Technology Employee Kracht Follows HAM Radio Hobby During Pandemic

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July 1, 2020 by HCDE-Texas

While some HCDE employees spend free time during the pandemic gardening or catching up on reading, Technology Division employee John Kracht is beefing up his amateur radio operator skills.

Being an amateur radio operator can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on one’s desire or ability to invest in the hobby, he said. Kracht bought his first hand-held, tri-band radio for $65 and another VHF/UHF 10 and six-meter band mobile for $250. However, cost of a high-end rig and antenna can rival the purchase of a large-screen, LED TV.

Talking to fellow operators in faraway locations can be tricky, depending on factors like antenna height, wattage, radio-frequency time of year and day and weather conditions. He communicates with operators from Alaska to Connecticut to the United Kingdom.

“A big factor is the sun’s radiation and sunspots altering the ionosphere or space weather,” he said.

According to Kracht, HAM radio origins go back to the early 1900s. The acronym stems from the initials of three wireless operators from the Harvard Radio Club in 1908.

“To some people it feels like old technology with radios using vacuum tubes and using Morse code to make contact,” the 20-year HCDE employee said. “Those technologies are still used and aren’t going away anytime soon, but there are new digital modes of radio communiton that use computers, computer protocols and data packets to communicate at very low power.”

Getting your license to become a HAM operator requires an interest in electronics and passing a series of exams. Kracht began his journey four years ago when a part-time security officer at HCDE was studying for his technician’s exam. Sparking his interest, Kracht did a bit of research and took the dive.

“Being a part of our (HCDE) disaster, planning and recovery, I knew from my past the HAM radio played a big part in post-disaster communitions,” he said.

Although he has never used his abilities during an actual disaster, he monitored local radio activity during Harvey recovery. Today he notes reports as operators discuss the pandemic in various regions of the country.

“Some HAM operators take part in a message service, relaying messages from station to station all over the world,” he said.

To prepare for licensing, HAM enthusiasts do need a basic understanding of algebra and must study two months to prepare for a 35-question exam. Radio operator permissions expand as certifications and licenses are acquired.

Just how popular is amateur radio operating? Kracht says some astronauts hold licenses and communicate from the International Space Station. Satellites are also dedicated to amateur radio operations.

Although he didn’t reveal any specifics, he says amateur radio operators can be an interesting lot.

“There are some characters on the airwaves,” Kracht said.

For more information about becoming an amateur radio operator, contact the American Radio Relay League:  http://www.arrl.org/licensing-education-training.

(Do you have a hobby you have been investing time in during the pandemic? To be considered for a Hub feature, email communications@hcde-texas.org.

 

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