“People are finding it pretty darn cool that, even in the 21st century, they are able to throw a wire into a tree and communicate with somebody halfway around the world. And it doesn’t involve a cellphone or the Internet,” Kutzko said.
“It’s kind of like electronic fishing,” he said. On weekends, he sets up his portable ham radio station in a public park and literally throws a wire into a tree to see who he can connect with.
Some radio enthusiasts like to see how far they can reach with minimal equipment. They’ve used stove pipes or bed springs for antennas to talk with someone in Russia.
Some enthusiasts like to bounce signals off meteor trails, for the technical challenge, while others are more into chatting with people overseas.
Ham radio is critically important for emergency communication when telephone lines and the Internet are down. Cellphone coverage also can be down in emergencies.
A ham operator in Waukesha was credited for saving lives when he picked up a distress call from a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean. He alerted the Mexican Navy, which launched a search for the sinking vessel.
Ham operators routinely bring their rigs to public events, such as bicycle races, to provide communication and assist emergency medical personnel.
“You can make this hobby into whatever you want it to be,” said Bob Kastelic with the Milwaukee Area Amateur Radio Society.
Many friendships come from tinkering with equipment and getting involved in local radio clubs. Some ham operators have known each other for decades, over the air, even if they’ve never met in person.
Each operator is assigned a unique identifier call sign, which they use to initiate over-the-air conversations.
When an operator dies, often their radio identifier is included in their obituary.<< previous 1 2 3