Hamming it up

Standard Examiner

Saturday, April 16, 2005

By Amy Nicholson
Standard-Examiner correspondent

Ogden Amateur Radio Club sponsors second annual Northern Utah Hamfest

For Kay Hargis of Roy, radios have always held a fascination, a sort of mystique, that waves can travel through the atmosphere without wires.

He obtained his ham radio license in 1966, and he has been on the radio every day since.

The hobby has led him on many adventures, including obtaining his pilot's license, forming overseas friendships, connecting soldiers to their families at Christmas, and collecting QSL cards -- cards that show a contact was made -- from every existing country and political entity.

"One little hobby opened the door to another and to friends around the world," Hargis said.

Hargis is part of the lineup of speakers at the second annual Northern Utah Hamfest at the Browning Armory, 625 E. 5300 South, South Ogden, next Saturday.

The event, sponsored by the Ogden Amateur Radio Club, includes seminars, vendors, hands-on radio experience, the chance to get licensed and prizes including an Icom IC-703 HF radio valued at $589.

Airwaves to airplanes

Besides having a lifelong interest in radios, Hargis has also loved airplanes. Two years after he obtained his radio license, he heard a traffic report being given on a radio station from a pilot in the air.

Hargis phoned a friend at the station and asked if he could fly with the pilot. The arrangements were made, and when Hargis showed up for his first flight, he found out that the regular traffic-watch pilot couldn't make it. The station asked him to go up with a fill-in pilot and do the announcing because of his radio experience.

After that, Hargis flew with the regular traffic-watch pilot on several occasions, and they became great friends. The pilot offered to give him flying lessons between traffic reports, and by 1970 he had obtained his pilot's license.

There are 335 existing political entities, plus 10 that have been deleted, in the world. Hargis began his quest to collect QSL cards from all of them 38 years ago. He finally completed his collection in December 2004.

He actually has over 5,000 cards in his collection because, for example, the United States counts as only one political entity, but he has made contact with all 50 states.

In making contacts, Hargis formed multiple friendships around the globe. He has spoken to King Hussein's brother and passengers onboard the space shuttle.

Once, a guy from Germany radioed to ask if Hargis would show him around Utah as part of a goal to visit all 50 states. Happily, Hargis took his visitor to spots in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

Later, Hargis was a guest in his friend's home in Germany.

Service for servicemen

Before the time of cellular phones, when U.S. troops were stationed in South Korea and overseas, phone calls were a luxury many could not afford. Hargis enjoyed patching soldiers through to their families on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

He would reach a soldier via radio waves, then call the soldier's family by making a collect phone call and hold the phone up to the radio so that the two parties could talk.

One Christmas, Hargis said, he connected 129 such calls. Afterward, he received bundles of letters of gratitude.

"The letters were payment enough," he said. "This is a public service."

No-fail communication

It's not easy to learn Morse code, but Hargis has become one of the fastest senders over the years. That means he can type 30 words per minute using the code. "It is a dying art," he said of the style he considers to be rhythmical and musical.

Fortunately, radio allows users to communicate using voice also, but when atmospheric conditions get in the way, Morse code can always get through.

Hargis believes that the use of ham radio will never die out because it is the only system that can still get through in an emergency, when everything else is broken.

In 1963, when the Good Friday Earthquake hit Alaska, the only way to call for help was radio. When a rare tornado hit downtown Salt Lake City, emergency personnel used radios to communicate because phone lines were backed up.

More recently, in December 2004, Hargis had just made his final contact to complete his QSL collection with Andamon Island, off the coast of India, when the tsunami hit.

The station there switched to emergency traffic only and was able to request supplies and medical help when almost everything else was wiped out.

"I could be on the air in two minutes requesting aid in an emergency," Hargis said.

In a high-tech world

According to Jim Southwick, OARC secretary, the more technology advances, the more interest in ham radio increases.

He explained that radios can now be linked to the Internet, and licenses are easier than ever to obtain.

Club president Gary Liptrot urges young people to check out ham radio because there is always something new to learn and new challenges to conquer. He also believes ham radio is a good way for people interested in the electronics field to network.

"There are tons of high-powered folks who work in technology and communications who are into ham radio," Liptrot said.

Northern Utah Hamfest Schedule

Saturday April 23, 2005 (8 am - 1 pm)

Browning Armory 625 E. 5300 S. So. Ogden, Utah

[US Hwy 89 (Wash Blvd) @ 5300 South

next to DMV/Drivers License Bldg.]

07:00 - 08:00 Setup

08:00 Hamfest starts

Special Events Station starts operating

Hourly Door Prizes to be given away

09:00 - 09:45 Working Satellites - Randy Kohlwey N7SFI

09:00 - 09:45 Chasing the DX - Kay Hargis N7KH

VE Test Session starts

Please have $14, copy of license, photo ID.

Pre register with Mary Hazard W7UE

w7ue@arrl.net (801-430-0306)

10:00 DXCC QSL card verification Darryl Hazelgren AF7O

10:00 - 10:45 Antenna Construction - Mike Fulmer KZ7O

11:00 - 11:45 International Phonetics Contest everyone welcome

11:00 - 11:45 Whistlers Phenomena below 500 Hz - Kent Gardner WA7AHY

12:00 - 13:00 Lunch (pre-ordered Subway w/chips),

Key Note Speaker - Mel Parks AC7CP (ARRL Sect Mgr),

Grand Prize Raffle Drawing (ICOM IC-703 HF Radio)

(must be present to win the Grand Prize)