KINGSTON TWP. — Amateur radio operators, otherwise known as “hams,” have been communicating with each other since before the first radio, television, computer or smart phone.
Since 1933, hams have been filling the airwaves all over the world, and on Saturday members of Murgas Amateur Radio Club based in Wilkes-Barre gathered at Frances Slocum State Park for a field day to keep the “ham-bug” alive.
Club President Bob Michael of Pringle said hams from all over North America will be participating, signaling each other for 24 hours over the weekend. He estimates tens of thousands of hams will be on the air during that time.
The 70-member club has been holding this annual ham radio event since 1977, Michael said.
Visitors are welcome to stop by to learn how to operate ham radios and talk to other hams, he added. The group will be located in pavilion 2 at the park; visitors will notice the high-tech antennas standing up to 50 feet high reaching out to the ham universe.
When hams communicate, much of the conversation involves basic introductory information, some of it in Morse code or other forms of radio language, said Joe Caffrey, a Larksville resident who has been an enthusiastic ham since 1955.
“It’s about making contact with other hams,” Caffrey said. “Some clubs even hold contests to earn bragging rights about how many contacts they made,” he added.
On Saturday, the club was pulling in about 30 new contacts per hour from all over the continent, Michael said. The Murgas group usually leads all of Eastern Pennsylvania each year, he said.
Like any other hobby, the computer has made a significant impact on hams. One computer program sends repetitive signals at the rate of 4,000 words per minute, Michael said.
“Pulling in the signal is like catching a grain of sand,” he said.
Caffrey said ham operators are not allowed to conduct any business or do any broadcasting. But they are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and represent a “varied” group of all types of enthusiasts, from government officials to mechanics and from astronauts to farmers.
Caffrey admitted he tried to communicate with another ham in Australia to get a heads up on the next day’s stock market; however, it never really worked he said.
Michael said hams provide a valuable community service. The group is called amateur because its members aren’t paid. But they can be of assistance whenever necessary, even during disasters, to communicate all over the world, he said.
“We do it because we love it,” he said.