Carpe Weekend: The spirit of radio
By Jason Freeman June 20, 2012 3:36PM
A man scans the dial searching for transmissions from other ham radio operators during a Field Day event in 2010. | File photo
JAY’S OTHER WEEKEND PICKS
BOTTOMS UP: Together We Cope will host a fundraiser from 6 to
9 p.m. Thursday at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 16156 S. LaGrange Road, Orland Park. The event features burgers, entrees, beer, a silent auction and a raffle. Information: Kerry Nolan, (708) 633-5040, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CATCH AND RELEASE: Professional angler George Jacobek will host “Secrets to Successful Fishing” from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at Mokena Community Public Library, 11327 W. 195th St. Jacobek will teach the ins and outs of fishing in local lakes. Information: (708) 479-9663.
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:54AM
Call an actor a ham, and you’re likely to receive a black eye or, at the very least, a leveled gaze hot enough to melt lead.
But call Evergreen Park resident Todd Schumann a ham, and he’ll give you a knowing smile and ask on which frequency you broadcast.
Welcome to the fraternal world of radio amateurs, also known as hams, who take the power of the airwaves into their own hands by learning how radios work and how signals are transmitted through the air.
“It’s a hobby, just like coin collecting or things like that,” Schumann said.
“It’s great being able to get on the radio and talk to people that you’ll probably never see or hear of again, and they can be anywhere — a couple states away or over in Europe.”
If ham radio sounds like the kind of hobby you’ve been itching to try, check out the Tri-Town Radio Amateur Club’s annual Field Day at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hazel Crest Public Works complex, 107th Street and California Avenue.
“Basically, it’s an exercise to test our radios and our antennae systems and make sure that they’re operating, and to develop the operator skill to be able to make quick contacts, exchanging information accurately between your station and the station that you contact,” said Schumann, who is a Tri-Town member and Field Day chairman.
Although getting into ham radio does require a bit of cash, you won’t have to take out a second mortgage on your house.
“I would say that you can get on the air buying used equipment and simple antennas for maybe $200 to $300,” Schumann said.
“Where you go from there just depends on how deep your pockets are.”
Those new to the amateur radio game also will have to take a series of tests in order to progress to higher levels on the ham chain of command.
“Every amateur has to pass tests of varying difficulties to get licenses of different ranks, and every one of those is a more difficult test to achieve a higher ranking,” Schumann said.
But if you think you’re going to pull a Christian Slater and “Pump Up the Volume” with your own pirate radio station, think again.
“This is strictly for personal communications,” Schumann said. “You can’t broadcast music for the fun of it; you can’t conduct a business over it. It’s strictly for personal enjoyment.”
Schumann said it’s never too late to take up ham radio as a hobby.
“There are amateurs that are 10 years old, then there’s amateurs that are 100 years old, so it’s a broad age range, and also a broad occupational range,” he said.
“The club attracts everyone from electrical engineers to people who are involved in communications of different types. One of our members is even an emergency room physician.”
Schumann said ham radio is less about the technology and more about the voices behind it.
“When you talk to these people, it’s not always talking about ham radios,” he said.
“You talk about where they are or about the weather or about your families. It’s just a very interesting hobby.”
For more information on how to become an amateur radio operator, visit the American Radio Relay League at arrl.org.