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Ham radio operator says hobby is ideal for youths

March 14, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY - When Fran Little was 12 years old, he bought a crystal radio set kit, put it together and hooked it up to an antenna.

"I actually heard local radio amateurs on the air and then went to their homes and talked with them," Little said, remembering the thrill as if it were yesterday.

Little is a member of the Antietam Radio Association, which meets twice a month at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Not only is it a great hobby for young people, Little said his experience is an example of how it can become a lifelong vocation.

Little got into commercial broadcasting as a career. After training in Chicago, he became a chief engineer for a number of radio stations.

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"This interest drove me all my life," Little said.

At his home, there is a radio shack and a huge radio antenna in the backyard. His broadcasting equipment is in the basement.

Little and other members of the Antietam Radio Association want to make sure today's young people have the opportunity to become amateur radio enthusiasts.

Entry-level classes for amateur radio will be April 11-13 in Pangborn Hall at Washington County Hospital.

Class hours on Friday, April 11, will be from 7 to 9 p.m. while the Saturday and Sunday classes will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is $35, plus $14 for the examination at the end of the course. Morse code no longer is a requirement for certification.

In addition, Hamfest has been scheduled for Sunday, May 4, at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike.

"There's a lot of used radio equipment out there," Little said. For between $10 and $30, a set can be had and for about $100, a really good set can be obtained, he said.

Little said someone starting in the hobby usually can connect with a club member to get the equipment hooked up.

Encouraging young people to take up the hobby is very important to Little. After all, he is living proof that amateur radio can be much more than a hobby.

"I got my license at 14 and have been a ham ever since," Little said. "It got me where I am today."

The Web site for the association is www.w3cwc.org. The site includes the history of the organization as well as upcoming events.

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