Ham Radio in Wyoming

Ham Radio in Wyoming


– [Announcer] Your
support helps us bring you programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org, click on support, and become a sustaining member or an annual member. It’s easy and secure, thank you. (old-timey music) – [Host] People use
amateur or ham radio to talk across town,
around the world, or even into space, all without the
internet or cell phones. It’s fun, social, educational, and
can be a lifeline during times of need. We’ll met a ham radio
group in Cheyenne that has a history that
dates back to the 1930s. Ham radio in Wyoming next,
on Wyoming Chronical. (dramatic music) – [Announcer] Funding
for this program was provided by the members
of the WyomingPBS Foundation. Thank you for your support. – And as we begin Wyoming
Chronical this evening we want to learn
more about ham radio, and ham radio in Wyoming, and we’re with Tom Ritter
of the ShyWy Radio Club, Tom, welcome to
Wyoming Chronicle. – Thank you very much
for having us, Craig. – It’s a pleasure to be here. We’re gonna meet other
members of your group throughout the show, but Tom, I wanted to start with you. Let’s go way back in time, almost 110 years ago, when radio technology
first started, and let’s see if we can learn
what ham radio is all about. – Absolutely, the art of
radio actually started back in the early
1900s with Marconi, and he was the Father
of Wireless Telegraphy, which now has evolved
into what we know today as amateur radio, and the radio field
itself, electronics. The actual radio service itself started in the 1930s. – Amateur radio? – Amateur radio, we actually
got started before 1930, but our Cheyenne Radio
League, started in 1932. And we have grown and
developed since then, technology has got better, and it’s basically just a radio
service that’s FCC licensed, and we used
allocated frequencies that are not used
by other services, such as AM or FM radio, or emergency communications. – Now there are three million
people in the country, that are licensed
ham radio operators? – [Tom] That’s correct. – 2,000 of those are
right here in Wyoming. – Right here in Wyoming. We have 2,061 amateurs
that are licensed right here in the
state of Wyoming, but nationwide, there’s
over 700,000, so– – There’s three
million worldwide? – Three million worldwide,
it’s a very large community, and it’s growing all the time, we’re getting new amateurs
into the hobby all the time. – And I think hobby is a great
way to describe what you do, but there’s so much to it. Why would a person decide
to get into ham radio? What would they do? – Well in my case,
I was a youngster, and my dad had a
short-wave radio, and I started listening
to short-wave radio. And that sparked my interest
to get more involved in electronics and
communication electronics. A person that interested in
communication electronics, and interested into
getting into amateur radio, usually that’s kind
of how they start, being a listener, and
then they go from there. – It’s not ultra-expensive? – Not ultra-expensive,
you can spend as much money as you want, to get as much
equipment as you want, but you can get into the
hobby relatively easy with a little money. – And the test has
evolved over time, it used to be the case where you needed to know Morse code,
– Correct. – And some other things,
that’s not the case anymore? – That’s not the case anymore. The Federal
Communications Commission, which we get our license from, they decided that Morse code really was not a great big
requirement for the hobby. So when I started, yes,
I had to know Morse code, and it’s a nice mode to know, but you don’t have to
have that knowledge today, when you get your license. – So what’s involved in, I’ve decided I want to do this, and I might buy a relatively
inexpensive radio, but I’ve gotta get my license. What’s in that process? Is there a kit that you can
get that will help you study, and how long does it take? – Basically, most Hams, when they get started out, they will join a club. And like our amateur
radio club here Cheyenne, they’ll join the club and there
will be Elmer’s or trainers, we call ’em Elmer’s, that will take an individual
that’s interested– – Kinda mentor? – A mentor, and train them. There’s study guides
that you can buy from the American
Radio Relay League, which is our flagship
organization nationally, that you can buy
to do the training, and it’ll train you on
the various aspects. You get the knowledge, and then we will
administer the test. – Tom, there are clubs
all over Wyoming. Larame, Casper, others. Where are the clubs
that you’re aware of? – Well we have clubs
all over the state. Casper has one, Cody,
Wyoming, has a club. There’s the Northeast
Wyoming Amateur Radio Club, there’s a club over
in Gillette, Wyoming, which is our western
side of the state. So there’s clubs
all over the place. They could be large clubs, kinda like the ShyWy
Amateur Radio Club, we have about 56
members in our club, or they could be small clubs, just due to the
population in the area. Only having 2,000 members
in the state of Wyoming, 2,000 active Hams, spread out over
this entire state. – Now, as a hobby, you might just be
reaching out to someone, in a different
part of the country or a different
part of the world, but there are times when
ham radio is necessary and needed in,
maybe emergencies. – [Tom] Absolutely. – Give me an example of that. – If you remember the hurricane that went through Puerto
Rico a couple of years ago, the American Radio Relay League requested 50 amateur
radio operators, and supplied them
with equipment, to go down to Puerto Rico and set up communications
across the island, because it had been wiped out. The infrastructure was gone. There was no cell service. There was no, you know– – Dial up to internet, anything. – Anything, so what they
did was they went down and they set up repeaters, which are radio stations
that are portable enough that they can set ’em up, and let the emergency
responders utilize those, on the amateur radio bands, and the Hams would operate ’em, and they would provide
the communications, they actually provided
communications between the first responders
and the command post. And then that pool
of information was
sent via HF radio, high-frequency radio,
back to the states, to another control center, and they used that information
to find out what they needed. We needed more
sandbags over here, they would call out, and use the ham
network to do that. Also we used amateur radio
for a variety of things, emergency communications in
case we had a local emergency. – I mean, we should
tell our viewers, we’re at the Laramie County
Emergency Management Center. – Correct.
