Blackstone Valley Has Amateur Radio Club
Sep 30, 2019 06:00AM
By Pamela Johnson
Bellingham's Mickey Callahan uses a transmitter to attempt to connect to others as part of an ongoing contest to reach as many people as possible.
story & photo by Jennifer M. Russo, Contributing Writer
Antennas and wires reached for the sky in front of the Bellingham Library recently, and you might have imagined a scene out of a movie like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Don’t worry; no one was trying to contact alien life forms, but they WERE trying to contact other radio enthusiasts all around the world, which can be done simply by using the frequencies that always exist around us.
Before the Internet and cell phones, there were radios. Using satellites and a transmitter that creates a small current, people can communicate with space stations, meet people in other countries, and even support recovery efforts. The Blackstone Valley Amateur Radio Club aimed to generate interest in this unique hobby by sharing with library visitors the history of how radio has been used and how it can be integrated with today’s modern technology to learn and discover.
Inside the building, tables were covered with radios from across generations, used in critical moments throughout time. From Morse Code machines to a Drake T-4XC transmitter, Jim Johnson and other members of the club shared not only the evolution of the technology but also some amazing stories. For instance, during WWII, a radio on a farm in Scituate was able to pick up German transmissions in Africa, eavesdropping on tank-to-tank communications. One of the members, while visiting across the country, was able to use a homemade antenna to contact his home state of Rhode Island.
Mickey Callahan hopes that more people will be attracted to the excitement of making a connection with someone, but also be drawn to how organizations like ARES (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service) truly helps others. Recently, they sent one of their club members to Puerto Rico to assist after the small island was hit by Hurricane Maria, which wiped out all other forms of communication. Radio can be used when cell signals fail, with very little electricity, so it is ideal in these unfortunate situations by allowing the broadcasting of information that can help save lives.
In addition to learning to build a transmitter, which can be as small as a tuna can, someone interested in amateur radio can become licensed through the FCC for less than $40. The organization also sponsors field trips to places like Yellowstone National Park, teaches Morse Code, and uses radio to control other technology, such as drones and robots. There are even competitions called Radiosport contests, which challenge operators to reach as many people as they can in a given timeframe. Mickey noted that he had just reached someone in an Ohio library who was having a similar event at the same time with their own radio club.
Amateur radio is perfect for all ages and there are many things that can be done with it, depending on your area of interest. Think amateur radio might be for you? Check out BVARC’s website at w1ddd.org to get started today.