The reception reliably draws a crowd; this one was two years ago.
Credit: Photo by Jim Peck In 2013, I noticed an Amateur Radio Operators Reception scheduled for Wednesday, and several thoughts immediately entered my head:
There must be a lot of broadcast engineers who are licensed hams. Maybe now that I’m retired is a good time to get my ticket.
With hopes of attending the reception, I had nine weeks to get a ham license.
It’s amazing how much ham radio has changed since I was a kid. Back in the late ’50s, I used to listen to the 20- and 40-meter bands. I amassed a colorful collection of SWL-QSL cards, and I would spend hours listening on my old Zenith 6-S-229 and twist the tuning knob just a hair left or right to isolate a voice nestled between the squeaks and squawks. I tweaked my long copper wire antenna — making it longer, cutting it shorter and stretching it between trees higher or lower. I hooked up a pair of headphones, so I could hear better when signals would fade out. And I learned much about radio technology just by listening to hams talk to each other.
That’s when I first thought I wanted to get a ham license, and of course back then, it began with the Novice class theory and five words per minute of Morse Code. With retirement, ham radio now has my attention once again.
I contacted ARRL via the Internet and purchased the “Ham Radio License Manual.” Upon beginning to read about “all you need to become an amateur radio operator,” I immediately learned that there was no longer a Novice class license and that Morse Code was no longer required for the Technician or General Class licenses. I began to skim the book and was amazed at how much of the theory I already knew (enough to be dangerous) from high school and college physics.
I figured that this was pretty simple; I’ll take the test next week. So I went to the local ham club volunteers’ examining session, paid my 15 bucks and sat down. Then I began reading the questions: questions about third-party radio users, single-sideband usage, safety rules and RF power effects, ionosphere, repeaters and frequency. I promptly failed — I missed 10 questions. Which ones? The examiners were not allowed to tell me.
I thought, maybe this ham license stuff is not so easy after all. So I returned home and really hit the books. Four weeks later, I paid another $15 to take the test again, with different questions. I passed, and two weeks later, I received my license from the FCC and became a new technician: KD8UDQ. Once I had my Technician’s license, I decided to go after my General before buying gear and making that first CQ attempt.
I also rearranged my schedule for NAB and added another day to attend the Amateur Radio Operators Reception. Each year, the reception is sponsored by industry names, including Heil Sound and BSW. My mission was to talk with several hams and hopefully answer: “What makes a broadcast engineer, who spends 8-10 hours each workday in front of a transmitter, go home and get back in front of another transmitter?”
TV ON A HAM BAND
Wednesday evening I headed over to Ballroom B of the LVH. A huge line of people were standing or sitting in chairs outside of the entrance. The reception would not start for about an hour, yet there were hams — hundreds of hams, from all over the United States.
There were tables loaded with door prizes, and every attendee was given a raffle and a drink ticket. There were also mountains of snacks. The event was televised on Ham Nation Webcast Live. Although Ham Nation is an Internet television feed, “slow-scan TV hams,” such as Judy Moss and David Moss, WD6DCD (General) and WD6CZY (General-Extra), respectively, were having lots of fun. Judy and David are members of the Las Vegas Radio Amateur Club (LVRAC), one of the 47 amateur radio clubs active within the greater Las Vegas area.
Judy and David enjoy amateur radio as their hobby. Both have been using slow-scan TV for some time and have experimented with transmitting different forms of visual information. Judy and David are also active in supporting community and state activities when their radio hobby can be used for emergency and enhanced communications. For example, David assisted with radio communication for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay in April. This race features 8,000 to 10,000 law enforcement officers running a 120-mile relay from Baker, Calif., to Las Vegas over two days.
RF BLACK MAGIC AND ELECTRONICS
I also met David Leyrer, a television communications specialist with Vegas PBS Channel 10. I learned that David got his ham license in 2009 — K8HMF, (General-Extra) — he’s one of those broadcast engineers who has RF running through his veins.
He was chief engineer for many years at Channel 62 in Detroit. He’s been involved with AM, FM and television most of his life and is a broadcast engineers who spends hours in front of his home transmitter after spending the whole work day in front of one.
David said that he enjoys ham radio because it provides a constant learning and sharing opportunity. He has made contact with hundreds of hams. He has found that fellow amateur radio operators who hold professional occupations such as his are more willing to share technical information about broadcasting issues and to make suggestions about “problems dealing with RF black magic.” It’s like having a staff of RF consultants at his disposal. According to David, he is able to gather opinions about new equipment and to apply what he hears to save money for his company.
Kelly Weldon, KD7IMZ (Technician), is not a commercial radio or television station broadcast engineer, but he knows broadcasting. Before retirement, he headed up the electronics maintenance department for Salt Lake City’s Community College television and studios. He had the task of keeping all of the 13 campus locations’ electronic equipment in working order. (Think about 60,000 students, faculty and staff, all who count on their equipment working properly.) He also led the emergency response team at SLCC. His ham license was (and still is) a vital part of his job when it comes to instant communication via the Salt Lake community Amateur Radio Emergency Services network, of which he is a member.
Kelly and his wife Doris — KF7SIP (Technician) continue to use their amateur radio interest to benefit Salt Lake City’s community activities. Both have assisted with communications for Salt Lake City Marathon weekend races. Kelly has participated in a weekend statewide earthquake simulation emergency response drill. Doris plans to continue to assist with Scouting food drives, and she provides security and logistical communication when Scouts door-to-door collections.
Pete Zillox, K5PZ, could best be described as a “ham’s ham.” His call letters alone indicate that this gentleman has been enjoying amateur radio for many years. He’s an electrical engineer with degrees from Penn State and USC; however, his broadcasting takes place at home in Huntington Beach, Calif., and he’s proud of what he has assembled. His radio station is filled with vintage radio gear, and it is here that he took WPX honors, working 11 countries in 30 minutes with 10 watts.
Pete’s amateur radio credentials began in 1965 at age 13 with call letters WN2RNW (Novice), and a few months later he graduated to WB2RNW (General). Two years later, Pete’s family moved to Pennsylvania, where he became WA3EQK (Extra General). Then while attending USC and working for Hughes Aircraft in California, his call became WA6DYC. In 1977, Pete applied with the FCC to get the initials of his name and was awarded K5PZ. Prior to 1977 no two-letter “K5” signs were ever issued by the FCC, although there were two-letter “W” signs beginning in the ’20s.
Pete now serves as volunteer for his community Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service communications.
Robert Kegerreis, KD8UDQ, is a retired broadcast content producer.