Webb makes hobby out of amateur radio

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When most people hear the word &8220;ham,&8221; they associate it with a favorite Christmas dinner entr/e, but there is at least one other meaning for the term.

Buck Webb of Demopolis is a former ham, who operated a series of radios from his home.

When Webb first got involved with amateur radio, he was required to learn Morse code in order to receive a license. Now, he said, that requirement has changed because mores code is not as common as it once was.

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One of the main activities for amateur radio enthusiasts is to enter contest to try to communicate with a person in every state, or people in as many countries as possible.

Webb said that he has talked to people from all over the world and from all walks of life.

Webb said he most enjoys getting to speak with local hams, in areas like Tuscaloosa, Meridian and Selma.

Originally, Webb said, ham radio was developed so that people could get connected and track how far and how clear their signal was being sent. Once you have made contact with a person, they will send cards known as QSL cards that will designate the person&8217;s name, location and signal quality.

Webb has a collection of these cards which include former astronauts, and people for places as far away as Japan, Romania and New Guinea.

Another group of people that can be contacted this way are people who happen to be passing through town.

Although Webb is not as involved as he once was, he said that ham radio is still a hobby for people all over the world. In fact, the American Radio and Relay League, which is the parent organization for all the amateur radio operations in the United States has been around since 1914 and has 150,000 members.

According to the ARRL website, the name ham has been around before there was even radio, &8220;The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared.&8221;

Webb said one of the reasons he enjoyed ham radio so much is the chance to build and test his own equipment.

Over the years, he said, equipment became more expensive and the transition from tube radio to transistor radio made the hobby too costly.

Webb said, &8220;I just like to be connected.&8221;