I have been fortunate to follow my passion of communications through radio, which I have relished for more than 35 years. As an avid shortwave (SW) listener for many years and having enjoyed the excitement of fiddling with my old two-band Phillips radio, I could never have imagined that my childhood interest in listening to radio would take me into the passionate world of ham radio.
SW listening took us generations ahead in terms of our knowledge bank, predominantly due to the wide spectrum of informative programs SW offered. Those days were far less distracting than what today’s generation experiences. We cemented our ears to the gadget, which not only increased our awareness on various fronts but also gave us a mine of information on frequencies, bands, stations and broadcasters of various languages. It seemed to us that the entire gamut of knowledge was available to us on the airwaves and we could not have found it on any other platform.
Having graduated from SW listening to ham radio in the 90s, I, a young army officer, made comprehension a passion with a strong bond existing amongst the fraternity of ham radio operators. This hobby was not only eclectic and social but also a discovery of the Internet and the strength of mobile communications long before they came into being. I have always found this hobby to be not only a great service to fellow hams and useful during disasters, but also fun, social and educational, and a life skill tool. You are always bumping into fellow hams who would run the extra mile to help in either home brewing, erecting an antenna or just joining for a cup of tea when in proximity to your shack – this sheer pleasure of connecting is something one seldom gets in any other hobby.
However, today’s ever changing electronics and the world of apps and mobile technology seem to be a challenge to the sustenance of this century-old hobby. Not that this is being felt for the first time. A few of us who have spent time in this hobby feel that the world of communications, apps and the level of electronics is actually complementary to ham radio. This hobby has been the strong thread,
connecting to many new technologies and interfacing with new age apps and platforms to take the thrill of the hobby to new heights.
Ham radio operators have come from several walks of life and they have not only been specialists and subject matter experts in their fields but also have brought the hobby to a branded platform. They have been great inventors, pioneers, astronauts and adventurers, not to mention kings and statesmen. Their contributions have led to several innovations in the field of technology and science. Joe Woodland, the inventor of the barcode reader, who drew his first invention on the sands of Miami Beach, could not have invented the reader if he had no knowledge of Morse code. Marconi’s radio, Dolby, Packard (of HP fame), and Akio Morita of Sony are all ham radio operators who have made the fraternity proud, and possibly their trait of experimentation has contributed to their inventions. You may come across many such famous hams on the Internet who, due to their splendid contributions to the human kind, have also made the hobby proud, which calls for a celebration. However, the bottom line is that each ham radio operator has a trait – to help, support in need, reach out where no one actually can, just for the passion he has for the hobby.
Going forward, it would not be long before we see, in the coming years, newer blends in the hobby with the addition of various interfaces through the internet and GPS and mobile applications, and this would take ham radio to new heights. One such good platform is the Echolink.
A ham is a national resource and he is the most required person during emergencies, especially when other, conventional forms of communications are not functional. Disasters are perennial and having a good population of ham radio operators and a workforce trained in disaster management could be a national asset which the nation can bank on. Providing much-needed communications through ham radio could be a great service which would not only help in managing disasters but also bring a brand to the hobby. One such example of a trained and prepared volunteer force is the young band of ham radio
operators who, as first responders, managed to provide support within five minutes after the 9/11 attacks in New York. They worked in shifts and managed the tough situation for two weeks after the incident.
With close to three million hams in the world, as per Wikipedia, our population is close to 16,000 in the country, which makes us far more disproportionate. It is the responsibility of the present day hams to increase this ratio by bringing in more people under the umbrella of this hobby. We need to bring in greater awareness by increasing the scope of this hobby by taking it to schools and colleges as one of our important objectives. This would not only help ham radio attain greater heights but also promote scientific temperament in our youth, which would not only give them a licence as a qualification, but also display that we have young citizens with more than average competencies. New initiatives by the Government of India, the communications ministry, and WPC to standardise the grades, higher output to operate, more bandwidth on various spectrums and speedier management of reciprocal licences would be another
great opportunity for the next generation to take up a ham radio, and this awareness needs to be communicated in a structured manner.
|Col Nasser Hussain Dubey, VU2DUB is a ham radio operator since 1991 with permanent QTH at Hyderabad. He is presently based out of Jamnagar, Gujarat. He has been awarded for his amateur radio contributions by Radio Society of Sri Lanka, Royal Oman Amateur Radio Society and Thailand Amateur Radio Society. He has carried out extensive monitoring of amateur radio bands while in northeastern India and J & K. He is a life member of ARSI, Aeronautical Society of India and Indian Sky Diving Federation. He is a Founder Secretary of the National Hobie Class Sailing Association & Artillery Water Sports Association.|
Ham radio offers exceptional thrills, which is seldom experienced in any other hobby, and it is our responsibility to make this experience felt by our next generation. We are the most communication-savvy nation in the world and it would augur well for our present handful number of hams to ensure that we become the platform for marketing this wonderful hobby to our country’s next generation.