Loading articles...

Amateur radio operators turn to analog tech to communicate during pandemic

Last Updated Apr 9, 2020 at 1:08 pm PDT

Amateur radio operator Paul Judd poses with his home station in Maple Rige. (Photo courtesy Paul Judd)
Summary

Ham radio users ready to help during emergencies

Hobbyists check in regularly to test gear, stay in touch

MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) – While millions of isolated people around the world discover new digital ways of staying in touch, some are going back to the analog basics.

Paul Judd of Maple Ridge is part of a small but passionate community of amateur radio operators.

“It’s one of the most elemental ways of communicating between two persons or two stations or two places without having the huge infrastructure” of other forms of communication, he says.

Judd, whose call sign is VA7XQ, fires up his home station daily to check in with fellow ham radio users around the region and, sometimes, around the world.

The check-ins with different networks – or nets, as they’re known – allow operators to ensure their gear is working properly, but they also allow for more casual conversation.

“There’s an informal part where you can chew the fat and catch up with a friend,” Judd says.

Typically, operators ask after each others’ families and health. Lately, Judd says, the conversations have been turning to how everyone is coping with the new reality of physical distancing during the pandemic.

But the ham radio crowd is probably better suited for isolation than most, he says.

“We tend to want to sit in a room with radio equipment and talk to people who are in isolated locations to begin with,” he says. “It sort of comes natural to a ham radio operator to be isolated.”

As more and more people turn to social media, video conferencing and cell phones to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Judd says the older technology can still play an important role.

Amateur radio operators have played a major part in emergency coordination following earthquakes and hurricanes, he says. While landline and internet service is unlikely to be lost anytime soon, Judd says he’s ready to put his hobby to use should he be needed.

And with surging phone use causing sometimes spotty and unreliable cell service, Judd said he’s happy to have access to a more reliable technology.

“This is one of the most simple ways of communicating long distance and there’s that satisfaction of being able to disconnect from the wired world and using that very simple, well-tested, reliable way of communicating.”