Media Hit: WeatherBrains

Weather and ham radio have a lot in common, most notably SkyWarn. This week, episode 210 of WeatherBrains, “a weekly audio show delivered by the Internet that unites weather geeks worldwide” has a pretty long segment on amateur radio.

Starting at about 7:45 of this episode and lasting past the 40:00 minute mark, the amateur radio segment includes guests Allen Pitts, W1AGP, the PR Manager for the ARRL, and Rob Macedo, KD1CY, SKYWARN Coordinator for the National Weather Service in Taunton, MA. James Spann, WO4W, is the show’s host. They talk about all kinds of things including emergency communications in Haiti, SkyWarn, and the Civilian Weather Observer Project.

More Media Play

2600—The Hacker Quarterly—has an article in the Autumn issue titled, “Post-Apocalyptic Communications.” It reads,

You’ve watched the movies and now you must prepare for the worst. You’re going to need a bunker deep inside a mountain, preferably at high elevation….You will need some form of communication. That pwned [sic] iPhone just won’t do. Sure, it’s unlocked for use on any provider, but on doomsday, it’s more than likely that you won’t be getting any reception. That’s why it’s good to have an amateur radio!

Now, I’m not so sure about the doomsday scenario, but I think it would be a cool thing if more hackers got into ham radio. After all, hams are the hackers of the radio world!

J.P. Armstrong, the author of the piece, has a page devoted to ham radio on his website. I kinda like it because he features my study guides. Thanks, JP!

Computer Magazine Touts Ham Radio

Computerworld, a computer trade magazine, is currently running the article, “Want to bone up on wireless tech? Try ham radio,” on its website. It’s saying what I’ve been saying all along that getting a ham radio license is a good thing for computer professionals, especially those involved with networking.

Here’s what the article has to say about innovation in ham radio:

Reviving innovation
Decades ago, amateur radio operators were on the forefront of scores of technological innovations, including television, digital communications, solid-state design and cellular networks. The hobby’s roots trace back to radio pioneers such as Guglielmo Marconi and FM-inventor Edwin Armstrong.

But in recent years, as many potential new hams were attracted to computers, the Internet and other technologies that they could explore without passing a licensing exam, some veteran hams worried that ham radio was at risk of gradually sliding into stagnation and was perhaps even on the road toward technological irrelevance. Over time, many old-timers worried, experimenters would gradually be replaced by hams more focused on the hobby’s operational aspects, such as restoring antique radios and providing communications services for community parades and other charity events.

Other hams, however, believed that the hobby was actually entering a new era of innovation, one driven by the same type of people lured away from ham radio by advancing digital technologies. They reasoned that a streamlined licensing system, capped by the FCC’s elimination of Morse code testing two years ago, would, over time, revitalize the hobby. This would happen by attracting technically skilled innovators who were interested in more than merely tapping a telegraph key.

It goes on to talk about how hams are working on interesting projects, such as new digital communications techniques, and how hams have parlayed their ham radio hobby into lifelong careers. One example they give is Joe Taylor, K1JT, who is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

The Fun Theory

A frequent contributor, Ralph, AA8RK, forwarded to me a link to the Fun Theory website. According to the website, “…something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

The website shows a couple of videos, like the one above, that are examples of how to make good things fun. The Hands-On Museum has a piano staircase, and it is fun!

That got me to thinking about how we can make amateur radio demos more fun. I haven’t come up with any great ideas yet, but if you have one, please comment here. Ham radio has to be fun, or else it’s going to fade into the woodwork.

HP Hypes Ham Radio…

…and their computers, of course.

HP in Real Life – Ham Radio Story is an article on their website that describes how two hams—only know as Andy and Irwin—purportedly use HP computer in their ham radio operations. It’s not very detailed, but at least it doesn’t depict ham radio operators as doddering old folks using antiquated technologies. They point to the following applications:

  • Database logging of radio contacts and calculation of scores when on radio contest expeditions
  • Controlling radios with automatic data exchange between the radio and the Internet to other stations in a worldwide “spotting” network to share contact opportunities and information.
  • Digital signal processing and spectrum analysis using software-defined radios, special software and additional hardware.

Library Patrons to Experience Shortwave Radio

This is an interesting idea. This might be something we could do at the Hands-On Museum when we’re not operating the rig there….Dan

From NorwalkPlus.com, Sep 29, 2009

Experience the adventure of shortwave radio at the Norwalk Public Library

NORWALK, CT – SEPTEMBER 29, 2009 – In the midst of today’s electronic gadgetry and communications innovation little is either known or remembered about shortwave radio – sending and receiving. But the Norwalk Public Library, in partnership with the Greater Norwalk Amateur Radio Club (GNARC) is offering an opportunity to experience the thrill and adventure of “ham” radio.

With a 66 foot-long inverted “Vee” antenna mounted on the Main Library’s roof, radio signals from all over the world can be heard on the shortwave receiver in place on the Main Level. The receiver is available for public use. The headset attachment is located at the Information Desk.

