That is jargon amateur radio operators use to let other “hams” know they’re on the air.
Jim Stahl of Orange has said it countless times followed by his “call sign” K8MR.
The retired television engineer is the leader of one of the 59 two-person teams from around the world selected to compete in the World Radiosport Team Championship July 9-14. The teams will be stationed in several suburbs surrounding Boston.
Why bother with amateur radio in the age of Internet? Mr. Stahl said it’s like the difference between power boating and sailing. Power boating is about quick travel and sailing is all about the journey, he said.
His love affair with ham radio began in the early 1960s when he was 10 listening to his family’s shortwave radio in Sharon, Pa., discovering both broadcasters from around the world such as Moscow and people just talking to other people.
He was hooked.
His piano teacher’s husband, who was also his high school band director and an amateur radio operator, served as a mentor. With the teacher’s help, Mr. Stahl built a transmitter using scrap parts from neighborhood television repair shops. After he got his amateur radio license at age 14, he quit piano lessons just three weeks later, Mr. Stahl said, chuckling.
“With my simple equipment, radio communication back then was all in Morse code,” he said.
He remembers how thrilled he was when he first made contact with someone in Iowa; it seemed so far away. Since then, he has spoken to other hams across the globe.
He landed at Case Western Reserve University where he studied electrical engineering and was happy to learn the university had a full-blown ham station – his place of choice when studying.
He became an active ham competitor in college.
For ham operators, he said, there’s a romance surrounding amateur radio, the allure of finding another person who likes the same thing and lives thousands of miles away. It’s the social media of a former era like today’s Twitter, Facebook or email, he said. Yet today, there are more operators than ever before – about 700,000 in the U.S.
Mr. Stahl’s passion is participating in radio sport contests. For the upcoming “Olympiad of radio sports” for instance, the goal is to speak with as many other hams in as many countries as possible within 24 hours.
In a 48-hour contest he participated in years ago, Mr. Stahl said he spoke to 4,500 people which came down to five to six people per minute. He likely had only about five hours of sleep during that particular weekend.
Licensed amateur radio operators use different modes of operation.
“One could compare it to today’s Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming, but invented before the Internet was born, and involving real people,” Mr. Stahl said.
His fun with ham radio contests has not entirely kept him sitting inside rooms with radios. Last November, he took along a small battery powered ham radio when he and his wife vacationed in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. While there he spent two days operating from the beach in a major international contest, while his wife, Linda, tanned herself.
Even a honeymoon isn’t off limits when it comes to a radio contest. What was initially planned as a radio contest trip to Anguilla, Dominican Republic, turned into a honeymoon when he popped the question a few weeks before the trip.
“She’s been patient with me,” he said. The Stahls have been married for 31 years.
The quadrennial radiosport competition will feature teams from 38 countries that were selected in a series of 55 qualifying events over a three-year period. Earning a spot in competition is a big accomplishment in itself, Mr. Stahl said.
“This form of competition evolved as a method of practicing emergency communication, but also serves as a laboratory for technology innovation and experimentation, much like other technical sports, such as motor sports or sailing,” according to a press release by the WRTC.
Mr. Stahl’s team partner is his pal Mike Tessmer of Cincinnati, who on Saturday was busy in the garage testing their equipment in preparation for the competition.
They will be doing the same thing but on two different frequency bands. They will spend just seconds speaking with each ham operator they locate. And with their computers, which they will use to keep a tally of the calls, they also can communicate via Morse code using a special program.