PLAINS TWP. — More than 300 visitors rummaged through radio and computer equipment, searching for that unique find, outside the Polish American Veterans Club on Sunday.
The amateur radio enthusiasts were able to browse the goods of more than 75 vendors at the 38th annual Hamfest, hosted by the Murgas Amateur Radio Club.
The event mimicked a flea market.
“I was able to get a Windows 10 computer for $50,” club Treasurer Herv Krumich said. “How can you beat that?”
The club’s focus is amateur “ham” radio earning the term “ham” from old Morse Code slang for amateur. The club is named after the Wilkes-Barre-based wireless transmitter pioneer and Catholic priest, Father Jozef Murgas.
Club President John Denisco said the event was formed as a way for enthusiasts to buy and sell radio and computer equipment while getting the chance to interact with other amateurs.
Krumich was happy with some of the electronic pieces he purchased.
The Bear Creek resident said he started dabbling in wireless communications back in 1957, adding that he would often have to create or alter the equipment he needed on his own. Today, however, he can simply just go out and buy whatever it is he needs.
“It’s a dying art,” Denisco said of handcrafting radios and antennas.
Denisco said he first became intrigued with ham radios to be able to communicate farther distances.
But just how far can a signal go?
“Herb can get a signal to bounce back from the moon,” he said with a smile.
Krumich nodded his head in agreement. Once he sends a transmission out to space, he said about 2.5 seconds later it will bounce off the moon, sending it back to him.
Murgas board member Bill Waters said that he hopes younger generations will take an interest in amateur communications, as it offers a different approach to communicating.
A software consultant, Waters said he’d rather use a ham radio to communicate over Facebook and has even gotten his son involved with the club.
“I think we should target younger kids because it’s a great hobby,” he said, adding that it offers a more personal form of conversation. “You may learn something new about somebody you’ve been talking to (on ham radio) for years.”
Aside from selling electronics, the event also offered amateurs the chance to gain or expand their operating license through testing. Before 2006, many amateurs users couldn’t become licensed because testing would require a working knowledge of Morse Code. However, the FCC overturned that rule in 2006, opening the door for more amateurs to become licensed and move up in class.
“I was out it off for a while because you had to know Morse Code. I didn’t think I could learn it, so I never really tried,” Waters said.
Now, Waters happily announced to the group that he passed his testing at the event, moving himself up to the second of three classes in the licensing.
The group meets the first Wednesday of every month at the Luzerne County Emergency Management Building on Water Street. Aside from training and club activities, the group also assists local organizations and events — such as the Wilkes-Barre Duathlon and Wilkes-Barre Triathlon — by providing free communications for the events.
Proceeds from Hamfest go toward a club scholarship as well as various organizations, including the Geisinger Miracle Network. For more information, visit MurgasARC.org