Hawaii Ham Stories: Burt Lum (WH6DZJ)

Burt LumWhy do people become hams? “Hawaii Ham Stories” will find out. Burt Lum (WH6DZJ) is a long-time technology expert and already has a weekly live sci-tech show on FM radio. But he recently got his Technician class license. He was recently interviewed by Keith Higa (WH7GG) for the “Wireless Dispatch,” the official newsletter of EARC Hawaii. Watch for the piece in the next issue, and read on for Burt’s complete story.

Growing up, I always had this fascination with radio. I thought it was wondrous how you could catch radio stations from far off locations, and how wireless communications could transform your voice into electromagnetic waves. That’s probably why I ended up getting an electrical engineering degree in college.

While at Stanford University I wanted to get on the radio, and back in those days you needed an FCC license called the Radio Telephone 3rd Class Operating Permit. I got the license and was on the radio at KZSU 90.1FM.

Back in the 1990 while working at Hawaiian Telephone (that’s what it was called back then), I met a couple of hams, primarily AH6RH, Ron Hashiro, and KH6JPL, Billy Gomban. They piqued my interest in getting into amateur radio, but at that time you needed to learn morse code to get a Technician’s license. As much as I was interested that was a hurdle I was not going to overcome. I remained just a lurker and bought myself a scanner and listened to the various VHF and UHF repeaters.

Fast forward to 2012, where you have the Internet, social networks and smart phones. The question now becomes, with all these modes of communications, why would you want to delve back into amateur radio?

Interestingly, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become a snapshot of what is happening with your distributed community of friends and family. I started to get interested in the use of social media for news and the reporting of emergencies, especially natural disasters. I realized it would be very useful if you could somehow determine who were the trusted sources in social media and cull through the deluge of information and assist existing emergency managers during a natural disaster.

Well, guess what? That led me right back to amateur radio. They’ve been in existence for many decades doing exactly that, providing communication services in the event of an emergency. They’ve honed their technical expertise and communications protocol to effectively and efficiently manage information in the field and work with emergency agencies like Civil Defense and the American Red Cross. That motivated me to get my Technicians license… and this time without the requirement of morse code.

So for me, if I want to learn how to better use social media and the Internet for emergency management, it is best to start with the original emergency communicators, ham radio and the Emergency Amateur Radio Club. What better way to learn than to jump in with both feet?

I’m excited not only about learning about ham radio and the EARC, but also a chance to get back into the electronics of radio. I always wanted to build my own radio station and now I have that chance.

Burt Lum (WH6DZJ) blogs at Bytemarks.org and can be heard on “Bytemarks Cafe” on Hawaii Pubilc Radio 89.3FM on Wednesday evenings at 5 p.m.

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