Hamming it up

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo This ham radio allows members of Eastern New Mexico Amateur Radio Club to tune into a conversation anywhere in the world.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

It’s a small world after all — at least for amateur radio users.

Eastern New Mexico Amateur Radio Club members said they are able to talk and listen to people in other countries and even astronauts in orbit through a loosely connected network of users.

“I love short wave. To get up in the middle of the night and just tune in and listen to people from all over the world,” said Charlie Brown, a longtime club member. “It’s a great thing.”

Brown is one of anywhere from four to 33 amateur radio operators who gather Wednesdays at Clovis Community College mostly to share their interest in “ham” radio. Some meetings cover the club’s participation in upcoming events while others consist of simply tuning in to several frequencies on their high frequency radio and listening.

Outside their circle of chairs are old ham radio sets, headphones, cables and antennae, some dust-covered, some still in operation. These relics vary in size from hand-held radios to ones about as big as a home DVD player.

The variety of the ham radio equipment reflects the members of the club, who range from 14-year-old beginners to those who have had their own call sign for several years.

Club president Roy Creiglow falls into the latter category.

Creiglow was a fan of CB radios in the 1970s, but talking to people all over the world was illegal on CB at the time because of FCC regulations. So he migrated to ham radio.

Creiglow and his wife Sandy passed the required amateur radio operator test in 1993.

Sandy Creiglow said there are classes for operators to become a part of storm spotting teams and another about a computer program that lets users track anyone with a ham radio. However, she said the most exciting part is talking to people from other countries. Sometimes, a ham radio user can even talk to an astronaut from space, she said.

Roy Creiglow said he’s spoken to ham operators from Iraq, Costa Rica and Italy. Since everything including wind and weather can affect the direction a hams signal will go, Roy Creiglow said he never really knows how far his signal will go, and who will hear it.

Even though technology has updated the ham radio some, the general principals haven’t changed, Roy Creiglow said.

A system in New Mexico, called Mega-Link, which links a ham to a repeater, forwards the signal to another ham operator. In this way, hams operators can talk to hams in other countries.

But outside the gadgets and astronauts, ham radio has another purpose.

“It’s meant to bring people together,” Roy Creiglow said. “And ham radio people help each other.”

Years ago, when Roy Creiglow was a trucker and his wife would travel with him, it wasn’t unusual for a ham operator to meet them at a truck stop and take them out on the town.

“They would take us to a nice restaurant, this person we’d never actually met, just to get us out of the truck stop,” Roy Creiglow said.

“It’s a wonderful thing. If I didn’t make money off this,” he continued, gesturing at his cell phone with a small amount of disgust. “I would toss it, and just ham it up.”

What: New Eastern Mexico Amatuer Radio Club meetings
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Clovis Community College, room 206.
Contact: Club president Roy Creiglow or secretary Sandy Creiglow at 742-2415.