Amateur Radio aka ham radio...

I've always been fascinated with electronics and 2-way radio communication. Some of the geeky kids in electronics class were licensed radio operators as teenagers. My uncle got a license while he was in the NAVY and could send and receive messages on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
The difficulty wasn't the rules and regulations, for me, it was the code. You need to comprehend 5 words per minute to pass the exam.

Before radio communication, there was the telegraph. A device where wires strung for thousands of miles could carry faint signals from station to station. A device called a key was tapped on and a speaker on the other end captured clicking sounds. Inventors around the world were beginning to use this device and inventor Samuel Morse devised an alphabetical system of varying spaced clicks. dit and dah is the easy way to describe the sounds. dits were short and dahs were long! This was knows as Morse Code.

Wireless radio communication, didn't have voice capability in the beginning. Radio receivers could only detect clicks and Morse Code was used to send and receive message over the air. It worked so well, that a watt of transmitting power could be heard half-way around the world.
Receivers became more elaborate and voice communication became possible. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintained that radio operators be proficient in Morse Code to get licensed.

My friends were using Citizens Band (CB) radio where the FCC allowed people to use low power 5 watt radios for voice communication and no testing was required for licensing. The CB radio was only good for a few miles. That lead to bigger antennas, more power and the ability to talk farther/further. It was a hobby I had for at least 10 years.

Not far from my home is a county park and in a fenced area is an antenna farm of many different sized antenna arrays. I rarely see any cars at the compound until one day last week, about 20 cars were out front. They were having a BBQ for an open house to attract new members.

I was curious and stopped in to ask a few questions.
It's been years since I talked on a 2-way radio and since then, the FCC (realizing new membership had fallen off) no longer required the operator to be proficient in Morse Code.

I still have some vintage ham radio gear. Two of the transceivers were fully restored by a technician 5 years ago. Do I want to do this?
Groan... I'm living in a condo and not allowed to mount an antenna on the roof.
All this to talk to a bunch of guys my age who discuss their radios and the money invested in this hobby.
My thought 5 years ago was to sell the gear I have and not bother with amateur radio.
Maybe I'm of the same mindset today.

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Comments (20)

I'm an Active Ham. I joke that I'm the only Kosher Ham around. But I really don't see a point to your article. It doesn't further anybody's knowledge about Amateur Radio, nor is it a good read. My advice, sell your equipment.
The point of my blog was clear. My plan is to sell my gear. It's a good read as a point in time.

I doubt any of the people who ready my blogs would have the slightest interest in amateur radio, why bother? With internet, you can communicate globally any time of the day with voice and video. So why attempt to convert someone away from something so powerful?

The inquiry at the radio club confirmed I have lost interest in that hobby.

From the top of the blogs page:
"A Blog is a journal you may enter about your life, thoughts, interesting experiences, or lessons you've learned."

Thanks for your comment.
I've been an active ham operator since 1979, now I still have my radios but due to Philippine regulations I'm unable to transmit while in the country, so I just listen on shortwave and decode CW (morse) RTTY (Radio TeleTYpe) especially weather RTTY, I can also listen to signals bouncing off satellites.
I have a friend here in Cebu who has a radio setup back in the US that we can access via the internet and then transmit/receive at any time day/night.
Amature radio s not just about chatting with like-minded people, it is about designing antennas and making electronic additions to benefit the Ham World, especially in emergency situations.

My advice would be to dust off your old rigs and get a simple antenna such as an active loop and then just listen to various ham radio bands, if you find it boring then as said above just sell your radios and forget about becoming a licensed Radio Ham Operator.

But I think you will be fascinated and want to join the Amature Radio World.
Oh you can always run a mobile radio rather than a home base
such as Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood
Events run most weekends and POTA (Parks on the Air) is well established and makes for a very interesting weekend. All you need is a transceiver, a 12V battery and a long-wire antenna to start with.

If you have a balcony you have an ideal place to construct an antenna for a home base.
I have been a ham enthusiast since the early 80s when I started attending one of the largest annual ham fests in Dayton Ohio. everyone attending them usually goes simplex on handhelds and the ham fests were always a good opportunity to meet people from all over the globe. I spent more there walking through the flea market.

I've never cared to operate a base station but I have enjoyed my handheld radios. Presently, I only use an Icom ID-52A 5W D-Star VHF/UHF Digital Transceiver. The D-star aspect keeps me interested in ham activities. You don't need a license to operate a ham radio in an emergency though. I probably will always have a working handheld around for emergency situations, if for nothing else.

It does sound like you should sell your ham gear.
My dad's hobby was such a big part of my childhood.

It was our way of keeping in touch with friends and relatives across mainland Europe during an era when making a telephone call was difficult. Phone calls required hours of waiting for the operator to make the connection for a desperate, gabbled, costly few minutes. We'd all bundle into my dad's shack for a 'net' (lots of people at once) on Christmas Eve in particular, all of us shouting season's greetings in different languages to our loved ones.

