Radio amateurs don’t give up and took advantage of confinement

By Leandro Grecco / [email protected]
Instagram: @leandro.grecco – Twitter: @leandrogrecco

For many decades, amateur radio embodied the passion for communication, based on a collaborative and supportive stance in the face of various situations and unforeseen events in contingency areas where its equipment can provide solutions.

It is an activity that, prior to the flourishing of new technologies, had become a vital resource for organizations such as Civil Defense, in the face of assistance requirements, showing off their telecommunications systems, which today, in much of it was replaced.

Radio amateurs claim that the interest in learning never ends. It is estimated that some six million people around the world regularly participate in this discipline. Each one has identification acronyms and a frequency, these data and the place of origin appear in a kind of guide, compiled on the Internet.

Individually they have a “Q” code, which is related to the beginning of the telegraphy. There are topics that are prohibited from addressing such as politics, religion and race. Nor can music be transmitted and the most usual thing is to talk about the experience of one and the other with different equipment.

Bahía, a national pioneer in the development of a new link

Daniel Primicia is one of the referents most identified with Radio Club Bahía Blanca. In dialogue with THE COMPASS 24, explained the current situation: “Until the pandemic began, the institution was booming, but we had to suspend activities and meetings, leaving only the services for members in operation, for example the repeaters (one in Bahía Blanca and the another in Sierra de la Ventana) ”.

“We also developed a system called eco-link that allows radio communication with other stations through the Internet with the rest of the world, among other services that did not depend on the presence of the operator at the headquarters, but autonomous stations”, he synthesized. Time that added: “As the quarantine was extended, meetings began to be held via Zoom, both the Board of Directors and partners to coordinate different activities.”

Asked specifically about the pitfalls they had to overcome, Primicia emphasized that “the projects that were underway and that, for different reasons, required presence are suspended. However, from the virtual meetings, we began to create a wireless network similar to the Internet but at the level of radio amateurs ”.

“With a simultaneous network developed in 5.8 Gigs, we can exchange information and there are a few radio amateurs who got hooked on the system that allows us to respond to emergencies, despite the fact that it is not usual in this region that our services are required in the face of an emergency or catastrophe. We are the first in the country to install a network of this type, which also allows interconnection via the Internet ”, he reflected with pride.

On the reality of Radio Club Bahía Blanca, he postulated: “Currently, there are 350 members and in the city the number is estimated to exceed 400. The exact figure is held by Enacom, which is the body that governs us and grants licenses, prior corresponding course and exams taken in it ”.

“Radio amateurs have been using the Internet since its inception, mainly for the exchange of technical information and experiences, sharing projects in different parts of the world. However, since the 1980s we already had a not so effective network for exchanging data via different radio media ”, he clarified, banishing any erroneous belief that goes the opposite way.

Maintenance work on the Cerro Ventana repeater, with temperatures below zero.

He even expanded it as follows: “We also use the Internet for meetings through Facebook or Zoom, where conferences are given and we use this technological advance to provide remote receiver-type services, which one can operate remotely from any point of the planet, with several simultaneous operators. This means that you can be with a receiver installed in Europe to monitor the stations that are heard there and, at the same time, see how it is arriving and in what way, without the need to make contact with another radio amateur ”.

“Simultaneously, there are systems that allow local communication via handie and that voice enters through a device that converts it into IP and sends it over the Internet to another part of the world where the reverse process is carried out. This gives us the possibility of establishing a communication, for example with the United States, from handie to handie with a link of the voice signal over the Internet ”, highlighted Primicia.

And he added an item in relation to this concept, admitting that “that is why it was interesting to have our own network that manages to circumvent any cut and generate a local meeting through a system similar to Zoom. That allowed us to stay in touch despite Internet flaws that may arise globally. The idea is to extend this network and expand it in the future ”.

The Radio Club Bahía Blanca was founded in 1948, with continuous activity for 73 years: “It is a pride for all of us because we have been able to remain present despite the current context, predicting that soon we can return to the closest thing to that normality, more linked with the social and face-to-face. We miss the courses that we plan to reopen virtually. The problem is that operating practices should be readjusted, a task that is not at all easy in these times ”, he lamented.

