Amateur radio hobbyists enjoy communicating

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 11/3/07


At his amateur, or ham, radio station in his Berkeley home is Edward A. Picciuti, who joined the Holiday City Amateur Radio Club in 2005 and now is club vice president. "There are no strict parameters," he says of amateur radio. "You get hand work. You get brain work. It's free-form."

More than 15 years ago.

MEMBERS: 42, plus a ladies auxiliary.

MEETS: 7 p.m. first Thursdays of month.

WHERE: Holiday City South clubhouse, Mule Road at Santiago Drive, Berkeley.


OPEN TO: General public, whether licensed operators or not.

(732) 349-2950.

 American Radio Relay League
 Holiday City Amateur Radio Club




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For 53 years, Larry Puccio has been able to speak with people from across the nation or from around the world without picking up a telephone or leaving his house.

All the Berkeley resident has had to do is use his ham radio.

The hobby which a neighbor taught him when he was growing up in New York City is now a family affair. His two sons and two of his seven grandchildren use ham, or amateur, radios. And, the retired engineer still spends several hours a day on the radio.

"There's a group of fellows I talk to every morning," Puccio says. "One fellow I went to high school with."

Puccio also has been president for three years of Holiday City Amateur Radio Club in Holiday City at Berkeley, the retirement development where he and his wife, Grace, moved four years ago from Hillsborough. The couple also has two daughters.

When not on the radio, Puccio plays the piano, the organ and the vibraphone. He leads a prostate cancer support group at Community Medical Center in Toms River. And, he does all the repairs, renovations and other work in his home.

Most of all, Puccio enjoys sharing his knowledge of amateur radio.

"He's my Elmer somebody who goes beyond the call of duty helping someone who knows diddley (about ham radio). He educates them," says Edward A. Picciuti, club vice president, who joined the club in 2005 and spends about an hour a day on the radio.

"Elmer is the name of a person. It's been used ever since amateur radio started, about 100 years ago," Puccio says.

"Ham" is a term used by early wireless telegraph operators for poor operators. When amateur operators later began using the same wavelengths as commercial or government stations, often jamming them, they were called "hams." Amateurs adopted the term, whose original meaning no longer applies, according to the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.

Picciuti became involved with ham radio for several reasons.

"He didn't want his brain to fizzle. All his life, he's learned new things raising bees, selling lemon ice on a truck," says his wife of 52 years, Helen, with whom he moved five years ago to Holiday City. The couple, formerly of Cedar Knolls and Florida, has four daughters, two sons and 13 grandchildren.

Picciuti, who collects coins, has a vegetable garden, flies model airplanes and is an avid Internet user, says he thought ham radio was an interesting hobby.

"The other night, I was talking to someone on the island of Crete," Picciuti says. "The next night, you could be talking to someone in South Africa, then someone in Georgia."

He likes the people he's met in the club and and on the radio, too.

"It's nothing but gentle people, men and women, no cursing. It's a place where you can go and don't have to worry about anything other than people who want to talk or be listened to. Everyone helps everyone," says Picciuti, who retired in 1988 as a chief inspector of commercial electronic devices.

Club members also help the public.

"Almost all of us are service-oriented. We belong to the Amateur Radio Emergency Service," says Pucciuti, who also belongs to the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network. "If the power goes out, cell phones die, electricity is gone, most of us have auxiliary power. Larry has a generator. I have batteries. We can talk across the street or across the world."

"If there's an emergency, and they have to evacuate, we're all certified to go to the shelters and set up communications with the (American) Red Cross," Puccio says.

Using a ham radio means studying, taking tests and obtaining a license issued by the FCC in the United States, they say. Some clubs, including theirs, offer classes. Operators obtain technician, general or extra the highest class, say the two, who both are in the extra class.

The higher the grade, the more bands, or groups of frequencies, someone can use to communicate, Puccio says.

Every nation has a specific call letter, Puccio says. In the United States, the letters begin with W, K, A or N, he says. All operators use call letters, too. Puccio's is K2QDY; Picciuti's is W1EAP.

"That identifies you," Puccio says, adding that call letters are listed in a database.

Generally, people go on the air and use an international acronymn that says they're calling at random.

"Anybody that hears you will call back if they want to talk to you," Puccio says.

Conversations cover everything from radio equipment to the strength of someone's signal to personal information.

"English is the universal language for ham radio," says Puccio, who also speaks Spanish and Italian. But most of his conversations are in Morse Code, he says.

"I use voice only," Picciuti says. "I'm terrible at Morse Code."

"We also have video. It's hooked up to the radio. It sends live pictures, moving pictures, or still pictures," Puccio says.

Operators must keep a log of calls, the frequencies they were on, and more information.

Both men find amateur radio to be as challenging as it is interesting.

Many operators build their own equipment radios, antennaes, tuners, Pucciuti says. Operators can win awards for contacting someone in every state in the nation, for example from the relay league, they say.

"For young people, it can be an entry into the electronics field. Lots of operators go into electrical engineering, into the space program," Puccio says. "In fact, many of the astronauts are ham radio operators."

Bobbi Seidel:(732) 643-4043 or