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October 10, 2006



I cant help but think when I read this, are these people's privacy an issue here? I mean it's one thing to just easedrop but when you make MP3s and post them online, I think its violation of privacy. Otherwise, great post. Very well done.

fatty jubbo

my father was a Ham. He had a huge antenna that he built in the backyard. The basement was always littered with tubes and ham boxes he was building....we even built a morse code tapper together (I was never able to remember any of it and preffered tapping out rhythms) He also had a ham reciever in his car and a giant antenna attached. It was never a problem finding the car in the parking lot because that damn antenna would be sticking up 10 feet (my mother hated it). I remember us always driving up to Washington Rock in Greenbrook to get the best reception. I was always fascinated by the way the voices sounded and the high squeeling of tuning.

One of my favorite things though were the cards that the hams would send each other. My father had a decent sized collection, mostly from around the US if I remember right. I'm not sure if he had any international cards but I remember frequently hearing him tune in on some foriegn chatter. Harpers recently had a story on these cards- I think someone put out a book of them as some of them were quite fancy and artfully done.

When I was heavily into Commodore 64 and BBSs, my father tried to get me into this Ham Net thing. I never quite understood what it was about. I believe it was developed specifically for the C64 and was along the same lines as Quantum Link but for free. I wasn't interested as I knew it would be a bunch of old men chattering away.

joisy mike

Having travelled a lot in my days, and now living in middle Tenessee, I can attest to the farmer > ham connection. In the most rural of areas you can always spot a 10 element beam or two sitting on top of a 100 foot tower behind many an old farm house. I admire the fact that these folks have the ambition to work on their own and have the obvious intellect to fashion their own high power radio stations. I am in the IT world, and have always been interested to amateur radio cept' I dont like to 'chew the rag too' much.

Oh, and Aaron:
Transmitting your voice over the air does not afford you any right to privacy. It is not eavsdropping. You are in fact under the assumption that anyone can hear you and you are potentially being recorded. If the professor were to record those conversations and offer them up for profit, it may be a whole other issue.


hey Prof,

I can get with the Ham thing, alright. I have a great interest in tech, and a friend was chatting me up about problems he was having with his ham gear, so he brings it out to my lab and we set up. I teach him some stuff about grounding, and we string up an antenna and I get my first ham experience. Basically, we talked to a guy in Ohio in his basement in his underwear "It's hot here, how about by you?" I was stunned, it was everything I ever dreamed it to be... OK, so like I said I can tell you everything about making good radios and receiving faraway places, but I'll leave it to you to wade through the Ham ragchews for the nuggets of gold. Good post. Someone had to do it. Ham MP3's. I think this is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Ross Kazey

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by my neighbor's HAM set-up in his basement. We were in Iowa, and I remember him talking to a man in Caldwell, Idaho. It boggled my mind. He was also very active in Civil Defense and did temperature readings as well. Not sure who he gave them to but, it all seemed quite official. Great post. Keep up the good work Professor. Your love of your subject matter reflects in your writing and makes it all come alive. Bravo!

Dale Hazelton

Great response to the blog! Ham nets are wonderful listening with their mix of arcane wisdom, technological minutiae and tips on growing plump tomatos. I can get good (enough) reception with a Radio Shack/Sangean set with a BFO switch. I have a Grundig Satellit 700 with true selectable sideband, and it really is no better than the cheaper set from my location for pulling in the strong signals, so anyone should be able to listen in without a big outlay of cash. And if you have an old police scanner sitting around, scan for 2 meter hams between 144 and 148 MHz (drivetimes usually). I've always found this stuff fascinating fun and have gone so far as to buy the "Now You're Talking" ARRL manual at Radio Shack to get my tech license. There's lot's of polarized debate with the old timers over having to know Morse Code to be a ham, but I wish it were easier still, just know the FCC rules of polite, civilized broadcasting. There's ALOT of theory in the test. Maybe that's one reason that it is becoming a geriatric hobby, we're all just too lazy today to learn all those seemingly archaic skills and knowledge. But it CAN'T be that geeky if Joe Walsh (WB6ACU) or Priscilla Presley (N6YOS) think it's worthwhile. Now let's all get to the nearest Hamfest!


Friend of mine is a shortwave SSB Morse amateur. Kind of like the typical people you describe here so well.
He had build his own transmitter which was 'a tad' above license at 1.5kW. Just the sight of the freak blue shine from the tubes when he hit his key. Little zingy sparks from the rectifier circuitry. Boiling oil in his dummy load. The offhand remarks like: 'Oh, don't go near that too much.. It's got 6kV on it..' and the fact you could actually hear his morsecode reverberate about 7 times as it bounced around the earth made it a real magical experience.
And there was this little lit globe of the world, where he had drilled little pinholes of all the places he had reached. It was barely held together by China and Albania, where HAM radio is(was?) prohibited.

He also had an gigantic collection of tubes and stuff. In fact he had one very special one: a 500kW transmitter tube from the famous Radio Veronica pirate radio ship. I think it was about 140lbs of copper and used to be steam cooled, running at a cool 1100 deg F.

He has now moved on to designing arials for mobile phone repeaters and has several patents to his name. But he never stopped his HAM activities. How could he? :)

Robert Donahue

Ham radio is open to the public, and when we are talking we all know people are scanning, so I dont personally see anything wrong with recording it for the web .... it might be a little bit of an issue for some but hey we are talking at 100+watts what did you expect people that dont know you to turn the radio off :) anyway I think you should look into the fcc site and see the laws on rebroadcasting what you hear? it may very well not be cool with them ....

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