Finally, one of the entity’s oldest leaders indicated that “a test of equipment for radio amateurs from Bahía Blanca and the area is organized on Thursdays, a practice that was maintained throughout the pandemic. It consists of making a call that is answered by the operator on duty and interviews them, exchanging experiences based on how they are developing their activity. Among the negative aspects mentioned above, that of the radio amateur is a discipline that flourished again from the confinement at the world level ”.

In Punta Alta, they eagerly await the return to presence

Another of those who has a long history in the field is Abel Romero. From the Punta Alta Radio Club, which is currently chaired by Néstor Astelli, he described the prevailing situation, almost a year and a half after reality hit the entire society without distinction, with the emergence of Covid-19 in the world.

“The institution complied with each of the regulations in force at the time, which led us to keep it closed for almost six months. Due to this, we had to suspend the course that had started a week before the quarantine was declared. Then, as regulations were updated, we adapted and began to open, maintaining preventive measures, “said Romero, at the beginning of his talk with this medium.

And he agreed with his colleague from Bahia, on the positive aspect of this circumstance: “The pandemic also generated interest in many people for amateur radio, questions arose on how they could take the course to obtain the license; It was then that they conducted virtual classes via Zoom. The only drawback that we were faced with was carrying out the operational practices, which consist of the student, together with his instructor, doing the exercises from the radio club station ”.

“However, with the idea and support of various partners of the institution, the remote operation of the radio station was put into service. Thus, the applicant at home and from a computer connected to the Internet, has the possibility to access and the instructor, through video conference, to supervise him and help in the practices. The corresponding authorization for the use of the remote station for operational practices was negotiated with the regulatory entity –Enacom–, which was approved, ”said the Rosaleño neighbor.

Making a bit of history, he reflected “that the Punta Alta Radio Club was the first organization in the country to have this operating capacity, which also allows it to provide the member with an additional service. Last year, 13 new radio amateurs graduated from the course, of which four were young people, with which we added five boys between 10 and 16 years old in the city ”.

“As a postponed project, we were left with the change of location of one of the VHF repeaters. These days we are looking for a place with a good height and safe to mount the equipment and the antenna ”, he maintained, with the same enthusiasm as the first day, evidencing a passion that is as unique as it is worth pondering.

And he continued with his optimistic gaze: “The good thing about this hobby is that everyone was able to continue enjoying what we like without being affected by the pandemic. It is noteworthy that the activity increased a lot during the isolation, there were many radio amateurs, who due to lack of time were inactive and returned to radio activity during the quarantine.

“Last year, the institution turned 60 years old. A series of events and social gatherings were planned, which could not be possible. The ones that we were able to carry out were the radio activities, without any inconvenience and with great success, “added Romero, hopeful of what is known as the” new normal. “

He immediately left a message to those interested in joining: “The training course is essential for those who intend to take their first steps in communications. At present, we are about to start one with operational practices that will be carried out both remotely or, if the epidemiological situation allows it, from the radio club, complying with the protocol established for that purpose. For the purposes of the course we have a WhatsApp group for applicants, to maintain contact and evacuate all doubts that may arise ”.

Currently, there are 112 radio amateurs in Punta Alta, while the entity has 130 partners: “With regard to the prospects of activity and technological advances, the advantage over other forms of communication is that radio is independent of the Internet, that is, it does not depend on servers. In fact, in extreme cases of catastrophes where the internet and electricity are lost, the radio allows a fast, safe and exclusive contact ”.

“Despite the advancement of technology, radio amateurs keep alive the activity that is based on knowledge of electronics and the passion for communications through radio waves that reach anywhere in the world. Today those of us who remain as radio amateurs worldwide are the ones who really live radio, we like to experiment and know or want to know new technologies, Romero closed.

Intercommunication and technical investigations are carried out between duly authorized persons who are interested in radio technology, on an exclusively personal and non-profit basis. Perhaps there lies the validity and success of a discipline that fights not to be extinguished.

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