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Episode 24 -- July 25, 2016 -- The Olden Days, Public Service, Cell Tower Radiation Safety. Len guest stars.
Listen to the episode 49.5 MB MP3
Len got his ham license in 1960.
When his dad was licensed in 1932, they had separate licenses for the station and the person. Lots more rules back then. Then exams were all essay answer with drawn diagrams and a 13 word-per-minute morse code test.
Today, you don't need to learn morse code, to get a ham license you only need to correctly answer 27 out of 35 questions which will be randomly taken from a pool of 470 questions.
Superheterodyne vs Regenerative receivers
During Sporatic-E ionospheric propagation, you can talk all over the United States on the 6 meter band, 50-54 MHz.
The engineering required to actually design your own radio requires quite a few years of dedication, but even merely building a kit is surprisingly satisfying.
There are many practical reasons to learn morse code even though it is no longer required to get a ham radio license.
Morse code is surprisingly easy to learn. THere are many online tools to help. I personally prefer the farnsworth method.
Once you learn mores code, using it to communicate on the ham radio bands also requires knowing a few of the Q-Signals, a set of common phrases shortened to 3 letter abbreviations when sent in morse code. For instance, instead of saying, "I have an announcement to make.", you can send "QST" which means the same thing. Instead of saying, "My Location Is California", you can simply say, "QTH California". You can also pose it as a question, "QTH?" means, "Where are are?". There are a couple dozen Q-Signals and you can have a great time on the air if you only learn the first 5 or 10 of them.
The American Radio Relay League was originally a club for hams who liked to pass messages from nonhams to other nonhams using the radio back in the days when telephones were rare. Now, it is the main union and advocate (inclucing lobbying) for amateur radio operators within the United States.
Ham Radio on the high frequency bands, 3 to 30 MHz waxes and waines on the 11 year sunspot cycle. Right now, we're in one of the valleys between the peaks so the bands work relatively poorly now compared to 5 or 6 years ago and 5 or 6 years in the future, when they'll be a lot better.
Hams were more curtious in the olden days, but it is still a lot of fun.
There was a lot more public service ham radio operations 20 years ago than there is today. Partly because of better coordination between fire and EMS (Emergency Services) radio operations now and party because there weren't cellphones back then. Also, CalFire has a fantastic communication system now (they didn't used to).
There's a wilderness protocal: If somebody is hiking and needs help, call close to the top of the hour on 146.52 MHz (2 meters).
Hams train for public service also by participating in Walkathons, Bike Rides, car races, the yearly spash-in (a convocation of sea-planes), the county faire and other public events.
Dennis asks, "Do cell towers pose health hazards?" Because we're so far away from the transmitting antenna (more than 20 ft) it is likely not to have any effect. Even a ham radio with an antenna right at your ear is likely not going to have much of an effect, but different people are different, so if you're worried, just move 6 inches away and the amount of energy to which you're exposed will be many times less.
RF Radiation is not the same as Ionizing Radiation. English uses the word "Radiation" for the two completely different concepts. Ionizing Radiation is the stuff that will change your DNA and give you cancer if you're too close to any of it. You can't feel it and it is dangerous. Ionizing Radiation can be measured with a Geiger Counter. RF or Radio Frequency Radiation is the phrase we use to describe radio waves, including those sent into your microwave oven to cook food. If you're too close to a radio transmitting antenna, you'll feel the heat and it can burn you, but that's the only kind of damage it can do to you of which I'm aware. Cellphones and Ham Radios put out such small amounts of Radio Frequency Radiation that it is unlikely to harm you, even if the antenna is right by your ear, but if you're worried (because everybody is different and therefore what's harmless to me might not be harmless to you) just move a few inches away; get an external micrphone for your handitalkie or an earbud mic for your cellphone. The radiation from the radio itself is tens of thousands or more of times smaller than the transmissions coming from the antenna.
Melissa says, "The Boy Scouts troups in Lakeport and Clearlake always need help with volunteers who ware willing to teach morse code and other information for the telecommunications merrit badget. Can any of the local ham clubs help?" The leader in Lower Lake is Kevin. The person in Lakeport is a woman. Boy Scouts Council will have contact info.
Willits Amateur Radio Society meets on some Saturday mornings at 8:30 at Old Mission Pizza. But there isn't one scheduled in the near future.
A Fort Bragg Radio Club will be starting up soon.
During World War II, Ham Radio operators were all gobbled up by the military to help with communications.
Morse Code (or PSK-31 using computers) can be used to maintane clear communication using tiny batteries, hundreds of times less power than what is required for clear voice communications.
A Good morse code operator can send and receive 35 or 40 words per minute.
There are three types of morse code keys
A normal Key, slang = "brass pounder" or Straight Key, like this one, which used to be sold at Radio Shack for $4.99.
Or this one:
A bug, which is a mechanical keyer. It has a paddle which can be pushed left or right with your fingers. If you push the paddle to the left, it will just make a long "Dah" sound, as long as you hold it, but if you push it to the right, you activate a tiny pendulum which bounces the connection on and off quickly making a string of "Dits". Since Morse code is made of Dits and Dahs, it makes the dits for you automatically.
An Electronic Keyer uses a paddle (or pair of paddles next to one another) to make dits if you push it left or a strong of Dahs if you push it right. Most modern radios come with electronic keyer circuits built in, all you have to supply is the paddle.
Different Morse implementations in different countries and cultures
Russian and slavic countries
Most cellphones have FM Stereo Receiving circuits biult-in, but the software doesn't allow you to use it.
Meet hams in other countries to visit them in their homes.
I had my first cell phone in 1995, a Motorola Brick.
25 or 30 years ago, lots of people were always available to talk to you if you just asked for somebody to talk with on a repeater. There are just not as many hams these days. Also, since there weren't cellphones back before 1990s, there were a lot more people who got ham licenses just so they could have a radio in the car upon which to talk to someobody on their commute.
Carl reminds us that you can use Skype from your laptop or cellphone to talk with people around the world for free to meet new people. Although since
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