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Ham operators communicate behind scenes on national network |

Ham operators communicate behind scenes on national network

Craig Smith
| Sunday, November 18, 2018 1:36 a.m
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There are hundreds of active ham radio operators in the region, many of whom belong to the Steel City Amateur Radio Club based in Collier Township.

In a crisis, communication is vital and during some natural disasters, there is no telephone service or internet access.

However, our community is fortunate to have a network of emergency help: people who can communicate without needing electricity. They are “hams,” or amateur radio operators.

They participate in a national traffic net that passes messages across the country. They communicate on certain frequencies using different types of radios, including hand-held. Equipment includes radios, antennas, amplifiers, antenna tuners and more. Various vendors can be contacted for new products, supplies and equipment.

There are several hundred active ham radio operators in the Pittsburgh area, many of whom belong to the Steel City Amateur Radio Club based in Collier. A nonprofit organization, the club holds its business meeting on the third Tuesday of each month, and social meetings are every Wednesday, except the week of the monthly business meeting. Members pay dues.

They evolved in concept from 1940 to 1941, but officially became a club with its own property and clubhouse in 1941. The first clubhouse was purchased for $1 from Pittsburgh Plate Glass, aka PPG, and was on a rotating platform at its original location, about 5 miles east of the current Carnegie location. It was a former test site for paint and glass products.

Then, the original building was dismantled and brought piece by piece to the current site at 208 McMichael Road and reassembled without the rotating platform. It served the club well for 16 years; then the present structure was built.

By the time the club applied for a call and station license, the FCC had stopped all amateur radio activity due to concerns during World War II; however, W3KWH was issued to them in 1946. Some of the club’s old minutes tell of the struggle to keep up with the taxes and other expenses. Most of the members were off to war or moved out of the city to defense industries in other areas.

The Steel City Amateur Radio Club became an affiliate of the American Radio Relay League on Feb. 6, 1947.

The late legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite was a member of the national association for amateur radio.

Dozens of radio amateurs were vital to the police, fire departments and emergency services during the aftermath of 9/11. In addition, “hams” have helped with sea rescues, wildfires, space communication and other situations.

For more about Steel City Amateur Radio Club, visit .

Charlotte Smith is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. You can reach Charlotte at 724-693-9441 or

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