– This is a ham radio set-up that’s part of their redundant
ability to serve the public. – That is correct. And we utilize this station
when the need arises, that we could have an emergency, we need to have
somebody at the station to be able to transfer
the information from those in the field, and the amateurs that
are roaming around, say for a severe weather event, we actually have a station here, and we have a station down at
the National Weather Service, that is manned, right
next to the forecasters, so our guys in the field can call on the radio
right back to the station, they can report the information
directly to the forecasters. So it’s used in a
variety of events, but it is a critical
piece that we use to make sure the
communications around the city, or the state, or the
county is up and available. – Why is it that I
can, in Cheyenne, with a ham radio, talk to someone in Cody, or to someone in Provo, or on the East Coast, how does that work? – Well there’s a variety of
networks that we have setup, and repeaters, that
you talked about, and one piece that we will talk
about here in a little bit, is digital mobile radio. That is a new technology
that’s come about, and that enables us to talk
across the state using networks, and across the
country we can talk on wireless networks also. Whether it be HF, or the repeater systems
that are around the state. Our repeater systems here, and we’ll talk a little
bit more in depth, but our repeater systems
here in Laramie County, we have five or six of ’em, and they’re linked, some of ’em are linked together, so we can talk between
here and Torrington, or here and up toward Casper.
– Sure. – If we needed to
use those systems. – And local ham clubs, take the responsibility of
maintaining those repeaters? – That’s correct. The ShyWy Amateur Radio Club
maintains all of our repeaters that we have here
locally, using knowledge, individuals that are interested in doing the maintenance
on those repeaters. – Now this is
something too that, there’s no age limit, you can be 70 or 80
when you start this, or you can be in middle school. – That’s correct, and
we have new amateurs that are coming on board, too. That are teenagers, the Boy
Scouts have a radio program, they call it
“Jamboree On The Air”, and they have this every year, I think we’ll hit on
that a little bit later, but the youngsters are really
where it’s all at, right now, to get them involved
in the hobby, so that us older guys that
have been in the business for a long time,
when we’re gone, they can pick it up
and run with ball. – And carry it forward. Well Tom, we do
have more to learn about ham radios in Wyoming, but we want to thank you for
helping us organize today– – Absolutely.
– We’re excited to be here, and we’re gonna continue
on with the show. – Okay, sounds good Craig. – Thank you so much.
– Thank you. (dramatic music) – And we continue our discussion with members of the
ShyWy Radio Club here in Cheyenne with Greg Rix. Greg, thanks for
being with us tonight. – Thanks for having me. – We want to learn a
little bit from you about the different modes
people use ham radio to communicate with,
give us a rundown. – One of the big
benefits of ham radio is that there’s so much to do. There’s so many
different avenues, and so many different modes
at methods of communication, digital, analog, everybody’s
familiar with AM and FM in their car radio,
for entertainment, and of course
SirusXM, satellite, amateur radio has
all those modes, AM, FM, satellite, and then it goes into the
world of analog and digital, you can do both of those
things in any of those modes. – And as a hobbyist, you can get into as
little or as much, right, as you want to? This can take you really
wherever you want it to. – Correct, there’s
people that do nothing but on-air activities, and runnin’ the radio,
making contacts, just socializing with a
friend or a new acquaintance in Texas or Florida, or Japan, or whatever. And then some other guy simply wants to hook up his
computer to a ham radio, and talk to another
fella via ham radio, over a computer,
digital communications. The old radio teletype
is still around, AM is still around. Earth-moon-earth, bounce
the signals off the moon, single-side band trying to, there’s so many.
