"The Young American Amateur."
A 59 year participant in the "Greatest Hobby Ever Devised by Mankind!"
What is this Amateur Radio?

The field of communications is something people of the world have been doing since the days of the caveman. It is something that will be necessary in future years of space exploration and colonization. Communications or communicating is essentially the “bread of human life.” Try and make your way in the world without being able to or caring to sit down and communicate with your fellow man.

If every person in this world were an Amateur Radio Operator the world would never see war, the world would never see discrimination and the world would be near heaven on earth because all people are Brothers and Sisters in the eyes of the Heavenly Father and in the eyes of those in the hobby we call Amateur Radio. Coined “Ham Radio” by most people, Amateur Radio will live for eternity in the hearts of those who have spent hours upon hours enjoying the people in the hobby and relishing the next time each of us are together to celebrate life.

There are many facets of this hobby called Ham Radio. Talking all over the world, using professionally designed and manufactured or garage designed and home built equipment. Learning how things that communicate work and how radio waves are moved around the world and outer space is a noble career and one that insures success as long as a bit of brow sweat is expended in part of a field of communications that interest your inventive juices.

The ionosphere just above the earth’s outer limit of air is the “magic carpet” used to move signals around the globe and between townships all over the country. Large and small towns and cities cannot escape the “swoosh” of that magic carpet. The author and his friends have ridden that carpet for over six decades since the days of their youth.

Driving along doing the same worldwide talking in a mobile “unit”, “Rag Chewing”, a “Ham” Radio term that describes conversations lasting many minutes or even hours between individuals is common on the airwaves. A rag chew is how instantaneous friends become Brothers and Sisters over the months and years of friendship and gain respect between each other.

Communications via satellite is an entire field of exploration that requires precise timing and special knowledge of antennas and control mechanisms in addition to very different types of components to receive and transmit with. New communication designs and equipment that even today continue to be designed and built by garage and basement dwellers.

Talking to “new” countries as a “DXer” and participating in some of the fastest paced contests in the world. The Tour de France, Wimbledon, the NFL and the NBA don’t hold a candle to the intensity and focused efforts of an operator during a radio contest where many two radio setups are employed to increase the action.

Action that lasts for every moment of a 48-hour weekend is common sport. Those weekends are filled with thousands of signals from around the world all looking to briefly talk to and then log contacts as fast as possible. Those “contestants” are in search of a certificate or plaque denoting their placement in the results compared to all the other operators in any particular contest.

Numerous twenty-four hour contests are also sponsored each year. Two of the most active twenty-four hour contests are the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) contest each July and the American Radio Relay League’s (ARRL) Field Day a get together type of activity where thousands of operators around the country erect stations and antennas in the field to test their ability to provide emergency communications in case of disaster and when natural disasters interrupt other means of communications for the public.

Books have been written about the activities of Ham radio operators coming to the aid of the public and government officials during such disasters. One of the more recent ones was the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans. Teams of Amateur Radio Operators have been formed to respond immediately to threats and disasters. Those teams go into action as a means to replace communications infrastructure. Cellular system towers were “blown” down during hurricane Katrina and Amateur Radio stepped in to handle all forms of “traffic” including requests for supplies and even notifications to relatives around the country of life and death situations. The Department of Homeland Security now supports the emergency readiness of groups of Ham radio operators around the country.

Radio, landline communications and medical systems and devices are influenced by many Amateur Radio operators today as they have been since the early 20th century. Amateur Radio Operators are employed in every profession, trade and blue collar job in the country.

A competition between fifty plus two person teams of competitors from around the globe has been held since 1990. Sponsors of the championship test have been from the United States, Finland, Russia, Slovenia and  Brazil. Held every four years the competition is known as the Olympics of Amateur Radio. The World Radio Team Championship or WRTC has been hosted by the United States four times. In Eastern Massachusetts in the summer of 2014 the gold medal winning team was a pharmacist and a grocery store manager. Two professions that engineering has little to do with unless the engineering of floor space in a grocery store and the potential engineering of a pill dispenser to aid older patrons is counted as a possibility. Both for sure, items where people influenced by Amateur Radio may have designed and implemented.

This coming summer in July the 2018 WRTC will be held and is being sponsored this "cycle" by Germany. Visit http://wrtc2018.de/index.php/en/ to see and read more about the Olympics of Amateur Radio.

Nostalgia is alive with many in the Amateur Radio ranks where old equipment is made like new and once shiny Morse code keys are polished to shine and “sing” Morse music again. Mentors to young people spend evenings and weekends the year round teaching and demonstrating the art of radio communications i.e. the art of communicating!

Think about one long little league baseball game that has an unlimited number of innings. Those are the “games” and score keeping of the mentors of Amateur Radio’s newcomers. Today’s technological products, in many fields are influenced by individuals at work in corporations everywhere. Those dedicated people continue carrying the torch of those from the later part of the 19th century. These people and you yourself can become the giants of the future.

The world of Amateur Radio communications is organized by “prefixes”. When an operator hears the prefix OM it becomes immediately obvious that the country of Slovakia is “on frequency”. Likewise, if the prefix of VK then Australia or one of its island possessions is on frequency, ZL for New Zealand, BY for China and so on. Unlike the count of physical countries on a world map, some 200 plus the Amateur Radio world has over three hundred and thirty countries that can be contacted for various awards. Contacted for the only the sheer pleasure of finding the “country” on the world map and in search of new friends all in the name of peace.
 
