A news item published in The New Indian Express (Chennai Edition).

February 27, 1995

Hams making waves in communications

Beep,beep,beep.... The amateur radio operators or hams in Neyveli are back in the air and are humming with activity after a long gap.

Amateur radio, popularly known as 'ham' radio, is a fascinating and scientific hobby but costly, too. It requires special skill to operate the transmitter and receiver.

A casual chat with president P.Ramarasu and general secretary V.Venkatesh of Neyveli Amateur Radio club, which recently celebrated its anniversary, revealed interesting details about ham operation.

They said hams exchanged messages of technical interest or of personal interest to develop their skill in radio communication techniques through this hobby. News, music, tape-recordings and political discussions are forbidden according to the rules.

A ham may communicate either by talking (voice mode) or through his computer. Some of the hams do not confine themselves to talking to hams nearby but conduct experiments in radio communication by bouching their signals to reach far-off stations.

Technical co-ordinator R.Mahadevan said the price of the equipment ranged from Rs.1,000 to Rs. one lakh in the open market. he said a reasonably good set could be assembled at home by purchasing the necessary spares from junk shops and the total cost would come to around Rs.6,000.

Before operating a ham radio, one should get a licence from the Wireless Planning and Co-ordination (WPC) wing of the Department of Telecommunications in the Ministry of Communications, after passing their relevant examination conducted by the WPC wing. There are four grades of licences and the extent of priveleges depends on the grades.

According to enquires, around 100 persons took the examination from Neyveli in 1985 and only 45 emerged successful. But owing to lack of apparatus and their being employed in various parts of the country they could not pursue ham activies.

Neyveli being an important industrial town in the world. Mr. Ramarasu and Mr. Venkatesan wanted to revive ham activities and start an exclusive club. they launched the Neyveli Amateur Radio Club with an active membership of 25 hams.

They have even applied to the Ministry of Telecommunications for a call sign of their own - VUZ NLC. The NLSC had also promised to provide accommodation to house the club so as to serve as a meeting point for hams.

At present there are six assembly units on which new hams could be trained. Continuous practice will enable out to acquire perfection in operating hams.

Hobby apart, hams also render public service during emergencies and whenever natural calamities like cyclones, floods, earthquakes strike anywhere in the country. They rush to the scene of disaster and instal their radio stations to organise rescue and relief works. They also pass on messages seeking urgent blood transfusion, life-saving drugs or specialist medical advice normal times.

The importance of ham service was felt during the 1993 cyclone and floods in Tamil Nadu, according to Mr. Mahadevan and Mr. Venkatesan. they said hams also acted as relay stations to pass on urgent messages to the southern-most districts of Tamil Nadu when a devastating earthquake shook Maharashtra on September 30,1993.

Author - Mr.S.Gururajan

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