B.L. Manohar (VU2UR), a retired Indian Railway Steel Bridge Engineer has been on the air since 1967. He was the honorary regional monitoring systems coordinator for International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 3, the first ever Indian to hold the post. He is a member of the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI).
Amateur radio is a self-educating hobby
You learn by experimenting. I use simple transceiver equipment and antenna, with the basic modes like telegraphy, voice and digital communications. Every conversation I have with a foreign amateur on the bands is an experiment.
I was basically a ‘short wave listener’, listening to all kinds of broadcasts, such as those directed to the general public, to ships at sea, ATC to aircraft communications, and many others. I had learnt wireless telegraphy to hear ships’ communications. From here, I gradually drifted to amateur radio.
The uses are endless
But, it has been used primarily for rescues, disaster communications and other types of emergencies. At other times, it is used to help the state authorities in communications during events such as the Kumbh Mela where lakhs of people attend, or during election duties in remote areas.
I have contacted research expeditions to the Arctic
I have been using my set up for the relay of emergency communications when needed. At other times, I hunt for research expeditions to Arctic and Antarctica, the many flora and fauna radio operations from national parks and bio-reserves of distant countries, expeditions to remote islands and mountains.
Bangalore has about 2,000 or so amateurs
That is a conservative estimate for Bangalore. Of those, a weekly average of about 200 can be found in the 2-metre band (with line of sight communications), and about 10 in the short wave bands in Telegraphy, Voice and digital modes. The rest are dormant.
You will find people from every age and background among the ham radio community — from schoolchildren to CEOs, carpenters to chartered accountants, hoteliers to homemakers, from astronauts to Arctic explorers.
Internet and cellphones have influenced ham radio
That goes for 3G equipment, GPRS and satellite phones too, which have all influenced amateur radio very much. Amateurs are using them as standby modes of gathering information required. But the genuine amateur radio operator enjoys the vagaries of propagation affected by solar activity. He checks the predictions with the actual conditions that prevail, in real time.
A receiver, a transmitter and a matching, efficient antenna are the basic requirements, with capability to use telegraphy or voice modes. If a computer is also available, digital modes become easier, where you can also experiment with slow scan TV. The government has permitted import of equipment and this has helped many amateurs to proudly show off their Japanese-make transceivers and the like.
There are a good number of clubs, websites to help
They help serve the amateur fraternity and guide a newcomer. The Bangalore Amateur Radio Club has been helping budding amateurs for 50 years now. Those amateurs far away from metropolitan cities find time to come and exchange their ideas at the ‘Hamfest’ held every year. This year, it will be held at Kochi in December.
Amateur radio is not an aging hobby
The modern generation may have at their disposal the latest electronic equipment.
But consider this: when all cellphone towers have fallen down, landlines broken, satellite dishes damaged, as often happens during an earthquake or tsunami, amateur radio operators are the only ones who can provide emergency communications.
This fact is very often forgotten.