Roger that! - Change in regulations could encourage radio hobbyists
Recent amendments to the more than 40-year old Radio and Telegraphy Control Amateur Radio Service Regulation, as well as the Radio and Telegraph Control Radio Operators and Technicians Regulations, which have removed requirements for a working knowledge of Morse Code, is expected to attract more young people to the ranks of amateur radio hobbyists.
Nigel Hoyow, president of the Jamaica Amateur Radio Association (JARA), welcomed the changes, noting that the requirement for a working knowledge of Morse Code had proven to be a deterrent.
"I've been a ham (radio operator) myself from the 1950s, so, yes, Morse Code is part of my make-up, personally, and all the hams worldwide used to have to do the Morse Code. It was just one of those things that was part of becoming a radio amateur in any country in the world. This had caused a stumbling block to a lot of prospective amateur radio operators in many countries," he told The Gleaner.
In 2011, when an earthquake devastated Haiti and all other lines of communication were down, it was a ham radio operator who got the news out. In 2005, when failure of the levees and flood walls resulted in flooding of New Orleans in the United States, amateur radio operators played a critical role in rescue efforts.
Despite this, there are still many who have no appreciation of the role these volunteers play in times of natural disasters, according to Hoyow.
"There is a lot in amateur radio that people have misconceptions about - it's not really an old type of thing. It's very current because it's all digital. We have satellites up there and so can communicate with all these space stations orbiting the globe. A lot of American astronauts are, in fact, radio amateurs and they can communicate to the ground from their orbit, which they do from time to time. It's actually a hobby, but it is a very important hobby in as much as what we can do to assist governments in these natural disasters," he explained.