The Pontotoc County Amateur Radio Association participated Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24, in the American Radio Relay League’s annual worldwide Field Day 2018.

I know that’s a lot of names and terms that not everyone will find familiar, so let me break it down.

• What is amateur radio? Known to many as “ham radio,” this branch of radio communications has its roots in the earliest radio communications. Amateur radio is a hobby and, by law, completely non-commercial. Operating a radio on any bands designated as amateur requires a license. More advanced licenses allow the use of more frequency bands.

• Who can become an amateur radio operator, and how can I become an amateur radio operator? There is no age limit for becoming a “ham.” Knowledge of Morse code is no longer required for any U.S. amateur radio license, and it is not even necessary to be a U.S. citizen. To become a “ham” radio operator requires you to take a 35-question test from a volunteer examiner. If you would like to do this, contact me at the address at the bottom of this article and I’ll put you in touch with one.

• What is a frequency, and what are some examples of amateur radio frequencies? Commercial radio listeners are undoubtedly familiar with the FM radio band, which spans 88 MHz 108 MHz. “MHz” stands for one million hertz, named after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the German physicist who first conclusively proved the existence of the electromagnetic waves. One hertz is one cycle per second. Amateur radio frequencies are divided into bands and span the entire radio spectrum, from “shortwave,” starting above the AM band and stretching almost to the lowest television channel frequencies, upward through VHF, UHF, and extending into the microwave bands. Radio frequencies that travel around the world through a phenomenon known as “propagation” are generally those below 30 MHz.

• Is amateur radio the same as citizen’s band, “CB?” No. Though they use many of the same principals, CB radio does not require a license to operate and is restricted to 40 channels in the 27 Mhz portion of the spectrum.

• What is “Field Day?” Every June, ARRL sponsors Field Day, a worldwide contest meant to challenge and strengthen the ability to radio amateurs to communicate under adverse conditions in the field, simulating situations in which normal communications might not be available, such as during a natural disaster. Field Day, in my view, is one-way amateur radio can stay relevant in the 21st century.

As an amateur radio operator since 1996, I’ve seen the hobby change as fast as the technology scene in general. Meaningful use of the entire radio spectrum is increasingly significant in a world that depends on radio energy for everything from cell phone service to military communications aboard, and everything in between that uses any kind of wireless technology.

One of my favorite activities as a radio amateur is antenna spot. Antennas are to radio waves what lenses are to light, and I find them fascinating in the same ways. One thing I notice in our community is a number of antennas atop businesses that are no longer in use due to the transition to cellular smartphones. If you have an unused antenna on or in your business and you would like to donate it to the Pontotoc County Amateur Radio Association, contact me and I can find a good home for it.

Finally, if you have a police or public safety scanner and would like to listen to local amateurs, program it for 145.27 Mhz or 147.285, and start listening!

To contact Richard about becoming an amateur radio operator or with any other questions, email rbarron@theadanews.com.

Chief Photographer

Richard R. Barron is Chief Photographer for The Ada News. Richard has been at the News since October 1988. Prior to coming to Ada, Richard worked as staff photographer for The Shawnee News-Star. Richard attended Oklahoma University.