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<TD ALIGN="LEFT" VALIGN="TOP"><FONT SIZE="1"><B>Posted Mar. 24, 2004 </B></FONT><BR>
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<FONT SIZE="1"><B>Neil Wolf displays cards</B> from other radio operators he's had contact with over the years. When a contact has been made, he sends a card identifying himself to the other party. He receives one in return. Press photo/<B>Bruce Halmo<p>
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<FONT SIZE="2">Why is it called ham radio?<p>The origin of the term “ham” for amateur radio operators is unclear. Explanations range from a derogatory term for “ham-handed” operators, a reference to telegraph operators who utilized a hammer style on the telegraph key rather than a gentle touch; a Cockney pronunciation of the word “amateur”; or even the call letters of an early wireless radio station at Harvard derived from the initials of three operators.<p>
The term “amateur radio” is much clearer. According to Art Pahr of Plymouth, amateur radio operators by law are uncompensated, as opposed to commercial radio operators, who are allowed to charge for use of their transmissions.</FONT><BR>
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<P><FONT SIZE="+2"><B> ‘Ham’ radio thriving here</B></FONT></P>
<FONT SIZE="+1"></FONT>
<P><B><FONT SIZE="2">By <A HREF="mailto:efeldner@sheboygan.gannett.com">Emmitt B. Feldner</A></FONT></B><I><BR>
<FONT SIZE="2">Sheboygan Press staff</FONT></I></P>
<P>
                 
                              
             

<FONT SIZE="2">
It was the Internet before the Net, a window on the world before the World Wide Web was spun.<p>
Amateur radio operators have been communicating with each other — and even with satellites, astronauts and cosmonauts — around the world for a century or so. They have provided vital communication services in times of disaster or emergencies, all of which has drawn enthusiasts to the hobby even in the age of computers and the Internet.<p>
“It’s the mystique,” Neil Wolf, vice president of the Sheboygan County Amateur Radio Club. “There are so many different aspects to it.”<p>
Even the advent of the Internet hasn’t diminished interest in amateur — or ham — radio, according to Art Pahr of Plymouth. “Amateur operators have found the Internet to be a valuable tool” for communication and for information and research, he said. “Amateur radio and the Internet have become married.”<p>
Using two-way radio stations from their homes, cars, boats, planes or almost anywhere, amateur radio enthusiasts can talk with each other anywhere in the world using voice, computers and Morse Code. <p>
Even after 30 years in the hobby, Mike Musiel of Sheboygan said, “I still like using Morse Code and talking to people all over the world with it.”<p>
Musiel said he began in the hobby while still a paperboy, using the money he earned from that job to build his first radio. He said he still remembers, as a teenager, his first long-distance (DX) contact, with a scientific station at the South Pole. Later, he said, when the Russian MIR space station was still operating, he attempted to make contact with it and instead reached a Russian cosmonaut, traveling through the United States, who was also attempting to contact MIR, and the two ended up meeting face to face.<p>
DXer is the term for an amateur operator who goes in for long-distance communication, and in his 30-plus years in the hobby, Pahr has earned the DX Century Club designation. The Amateur Radio Relay League recognizes 345 entities, he explained, on the planet where signals can or have been received from. Those entities include nations, island countries and even remote spots that amateur operators set up camp on just to transmit from.<p>
It is one of those last, a rock outcropping in the South China Sea named Scarborough Reef, that is the only one of the 345 recognized entities with which Pahr has not talked. A one-time expedition there seven years ago was cut short by weather before Pahr could make contact with it, but he hopes it will be re-established again so he can complete his list.<p>
Pahr also has communicated with royalty, including the late King Hussein of Jordan. Other well-know amateur radio enthusiasts include King Juan Carlos of Spain, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, the late entertainer Arthur Godfrey and country singer Patty Loveless, Pahr said.<p>
Wolf said that, during his last session at the club’s headquarters in the basement of Sheboygan’s Red Cross building, he talked with operators in Bermuda, Vermont and at a lighthouse on Long Island. “When you talk to a guy, you send them a card confirming the contact and they do the same. Over a period of time, you can have thousands of cards,” he said.<p>Need license, equipment<p>Those interested in getting started in amateur radio must pass a basic exam, which consists of 35 questions on amateur radio, and obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission.<p>
Study guides are available through the American Radio Relay League, which has an exams link on its Web site. Would-be operators also can learn about amateur radio through one-on-one contact with licensed operators, mentors known in the hobby as “Elmers,” according to Art Pahr of Plymouth, a volunteer examiner for license tests.<p>
There are three classes of amateur radio licenses. The entry-level one is called technican class, which grants privileges on VHF and UHF frequencies. General-class licenses allow operation on all amateur bands except for a small segment reserved for those with amateur extra licenses.<p>
A radio operator can get started with a few hundred dollars’ worth of new or used equipment, said Neil Wolf, vice president of the Sheboygan County Amateur Radio Club, whose own setup represents an investment of $5,000 to $6,000. <p>
In addition, the Sheboygan County Amateur Radio Club makes its equipment, housed at the Red Cross building, 2032 Erie Ave., available to those interested in amateur radio, Wolf said.<p>A hobby that helps<p>Amateur radio spawns a vast number of acronyms, and one of the most important is PICON, which signifies that the amateur radio service exists in the public interest, convenience and necessity, according to Art Pahr of Plymouth.<p>
The commitment to serving in the public interest is one reason why amateur radio operators have been allowed to use part of the radio band, and operators take that obligation seriously, said Mike Musiel of Sheboygan, who is the ARES/RACES emergency coordinator for Sheboygan County. ARES is Amateur Radio Emergency Services, a national nonprofit coordinating group that works with agencies such as the Red Cross and the National Weather Service, while RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services) is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and works with local government emergency agencies.<p>
Pahr said amateur operators in Wisconsin provided emergency communication services when tornadoes devastated Oakfield, Barneveld and Ladysmith, among other emergency situations.<p>
Locally, Wolf said, the Sheboygan County Amateur Radio Club provides communication for many public events such as the upcoming MS and Old Plank Road Trail Health Classic fund-raisers and the Rockets for Schools event. The club also holds an annual Field Day — June 25 and 26 this year — at Taylor Park in Sheboygan, where members test their equipment and their emergency services procedures.<p>On the Web<p>www.arrl.org — American Radio Relay League<p>
www.w9vcl.org — The Sheboygan County Amateur Radio Club<p>
www.qrz.com — Ham radio super site<p>Reach <A HREF="mailto:efeldner@sheboygan.gannett.com">Emmitt B. Feldner</A> at efeldner@sheboygan.gannett.com and 453-5119.
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