“What is Amateur Radio?”

Whiskey One Romeo Papa Queen (W1RPQ). These are the call letters for Bob Nazro, past president of the Tri-City Amateur Radio Club (founded in southeastern Connecticut by his father in the 1950s), as he spoke on Feb. 14 to 45 members of the Y’s Men of Meriden (6 by Zoom) about amateur radio (Ham radio) activities.

With over 750,000 ham operators in this country alone, part of a much larger international community, this attractive hobby has fascinated celebrities such as Marlin Brando, King Hussein of Jordan, Burl Ives, astronaut Yuri Gagarin, and Tim Allen.  The appeal of ham radio: it utilizes cutting edge technology, provides thousands of hours of activities, forms friendships around the globe, and provides competition in a myriad of events. And not to be forgotten, it provides communications during emergencies such as power and cell phone outages, used by Nazro and others during three hurricanes that hit our state. Indeed, emergency communications can be established in a matter of minutes.

Our earth’s atmosphere has several layers of electric particles that reflect radio waves, so a local operator can communicate with another ham, often in a distant country, by bouncing these waves back to the ground. More local transmission often makes use of repeaters which are positioned at elevated spots and move the transmission along. Amateur radio operators are limited by national regulations and are restricted to several bandwidths, with an ongoing fight to protect these from governmental and commercial attempts to encroach on them.

A fixed Ham location generally consists of a transceiver, computer (for data storage and management), antenna tuner, SWR (standing wave ratio) meter, antenna feed line and antenna. Simpler, and less expensive, equipment can be easily moved to remote locations. On North America’s annual Field Day in June, about 40,000 enthusiasts “get together” via radio transmission. Nazro’s favorite meetings are held at the Zagray Farm in Colchester, attended by children, families and seniors. A recent Winter Field Day was held at Nazro’s farm, with 560 contacts made within a 24-hour span.  Connecticut’s chapter of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League), located in Newington, connects hams to information on news and resources.

Ham radio competitions are a major part of the attraction, attempting to maximize the number of contacts during a set period. Other activities include “fox hunting” contests (trying to locate a rogue transmitter) and international contests. Nazro has personally made contact with 5000-6000 operators around the globe.

For further information about the Y’s Men of Meriden, go to ysmenofmeriden.com or call 203-238-7784.


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