Amateur Radio: Reliable or Archaic Communication?

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Amateur Radio

Amateur radio is a means of communication that does not present itself in daily conversations, and the mere mention of it would create wonderment whether it is an archaic artifact or a reliable source for communicating. Communication as we know it today consists of cell phones, texting, as well as emails and Skype via the internet. During times of crisis however, cell phones and internet connections can fail, whereas the ham radio does not.

Ham radio is the nickname. Professional and commercial radio operators used to “dis” operators of the amateur kind, inferring the same stigma as bad actors who were labeled hams. The amateur operators eventually turned the negative into a positive and now take pride in their designation as ham radio operators. The characterization of amateur has nothing to do with skill level, but rather due to the fact that they do not get paid. It is an intriguing hobby that tends to have something for everyone who is looking for a way to prepare for emergencies or just to see who they can connect with around the world.

Each year a Radio Week at different locations all across the nation takes place. The climatic end known as Field Day, culminates in 35,000 U.S. ham operators making contacts throughout the nation and around the world. This week-long event is sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). The event is not only educational to the public, it enables them the opportunity to contact other operators and chat with them. These operators are proud to let you know that when all other forms of communication fails, ham radio will save the day.

Understanding the role of  Ham Radio Operators is exhibited during moments of crisis. They are quick to respond to calls of emergency when there is a need to communicate in the aftermath of tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes. Their service is priceless in assisting government agencies, as well as volunteer services when other methods of communication have gone down. They connect with both state and local response agencies for free. Allen Pitts, representative with the ARRL, had commented that a crisis can become a colossal disaster when communication is lost. Amateur radio service has been the most consistently reliable network of communication in the early hours, which are most critical, following a disastrous event. The only resource needed between points of communication, is air. Other infrastructures are not needed such as cell towers or internet.

Popularity to operate amateur radio is increasing in the U.S. Licensees in the U.S. account for 700,000, where the total number of licensees globally is in excess of 2.5 million. The South Jersey Radio Association (SJRA) was founded in 1916 and is the oldest known ham radio club that functions today on a consistent basis. Reliability is fostering growth in the arena of amateur radio, which is superseding what some may have referred to as an archaic form of communication. The SJRA is known for its high level placements year after year in the contests during national Field Day.

Ken Botterbrodt, president of  SJRA, said its purpose is to make connections and likened it to a fishing expedition. Botterbrodt knew of a ham, chatting about concerns regarding mideast politics, only to discover that he was in touch with King Hussein in Jordan. Soon after, two airline tickets arrived in the mail to visit the King as he was a ham radio buff. Another club president from West Virginia, said proving that it is doable is the key motivator.

Amateur Radio seems to be oblivious of time. Although its roots date back to the latter part of the 19th century into the early part of the 20th century, its sustainability has stood the test of time and outshines digital technology during the dark moments of crisis. Natural disasters seem to be on the rise all around the world, so although amateur radio would appear to be archaic, it has proven to be the most reliable form of communication.

By Jill Boyer-Adriance

Burlington County Times
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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