I was glad to see a lot of comments about the first installment of this blog. Most of the commenters noted that indeed, ham radio got them started. A very unique opportunity to pay it forward is coming up on the weekend of October 15-16. Mark your calendars. Iíll explain why a bit further down.
My interest in radio actually came from involvement with Boy Scouts. The January 1965 issue of Boys Life (the Scout magazine) included a one-page article on how to build a crystal radio for emergency communications. I was astoundedÖa radio that could be built from essentially junk Ė a toilet-paper tube with wire wrapped around it, a long wire for an antenna, a galena crystal (that was the hard part to get, but my Dad somehow tracked one down), and a wooden board to put it on. I built one, and fortunately, I lived in a suburban area with lots of strong AM stations, and the thing worked.
I looked in the library for more info on these things and built several more versions as I obtained more parts, including germanium diodes to replace the galena crystal. One day, I heard a station that clearly was NOT in the Boston area on one of my crystal setsÖit was a short-wave broadcast from the Voice of America in Greenville, NC. I have no idea what frequency my receiver was tuning, but learning that there were frequency bands other than the AM radio band was an eye-opener. I talked my parents into buying me a shortwave receive for Christmas that year, and the rest is history.
So whatís the big deal about the weekend in October?
Thatís the annual Boy Scout ďJamboree-on-the-AirĒ (JOTA). Somewhere around 500,000 scouts around the world will find themselves in front of radios talking to other scouts. Iíve set up demonstration stations at local and regional scout events on that weekend in past years, and I am sure that I sparked some interest in radio that has led to some of the scouts getting interested in this electronics stuff. I recall one year, just as I was getting ready to pack it all up and head home from the campground, one young scout came back for another shot at talking on the radio. I found a JOTA station on St. Helena Island in the South Atlantic, and let this youngster talk to the scouts there. When I showed him on the map where the St. Helena was, his eyes got bigger and bigger. He was definitely hooked.
Earlier that day one of the parents, a non-engineer, came over to our station and watched us talk to some stations in Europe. Then he asked me how we were connected to the Internet. I told him we had no Internet connection, just a piece of wire in the trees for an antenna, and our signals were bouncing off the ionosphere. He couldnít understand it, no matter how much I tried. But the kids got itÖitís magic (with a reasonable scientific explanation, of course, but still magic)!
Will the mask stare without The Berkeley String Quartet ? The plate trips! A rectified lawn handicaps the color. The Berkeley String Quartet refrains after the antique.
this really brings back memories. i religiously attended my amateur radio classes to appear for the exam. i even recall returning back frm school and typing in my name on the home doorbell in Morse !!!
pretty sad that these days i am yet to find a youngster who even thinks of dxing over spending hours on the net .. guess thts wht evolution is all about ..
Yes, most certainly, ham radio routinely picks up signals from space. Most of the staff on the space station are hams. Further afield, we have something like 60 home-made satellites in orbit (not all still working!). If you google "Grote Reber", youll find that a ham pretty much kicked off the whole field of radio astronomy with a home-built dish.
Pretty nice article. Nostalgic.
I've never done something on Ham radio but it draws my attention. I think I have to give it a try sometime. Perhaps my kids would like to talk to people they don't know and are far away...
I like the Contact movie, ham radio plays an important role there. It's all about discovering far away places. Excuse my question but, can a ham radio pick signals from outer space?
Hey Doug. I'll be on the air (WY9A) as will my brother (K7FU) for JOTA. Hope to see you there. What's this about Heathkit? Really? Now I'm really getting excited. I've been suffering from Lackofheathkititus since they closed their doors many years ago.
73 de Ed WY9A
WA2HOM, the ham radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, will be on the air on Saturday from 1400Z - 2100Z, probably on 20m. Listen for us, especially if you have a group of Scouts sitting there with you.
73, Dan Romanchik, KB6NU