Field Day 2007

Jim, KA9VHG, uses compact rigs and computer.

Published in the Janesville GazetteXtra

Amateur radio enthusiasts compete at field day (Monday, June 25, 2007)

By Catherine W. Idzerda, Gazette staff

ROSCOE, ILL .- Relationship specialists are always saying that men need to learn to communicate better.

Those specialists have never met any of the guys from the Beloit Amateur Radio Club.

Club members spent 24 hours outdoors Saturday and Sunday, communicating with people from around the country.

It wasn't group therapy; it was an amateur radio field day.

A field day is fun with a serious purpose.

"It's a demonstration of the ability of amateurs all over the country to set up communications independent of commercial power lines, antennas or existing infrastructure," explained Doug Speer, 4328 Fox Hills Drive, Janesville. His on-air call sign is W9PN.

Gary Cook of Beloit writes down a contact during the Beloit Amateur Radio Club's field day in Roscoe, Ill. The field day is a demonstration in the contiguous 48 states to see who can make the most contacts during an emergency situation.
Al Hoch/Gazette Staff
If there's a crisis, such as a tornado, amateur radio operators keep the lines of communication open.
 
During Hurricane Katrina, amateur or "Ham" radio was often the only way people could communicate. Hundreds of operators traveled south to save lives and property.
 
At the local field day in Roscoe, Ill., 15 Hams from the stateline area worked at seven operating stations in six tents under eight portable antennas.
 
The goal was to try to contact as many people as they could in 24 hours.
 
Throughout the night, they transmitted signals and received them in return. Or they flipped around the dial of a gadget called a "transceiver," looking for signals to contact.
Ham radio signals were transmitted in a variety of ways including voice, Morse code and digital. The computer translates a digital signal into text.Contacts were logged into a notebook or tracked with a computer program.
 
Speer made 312 contacts in 24 hours.
 
By Sunday morning, the guys were pretty relaxed. They were having a good time running their equipment, talking shop and eating Cheez-its and Pop Tarts for breakfast.
 
In the middle of it all, Frank Kollins, WA9CWX, tried to demonstrate the Morse code keyer.
 
It stopped working.
 
"There's a rule," Kollins said, as Speer jiggled wires and tapped equipment on the table. "Whenever you try to demonstrate something, it breaks."
 
Some Hams, such as Bob Barker-yes, that's his real name-are members of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES). Barker, whose call sign is K9RIJ, and his fellow RACErS are trained to help emergency management agencies during a crisis.
 
But most Hams pursue the hobby just for fun.
 
"You can get started in amateur radio for $200 or $300," said Conrad Herold, W9DL.
 
Dave Fisher, N9JDQ, chimed in, "It all depends on what you tell your wife."
 
And what about the wives? How do they feel about the amateur radio hobby?
 
"Well, they know where we are," Herold said. "We're in the basement, in our Hamshacks."
 
Fisher chimed in again: "Yeah, every time Conrad gets a new radio, his wife gets a diamond ring."
 
That's one way to communicate.