I realized on my last post that I'd mentioned Field Day, but didn't explain what it is. So...
What's Field Day? On the first full weekend in June, amateur radio operators nation wide all get on the air to try to contact one another while simulating an emergency set-up. Generally the idea is to get as much public exposure as possible and practice operating your radios from anything but the comfort of your home. More info can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_Day
If you're in the Bay Area, come visit us! If not, find a field day site close to you and take a look. Usually, there's a station set up for unlicensed people where anybody can sit down and give amateur radio a try. A licensed operator will sit with them and walk them through how to work a radio and how to make a contact with someone else.
"What is amateur radio?" http://www.hello-radio.org/
"What do you talk about?" http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2008/06/01/10075/?nc=1
What kond of cool experiences have I had with ham radio?
Search and Rescue: I've facilitated in communication between my Search and Rescue team and the command post while looking for a missing woman in an area where communication was otherwise hard to impossible. We had one ham in the command post and myself on the top of a ridge. Communications were given to her, she relayed them to me over amateur radio and I relayed them to the field teams over the department radios. Field teams and CP were unable to communicate directly due to the deep valleys that the were searching in and the hills between them.
Satellites: I've talked to someone in San Diego through a satellite using my 5 watt hand-held radio and a small directional antenna. Sattelites travel at amazingly fast speeds. AO-51, a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite takes about ten minutes to travel from horizon to horizon. To me, being able to contact someone over 400 miles away with less power than it takes to power
two of those little Christmas light bulbs is pretty cool. Doing it through a satellite orbiting in outer space is that much cooler.
HF: I've talked to an operator in Japan using only 100 watts and a piece of wire about 50 feet long as an antenna. (That's the same amount of power that you probably use to light your front porch.)
IRLP: The Internet-Radio Linking Project was started to allow long distance communications using VOIP (voice over internet protocol). You may be familiar with Skype, Vonage, etc. that allow you to call someone from your computer and talk to them without using the phone. IRLP will allow ou to do that without using your computer either. I've sat in my back yard and talked
to a friend in Maine over my radio. My signal went from my radio, to a repeater radio on the top of our local mountain, through the internet to a radio in Maine and out to my friend Tom. Again, this was done using less than two Christmas tree bulbs' worth of power.
What is HF? HF, or High Frequency bands are some of the frequencies reserved for amateur radio operators. While most other radio users have designated frequencies that they're allowed to operate on, they're not allowed to use any other frequencies. Hams have the benefit of being able to use any frequency within several frequency bands. Think of it this way: In a rainbow,
you can see all the colors that are in the visible spectrum. Most radio users (police and fire departments, television and radio stations, even your cell phones) can only use frequencies designated to them. Say the local police department can use only indigo, the fire department blue, tv stations can use yellow, radio stations green, and cell phone companies can use purple. None of them can use the whole section of their color though, only a specific, extremely narrowly defined portion of their color. The ham bands, however can in contrast use the entire red and orange colors and parts of the other colors as well. Hams have many frequencies to pick from, using whichever is the best suited to the distance that we want to communicate across.
Want to learn more or even experience ham radio for yourself? Visit your local field day site, talk to the people there and ask to sit down and operate.
"How can I find a field day site?" Click here and enter your home address: http://www.arrl.org/contests/announcements/fd/locator.php
If you visit a site, make sure that you listen for W6CX. That's our club call sign. I'll be operating on the 15 and 160 meter bands.
I hope to hear you on the air!