I remember my dad bursting into the house at 3am one morning waving a length of ticker tape excitedly. He'd been in his shack at the end of the garden and had made contact across the Iron Curtain, his companion having risked his life for a few words of freedom. We were all sworn to secrecy, knowing that someone's life depended upon it.

For a period my dad's voice kept invading people's television sets as his equipment evolved from one aerial to another. I imagine that's why he was in his shack in the wee hours, after the BBC had ended the day's programming with 'God Save the Queen' and everyone else had gone to bed.

Back then, if my dad had made contact with someone, they would exchange postcards elegantly printed with their call signs. My dad's were filed meticulously in order in a purpose-built wooden box. They were like a precursor to the 80's boom in business cards.

And then there were the rallies. We'd visit Longleat Park for a day every year so my dad could disappear into marquees full of bits of circuit boards. You had to pay extra to visit the park's attractions, so I've no idea what we did all day other than run around looking at the attractions from afar. laugh
You can try listening to which gives hundreds of accessible listening devices worldwide.

Utah has the best antenna array in the US and allows you to listen to every amateur band.

if you have some time try listening
Wow, I bought my first HF radio transceiver kit at the Longleat rally, it was a Heathkit that needed full construction, I used that radio for about ten years before selling it and getting a purpose built Kenwood transceiver.
Thank you for bring back happy memoriescheers
What year did you buy that Heathkit, Riz?
I guess around the mid-1980's, I bought the Heathkit HW101 that had just been discontinued so it was cheap.
It was an excellent radio used across the world b those Amateurs that wanted a cheap transceiver that they could build and learn about electronics at the same time.

Heathkit was the forerunner in Electronic kits, they were based in Gloucester until they closed up.
The morse code used today is not the version invented by Samuel Morse but based on a version invented by a German, he modified the code to make it simpler to learn and use.

International Morse or German Morse is used today by the US military/UK military and NATO as well as the Maritime Navy and of course Amateur radio operators.

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We wouldn't have crossed paths at Longleat, then. I'm pretty sure I'd grown out of looking at the outside of the exciting things by the end of the 70's. laugh

My dad used to borrow my nail varnish to make his own circuit boards. He'd paint the copper he wanted to keep on the plastic backing board before soaking it in some solution. He was ridiculously nerdy.

I once dragged my daughter around a museum of packaging and advertising in Gloucester. Is there a nerd gene? giggle
Interesting read. All I can recall is the International distress of 3 dots 3 dashes 3 dots.laugh
Thanks for the links. I'll definitely listen in.thumbs up
Thanks for sharing...very nice memory.
A short chapter of my radio-active life.

1975 a group of model helicopter enthusiasts would meet on weekends at a county park.
At the time, the radio control hobby was using 72mhz with limited 12 channels of FCC allocations.
Radios were crystal controlled and you had to wait to fly if your frequency was in use. Often some careless person would turn on a transmitter and the aircraft who had authorization to fly would get jammed and crash.
We decided to get technician class licenses so we could switch to 6 meters and have crystals cut on private frequencies.
When I used to do RC boats we had a coloured ribbon tied to the controller aerial, each colour denoted a specific frequency, and no one would use the same frequency. we had around 14 different channels to use.

27MHz AM for general use (identified by colour, rather than channel number).
35MHz FM for aircraft use only.
40MHz FM for surface vehicles only. (cars/boats and hovercraft)
27mhz in America was a disaster for radio controlled devices as it fit in-between CB frequencies and subject to adjacent channel interference.
When I was a teenager, I was one of those "CB-ers" laugh was our fun thing back in the day. My friends and I would get together in parking lots at the mall, talking to eachother over CB radio.....and when we'd get thrown out for "loitering", we'd just meet up at a pizza hut or McD's....just a bunch of teenagers, hanging out and having fun socializing.....something that not enough kids do these days. My very first handle was JJ....short for Jabber Jaws, from a childhood favorite tv show laugh

....then later, when I was about 18-19 years old my handle had changed to Lady Ice. An old Arcadia song that I felt I related to at the time. Boy, was I young roll eyes laugh wave
Enigma, I too had a CB life. One of the helicopter pilots owned a TV & electronics repair shop. He got us started so we could communicate on modified radios that had more than 40 channels, less traffic.

I had friends in Venezuela who would talk every day after work and conditions were so good I could talk with them from my car!

The locals with base stations would get into group chats, movie reviews, trivia and lots of fun. Probably 20 of us. I asked my neighbor if he wanted to go to dinner. I suggested a place and to my surprise a handful of other people came to meet us.

She was a local who would be up half the night talking to anyone who would listen.
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