A news item published in The Hindu(Chennai Edition)
October 1, 2002
Where Everyone Goes On-Air
WHEN THE 'HAMs' talk of 'One World, One Language' they are not just getting the lyrics together for yet another 'let there be peace' song. Being a group of amateur radio enthusiasts riding the airwaves the world over and communicating by the morse code, they literally think in terms of just one world and language.
A turly democratic medium, the radio is accessible to everybody, and as a result, hams the world over, the famous and infamous, the royalty and commoners, all tune in and talk to each other. Unlike in the movies it's not just the people stranded on deserted islands with a bit of wire and two coconuts who can put together a state of the art radio system to get search parties together. Amateur radio has a large number of fans, 8,500 of whom are going di-dah, di-dah, di-dah from India. In fact, there are already a thousand hams in this city alone, rushing home after work or getting up at the crack of dawn to tune into a ham frequency and talk to other friendly voices all around the city, and world. And according to R.Ravi krishnan of the Madras Amateur Radio Society the Indian Government is planning to send up a satellite just for the hams.
Amateur Radio, according to the society, is more than just a hobby. Time and again the hams have been able to help the indian Government and people with their skills. Ravi Krishnan for instance has helped direct a lost ship, which had a ham operator on board who sent out distress signals, which his radio picked up.
The hams also help with relief work at natural disaster sites since they are the most efficient communicators in those situations. "All we need in a small set and a piece of wire to use as an antenna, and we can communicate with everbody," says Ravi Krishnan as he discusses how the hams pitched in after the Gujarat earthquake. Because of this he says the hams are especially well connected in Andhra Pradesh, where cyclones are common.
However, though hams get familiar with each other's voices, they do not actually meet or even really who it is they have been talking to. So Hamfest was created in 1991 to give all the Indian hams a chance to meet and get to know each other. Though the meet began with just a few hams getting together to share ham related information like where to find radio components and exchange technical notes, it grew into an arena where all hams could get together and not just meet, but also help each other and together work for the spirit of the hobby.
This year (2002) Hamfest will be held in Chennai on October 5 and 6. The subjects that will be discussed this year include, new digital modes for amateur radio and the issue of interference in the ham band by Cable TV operators and people using cordless phones. Hamfest will also be setting up a radio station on the premises so that all the hams can stay connected with those who are unable to be physically present at the meet.
Visitors and non-hams are welcome. The old hands are hoping to inspire more people to get connected (MARS tel:24891288). After all where else can you have a one-to-one conversation, with more than a million listening?
By Shonali Muthalaly
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