– Sure. And the diversity of ham
radio is the fact that, I’m almost never on the air, but I’m a technical person, I built the club’s repeaters, put the stuff on the air. You get a new house,
put up a tower, who’s gonna climb it and
put up the antenna, I will. I enjoy the building and the
construction of the stuff. Then there’s guys that
just like pencil and paper, and figure everything out, the electronics part of it, I go to them guys over coffee, and we design so much stuff on
napkins at Arby’s, you know? (lauging) But there’s so many
modes of communication, between satellites is finally
becoming big in Cheyenne, our club president is a
big satellite enthusiast. Portable radio, pointing
an antenna at the sky, you gotta know when and where, that’s the secret, when
and where to point it. – And that information’s
there, it’s out there. – It’s all on the internet, lotta guys just use a tablet, and what time, what day, what satellite, what frequency? And the satellite might
only be in your vision for two and a half, three and a half
minutes, but they can, and there’s a footprint of
that satellite, of course. International Space
Station, you can talk, they usually coordinate
with schools, which is great to keep
the young kids in. The modes, and things
that you can do in ham radio are just so varied. – Your hat, WB7GR? – My call sign. – And tell everyone
what a call sign is. – Okay, there’s three levels of, right now there’s three
levels of licensing in the amateur radio community, used to be six, and in 2000, the FCC
changed it to three. And the entry level
is technician class, and it gives you some
frequencies to operate, usually UHF, VHF, and a minor portion
of HF or shortwave. And once you become licensed, they issue you a call sign. Systematically, my first
call sign was KB7MUP, and that’s the one
that they dolled out, next one in line,
that’s what you get. Once you receive that, you can apply for what’s
known as a vanity call sign, which this is a
vanity call sign, my initials are
in the back of it. But that’s how I identify
myself on the air. Everybody has a call sign, and you exchange call
signs back and forth. – How did you get involved? What’s your history
with ham radio? – (laughs) I came to F.E.
Warren military in 1989, and there were several
people in the outfit that were amateur radio, and I was a radioman
in the Air Force, ground radio communications, so had some exposure to that. The other one of our
other club members, Tom, actually gave me my
novice test back in 1991, and I got it just to, leave me alone,
I’ll get a license, well here I am 28 years
later and still doing it. So that’s what it is, basically your other name. – Awesome, Greg Rix, thank you so much
for joining us. – Thank you for having me. – We’re gonna continue with
the other members of the group, and learn more about ham radio. (dramatic music) – And we’re gonna continue learning about ham
radio with Greg Galka. Greg, thank you so much
for joining us tonight, – Thank you.
– on Wyoming Chronicle. – This is a newer aspect, I guess you would say, of ham radio that we’re
gonna talk about now, it’s a digital radio. – Correct, yes it is. – Tell me about it. – Yes, it is called DMR,
or digital mobile radio. It is a system that was built
and designed by Motorola, but what it allows us to do is
link numerous repeater sites throughout the state of
Wyoming over the internet, and that then in turn, because they are linked, allows us to communicate
with other ham operators throughout the state of Wyoming, wherever that repeater might be. You can do text messages, you can do video, you can do GPS
data for location. It’s very, very advanced. So there is a worldwide system called the BrandMeister Network, and we have one of
those here in Cheyenne, the repeater is
located at the airport. And it allows worldwide
communications, so with a radio that’s
properly programmed, I could talk to
anybody in the world, with nothing more than
a little handheld, or a lotta people call
them a walkie-talky, to anybody in the world. N7GT in Cheyenne, anybody around
for a quick demonstration? – [Justin] WY5
whiskey tango fox. (radio beeping) – WY5 whiskey tango
fox, from N7GT. Good evening, Jason. Doing a quick demonstration
here for a little program that we’re filming
over here in Wyoming, or over here in
Cheyenne right now. And just if you could tell us
where you’re at, and so on, so they kind of get an idea of what the audio sounds
like on the DMR system. – [Justin] Hello sir,
name here is Justin, I’m on the Laramie tower, through the Wyoming DMR network. I’m actually mobile right now, driving right through the
University of Wyoming. (radio beeping) – All right, well
very good Justin, thank you very much,
I appreciate that, and drive safe out there
while the roads are slick. Is there anybody else around, maybe up north that can jump
on and give us a demonstration? – [Man] This is WA0 echo
mike tango in Casper. (radio beeping) – WA0 EMT from
N7GT, good evening, how’s things in Casper? – [Man] Oh, they’re a little
cold, but not too bad. I’m on the warm
side of the door, meaning I’m inside my house, but I’m currently using a
Anytone 868 hand-held radio, putting out about
five watts or so. And just enjoying a nice, quiet evening at home. – So what he is using
is another hand-held just like this one. (radio beeping) Okay, well thank you very much, I appreciate the demo. And we’re gonna sign off and get back here to doing
the filming, N7GT Cheyenne. So one thing I’d like to
point out in there, Craig, is that if you’ll notice
the clarity of it. – It’s good. – That is not only
what we achieve throughout the state of Wyoming, but that clarity is also what
is achieved on DMR worldwide. Much better coverage
than cell service, and the fortunate thing
with cell service, because we do again, with so much with
emergency services, cell phones tend to go
down during a disaster. During a tornado or whatever, during severe weather,
they tend to go down. And amateur radio won’t. – Greg Galka, thank you so much for demonstrating
for us tonight, we have even more to learn
about ham radios in Wyoming, so I really
appreciate your time. – Sure, thank you very
much, appreciate it. – You bet, thank you. (dramatic music) – And our final guest
as we continue to learn about ham radios in
Wyoming, is Beth Wood. Beth, I first met you
at a lecture, I guess, in the Burns Library,
– Yes. with the local group, kind of informing people on
what the club is all about. But you have been involved
with ham radio I guess, since junior high.
