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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ham radio alive and well – Berkeley Independent

Strong numbers and a growing interest is making ham radio as popular as it has ever been.

At the Red Cross Building in North Charleston last week, members of the amateur radio community met in North Charleston last week, giving out names and call-sign during the rollcall.

“Everybody in the United States has a call sign; it either starts with W, N, A or K,” said Tom Lufkin, who started the Trident Amateur Radio Club almost 40 years ago. His call sign is W-4-D-A-X.

“If it was gulf [G] 4 I am in England, if I was echo or E-A 3 I’m in Spain, so you can tell from the call sign, where someone was licensed.”

The meeting is not just a hobby for radio nerds. Ham radio enthusiasts play an important role—they will be able to relay messages many others cannot, because their signal travels, old-school, using VHF and UHF signals.

“Let’s say we have an earthquake here in Charleston, I know that the 800 megahertz system is going to go down that is all a trunked system, it is all on the internet, and all those lines are going to go down,” said Lufkin.

There are currently 73 licensed members in the Trident Amateur Radio Club the most Lufkin has seen in a long time and nationwide the trend is the same.

“There are more amateur licenses today than ever in history,” said Lufkin.

“One of the reasons for that is the hospitals in the United States have mandated to have two amateur radio operators, in case of disasters.”

Because of the potential for natural disaster and certain mandates, there is a need for more “Hams” and all are welcome but you must first pass the test to get the FCC license.

“The FCC lets us do the testing, we have 350 possible questions and you get 35 of them on your test,” Lufkin said.

The 350 possible answers are available, the certain 35 you will be asked are not. But the most common question answered by amateurs–is how far have your transmitted?

“The number one question everybody asks and the number one answer is New Zealand, because if you go any further you are coming back,”

With frequencies like VHF and UHF and the use of the actual word, radio—it would seem as if it is dying hobby. But it is not, schools across the Lowcountry are involved in amateur radio. There are even clubs, some 17 licenses have been earned at one Dorchester County School.

It seems a younger generation have taken an interest in amateur radio.

“A lot of people say why would I need a ham radio if I have a cell phone? And I tell them well if you dial somebody in Japan on a cellphone you’re going to get the person that you dialed,” Lufkin said.

“When I get on the air I could get somebody from Japan I could somebody from Germany, I could get somebody from Charleston; I don’t know who I’m going to get—so It’s kind of like fishing and the kids really love it, they love every minute of it.”

Read the full article at STRAY SIGNALS does not claim ownership of the article.

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