Don Zupon, known by his amateur radio call sign W3MIF, has been on the air since he was a young boy.
Zupon is a member and past president of the North Augusta-Belvedere Radio Club, which has been together more than 40 years. He also serves as the amateur radio emergency coordinator for Edgefield County.
The 69-year-old bought his first radio in high school after earning $50 from his job at Dairy Queen. He said today it costs $100 and up for a short-range radio, and $400 and up for long-range radios. Prior to purchasing a radio, he learned how to build his own transmitter.
When he isn’t on the radio meeting new people, Zupon enjoys traveling and camping.
He also has a pilot’s license, and enjoys target shooting, bowling and rebuilding his 1965 Corvette.
For information about monthly meetings and amateur radio training courses offered by the radio club, visit k4nab.org.
Q: What does ham radio stand for?
A: Well, nobody really knows, but amateur radio is the official name, so somewhere along the line ham got interpreted as amateur radio.
Q: How do you define amateur radio?
A: The ability to make friends all around the country and the world because when you go on there you can talk to anybody around the world, all walks of life, like the space station if it is over head.
Q: How did you get started in amateur radio?
A: I started when I was 13. We had a big box radio in the family room and typically you listen to shortwave stations from around the world and I ran across these guys talking. I looked up what that was and actually found out who the one guy was that was close to me and I went and knocked on his door. He told me about ham radio and how to get the license, buy the books and learn and pass a Federal Communications Commission test.
Q: What do you like most about amateur radio?
A: Originally, the thing was the magic of being able to talk to somebody over the radio. I found people that had similar interests, met them and so forth, then as I got better radios I was able to talk farther and farther around the country and around the world.
Q: What do your call letters stand for?
A: That’s just random. The “3” actually means a certain geographic area. It means Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. That’s where it was issued at. Callers issued down here would have a “4” in it.
Q: What level is your license?
A: Extra, which is at the top. You get more privileges, more frequencies to use and operating procedures. The higher the license you get the ability to talk longer distances.
Q: How do you get an amateur radio license?
A: Take a training class or just go to arrl.org and purchase the books. ... All you have to do is pass a technical test and answer questions about electronics and operating frequencies. Local ham groups have been authorized to give the test (such as the North Augusta Belvedere Radio Club).
Q: How often do you have to renew licenses?
A: Every 10 years, and it’s free.
Q: What is the most interesting thing you have done with your license?
A: I guess one of the lasting things was all through time, people I have associated with got interested in ham radio so there is a trail of friends and family in Pennsylvania and down here that have gotten interested by association.
Q: Have you helped with any disasters?
A: A long time ago with the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania. It destroyed the city, killed a lot of people and they needed communications. A lot of people were asked to come and help out. It was looking for people and communicating their conditions and some of that was just on the ground reporting this is what’s at this site.