When he was just a boy, Glenn Pritchard’s sister gifted him a radio kit.
It was the 1970s and he used the West German-built kit to create a Morse code transmitter. The manual warned users not to make the antennae wire longer than 20 feet. To a 10-year-old, it read like a challenge.
“So I built the antennae wire about 150 feet long,” says Pritchard.
Then the report came in: there was some sort of interference to an AM broadcast transmitter.
“Essentially what happened was my father took the batteries out of the transmitter,” he says.
But Pritchard was hooked.
Now in his late 50s, Pritchard (amateur radio call sign VA7UO) is helping others discover the timeless magic of amateur “ham” radios as the relatively new president of the Campbell River Amateur Radio Society (CRARS).
The club will be hosting a physically-distanced field day at the Tyee Spit Sept. 5. They’ll be demoing some “really cool radios” including military equipment and satellite antennae from about 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or whenever they get tired, says Pritchard. It’s all battery-operated too, so no generators needed.
Pritchard is hoping to inspire some new converts.
“Right now, I would say four out of five people don’t know what amateur radio is anymore. You talk about Morse code and people are lost,” he says. “We’re trying to get more of a public awareness as to what we’re doing out there.”
Pritchard has been a licensed radio operator for 42 years. He can facilitate tests for beginners, advanced users and Morse code – tests he completed himself as a teenager. Now, he can average 32 words a minute in Morse code.
Amateur radio has always been around, says Pritchard. From emergency communications to local public service, it’s also a social activity.
“We’ve always been there at any time,” he says. “Even when there’s an emergency or the power goes out or earthquakes or whatever it is. We’ve always been there.”
Together, but apart, as Dr. Bonnie Henry would say.
“We are the official initiators of social distancing as it comes to radio,” Pritchard says. “These are where you can make friendships, you can talk to people all over the world from the comfort of your vehicle, as you’re walking down the street, as you’re sitting in your home and you’re talking to somebody say in South Africa, New Zealand, or Europe.”
A Henry 2KD Classic will be among the equipment on display at the Campbell River Amateur Radio Society’s mini field day exercise on Sept. 5 at Dick Murphy Park. Image submitted
He and other members of CRARS are hoping to show off the allure of ham radio this weekend. They have a schedule set up to connect with other operators up and down the Island as well as on the Lower Mainland, though how far communications travel will rely heavily on the atmospheric conditions of the day.
“It’s just getting the awareness out there,” he says of the upcoming event, “and showing the public you can still have fun in times of distress.”
If you’d like more information about the event or the club, you can contact Pritchard via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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