arrl.org/home.