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Toys II/Avocation: Inside amateur radio: Devoted to public service transcending geographical and political boundaries, today's ham is not a mere tinkerer

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An off-duty taxicab driver points his antenna in a predetermined direction, carefully tunes his receiver around an expected frequency, and picks up satellite tracking beacons. A student ¿ a grade-schooler ¿ flicks a switch and she and her classmates are greeted from outer space. A mother paces back and forth in the corridor of a Colombian hospital while her daughter lies unconscious in an intensive-care unit. Thousands of miles away in Cincinnati, Ohio, an amateur radio operator picks up a medical emergency: a Colombian child will die without drugs only two hospitals ¿ one in Chicago, the other in California ¿ can provide. A few phone calls and the drugs are on their way to Bogota.

Published in:

IEEE Spectrum  (Volume:12 ,  Issue: 10 )