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Radio and electronics enthusiasts to gather in Fort Wayne this weekend

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - In the pantheon of hobbies, one stands out above the rest for its multitude of specialties and service to society - amateur radio. This weekend, hobbyists will gather at the Coliseum for the Fort Wayne Hamfest and Computer Expo, one of the largest regional showcases of the pursuit.

Think of the Hamfest as a swap meet and convention for like-minded people interested in electronics, communications and making friends around the world. On November 19 and 20, they’ll shop for gear, discuss the finer points of circuit design and trade laughs. Fellowship is the big draw in amateur radio.

The United States is home to nearly a million so called “hams” who can communicate across the street or over vast oceans by transmitting their voice and sending text messages and pictures without the help of the Internet or other methods. The signals travel through the air just as they have for more than a century. Those who pursue the hobby must pass a short exam in order to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.

Children often pass the test, which can be taken at the Hamfest.

While the principles haven’t changed over the years, the technology has. Hams have developed software that enables keyboard to keyboard conversations in real time over the air. Some hams like to use solar panels and portable gear to make contacts from parks. Some enthusiasts prefer to print circuit boards and build their own radios.

There’s even a thriving Youtube and podcast community with tips and tricks.

The hobby is a big tent that caters to dozens of interests. It even saves lives when deployed during emergencies.

When Hurricane Maria wiped out the power and communications grid in Puerto Rico in 2017, hams deployed with their own gear to establish communications with the mainland United States. Using solar panels, batteries and state-of-the-art radio equipment, the volunteers helped families stay in touch and offered damage assessments to authorities stateside.

Even astronauts use amateur radio aboard the International Space Station, much to the delight of users on the ground who can talk to space crews from their driveways.

For hams in the Summit City, the Fort Wayne Hamfest is an opportunity to showcase their pastime to the “ham curious.” Indeed, the only thing hams enjoy more than racking up radio contacts, is welcoming new people to what they consider to be the greatest hobby in the world.


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