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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thumbs up for amateur radio

Malacca: With the internet, e-mailing, Skype-styled personal and family voice calls and not forgetting the indispensable cellphone extensively hogging the communication limelight, amateur radio (HAM radio) still continues to be tagged as an ‘evergreen hobby’ minus the loss of appeal.

Testifying to this proud outlook are some 50 faithful and new members of the Malacca Amateur Radio Community (MARC) led by co-ordinator Heng Lye Huat. The group is also continually encouraging school and college students as well as young working professionals and retirees to join the fold and is scoring encouraging response.

Established 30 years ago by the late William Tan, MARC which is affiliated to the Malaysian Amateur Radio Transmitter Society (MARTS) is now spearheaded by his wife Jenny Yong (9M2JS) and sons Eugene and Terrence. The group continues to thrive enthusiastically over related facets and aspects like constructing, experimenting and communicating using radio equipment.

Apart from William’s family members and Heng, other notable ‘die-hards’ include mentor and most senior enthusiast 74 year old Choo Lum Seng (9M2LS), in-house trainer Choo Wee Long and senior member Francis Chan. Monthly meets are hosted at William’s home in Ujong Pasir where MARC’s base station complete with around RM50,000 worth of transmitter and receiver equipment boosted by an array of state-of-the-art high frequency antennas are housed and sited.

“Amateur radio may sound like a project initiated by a bunch of non-professionals getting together to start a radio programme just for fun. Far from it. Amateur radio is a scientific hobby that involves construction, study and communication through means of radio waves that brings together fellow enthusiasts local, outstation and overseas who use a set of pre-determined and alllowed radio frequencies.

In Malaysia, a ‘callsign’ is accorded for respective radio operators to identify themselves when licensed by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). An amateur licensed radio operator can operate from home, from their vehicle, boat or outdoors using even the simplest radio set-up and antenna.

A number of radio frequencies have been set aside for amateur radio use. On these frequencies, one can talk across town, state or around the world. The scope and possibilities are endless, from sending digital information to operating via amateur radio satellites.

All said and done, one will never know who one will run into when communicating with amateur radio. From young people, retirees, teachers and students, engineers and scientists, doctor, mechanics and technicians, homemakers, boaters and astronauts and even entertainers. It is simply exciting and thrilling to take up amateur radioing, whether now or later or at whatever age”.

According to veterans enthusiast Choo, amateur radio operators use varied modes of transmission to communicate. The most common for voice transmission are amplitude modulation (AM), frequency modulation (FM) and single sideband (SSB). FM offers high quality audio signals while SBB is better at long distance communication when bandwidth is restricted. Apart from these morse code is also used for much more longer distance communication due to its high immunity over noise interference, he noted.

“Amateur radio is a hobby with many facets and thus attract practitioners with a wide range of interests. Many begin withfascination of radio communication and then combine other personal ‘experimenting’ to pursue this hobby more interestingly.

“Some of the focal areas amateurs pursue include radio communication, radio propagation study, radio know-how, relevant and related technicalities and computer networking” added Choo.

MARC senior member Francis says that all ham radio operators also have a social role to play, for instance helping out during emergencies, natural disasters, search and rescue missions and the like with the use of communication set-ups and equipment required.

“Imagine, if normal communication channels are down, congested or simply not coming or going through for whatever reason. As such, itwould be difficult to co-ordinate efforts to bring relief, plan rescue or provide aid. This is where the network of amateur radio operators can provide communication back-up in collaboration with the local civil defence and related agencies to help out”

Heng concluded saying that the beauty of the amateur radio hobby is that people can reach fellow counterparts around the world freely. The only costs involved are the purchase of equipment, licensing fees and the charges for sitting and passing of prescribed examinations conducted by the MCMC twice a year.

“A HAM radio operator needs a Class B licence to stat up and operate a wireless radio. For this, one has to sit for a theory-based exam. One is tested on knowledge of the various codes and protocols involved in radio communication.

“The Class A licence allows one to operate on a much broader band or frequency than Class B. The exam for this licence include morse code knowledge and all licences are renewable annually” he added.

For those keen to take up amateur radio as a hobby can contact MARC info@marc.server.net.my

Source: http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/3/24/southneast/10947068

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