With a couple of pieces of wood and some wire, Marcus Sutliff can talk with astronauts in the International Space Station.
“If only they would slow down just a bit,” Sutliff said while setting up his antennae and radio. “You can talk to anyone with a radio.”
The Edmond Amateur Radio Society gathered Saturday to showcase amateur radio at Oak Cliff Fire Station as part of amateur radio field day and to educate anyone interested in the life of a “radio ham.”
Charles “Dick” Rouse, or KE5TGZ as he's known by his radio call sign, has been president of the society for the past four years.
Rouse said he's seen the group swell to more than 100 members.
For guys who hardly ever see each other in person, Rouse said the sense of camaraderie is pretty amazing.
“We all talk every night,” Rouse said. “This is an amazing community. It's all about good old-fashioned communication.”
Saturday was also a competition with other societies across the country to see who could connect with as many other ham radio users in a 24-hour period. Radios whirred loudly as operators scrolled back and forth on the dial searching for the next frequency that could connect them to a new voice.
Rouse said society members also act as first responders during disasters, acting as storms spotters, alerting fire and police to potential dangers such as downed power lines or blocked roads.
“We had people respond after the Moore tornado by helping police and fire coordinate,” Rouse said. “While all the other cell towers where down, ham radio wasn't. When all else fails, radio is still going strong.”
Tim Duffy got his call sign when he first signed up to use a radio at age 12. Duffy, now 53, said he still gets the same thrill every time he fires it up.
“This was the Internet before the Internet,” Duffy said. “You never know who you can run into or meet. You have guys from all walks of life, but the common bond is this radio. You develop friendships that last forever.”