Going Ham!

They told me I could get geeked out on here so I’m going ham!

Prime Minista (aka Sir Mix-A-Lot) – “No Excuses on the Bowl

Last weekend, I spent 8 hours in the basement of Eagle Rock City Hall drinking coffee out of a styrofoam cup and cramming for the technician class amateur radio licensing exam. The class was taught by a couple of local hams who volunteer their time to help new people get involved with “the hobby”.

The infrastructure that most of us rely on for internet access is owned and operated by vertically-integrated corporations like Time Warner and Comcast. These organizations maintain virtual monopolies in American cities, leave rural and poor communities off the network, charge arbitrarily high prices for mediocre service, and then use our own money against us when they lobby Congress. It’s not sustainable, it’s not working, and we need to get serious about plan B before they start charging us an extra $10 per month for the “Walk on the Wild Side” plan.

28Mhz – A61BK – United Arab Emirates – DUBAI – دبي – ドバイ

Hams know infrastructure. Long ago, they figured out how to make transcontinental contact by reflecting signals off of the ionosphere. Now they’re launching amateur satellite projects and experimenting with various forms of digital packet radio. In the vid below, you can hear Ultima designer and space tourist Richard Garriott making contact with Earth from the International Space Station via amateur radio.

International Space Station – Richard Garriott – W5KWQ with PS8RF

“Hinternet” == “ham” + “internet”. It usually involves modifying off-the-shelf wi-fi routers and amplifying their output. Licensed hams are allowed to operate at much higher wattage than civilian operators. As a result, hams experimenting with amplified data transmission report making contact over distances as far as 6 miles!

For those of us accustomed to always-on broadband connections, periodic data transmission over radio will require rethinking our whole workflow — but the benefits of diversifying our network activities are huge. Imagine a repeater on a hill that constantly spits out mp3s to the neighborhood. Or a public messageboard accessible to the globe but no one needs a service provider to join in.

These things won’t exist unless we try building them so search for a class in your area and let’s all go ham.

QRP Mountain-topping with FT817 – Ham Radio


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