Talk to the world

By Abhishek Rathi Gardening is a hobby for the patient, stamp collecting for the adventurous, kayaking for the dare devil; and then there s Amateur Radio for everyone. Amateur radio operators are commonly called HAM radio operators or just HAMs . The term HAM came about after three amateur radio enthusiasts setup their own amateur radio station at Harvard. They were respectively Albert Hyman, Bob Almy and Peggie Murray. When laws to regulate amateur radio were being passed in the UK in 1911, Hyman spoke up to make the laws more liberal else the heavy taxes would have killed amateur radio due to heavy commercialization. The first initials of the last name of the three operators became popularized by other amateur radio operators and the initials HAM stuck on for all modern amateur radio operators. HAM radio offers a piece of its pie for everyone. It caters to the hobbies of people who love to talk & meet new people, play with electronics, invent new radios, like to keep company while travelling, communicate directly via satellite, to just learn and many more. HAMs are a medium of free speech. In 2001, HAM radio operators came to the rescue when the Gujarat earthquake st uck. In 2004, r when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck the Andaman and Nicobar islands, HAM radio was the only mode of communication. HAMs play a vital role in disaster management when infrastructural communication systems are down. There are about six million licensed HAMs all over the world and sixteen thousand in India. HAM radio became popular in India in the 90 s when the Indian government lifted its heavy taxes on imported electronic equipment. Anyone above the age of 12 can apply for a HAM license from the Ministry of Communication. There are four grades that an enthusiast can apply for directly, from Restricted Grade II, Grade II, Grade I to Advanced Grade, each with a respective examination. Higher grade licenses allow the HAM more freedom in using his/her equipment. The Advanced Grade exam tests the user in basic elect ronics; rules, regulations & procedures and Morse code sending & receiving skills (A walk in the park for an engineering student!). By law, HAM radios can be used for personal communication purposes only. It cannot be used for commerce or broadcasting to the public (HAM signals are to be received by other HAMs only). Using modified HAMs; text messages, Amateur Television and data such as photos can be sent around the world at little or no cost. A HAM can legally make his/her own HAM radio and develop ways to make their equipment more efficient. Some radios are also capable of satellite communication with over 60 satellites servicing HAM communication (Advanced grade is a prerequisite). HAMSAT is ISRO's first theme based Microsatellite meant for providing Satellite based Amateur Radio Services to the National as well as International Community of Amateur Radio Operators (HAMs).

Every HAM all over the world is assigned a unique call sign by the Ministry of Communication. This sign is determined by the country the user belongs to.

There are many local HAM radio clubs located all over India. Most clubs offer classes and study material to aspiring HAMs and regularly hold events such as Fox Hunt, a type of Treasure hunt that requires the participants to use their radio communication skills and equipment provided to them to locate the target radio (Fox). These HAMs together form a large community and annually organize HAMfests. If you want to start out, you can purchase study material, join a course or just get in touch with a friend who is a HAM. Now, you really don t want to be left out while your 12 year old annoying neighbour flaunts his HAM; do you? Come join the fun, the HAM community is waiting to hear your voice. You can get more information on HAM radios at www.niar.org, vu2jna.tripod.com and mumbaihams.org.

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