Originally published Sunday, June 19th, 2016 by KHGI Nebraska TV

Hastings, NE — Swapping parts and stories face-to-face, when radios and transmitters are usually how these friends talk.

“It’s nice to see people that you talk to all the time in person, and that’s part of what the Hamfest is all about,” says organizer Brad Harpham.

It’s the first Greater Midwest Radio Show, and Harpham says they hope to grow it into Nebraska’s biggest such event for regional amateur radio operators – folks who still use frequencies to communicate, a method more than a century old.

“Federal Communications Commission lets us have some parts of the band, and we get an amateur radio license and we can either talk to people using voice, or there’s new digital modes, kind of like digital text messages and that kind of stuff,” says Harpham.

Though there is old equipment on display at the show as well, hams aren’t a thing of the past, operators say, with more people getting licensed every year.

“Part of that is because we no longer require Morse code to get your ham license, you just take a test,” says Harpham.

But Joe Eisenberg, a longtime operator from Lincoln who teaches and talks at many radio conventions, says oddly enough a lot of people are interested in learning those dots and dashes that make up Morse, an even older form of communication.

“A lot of new hams have discovered the old way of communicating is very efficient, and it’s a lot of fun,” says Eisenberg.

The hams say they’re drawn to the electronics and engineering side of the hobby, but some also like being able to share information outside of the infrastructure they say could fail in a disaster.

“That cell phone becomes a brick, totally useless, but ham radio still works, we can still talk, we can communicate even worldwide using the atmosphere to carry our signal,” says Eisenberg.

It’s one reason why the National Weather Service calls the operators reliable, knowledgeable, and a potential back up.

“They’ve been around helping the weather service for decades, and so they really facilitate more reports for us. We have a network of people that we work with – the spotters, we have people we call, but they just add to that,” says Mike Moritz, warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS Hastings.

Local hams say they’re getting together again next weekend for a field test day at the Hastings College Observatory. They also say they’re testing new operators monthly, so it’s a good time to get involved.

Source: KHGI Nebraska TV

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