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Sci-Tech Center to offer amateur radio license course


Before there was Snapchat, email and international texting plans for cellphones, there were ham radios for connecting with people around the globe.

Now, Watertown resident and radio enthusiast Paul H. Barben Sr. said he feels like he’s among a dying breed of hobbyists.

“I belong to the Thousand Islands Radio Repeater Club, and we’re constantly trying to get young blood on there,” he said. “It’s a dying hobby. You got your Internet and cellphones. You’d be surprised the people who don’t know what amateur radio is anymore.”

According to the American Radio Relay League, amateur radio is a “hobby and service in which licensed Amateur Radio operators (hams) operate communications equipment.” A transceiver, power supply and antenna system are needed to connect with other amateur radio stations.

“I have all kinds of equipment I use,” Mr. Barben said. “We go into what kind of equipment we’re using, and we talk about the weather. It wasn’t too long ago I was talking to a fella in Australia. I’ve found islands in places of the world I never knew existed before.”

Others with the right equipment can listen in on amateur radio conversations, and even join the conversations in what the 70-year-old said is considered a “roundtable.”

Stephen A. Karon, executive director of the Sci-Tech Center of Northern New York, said some people communicate with ham radios during emergency situations, and some have even reached astronauts on the International Space Station.

Mr. Barben said he hopes his passion for ham radio, and the desire of some members of the Sci-Tech Center of Northern New York to obtain their required amateur radio license, are enough to start a revival of the hobby in the north country.

The Sci-Tech Center — Mr. Barben is president of the board of directors — will offer the license course from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays from May 3 to June 7 at the center, 154 Stone St.

The Federal Communications Commission test will take place June 14.

The course, which includes a study book and covers the FCC test fee, educates participants on FCC rules and regulations and is open to anyone. The fee is $75, or $65 for Sci-Tech Center members.

The FCC license, which is good for 10 years, qualifies people to use amateur radio frequencies, Mr. Karon said.

Four people have signed up for the course so far, and there are six open slots remaining, he said.

According to a Sci-Tech Center news release, there are more than two million amateur radio operators around the world. Northern New York may produce the next 10 ham radio operators.

“Radio, obviously, is technology, so it’s really one of our core purposes to promote and educate about technology,” Mr. Karon said. “Amateur radio has been around since the beginning of radio. It’s a socialization hobby.”

For more information, call the center at 788-1340, or send an e-mail to

Information about the hobby may be found online at, or

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