A FRIEND IN NEED, A FRIEND INDEED: THE TECHNOLOGY CALLED HAM RADIO

Posted: October 2, 2011 in Interview, The NamoLeague Times
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THE IMPORTANCE OF HAM RADIO WAS HIGHLIGHTED DURING THE 2001 GUJARAT EARTHQUAKE. TEN YEARS DOWN THE LINE, THE TECHNOLOGY IS YET NOT TO THE FOREFRONT SAYS MR. PRAVEEN VALERA.

Why HAM Radio is called Amateur Radio?
Basically, HAM Radio is a hobby, for which a person needs to be self-motivated. He has to learn the techniques on his own or go to a person who knows HAM well. It is not a very handy hobby. Amateur may be called the opposite of mature, it is a self-developed skill. Just like there are amateur photographers who practice photography but may not have a degree in the same field. Similarly this wireless technology of HAM has the technical name of Amateur Radio. And the person operating the HAM Radio is called a HAM.

Is there any full-form for HAM? How did the term come into existence?
No, HAM is not an acronym unlike B.Sc or B.Com. If you can recollect, the unit of temperature was Centigrade, later changed to Celsius. This was because Celsius was the inventor of the temperature meter. His name deserved to be remembered and linked with this invention. Similarly, there were three pioneer scientists in the invention of the wireless technology. Their names being Hertz, Angstrom and Marconi, Hertz invented the frequency; Angstrom was the founder of circuits while Marconi designed the first radio receiver circuit. Marconi is also the name of a famous radio brand. So came the term HAM by adopting the first letters of their names. Also, due to its high value during disasters, the full-form of HAM is formed as Help All Mankind.

What is the difference between a common radio set and a HAM radio?
HAM Radio is a one-to-one communication device. While radio has a mast radio reception that broadcasts and we as listeners can simply hear the songs or interviews. HAM Radio is a medium of two-way conversations. Also, commercial radio is allotted a particular spot frequency while HAM Radio gets the privilege of bands of frequencies. Unlike huge amounts of royalties paid by other radios, HAM Radio demands just a few rupees per year. HAM is installed, operated and maintained by the owner himself while in other communication mediums, different people play different roles.

How does the HAM Radio actually work?
HAM Radio works on the principle of wireless technology. There is no need of a third party or a service provider. It works on the Ionosphere and the radio waves. This means that the waves released from the transmitter travel through the ionosphere and reach the desired destination. So it is everlasting as the entire human kind survives because of this sphere on which the technology, too, is dependent.

How is the bandwidth decided? Is it possible that two allotted bandwidths might coincide? 
Every wireless device is recognized by its operating frequency. This frequency allocation is made by a Government body named WPC (Wireless Planning & Coordination). Police, Army, Navy, Fire Brigade, Civil & Aviation, Forest department etc all use the wireless technology. These all are allotted bandwidths in which they can communicate. Since the allocation is overviewed, there are no chances that the bandwidths might coincide.

How did the HAM Radio help during the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake?
This disaster was on a massive scale and it had affected Gujarat very badly. In the aftermath of the earthquake all the communication mediums had failed. The quake had struck at around 8.21 am but we got to know that Kutch was badly affected only by the afternoon, due to weak communication facilities. This happens due to two reasons: manmade and technical. Everyone tries to contact one another and the systems get jammed. Technically, the satellite alignment or the fiber optics in the ground gets disrupted during any such calamity. This is the time when HAM was working, because it is basically a wireless system. So we had reached Kutch and resumed the communication.

Generally, how does HAM help in any type of manmade or natural calamity?
We need a source of information in order to handle and overcome any kind of calamity. If there are helping agencies but they don’t have the required data like what are the requirements of the affected areas and the priorities, they cannot take a further step. So HAM Radio plays a major role as the information provider when there is a total communication blackout.

What is the technology behind HAM Radio?
This is called a type of wireless technology. There are two types of communication equipments: HF (High Frequency) which is used for global communication and VHF (Very High Frequency) which is used for local communication that covers a range of 25-40 kms.

Can anyone become a HAM? What is the procedure for the same?
The Government has kept the barrier of an examination in order to acquire a license to operate the HAM Radio. Once this exam is cleared, there is character verification (similar to one during issue of a passport) and thereafter the license is issued. There is no qualification barrier, but the person has to be an Indian National Citizen above the age of 14. The license is an authority to keep a wireless device, and so even HAM Radio needs a license for operation.

Are there any groups or clubs that work for HAM Radio?
In Gujarat, Gujarat Institute of Amateur Radio functions, this is the outcome of the 2001 Earthquake. This club has branches all over Gujarat. It conducts trainings, seminars and demonstrations at all major Government functions and at schools/colleges. Anyone, whether a HAM or not, can become a member of this club.

Can you share an experience when you have witnessed HAM Radio as a life saver?
I got the license to be a HAM in 1982. Since then, I have witnessed the role of HAM in more than 10 major disasters where we provided emergency communication. But the most memorable experience was during the Tsunami. We had rushed to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in December 2005 and our location was Campbell Bay, which is the southernmost island. Then, there was a total blackout of communication and we were supposed to rescue the people who were caught mid-sea. This was a worthy task undertaken in the worst conditions by the HAM Radio. Around 60 missing people were traced due to this technology.

What according to you is the future of HAM Radio?
Since we live in an era of communication, the technology changes day to day. So I can say that HAM Radio is not on the forefront. But whenever there is a disaster, all these latest, well-settled communication technologies fail. This is the time when HAM Radio is the only savior. Secondly, the youth can be well trained and the scientific skills can be developed. An interest needs to be generated among the youth to adopt this technology.

(Mr. Praveen Valera, Joint Secretary, Gujarat Institute of Amateur Radio)

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=A%20FRIEND%20IN%20NEED,%20A%20FRIEND%20INDEED:%20THE%20TECHNOLOGY%20CALLED%20HAM%20RADIO_390

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