“Hamming” it up - DeLancey man showcases benefits of ham radio

DELANCEY — Despite the increased use of cell phones and the Internet, amateur radio use continues to rise across the country — including the Punxsutawney area.

There are almost 730,000 amateur radio operators in the U.S. and over two million worldwide — including ones in nearly every country, said Jerry Bosak, an amateur radio operator from DeLancey.

Bosak said that before World War II, there were 100,000 licensed ham radio operators.

"You couldn't purchase ham radios prior to 1919, and they began to catch on in 1929 and cost $650 — which was the price of a Model T Ford," said Bosak, adding that the term "Ham" comes from the name brand of radios which were Hammerlunds, and the other part came from the term “constant wave” which is actually Morse Code, although now it's called Continental Code because operators talk all over the world.

According to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), operators come from all walks of life — movie stars, missionaries, doctors, students, politicians, truck drivers and just ordinary, everyday folks.

Bosak said there are more amateur radio operators now than ever before.
He said one instance where the radios came in quite handy was back when there was an earthquake, and its epicenter was approximately 20 miles from the nuclear power plant that provided the power to Washington, D.C. The plant itself had to shut down to protect it against a meltdown.

"Immediately all of the buildings went dark, and the workers had to be evacuated," Bosak said, adding that when everyone was out of the building they all got on their cellphones, which caused the system to crash.

"Amateur radio continued to work," Bosak said. "Even when you crash a Ham radio tower, there's a repeater in every town, including Punxsy, to bypass the tower that may be out."

He said he attended a recent Big Run Borough Council meeting to explain how Ham Radio could help their community in the time of an emergency.

Bosak said ham radio can be used by volunteers to be broadcast from emergency shelters during a time of emergency.

A number of people doing geocaching are also getting their amateur radio operator licenses. He said he has even talked to astronauts who live on the International Space Station.

"When the Sept. 11 disaster occurred, no one ever thought that both communication towers would be damaged, eliminating all communications from cellphones and emergency services," he said. "The amateur radios continued to work and provided communication when the others had been destroyed."

Bosak said that amateur radios aren't utilized in the communications of the actual emergency like interior firefighting.

"When you have an emergency shelter with a packet, which allows the use of computers to type messages that are sent out to other amateur radios by forwarding messages from one operator to another, then you won't have to talk to other operators individually," Bosak said.

He said he wants to hold a class at the Big Run War Memorial to train new amateur radio operators and help them pass their test.

"I became a ham because I never talked to a lot of people in person," Bosak said.

"Now, I talk to other hams everyday; it's a fraternity a very closely knit group of people," he added.

Bosak said even if cellphone usage while driving a vehicle is banned, everyone can still talk on their amateur radio because it is a public service.

To register for the free class, contact Bosak by email at ab3nkham@yahoo.com or jerrybosak@yahoo.com.