Friday, March 24, 2006

HAMMING IT UP OVER THE AIRWAVES

Publication : NST-SUPP
Edition : 2*
Date : 17/05/2004
Page Number : 07
Headline : Hamming it up over the airwaves
Words : 1001
Byline : By Siti Hajar Abd Aziz
Text :


CALLING any station. This is Nine-Whiskey-Two-Juliet-Alpha-Romeo standing by. That's me calling on the airwaves.

With that call sign (9W2JAR), I am one of a handful of women actively transmitting over the airwaves, talking to acquaintances and friends all over the country.

When I told colleagues a year ago I was sitting the Amateur Radio Examination conducted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, they assumed I was aspiring to become a deejay.

Maybe, but they did not know I would be operating my own radio station from within my Kelisa. Better still, I can engage in a two-way communication with whoever picks my radio signals.

So how did I get into this unique hobby: constructing, communicating and experimenting with radio communication equipment?

My introduction into the world of "ham" (a casual way of calling amateur radio operators) was made by a few female friends, who were active in youth activities and learning new-skills.

They were the ones who invited me to attend an introductory class organised by the Malaysian Amateur Radio Emergency Services society, a radio amateur club based in Kuala Lumpur.

It was amazing how my 75-year old teacher, Idris Zainuddin (9M2GL), a radio amateur enthusiast for almost 40 years, was able to transform the subject of electronic and electricity into interesting lessons.

It was not too long before I got hooked on the idea of transmitting on the airwaves.

So I began the journey of understanding Ohm's Law and how to calculate voltage, and memorise the Alpha-Bravo-Charlie's of the international phonetic. I also got to know the different types of antenna used by hams.

I passed the exam and am now a proud "B" licence holder. I pay an annual fee of RM24 to the MCMC. The licence allows me to transmit in the 2m band, between the frequencies of 144.00 Mhz to 148.00 Mhz.

I also signed up with a number of amateur radio clubs, such as the Malaysian Amateur Radio Transmitters' Society, which is affiliated to the International Amateur Radio Union (Malaysia comes under the International
Telecommunication Union's Region 3).

The sky is not the limit in amateur radio. I find there is so much more to learn like how signals from equipment can be enhanced with the use of a higher dB-gained antenna, or how a 300-ohm television ribbon wire can be
turned into a fairly good antenna.

One can experiment with television, moon-bouncing, data (including computer controlled communications such as packet radio), satellite communications and, of course, short- or long-range voice or Morse code
transmissions.

Many may have heard about hams who talk to the world. In Malaysia, they are the "A" licence holders (annual fee of RM36), which allows them to operate in a selected frequency, from as low as 1.800Mhz to 440.000 Mhz, and from 1.240 Ghz to 250Ghz.
To obtain this licence, a B Licence holder must first pass the Morse Code test with a minimum speed of 12 words per minute. I listened to the "examination questions" once, (which dits and das sound slightly slower than the sound of firing bullets) but I am keen to learn, so whenever I am free, I try to catch the lessons on air, in my
car, under the streetlamps, as my job keeps me on the road.
I speak in a different language now. It's "QRZ, QRZ" for "Who is calling me?", "QRT" to stop transmitting,
and "73" for "Best regards". Another ham is often referred to as "a station" by the other. I frequently have "eyeball QSO" with fellow ham friends (not meet!) and the "f zz" is foxtrot!.

Curious about who am I talking to on air? There are about 1,500 hams in the country (reportedly more than 500,000 of them in the United States), although not all are actively on air, and I contact them from time to
time.

Those I frequently hang-out with include the owners of call signs 9W2SSD, 9W2CCC, 9W2SAM and 9W2SMZ.

There are a number of radio amateur associations to choose from, and each has its goals and visions.

If I am not out at work or having a drink with ham friends, I would probably be talking on a repeater, and a number of repeaters are highly accessible here in Kuala Lumpur.

(A repeater is an amateur station with specific frequency that simultaneously retransmits the transmission of another amateur station on a different channel). A repeater can enhance the signals of the portable and mobile stations.

There is a set of 15 repeaters in a number of high locations in the country. They belong to The Malay Amateur Radio Society of Northern Peninsular Malaysia.

These repeaters are linked to each other so that a ham can talk to other hams in the country. Often hams from Thailand and Indonesia join in the QSO (radio conversation) and extend their friendship.

With such a service and as I am soon going back to being a student at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, I would probably have to give up my handphone, keep my transceiver and learn how to "homebrew" my own antenna.

I know my non-ham friends may find me weird and pretend not to be bored when I relate to them about my chats on air, but I am working hard to take on the world through the airwaves.
WHO TO CONTACT:
* Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission
Level 11 Menara Dato' Onn
Putra World Trade Centre
45, Jalan Tun Ismail
50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Telephone: 03-40477000
Website: www.mcmc.gov.my
* Malaysian Amateur Radio Transmitters' Society (MARTS),
PO Box 10777
50724 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 016-4751753
Website: www.marts.org.my
* Malaysian Amateur Radio Emergency Services Society (MARES),
2852 Jalan Selangor,
Bukit Persekutuan,
50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2284 4100
* The Malay Amateur Radio Society of Northern Peninsular Malaysia (ASTRA),
PO Box 52,
11700 Gelugor,
Penang.
Tel: 012-5096146
(ASTRA's honorary secretary)
(END)

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