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Focused on Mississippi: Hamfest 2019

Local News

Walt Grayson is back home with us today and he has a story about old friends getting together and many of these “old friends” have never seen each other before, although they’ve talked to each other for years.

The Ham Fest is a convention, a family reunion, a swap meet and a place to have water-cooler conversations that you could never have while doing your hobby.

Too many eavesdroppers when what you’re saying might be heard on the other side of the world under the right conditions.

“You can talk in the morning over Australia and South Africa,” Malcolm Keown said. “That’s 18 thousand miles, so.”

Malcolm Keown is from Vicksburg. He got interested in radios rather abruptly when he was a youngster.

“When I was five years old my daddy had an old ac/dc radio from world war two,” Keown continued. “I stuck my hand in the back and I got shocked and I thought that was sort of interesting. So a few years later I finally got a license when I was in junior high school.”

From that grew an interest in tinkering and then seriously getting into ham radio. The term “ham” came from great Brittan where early on the name was shortened from “amateur” to “AMS.”   Except with a British accent.

“They’d say “AMS” and it came out “hams” and as a result it turned into ham radio,” Keown said.

Hence the ham fest in Jackson where once a year you get to put a face on the people you’ve been talking to but have yet to have shaken hands with in person. Plus pick up equipment you never knew you needed until you saw it.

Maybe the greatest challenge of ham radio is, like so many other institutions, it is graying. Not all that many young people getting into it.

“iPods and iPads and all the other little doodads they play with, cell phones,” Keown explained. “So yes, it’s had an impact on the younger part of the ham radio generation.”

But the new frontier of amateur radio is the integration of computers, modems talking to modems over hundreds or thousands of miles. That’s impressive for we who can’t even get our Wi-Fi in the kitchen. It’s a new horizon on the old world of ham radio.

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