The United States and its possessions can be readily recognized “on the air” because in the very earliest years of radio broadcasting the letters W and K were assigned to every broadcast station across the country. The letters N and A are also two assigned to the United States although the letter A is shared with Australia the letter pairs AA-AL for the U.S. and AM-AZ for assignment by Australia.

So your local AM or FM station has a callsign issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just like the call sign of every Amateur Radio Operator in the country. A test asking questions about regulations and some basic electronic theory is taken by everyone applying for a "Ham" license from the FCC. Years ago the Morse code was a requirement but for many years that "test" had been placed aside.

There are ten call sign districts in the U.S. District one (1) is made up of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. District two (2) is New York and New Jersey. District three (3) Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. Four (4) is made up of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida. The fifth (5) district of the system consists of the states Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. California is a district all by itself the sixth (6). Perhaps you can guess why? Correct. California’s population. District seven (7) has the states Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Eight (8) land, as a district is called has the states Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia. The ninth (9) district, or 9 land is Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Finally, the zero (0) call sign district has North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

Now of course part of the fifty states, Hawaii has the “prefixes” of KH6, AH6 and WH6 so is easily recognized with the letter H as the second letter. Alaska is distinguished with the letter L as in KL7, WL7 or AL7. Both became states in the late fifties and the author Worked All States (WAS) as a Novice, or beginner when only 49 states were in the union. Hawaii had yet to become a state in 1959. Even though both are states and have been for many years a number of Ham radio contests still “count” both as country entities for score multipliers when tallying results of those contests.

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) http://www.iaru.org/ was created in Paris, France and has been the watchdog and spokesman for the world’s Amateur Radio community since 1925. Akin to the United Nations but for radio the world over.  The IARU Constitution, last amended in 1989, organizes the world Union into three Regional Organizations that correspond to the three radio regions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The IARU Constitution also provides for an IARU Member Society to serve as the Union's International Secretariat. The United Nations of Amateur Radio is a good analogy to describe the IARU.

The IARU is an organization consisting of over 160 national amateur radio societies around the world. The International Secretariat for the IARU from time to time receives inquiries from individual amateurs as to how they may join IARU. There are no individual members of the IARU. The best way to support the IARU is to maintain membership in one or more of the national amateur radio societies.

The IARU is governed by the IARU Administrative Council (AC). The AC consists of the IARU President, Vice-President, Secretary and two representatives from each of the three IARU regional organizations. IARU Region 1 is Europe, Africa and the Middle East and parts of Asia. IARU Region 2 is North, South and Central America. IARU Region 3 is most of Asia and the Pacific. The AC determines the policy for the IARU. All of the members of the IARU AC are volunteers as are the officers and directors of the IARU regional organizations.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations agency that deals with information and communication technologies. Included within the scope of the ITU work are communication services such as the amateur radio and the amateur-satellite services. The Radio Communication Sector of the ITU (ITU-R) manages the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources. One of the primary activities of the IARU is to work within the ITU structure to preserve and maintain the spectrum allocated to the amateur radio and amateur-satellite services and to promote the usefulness and value of amateur radio. IARU attends all ITU-R meetings that may have any impact on amateur radio. In addition to being a sector member of ITU-R, the IARU also is a sector member of the Development Sector of ITU, or ITU-D. Emergency communications, disaster planning and response are topics discussed in ITU-D and IARU participates in those discussions. The nine individuals who are members of the IARU AC cannot attend all of the numerous ITU meetings that are important to amateur radio. There are quite a number of qualified individuals, termed Expert Consultants and Technical Representatives, who volunteer their time and effort in attending meetings and participate in working groups or study groups on behalf of the IARU.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) http://www.arrl.org/ was formed over one-hundred years ago. The author had the privilege of attending the Centennial celebration for the ARRL the summer of 2014 in Hartford and Newington, Connecticut. The authors visit was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the annals of radio communications history and be among some of the giants of radio communications still alive today. Operating the station at ARRL headquarters sitting where ARRL founder Hiram Maxim may well have sat some 100 years ago was a privilege and an honor as was shaking the hands of those milling around looking at and listening to the glorious history of Amateur Radio.

The benefits of Amateur Radio are as valid today as they were in 1959 and will be until the earth is covered with ice again. Technology marches on improving lives and enhancing the ideas of communication pioneers from years past. Peace and brotherhood, simply part of the hobby are in the psyche of every Amateur Radio Operator the world over.

Now for some “interesting” stuff!  First, the event that stirred the imagination and patriotism of every young person in the late fifties here in America. The launching of the first ever satellite by the Soviet Union (Russia), a cold war adversary of the United States and one of the global powers in the fifties, sixties and seventies.

A Few Photos of Friends of the Young American Amateur.

Sam, K5KJ

Laci, OM2VL and K5YAA.

K5YAA & Wayne, N7NG

K5YAA & Paul, K9PG

Sam, K5KJ & K5YAA.

Clayton from Wichita, Kansas  & Scotty from Paracua, Brazil.

The finest Tower Crew in the USA. H&H Towers out of Warner, Oklahoma.

Bill, AK5X or Big "X"