The receiver and antenna was installed by Jay Kolinsky, Gus Hedlund and Curt Seaton of the GNARC and Collin Pratt of the Library staff.

Kolinsky explains “Very few people under 40 have ever seen a shortwave receiver much less heard what the actual signals sound like.”

Interestingly, amateur radio operators, also known as “Hams”, are credited with the discovery of long-distance communication. Radio ‘Hams’ conducted the first successful shortwave transatlantic tests in December 1921. For years, shortwave radio was the only, and a popular method of hearing broadcasts from Europe and most all other parts of the world. It has always played an important part in communicating news, information and helping coordinate emergency efforts – it being a “wireless” way to send and receive spoken words, Morse code, and teletype. “The shortwave signals go through the air,” Kolinsky continues, “and are not dependent on telephone lines, internet and other physical connections.”

If the public begins to show interest, the GNARC will conduct shortwave orientations to explain and demonstrate shortwave radio, foreign broadcasts, and talking to people – other amateur operators – across the globe right from the Library without connecting to any wire communications grid.

The GNARC, founded in the 1930s, has about 100 members from all walks of life and meets monthly.

“Hams” in the United States are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. They are authorized to use thousands of radio frequencies for transmitting. Besides making friends worldwide, “Hams” continue to handle emergency radio traffic during times of severe disasters when electricity, phone, commercial and government communications systems fail.

For more information about Ham Radio, visit the GNARC website – www.gnarc.org- or contact Jay Kolinsky at ne2q@arrl.net.

For use of the shortwave receiver installed at the Main library inquire at the Information Desk, Norwalk Public Library, 1 Belden Avenue. Corner of Mott Avenue and Belden Avenue.

Duracell Promotes Ham Radio

BETHEL, Conn., July 9, 2009 /PRNewswire/ — Duracell unveiled the latest broadcast commercials this month in its highly successful “Trusted Everywhere” advertising campaign. The 30-second and 15-second television spots depict the life-saving work of Air Life Denver, an emergency rescue transport service that uses a variety of vehicles including helicopters as well as high-tech personal devices to rescue families affected by severe weather. This year’s campaign will also feature a 60-second radio spot that highlights the efforts of the WX4NHC, an amateur radio station located at the National Hurricane Center. WX4NHC is operated by a group of volunteer amateur radio operators who communicate critical severe weather information to first responders in remote storm locations across South Florida.

The new spots in the “Trusted Everywhere” campaign, now in its eighth successful year, are designed to reinforce the power of Duracell batteries by demonstrating the critical use of electronic devices in weather-related emergencies. The latest TV spot, which is entitled “Tornado,” depicts a real event in which the rescue was performed by Air Life Denver. The spot opens with Air Life Denver members equipped with battery-powered, night-vision goggles for a rescue operation after a tornado hits in the thick of the night. As the Air Life Denver crew flies above the tornado aftermath, they successfully locate victims next to their destructed home. The dramatic images bring to life the real situations that these rescuers face, and the importance of the battery-operated devices used to help navigate through the night to find people in need and bring them to safety.

The radio spot entitled “Hurricane” highlights the efforts of an all-volunteer army of ham radio operators for WX4NHC, physically located at the National Hurricane Center campus in Miami. The spot narrates the important role that these unique volunteers play during severe weather conditions – enabling communications with emergency medical teams, police and fire departments when the power goes out. The narration underscores the importance of a reliable battery to power the portable ham radios, which are crucial to the organization’s work.

“With these new spots, we are helping to showcase the important contributions made by Air Life Denver crews and the Miami ham radio operators,” said Bob Jacobs, Duracell marketing director, North America. “These heroic teams are working to save the lives of others. When storms strike, the radio operators are donating their time to make sure communications stay intact, and the helicopter teams are on the front lines, facing intense pressures and dangerous conditions to rescue those in need. We’re proud that our batteries can help power these life-saving efforts.”

The “Tornado” TV spot featuring Air Life Denver debuts in July and will air on network and cable programs nationwide. To view the new “Tornado” spot, please visit http://tiny.cc/xzmfj. The “Hurricane” radio spots will debut in August and will air on local AM/FM stations nationwide.

FD PR

One of the purposes of Field Day is to get some PR for ham radio. As usual, Public Information Officers (PIOs) all across the country worked hard at getting us some attention from media and government. Here are some links:

Governors Show Support for Amateur Radio as ARRL Field Day Approaches
Governors across the United States have shown their support for Amateur Radio, with many proclaiming Amateur Radio Week in their states. Coinciding with ARRL Field Day, these proclamations show citizens that these states value the contributions made by radio amateurs.

A radio dish at Stanford is powerful enough to bounce signals off the moon, a tricky endeavor.
A radio dish at Stanford is powerful enough to bounce signals off the moon, a tricky endeavor.

A Ham Radio Weekend for Talking to the Moon
In a worldwide event, amateur radio operators will talk to each other by bouncing their messages off the craggy face of the moon.

Amateur radio operators sharpen emergency skills
For 24 straight hours on Saturday and Sunday, local ham radio operators are putting their skills on display by communicating with others across the nation under basic emergency type conditions.

