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World Amateur Radio Day Set for Monday, April 18

04/12/2011

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and its more than 160 Member-Societies that represent countries around the world will celebrate World Amateur Radio Day on April 18. The theme for this year’s celebration is Amateur Radio: The First Technology-Based Social Network.

Long before the Internet and smart phones, Amateur Radio operators have been talking, texting and sharing for decades. But unlike those commercial services, Amateur Radio continues to attract people world-wide by providing international communications for free. And because it does not need pre-established supporting infrastructure, these radio-savvy “amateurs” can reach out to friends in every corner of the world, as well as into space.

Amateur Radio operators have been the leaders in developing many of today’s modern electronic and communications marvels. Today, the citizens of Earth think of “wireless” as being the ubiquitous cellular phone. But this technology is only made possible due to the pioneering work in radio technologies first explored by these “amateurs.” Many of our leading electrical engineers draw from their practical experiences as Amateur Radio operators as they continue to develop applications blending computers and radios. Ham radio operators may be “amateur” because they are unpaid volunteers, but their skills and contributions to the world are of the highest order.

“Of course, not just anyone [in the early days of wireless] could hook themselves up to a commercial telegraph wire. While there were private telegraph lines constructed and operated for the personal amusement of their owners, they were not generally able to form networks covering more than a neighborhood,” explained ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, in his editorial “Our Social Network” [QST, “It Seems to Us,” April 2011, page 9]. “Early telephone operators got to know their customers as well as one another, but their technology-based social network did not extend much beyond a town or city. It was not until the advent of wireless telegraphy that it became possible for individuals to span significant distances and communicate instantaneously with one another without a costly intermediary. Thus was born the first open, technology-based social network -- the one we now call Amateur Radio.”

Calling, texting or even using old Morse code on the amateur bands can result in chatting with other radio amateurs across town -- or far across the oceans. While hams have repeatedly been in the news for their life-saving communications services in disasters, a large part of their activities is the excitement and joy of contacting distant and remote areas of the world, learning directly about each others’ regions and lives and trying different ways to make radio contacts around the world.

“The social network created and maintained by hams continues to grow, even as the landline telegraph operators who coined the epithet have disappeared,” Sumner wrote. “Today there is so much going on in Amateur Radio that it’s impossible for one person to take it all in. Just as it isn’t possible to interact meaningfully with hundreds of ‘friends’ on Facebook, even the most dedicated of us must choose among the dozens of subgroups that are pursuing specific interests within Amateur Radio. There isn’t even room here to list them all. Experience teaches us that the ones that will flourish are those that actively welcome newcomers, whether they are newly licensed or just new to this particular pursuit. One of the beauties of our social network is that there are no internal barriers; one can move from chasing low-band DX in the winter to microwave hilltopping in the summer, from public service one weekend to a contest the next, from trying out the latest digital mode in the morning to tapping a straight key after dinner.”

If your club is planning on celebrating World Amateur Radio Day, please let ARRL News Editor S. Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA, know via e-mail.



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