The idea of a “traveling” ham radio came to us simultaneously. It is a single unit holding a receiver and transmitter in a case about the size of a candy box. The trees perfect for holding a wire antenna stand just over our property line so the only way to get an antenna into the air was straight up — a vertical antenna. This is not a one-man job so I put out a call for an “antenna party” and Al Stirn showed up with tools and test equipment.
I set the radio “rig” on the end of the long dining room table and started spreading wires out. Reluctant to start making holes in the house, I slipped the antenna cable under the door, through the garage and connected it to the tall antenna standing in the backyard.
I’ve been in and out of ham radio a long time and the technology is now so broad that there is something for everyone. There are whole families with “ham” licenses. I know a guy who required his kids to get a “ham” license before they could drive and now he keeps up with them with something called APRS that displays their location and speed on his home computer — not that a teenager would stretch the truth about anything.
You can talk with someone on the other side of the world with a “walkie talkie” via a “ham” satellite or enjoy “ham” television. Some people prefer voice communication, while others are catching on to the latest shiny digital thing of attaching a computer to the radio and using the keyboard to “chat.”
While finishing my last cup of coffee this morning I “chatted” with Trevor in England; David in Belgium; Yves in France; Paul in Argentina; Jon in Uberlandia, Brazil; and Alberto in Cuba — yep, THAT Cuba.
There were also contacts with hams in Hungary, South Africa, Isle of Man and a couple of stations in Canada. The world opened up and I looked at it through a window in central Kansas.
There are nearly 700,000 amateur radio operators in the U.S., but none in Washington County. An active bunch in the neighboring county is anxious to build a community of “hams” here and install an amateur radio repeater that will cover hundreds of square miles.
Obtaining a ham radio license has never been easier. Eliminating the Morse Code requirement brought thousands into the hobby. As is often the case, as soon as you aren’t required to do something you become curious about it. Many hams who obtained licenses because they didn’t have to learn Morse Code now enjoy it.
Things have changed in amateur radio since I made my first contact in 1955. I was 12 and was less interested in learning about electrons than chatting with someone miles away.
Winter is a good time to study for the entry level license, which takes a week or so, and you can take practice tests online. The world is waiting.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at email@example.com.