Hartford Billings Forge Market August 25, 2011

28 Aug

I was a bit busy with getting ready for Hurricane Irene to post a recap of our last scheduled Farmer’s Market public demo of the season at Hartford’s Billings Forge on Thursday August 25. The market was interrupted twice by heavy downpours, a “preview” for Irene. The good news is that this gave us great opportunities to talk with market-goers who joined us under our tent to get out of the rain.

A future ham?

An 11-year old girl attending the market asked me a question I normally don’t get from someone without radio experience: “How do you point the signals to the person you want to talk to?” I explained to her (with examples) how directivity / gain are related, and different antenna types from omnidirectional antennas to Yagis and parabolic antennas. Afterwards I asked her to see if she could identify the likely frequency of operation of different antennas, and their pattern – all of which she intuitively and correctly answered. She also got on the air with her siblings and mother watching and spoke loudly, and confidently to another station using a local repeater (we don’t usually transmit on HF at this market due to the close quarters to surrounding buildings and tents- the market is in a courtyard in downtown hartford around noon time).

Questions and Answers

We got the “usual” sort of questions regarding CB vs. amateur radio, and with the hurricane taking aim, also distributed quite a few English and Spanish-language preparedness brochures. Many of the attendees speak Spanish as their primary language.

Other questions included how to get licensed, what makes it fun, and cost. Amateur radio is a different kind of “product” or “service” in that it can be used for everything from rag-chewing to emergencies to electronics education, experimenting, contesting, and provide a “fraternal” experience of sending signals into the ether. Because amateur radio is so many things, it can be difficult to summarize concisely “what” exactly “it” is.

Interestingly no questions this week involved concerns about getting into ham radio as being too complicated to learn for someone without an electronics background. Also no questions about amateur radio being obsolete or no longer needed. In the four markets we have attended this season – that question only came up once. Most attendees, even if unfamiliar with “who” or “what” we are, seem to recognize amateur radio as a valuable service.

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