By Paul Buescher
Electronic communications today is nothing short of miraculous compared to decades ago but it all has roots dating back to the late 1800’s when radio was ‘invented’. Most believe that Marconi invented radio but in 1943, the US Supreme Court granted the radio patent to Nikola Tesla. Marconi improved on Tesla’s design and sent the first wireless message in 1895. Since that time, individuals began experimenting and constantly improving on the radio invention. Over the years these individuals became known as “Amateur (ham) radio” operators.
Today there about three million licensed amateur radio operators in the world with 800,000 in the United States. And there are 27,948 right here in Ohio!
Despite the popularity of the myriad of communication options available to everyone, Amateur Radio has been gaining in popularity even among the younger generations. This is due in part to the inclusion of many new digital modes using computers and other equipment with their radios.
When many think about ham radio they think about Morse Code, huge antenna towers and large “boat anchor” radios. While this may be true for some, things have come a long way. Ham radios can now fit in the palm of your hand and Morse Code is no longer required to obtain a license!
My interest in radio began when I got my first CB radio in 1965 at the young age of 12-years old. In 1970, I passed my exam and received my first Amateur Radio license. Exams back then were quite hard and you had to know Morse Code and you had to take the test in front of the “Men in Black” (FCC agents). Today, the code is no longer required and the exams are quite easy and administered by volunteers in various Amateur Radio clubs in the area.
Since those early days, Amateur Radio has been one of my primary hobbies and I’ve made friends all over the world on all continents. And I’ve done this with simple pieces of wire strung between my house and some trees – We call these dipole (longwire) antennas. I’ve talked with well-known world political leaders, including a King, Hollywood stars and cosmonauts aboard the space station “Mir.” I’ve even operated “Special Event” stations underwater on a shipwreck and aboard US Air Force aircraft. However, most of the time I enjoy simple chats with my friends in Europe and South America and just about everywhere else. I regularly talk with stations in all 50 states and have worked over 140 countries. And yes, they all speak fluent English!
Amateur radio has always come through during disasters and emergencies when all other forms of communications failed. Back in September, 1988, Hurricane Gilbert struck the Caribbean and then into Mexico, causing historic destruction. I ended up handling welfare messages and news from Jamaica to the Cleveland Red Cross. WEWS TV-5 set up live at my station and reported on the stories of destruction coming directly from the radios at my station.
You can also be in touch with those making history. This was the case in December, 1986, when Dick Rutan and Jenna Yeager flew their “Voyager” aircraft non-stop around the world on one tank of gas. WKYC TV-3 got their direct updates from my station. They also had their headline for one of the newscasts when Voyager reported that they “Lost an Engine” on their return leg of the trip. They got it running again and made history when they landed on the west coast.
Imagine for a moment, sitting by your radio on a cold winter night, talking with your new-found friend on a nice warm island in the Caribbean or on a hot summer day chatting away with another friend in Iceland or the Antarctic. It can all be done with a little studying and an expenditure of anywhere from a few hundred dollars and up.
Amateur radio literally puts you in touch with the entire world and provides you with the opportunity to make many friends and learn about their culture and geography. And Ohio provides a unique opportunity to take these radio friendships one step further. The Dayton (Ohio) “Hamvention” takes place every year and is known worldwide because it is the world’s largest gathering of Amateur radio operators. I’ve met many stateside and foreign operators that I’ve talked with over the years!
If you are interested in Amateur radio or shortwave listening, please do not hesitate to contact me. You are never too old or too young to get into this fascinating hobby! For more information on this exciting hobby, you can check out the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) website at . I also invite you to check out my station at .
Paul G. Buescher – N8HHG
Northfield Center Twp., Ohio