KENNEBUNK – Interest in amateur radio, often referred to as “amateur” began at the turn of the 20th century. It was a way for people to talk to each other, across town or across the world.
And although cell phones and other means of communication are widely used, amateur radio remains a popular hobby and a valuable resource.
“It can provide communications when all other systems go down – this has been proven over and over again during events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, etc.,” said Alex Mendelsohn of the New England Radio Discussion Society. The company will be hosting its annual Field Day later this month.
On Saturday, June 26, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the public will have the chance to meet and chat with local amateurs and see for themselves what the amateur radio service is all about. Field Day will be held in the South Yard of The New School, 38 York St. (Route 1).
On field day, people will see a shortwave radio station capable of communicating around the world. Mendelsohn said the station will use Morse code as well as voice, and possibly some computer-generated digital communications. Visitors will see emergency preparedness equipment, makeshift antennas and meet operators as they set up and operate a temporary radio station.
During winter storms, spring floods, tornadoes, wildfires and other events around the world, ham radio operators have often been the only people able to communicate, saving lives and property, according to the ‘American Amateur Radio League.
The New England Radio Discussion Society was formed in 2010 and began hosting the field day about a year later, said Susan Bloomfield, a registered member of the Federal Communications Commission as an amateur radio operator since 2015.
Bloomfield said she remembers her older brother Donald building transceivers and other equipment from kits, and stringing wire antennas through her bedroom window to the trees in the garden.
“He was operating from Long Island, New York, where we grew up, contacting hams around the world by voice and Morse code,” Bloomfield said. Back then, she said, she was watching and listening.
Bloomfield said her brother died in 2014 and a year later she attended an introductory amateur radio course offered by Adult Education in Wells by the Wireless Society of Southern Maine. She signed up for the course and got her license.
“Through a special program offered by the Federal Communications Commission, the federal licensing body, I discovered that I was able to assume Donald’s call sign, WB2UQP,” Bloomfield said. “So pursuing this hobby is very sentimental for me. I can honor Don by sending his call sign by voice or Morse code whenever I’m on the air. I do it especially on his birthday.
Bloomfield said she was encouraged to get licensed by Maine Hams, who also helped her set up her own radio system, and appreciates the friendships made at the local club.
“I couldn’t have made a better decision than to immerse myself in amateur radio, a lifelong learning hobby,” Bloomfield said.
Mendelsohn got involved in amateur radio as a teenager.
“A lot of neighborhood kids at the time were excited about ham radio,” he said. “I had friends in high school who were already laid off, and that was an incentive. I also attended vocational and technical school, and radio was a natural extension of that. Indeed, most high schools in the 1950s and 1960s had amateur radio clubs and school stations.
He said computers now play a role in the amateur radio system, providing sites for call sign searches and providing solar-influenced radio propagation reports. Additionally, amateur radio provides a way to study basic electrical theory and apply it to more advanced systems, Mendelsohn said, such as amplifiers, receivers, computers, transmitters, and a myriad of circuitry in use. in an amateur radio station.
Recently, the New England Radio Discussion Society facilitated a discussion between students from Sea Road School in Kennebunk and astronaut Michael Hopkins on the International Space Station.
The radio group approached the school and plans were made over several months. Then, on January 21, a link was established between the school and Hopkins aboard the space station. It was transmitted via the Internet over a private link to an amateur radio ground station in Italy, where Claudio Ariotti, who uses the call sign 1K1SLD, spoke to the space station on the 2-meter VHF FM band and transmitted the signal. The space station did the same, and Ariotti then passed the signal on to the school.
“Amateur radio can be an eye opener for kids and can ultimately lead to careers in various fields of electronics and communications technology,” Mendelsohn said.
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