A news item published in The Times of India (Bangalore Edition).

Sunday, October 4, 1998

Ham Radio a dying hobby in hi-tech era

Bangalore: With the internet catching on, and the ubiquitous cellphone and pager,the cumbersome Ham radio set that enthusiasts around the world have used for decades to 'call' each other over airwaves, seems to have been rendered obsolete and even downmarket.

Though many enthusiasts would vouch for that sense of personal contact, and the warmth of a friendly human voice that Ham radio will give you, fewer people are taking to the hobby these days.

There are over 1,500 amateur Ham radio enthusiasts in Bangalore and over 10,000 in the country, but says K.Ramaswamy, part of the organising team of Hamfest India '98 - the festival of Hams which concluded in the city on saturday - : "Most of them do not even use their sets. But I would not say that it is dying" Bangalore is called the Ham Capital of India as it has the maximum number of ham subscribers in a city and also the first city to have the Amateur Radio Club.

The main reasons why HAM radios do not attract people is that sets are expensive to buy, and there are very lengthy procedures involved in obtaining a licence. Even after those who are interested write the mandatory exam conducted by The Ministry of Communications, there is a long-waiting period before the licence reaches you.

The exam, by itself, is relatively easy, and is conducted every three months. It covers a range of subjects including electricity, magnetism, wireless telegraphy and Morse codes. These exams are held in Bangalore at the National College, Bassavangudi.

The rules covering Ham radio are rather strict. It cannot be used for commercial purposes, or for criminal or destabillising activities. It is intended only for general friendship. And there are rules regarding just what you can talk about. Religion, Politics, and any offensive topic is taboo.

A Ham radio set can cost you anywhere from Rs.8,000/- to Rs. 1 lakh. After the initial investment, however, there are no running costs.

Ham radio can be fun, avers Ramaswamy. there are even games to Play - Fox Hunt, for example. This is rather like Hide-and seek, only the hiding is in the airwaves. The subscribers, with the help of signals received can hunt for their hidden fellow subscribers.

The Very High Frequency is used for inter-city transactions and the High Frequency is used for trans world operations. Each subscriber is given a code and they are accessible only through this code.

In the code 'VU2 BRK' VU is the Indian code, 2 is country number, B is for the city BANGALORE and RK stands for the person's initial. The 'HAM' probably stand for Hertz, Armstrong and Marconi, the pioneers in ham radio communication who also communicated between themselves regularly, says Ramaswamy.

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