We’re listening to the sounds of an amateur radio operator, licensed by the FCC to transmit messages over certain shortwave frequencies. There are tens of thousands of amateur radio operators across the country, and in a certain 24-hour period coming up soon, they’ll be crowding the airwaves. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Every year on the last weekend of June, amateur radio operators, also known as “hams”, hold a nationwide “field day.” The idea is to make contact with as many other hams as possible in one day.
“I’m looking at his log, he’s got Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, and that’s all just been within the past 25 minutes.”
That’s John Small, of McKinney, Texas. Every year, his local ham operators club sets up radios, an antenna and a generator in a local park for the annual field day. And it’s not just about who can rack up the most calls within the shortest amount of time.
“My name’s Jim Gaysen, I’m from Allen. The primary function is to see how much you are prepared for an emergency situation. How quickly can you get in the field, get the generators goin’, get the antennae up, get the station on the air, for a national disaster, say a tornado.”
Amateur radio can work at times when even the mighty cell phone fails. As John Small points out, ham operators often provide a crucial communication link.
“When the Iraqis invaded Kuwait, the information that was smuggled out of Kuwait, that was all done by one ham. He was the only person that was able to get news out of Kuwait.”
Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.