Ham operators hone their skills in nationwide radio event
The veteran CBS audio engineer was hunched over a ham radio for hours yesterday, beating out regular rhythms on a Morse code transmitter, trying to help his team win a contest that was more about practice than taking home a trophy.

PRC Radio Club hosts Field Day
HENLEYFIELD — The Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club hosted their annual field day event over the weekend demonstrating their abilities …

Ham radio operators communicate with world
Belen At 17 years old, Phil Shaw of Tierra Grande already has a sprawling network of contacts around the world. Shaw isn’t your typical teenager who is always on his cell phone texting his friends, or on the Internet using Facebook or MySpace to contact his “network.” He’s one of many amateur radio operators, also known as hams, who participated in this year’s National Field Day for Amateur Radio on Saturday.

Ham radio comes to Riverfront Park for a day
For 24 hours at Riverfront Park in River Grove, the gazebo, which normally hosts concerts, resembled an electronics sale. People sat at wood picnic benches speaking into microphones, adjusting dials and writing down codes.

There are many, many more. Go to Google News and search for ‘Field Day.’ You’ll find lots of good PR for ham radio. Thanks to all the PIOs out there that worked so hard to get us in the news.

K0GQ–Raytown Amateur Radio Club–on Fox4 Kansas City
A compilation of various short TV spots on Fox4 News, Kansas City.

Block Capitals for Clear Copy

Mike, K5MGR posted this chart to the ARRL PR mailing list.

blockcapitals
Click image to view full-size image.

He writes:

Hello everyone!

I posted the image below as available after a fellow on the “boatanchors” listserver asked for a copy of it.

It’s from my 1957 copy of the League’s Learning The Radiotelegraph Code.

The League got it from earlier Signal Corps publications.

It shows the “right” way to form block capitals for speed and clarity when copying code.

Remember, military nets generally went at about 15 wpm since copy conditions were so variable, and so much of what was sent was cipher groups rather than “plain text.” Plus, other personnel had to be able to read the copy.

If you’re going to have any CW operation on any Field Day or other event you’ll be publicizing, a “blow-up” of this chart, a little text of explanation, and you’ll have an interesting, informative display piece.

Field Day!

Field Day is just two weeks away. Part emergency-preparedness exercise, part contest, part PR opportunity, part club party, this is one of ham radio’s greatest events.

Wednesday evening, my club, ARROW, made its final plans for the event. We’re going to run 4A again this year, with two phone stations, two CW stations, one VHF/UHF station, and a GOTA station. I’m the captain of the GOTA station, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be operating one or both of CW stations at some point.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Meeting

On the way to the meeting, I passed a car with the license plate “KTZ 73″. The funny thing about this is that my first callsign was WN/WB8KTZ.

After the planning session, Tim, KT8K, our Field Day Chair for many years, walked us through a slide show presented at Daytonby a couple of the top Field Day clubs. One of the presentations was by the Rochester DX Association. They were #1 in classification 3A and #4 overall in 2008, scoring 17,978 points.

Part of the secret to their success is that they review everything, including station allocation (bands and modes worked), station setup, and antenna layout. They also noted that an active GOTA station was key to their success. They maxed out the bonus points earned by their GOTA station in 2008. Page through the PDF if you want to get a feel for how a real top-notch club does it.

Suggestions Abound
As you might expect, the mailing lists have been abuzz with talk about Field Day. Subscribers to the PR mailing list have been especially forthcoming with suggestions. Here are a couple:

  • Jim, KB9LEI, suggests printing out some “first QSO certificates” and awarding them to anyone making their first contact.
  • Susan, AF4FO, says, “One thing I believe to be very helpful, particularly for the larger, more well-attended field day operations, is to have a supply of stick-on name tags at the welcome table. Club members should wear their usual name badges or club shirts with name and call sign, if possible, but if not, they get one of those stick-ons (whether they like it or not)!

    To differentiate members from visitors, tags for non-members can be of a different color. This paves the way for club members to easily identify visitors ( and former or inactive club members) so they can make an extra effort to make all visitors feel welcome…. i.e. be public relations ambassadors for amateur radio, in general, and for the hosting club, in particular.

    Also, the sign-in sheet have space for folks to write in their mailing addresses. Following field day, the hosting club can follow-up by sending a thank you card to each of the visitors… and invite them to come to the club meetings, join club nets, participate in club activities, etc. If the visitor is a non-ham, information can be sent to them about possible upcoming classes, as well. This “personal touch” goes a long way toward promoting good will and increasing club membership.

  • Angel, WP3GW, suggested having a video playing on a spare laptop for visitors to watch. He created one by combining a .jpg with an audio public service announcement available from the ARRL website.
  • Walt, W4ALT, suggests.” Google ‘famous hams’ to find a number of sites displaying names and calls of Kings, actors, heroes, inventors, astronauts, famous, infamous, politicians, musicians…. a list of real names from all walks of life. Makes a nice display especially if you add some eye candy photos of a few of the notables.