Personal Space 

Art of the Ham

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER

Celebrating the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, a handful of local ham-radio operators broadcast goodwill messages from the Colorado Springs U.S. Olympic Complex on Feb. 11. Among the ham hobbyists was host and USOC sport scientist Dr. William Sands (pictured above).

The Federal Communications Commission grants ham, or amateur, radio operators certain operating frequencies to bounce messages off of the Earth's ionosphere to fellow broadcasters around the world. On annual Field Days, ham operators set up their portable gear in remote settings to rehearse emergency procedures.

"You won't find a finer, more gracious and selfless bunch of people than ham operators," says Sands. Many ham operators, including the local Colorado Disaster Response Team, volunteer their communication skills to charities and civic organizations in need.

Some members of Pikes Peak region ham organizations, including The Mountain Amateur Radio Club, went to New Orleans to aid in Hurricane Katrina disaster-relief efforts. Many operators also have assisted in fighting Colorado wildfires and with search-and-rescue operations.

At the USOC, the operators sent out cheerful messages under the call sign Kilo-Zero-Olympic. They logged hundreds of responses from people who will receive a certificate of contact from the USOC in the mail. For many, the ham-radio hobby is all about the paper collection of contacts from events like this.

Special ham-broadcast events often create what operators refer to as "pile-ups," in which individual call-signs are difficult to decipher amid the buzz and excitement of people replying in unison.

"It's an art form to be able to properly work pile-up," says operator Wes Wilson (not pictured).

photo and story by Matthew Schniper


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