Forget Facebook and Twitter.
The world’s oldest social media network is making a comeback.
Amateur radio or “ham radio” has survived the threats of the cellphone, the Internet and the elimination of the Morse code requirement for operators.
Now it has adapted to new technologies making it easier, cheaper and more accessible for everyone to find their voices on the airwaves, said Brian Davies, a member of the Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club.
While long-time hams or operators feared the cellphone would mark the end of ham radio, Bob King, club president, said digital modes and computers used with ham radios are helping the resurgence.
“We’re getting a lot of the new hams into the hobby because we’re using computers to generate the digital signals for sending and receiving (as opposed to analog),” said King. “It’s growing faster now then it ever has.”
At the Shady Nook Hall in Red Deer County on Saturday, spirits were high as the 100 or so hams gathered for some “eyeball to eyeball” time or visits during the 44th annual Red Deer Amateur Radio Picnic and Hamfest on Saturday.
The Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club has about 60 male and female members from all over the region.
For many in the club, the lure of connecting with people around the world is part of the reason for taking up the hobby.
For others it’s helping out in emergencies and disasters. In some situations ham radio may be the only way to communicate.
Local ham operators were instrumental in providing support during the Pine Lake Tornado. The club works very closely with the Red Deer County. King said “when all else fails ham radio will be there.”
“And it’s a fun hobby,” said King. “You get to talk to people all around the world.”
In fact some members have talked to astronauts in space and bounced their radio signals off the moon.
Bill Jackson, club secretary, said it was the camaraderie and making new contacts around the world that sparked his interest in radio.
Jackson, who has multiple sclerosis, said he has a limited number of things that he can do and this gives him reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
Jackson said they talk mostly about ham radio and equipment. There’s a gentleman’s agreement of “no politics” and “no business.”
Geoff Bawden, president of the Radio Amateurs of Canada, said the amateur radio equipment has evolved along with technology.
He said the handheld radios are smaller, lighter and cheaper than they were 30 years ago. Bawden said those with visual or hearing impairments are able to become a ham because of the advances in technology.
The club hosts weekend courses on amateur radio.
Operators must have a licence in order to be on the air. For more information visit www.caarc.ca.