– Yes, yes. – How did you become involved? – There was a demonstration
at Carey Junior High School, – Similar to what I saw then. – Exactly, they
were recruiting kids as another way to get
involved with the community, and in a hobby, you know, extracurricular
activities. And I got hooked. And it was in 1993, so I have now been
a Ham for 26 years, so it’s been a while. – We were talking
with Tom earlier about how hams can be
used in an emergency. You’re the historian
for your local group, you’re aware of
when hams were used as an emergency
communications apparatus in the 1979 tornado that
was here in Cheyenne, also in the 1985 flood.
– Yes. – Tell us how hams
were used then. – So during the ’79 tornado, due to the pathway,
and the destruction, amateur radio operators
just came together, and that’s what we do, we come together in
times of emergency, and helped with
the communications with the state and the
local public safety. And just do what we
do, pass traffic, get messages across, you know, help them coordinate
supplies among each other. The 1985 flood, one of our
amateur radio operators, was in fact, the person that
spurred all of the warnings, and because he
recognized the weather and the patterns, and things. And they were up at
the Weather Service, at their station at the time, and were coordinating
the weather reports that they seeing across towns, so where all the flooding was, what the rainfall amounts were, things like that. Just you know, giving
that information to the Weather Service
so they can accurately put out the informations to
where the warnings should be. – Bridging communications gaps when there isn’t any other way. – Yes, and there was a
lot of communication that, the communication sources that
went down during that time, just because of the storm, and so they really
pulled together again, and did what they
needed, what they do. – Sure, tell us in a little
more detail where we’re at now. You’re an employee
of the Laramie County Emergency Management
Association, is that correct? – Yes, here at the
Cheyenne County Emergency Management Agency I am the Executive Assistant, and I now get to tie in my
amateur radio experience in my emergency response
experience now with this agency. – Tell us about this
radio setup here. When might it be used, and why is it needed? – This might be used
for larger events, either statewide or nationwide. And you know, we hope we never
have to activate it for that, but it is a backup system. So in larger national
events, like a hurricane, if we needed to pass traffic or messages to other agencies, we can do that if
we’re activated here. It doesn’t necessarily
mean that we always are. – And some other counties
also have similar equipment, is that accurate? – Yes, they do, and so it
goes with the same thing. You know, with this
type of equipment, we may not do county to county, we would use our DMR system, that I believe
Greg talked about, more than this would be, ’cause this is more
for long-distance. – And can you share with me, what’s the relationship
with Homeland Security that an agency like
yours might have? – So we are under Wyoming
Office of Homeland Security, so we work quite a bit with
them, and coordinate resources with them if we need them
statewide, and things. Some of the stuff that we
will coordinate through them, with our amateur
radio operators, is if there’s flooding in
other areas of the state. Then they will contact us and
see if we have any resources, and one of those is always
the armature radio operators, and they’re always
more than willing to go up to wherever
they’re needed, and help out during
the flooding. We had that in the last flood, Saratoga flooding over the pass. – Again, we want to tell folks that this is something
that almost anyone can get involved with.
– Most certainly. – What encouragement
would you give someone who’s watching right now, who, this might be something that I want to learn more about? – So amateur radio is a
hobby, first and foremost. And we’re talking,
especially with my agency, we talk about emergency
communications, and it’s so much more than that. It encompasses such a
wide range of topics that, anything and everything that
you might want to get into, could be tied to ham radio, I mean if you’re interested
in the legislative side of it, there’s plenty of
opportunity to get involved. If you like building radios, more on the technical side, you can do that. If you like teaching, which is what I like to do, you can do that, and stuff. So there’s always something
for somebody in this hobby, it’s really great. – Beth, I appreciate your time. This is the second
opportunity I’ve had a chance to visit with you
about ham radios, and you’ve been very gracious. – Well thank you. – Thank you for joining
us on Wyoming Chronical. – Thank you for having me. (dramatic music) – [Announcer] Funding for
this program was provided by the members of the
WyomingPBS Foundation, thank you for your support.

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