Well I finally decided to bring back and old hobby: Amateur Radio! It’s been many years since I have really been into it, but now that I have a new-born little guy it will be a few months before the family can go out again on full-blown adventures. I figured I would bring the adventures to us! I wanted to give a quick explanation of this exciting hobby, and post a few articles on how you and your kids can get involved. Believe it or not, the cost of Amateur Radio as a hobby over the past few years has really come down as the technology has improved. So how can you get involved immediately? This weekend Amateur Radio Operators all over the world will be hosting Field Day which gives the general public a chance to roll up their sleeve and make a few contacts!
So what exactly is Amateur Radio? In a nut shell, it’s kinda like how it sounds.. Amateur, every day individuals using a radio to talk to other people. It’s a very social hobby, and much of the excitement of making a radio contact with someone else is how you do it. For example, you could potentially talk to someone just a few blocks away using one type of radio, or you might even talk to someone across the glob using another type. Some folks believe that the internet has really diminished this exciting part of the hobby, but as someone who grew up with both, they compliment each other quite nicely. Amateur Radio operators must be licensed by the FCC, and there are rules that must be followed including what can and cannot be said over the air. This makes it a very family friendly hobby, and should not be confused with the CB radios that you may imagine with the foul language and trucker talk.
So what is Amateur Radio Field Day? Most hobbies have get togethers right? Bikers have organized and often times charity rides. Bloggers have conferences to attend, while sports fans have playoffs to watch. Amateur Radio Field day is an annual weekend where Amateur Radio operators get together to set up their equipment and make as many contacts as they can in a 24 hour period. These events are generally held outdoors or have an outdoor component since they can often times have lots of antennas and gear to set up. Amateur radio has a long-standing tradition of being able to provide emergency communications, and literally setting up in a field helps simulate that.
Now before you start thinking that this may not be for you and your family, I want you to think back to your own childhood. Regardless of your age, I can guarantee that you, at one time or another had a set of walkie talkies. Maybe you had one and your best friend had one. That excitement of using a radio to talk to someone is exactly what Amateur Radio Field Day is all about. Now do you remember sharing that walkie-talkie with someone? Maybe a few kids in your neighborhood had them. Sharing that fun and excitement is what it’s all about.
Despite the title of “Amateur Radio”, HAM radio operators must be licensed, but Field Day is a great way to share the fun with the general public or others that are not licensed. So long as a licensed amateur radio operator is in control of the radio, you can actually talk to others! When I say “talk” there are various options including actually talking, morse code, and even digital communications. Most HAMs love to share their hobby and are excited about field day! Some are very focused and want to make as many contacts as possible so clubs often have radios setup for “contesting” which is where HAMs compete to see how many contacts they can make in that 24 hours, as well as casual use radios and public demonstrations.
So how do you find out more information about a local event? I’m glad you asked! the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) has an interactive Google map with the location of lots of field day events. Usually setup by local Amateur Radio Clubs, you never quite know what to expect at a field day event, as they are all unique. My suggestion would be to check out the interactive map and find a few local events. Remember this is a WORLD WIDE event so there should be a setup fairly close to your location. When checking out the map, just click the pin nearest you to get contact information of the Amateur Radio club sponsoring the field day event and visit their website. Some site have more information than others, so you’ll want to reach out to the club prior, to find out specifics of where they are setup as well as what to expect when you visit.
While you’re visiting, be sure to ask about other events and how you can obtain an Amateur Radio license for yourself. When I got involved as a kid, I found that many of the folks who have been HAMs for years were not only happy to help, but often times were gracious in loaning out learning materials, magazines, and even loaning out equipment to get started.
I also wanted to say a big thank you to Josh Carter who graciously agreed to let me repost his photos of him operating during field day. His setup was a private one and not sponsored by an amateur radio club, but after finding his photos online and chatting with him via email, I get the feeling he would be more than happy to explain the hobby to anyone! Be sure to checkout his article here.
Checkout this YouTube video of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. The video is long, but I started it about half way through, but feel free to start at the beginning, there is a pretty cool video tour of the space station!
Some Great General Ham Radio Information. It’s a bit long, but provides a great history. A great
Amateur Radio Field Day Details:
|Date(s):||4th Weekend in June Annually||Time(s):||All weekend!|
|Address:||Events World Wide – Check the link
above to find one near you!
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||FREE|
Media: (BTW Ham Radio is the origional Social Media!)