Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ham Radio: A Nuanced and Subtle Look Into the Depravity of Nerds

Ham Radio, the nerds who other nerds give swirlies to, the nerds that get their heads slammed into lockers by other nerds, that's me. That's what I do for fun. In high school I made the socially adept move of listening to morse code practice tapes during my free time. I enjoy tickling electrons in the upper atmosphere, get them to change their orbits, then have those electrons change orbits again, perhaps reflecting back to the earth, but most likely just annoying my neighbors.

My Grandpa was a ham, and his callsign was K1HYL. When he slipped the surly bonds of earth, I took up his callsign through the FCC's vanity callsign program. I had a pretty cool callsign myself, KC5KGB, but I decided to take his. When I was a nerdling of 16, he took me to Field Day in Keene New Hampshire. Field Day is where you sit with other nerds under a picnic table and awkwardly explain how important your hobby will be in the case of nuclear winter.

Field day is practice for the nuclear winter. Mostly you take your radios that you don't care that much about, haul them into some park, and sweat your butt off while talking to as many people as you can. The idea is that you should use batteries, solar panels, generators, temporary antennas, etc. to make as many contacts as you can.

Me, seated on the left, Field Day 1999 New Mexico Tech Amateur Radio Association

During my first Field Day with my grandpa, I helped to put up antennas. Once, one of the towers had gone up in a park my grandpa proudly said, as loud as he could, "That's the first erection I've had in years!" I loved that guy. I want to be him when I grow up. At this Field Day I came to understand the true unbridled power of a horizontal loop antenna, which I will discuss in a later post.

I was quickly put to work entering stations into a logging program because I could touch type. The laptops (remember this was 1994) were connected through a 100 foot serial cable to another computer in a trailer. Using this, we were able to tell whether a contact was made or not. I was hooked. I wanted more. That's how I got into this hobby.

I'm going to use this page as a way to talk about some of the things that I've learned, the hard way, and to hopefully make things useful for other people. This is a silly hobby that people take way too seriously. I'll make fun of that.

Postscript: I made a JT65 contact with K0STK in North Dakota while writing this post. As near as I can tell Stephen T Kostecke, III is one of four amateur radio operators in North Dakota.

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