Let’s face it: When it comes to communicating, we’re spoiled. We can talk, text, or e-mail nearly anyone we want whenever we want, by simply picking up the phone -- be it wired or wireless. But ham radio can work when nothing else can get through.
Until we can’t, which is what happens when a typhoon trashes the Philippines as it did with Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), unprecedented winter storms paralyzed Slovenia and other parts of Europe, or the magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti. During these catastrophic events, the only way distant people could initially learn the fate of friends and family was through amateur radio. One person, one HF transceiver, a hunk of co-ax, a dipole (or with any luck a Yagi), and a generator or a car battery is what’s often left standing.
Not only do hams get the word out, they coordinate response and rescue activities on the scene, working with local authorities and often the local and U.S. military, sometimes for months after the event. The coordination and level of effort shown by hams everywhere is truly astonishing, misunderstood, and frankly underappreciated – other than by the people they help.
One Ham Operator’s Set-up.
Left: Yaesu FT-5000, Yaesu FT-1000D, W2IHY EQPlus/Equalizer, Yaesu FT-857D on speaker.
Center: K1EL Keyer, Dell 24" monitor, Heil PR-781, LG 20" Monitor driven by DMU-2000.
Right: QRO Technologies HF-2500DX, Yaesu G-1000A, Kessler Engineering (PalStar) AT-Auto, Alpha 9500.
Journalists in the mainstream media have no sense of amateur radio, how it works, what hams can and have achieved, and pretty much everything else about this “hobby”. After the earthquake in Haiti, a story posted by CNN under the headline “Low-tech radios connect some Haitians”, made it sound like the efforts of the amateur community there were minimal.
They were flat-out wrong.
And “low-tech”? Take a look inside a transceiver form Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, Ten-Tec, et. al, and tell me how this represents archaic technology? There’s more DSP, SDR, and assorted other leading-edge technologies in some “amateur” products than you’ll find in DoD battlefield radios.
I didn’t pick out the CNN article to find worst-of-breed. It’s just typical of the general lack of knowledge of the amateur radio community, whose efforts are a lifeline to people in need in the U.S. and anywhere there’s a ham, a dipole, and a generator.
Barry Manz is president of Manz Communications, Inc., a technical media relations agency he founded in 1987. He has since worked with more than 100 companies in the RF and microwave, defense, test and measurement, semiconductor, embedded systems, lightwave, and other markets. Barry writes articles for print and online trade publications, as well as white papers, application notes, symposium papers, technical references guides, and Web content. He is also a contributing editor for the Journal of Electronic Defense, editor of Military Microwave Digest, co-founder of MilCOTS Digest magazine, and was editor in chief of Microwaves & RF magazine.
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