By Michele Dotson: Staff Writer
Members from the Charlotte Amateur Radio Club set up their equipment every other Saturday in the Assay office at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village in Mint Hill. Their priorities are to provide information to the public about the history of ham radio, and to help those interested learn how to begin their hobby by offering support from the club which meets once a month.
The cost of getting into the hobby is not exorbitant and are mostly incurred over time.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to get into ham radio,” says club member and vice president Joe Ducar. “The antennae is the most important part of the set up, and it’s fairly inexpensive. You can get one for about $45,” he says.
Other expenses are associated with purchasing the radio, a “to go” box, if you plan to use your radio in remote locations, instructional manuals, and fees for taking the FCC tests. In the United States there are three kinds of ham radio licenses; the technician class, the general class and the extra class. Each class requires more extensive knowledge of ham radio operation and theory, and provides the user with access to more frequency options worldwide.
Gone are the days with the need for huge, unsightly towers that are restricted in many neighborhoods. Websites offer advice on how to “stealth” your antennae so it is still effective but not unsightly on your property, like what has been done at the assay office.
“Conditions here at the assay office are not always the best,” says Ducor. “We’re here at a fixed time, and that can be a disadvantage. But we have made contact with so many places around the world. We have even talked with people from Iceland and Greenland.”
But in this age of email, Twitter, Skype, and iPhones, it seems unlikely this hobby would survive much into the 21st Century. Surprisingly, though, the latest FCC information posted in August 2012, indicated that there are over 755,000 licensed operators in the United States alone, which was an increase of 30,000 from the year before. Some attribute the increase to the phasing out of the Morse code test as part of the licensing requirements. But for others, it is just the right time to get started.
John McDermott has been involved with ham radio for less than a year. After fostering an interest for many years, McDermott decided it was time to do something about it. He located the club through an internet search, and was extremely impressed by his first visit.
“I can’t say enough about the club,” says McDermott. “They were willing to help me get started, and answered all my questionsInside the assay office, posted on the wall, is a world map full of pushpins. Each pushpin on that map represents a successful contact like the one in Iceland. That’s a person-to-person contact with someone from another country; another culture, and a personal connection to another fellow human a world away that shared the same desire to reach out and make a new friend.It’s easy to see why this hobby is enjoying a regrowth of popularity.The Charlotte Amateur Radio Club meets Thursdays at 7:30 pm in the Salvation Army headquarters building located at 501 Archdale Drive, Charlotte. For further information, contact www.w4cq.us