Mar 15, 2024 | Club News, Education

Discovering Ham Radio: My Journey Into the World of Amateur Radio

In the age of smartphones, social media and instant messaging, one might wonder what could possibly draw someone to the seemingly antiquated world of ham radio.  Yet, in 2013, I was captivated by this age-old hobby, embarking on a journey that would open up a new realm of communication, exploration, and community.

But first, as an amateur radio operator, please consider joining our own WBCCI Amateur Radio Club; it’s our oldest Intra-Club, established in 1963 and comprised of amateur radio operators traveling the country in RVs, hosting radio nets, or at least interested in RVing.

We welcome all appropriately licensed hams to join us for our daily nets. Net information can be found on our Amateur Radio Club website. Also, be sure to check out the inaugural Ham Rally scheduled for May 9-12 at the North Texas Airstream Club just south of Dallas TX. It’s a great collaborative effort between a Local Club, Region and Intra-Club.

Obtaining my ham radio license in 2013 marked the beginning of an adventure that continues to enrich my life in ways I never imagined. So, why did I decide to delve into ham radio, and what kept me hooked? Let me share my story.

I am an avid outdoors person, and I would often travel and camp in locations, sometimes solo, without cell phone or other emergency connectivity: backpacking in the California Sierras, desert camping in Death Valley National Park, kayaking on Tomales Bay, CA, etc.  I came to realize I wanted to have the ability to reach out to the outside world to request and offer assistance to others if needed. I had known about ham radio in general, but fellow Airstream Club members, Roger KD6FBF, and Jim N5RTG encouraged me to dive in.

The other allure was the leveraging of my professional life: at the time, I worked at Hewlett Packard in one of the Research and Development (R&D) labs in Silicon Valley, CA, designing various front-end RF and IF circuits for signal generators, spectrum analyzers, power meters, noise figure meters. It all kind of fit together!

After getting licensed at the first (Technician) level in mid-2013, I quickly decided to upgrade my license to General, then Extra, and acquired my current callsign: AA6EM.  Fortunately, no Morse Code was required, and I held an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science (Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT).  That, paired with designing receiver RF front-ends up to the low-GHz range, and intermediate frequency (IF) receiver chains, was extremely helpful for the Extra-class license.

Anyway, as I was thinking through the other reasons I and others enjoy Ham Radio, here’s what I believe draws people into our hobby:

Curiosity and Exploration

Like many who venture into ham radio, my journey began with a spark of curiosity.  I was intrigued by the idea of communicating over long distances using nothing more than radio waves and essential equipment.  The allure of exploring this time-tested mode of communication, untethered from the constraints of the digital world, was irresistible.

Technical Challenge

As someone with a penchant for tinkering and a fascination with technology, the technical aspect of ham radio held great appeal.  Obtaining my license meant delving into the practical intricacies of radio theory and learning more about antennas, propagation, and signal modulation.  It was a journey of continuous learning filled with challenges and rewards.

Emergency Preparedness

The importance of reliable communication in times of emergency cannot be overstated.  In an age where our dependence on digital infrastructure is greater than ever, the resilience of ham radio as a communication tool in times of crisis was a significant motivator for me.  Knowing that I could rely on ham radio to stay connected when other forms of communication failed provided a sense of security and peace of mind.

Sense of Community

One of the most rewarding aspects of ham radio is the sense of community it fosters.  From local ham radio clubs to global networks of enthusiasts, the ham radio community is vibrant, inclusive, and welcoming.  I found myself drawn to this community of like-minded individuals, eager to share knowledge, exchange experiences, and forge meaningful connections.

Adventure and Exploration

Ham radio opened up a world of adventure and exploration, allowing me to connect with people from all walks of life, often in far-flung corners of the globe.  Whether making contacts with fellow enthusiasts halfway across the world or participating in contests and special events, every transmission offered the possibility of a new and exciting encounter.

In retrospect, obtaining my ham radio license in 2013 was just the beginning of a journey that has enriched my life in countless ways.  From the thrill of making my first contact to the friendships forged over the airwaves, ham radio has become more than just a hobby – it is a passion, a community, and a way of life.  And as I look ahead to the future, I am excited to continue exploring, learning, and sharing the magic of ham radio with others.

Eric de AA6EM

<h4><a href="" target="_self">Eric McHenry</a></h4>

Eric McHenry

International President Eric McHenry (BRN #153) and wife LaVerne (BRN #253) are owners of a 30' FB Classic, "Kawika" and reside in Northern California wine country. Both are avid and long-term campers, from the early days of backpacking, tent camping, kayak camping, and now Airstreams.

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