Thursday, August 25, 2005

ABC News Prime Time goes inside the 911 system 

This should be of interest to scanner listeners out there. Tonight on ABC News Prime Time they are doing an hour long special on the inside workings of the 911 system. The blurb on the web site did not say if they were just talking about the call takers or the entire system including the technical telephone side. I would imagine they are only interested in the people side. In any case I plan to fire up the TiVo when I get home to make sure I see it. Thought I would pass it along to the blog readers.

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Whilie looking for somethinig else I found this 

As often happens while looking for something else on the World Wide Web I found a site that I wasn’t looking for but that was none the less interesting. For you “glow in the dark” aficionados I have a feeling that this newsletter will be a gold mine of information. I’m sure for a number of you this is old news and that you were aware of this already but it was new to me and I thought I would pass it along.

Hollow State Newsletter

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Busy radio weekend with a meeting and a ham fest 

This weekend Skyview Radio Society will hold their annual ham fest. You are all invited and it promises to be a good time. Held at the club grounds on Turkey Ridge Road in New Kensington there will be lots of space for parking and tail gaiting. In addition you can come early and have breakfast at the clubs pavilion behind the main club house with Radio Free Bob (aka WC3O) acting as master chef. There is always something good to eat at a Skyview ham fest.

While you are there make sure you stop in and look at the recent remodeling that has been done to the club house itself. If you have ever visited before I think you will be truly astounded at what the members have done with the place. It looks great! Don’t forget while you are there to buy some tickets to help support the club. They have to run on as shoe string budget and the members kick in a lot of “sweat equity” not to mention dues and occasional “out of pocket” contributions when something is needed for the facility.

So come on out, enjoy the day and help support one of the areas great ham radio clubs. Visit the Skyview Radio Society web site for additional details and directions to the club.

Before the ham fest though, this Saturday will be the monthly meeting of the Three Rivers Area Monitoring Association. The meeting starts at 09:00 AM at Emerson Process Management located at 200 Beta Drive in the RIDC Industrial Park in O'Hara Township. For those that are early risers some of us will meet for breakfast before the meeting at Kings Family Restaurant in Water Works Plaza on old Rt. 28 just north of the Highland Park Bridge. We usually arrive around 07:30 AM and have a meeting of the oblong table prior to the official meeting at nine. So come and join in on the fun.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Scrapbooking social night 

Well it was another “Scrap Booking Social” night at Joann Fabrics this past Friday evening. What you ask does that have to do with ham radio? Good question. My loving wife Linda has a drivers license but really doesn't like to drive. Not even out in the suburbs. After a hard day at work she is even less enthusiastic about piloting a vehicle out to Monroeville and I have my own little set of idiosyncrasies about driving in some places so I understand. That combined with the fact that she loves me an continues to put up with me often times puts me in the position of being her chauffeur.

Since I love to read this isn't really a problem as I take along a good book and some magazines and sit in the car and trying to increase my knowledge on some topic or other while I listen to Pod Casts or some good music. With the heat and humidity we were having Friday evening however I chose not to sit in the car and run the air conditioning with the cost to keep the compressor turning at almost three dollars a gallon.

Fortunately for me right across the road from Joann Fabrics is a Borders Book Store. Book stores are one of the very few establishments I can go and just browse for an extended period of time without having anything particular in mind to buy when I went in. It is my version of a woman going into a shoe store. Yes I know that is a sexist remark and a stereotype but cut me a break, I'm old. If you have stayed with me this far and I haven't bored you to tears I'll tell you how this ties into ham radio.

On this particular evening after making a quick run through the book sections that interested me I found myself at the magazine rack near the front of the store. I was drawn to several issues of technical journals that deal with construction of electronic projects like Nuts & Volts Magazine. One of the things that lead me into amateur radio was that fact that I was fascinated with just about anything to do with electricity and electronics. I remember being in grade school and making motors out of wooden frames and coils wound using nails as coil forms and run with six volt lantern batteries. I remember the thrill of hooking up a set of headphones across a crystal diode attached to a very long length of wire on one side and grounded on the other and hearing KDKA among other things.

Latter when I got my novice class license I built several pieces of gear from the folks in Benton Harbor and had a great time doing it.

Most memorable was the Heathkit SB-300 receiver that I received from my parents one year as a Christmas gift. My Dad and I spent a lot of time putting it together and I got a lot of lessons in the history of radio and what the sets were like that my Dad worked on when he was my age. His depth of knowledge never ceased to amaze me. I found this picture of one on a Heathkit collectors site and I hope he doesn't mind me using it here on the blog.

So here I am in Borders and I'm looking at what folks who still tinker with electronic hardware are into in the year of our Lord 2005. The dominate theme seems to be computer control projects and robotics. I am basing this on what is available in the way of reading material that someone is willing to part with hard earned cash for in exchange for the knowledge imparted in print. There were a one of two dedicated to hacking hardware for hard core game players and current issues of CQ which I'm sure has some articles on construction of some type of radio project. The mainstream of the “hardware hacker” press though is interested in servo motors and micro processor based controllers. Those that are tinkering with radio are looking to license free 802.11g equipment to move data back and fourth between those controllers and in some cases the servo motors.

This is the crowd that we need to be pulling into amateur radio. They are a pool of talent that would be a real asset to the hobby. If they found out that those controllers they like to tinker with could be used to position a directional antenna I think they would be interested. You see these guys like hooking things up in the real world and watching it work. That is why most of them are either doing home automation or working on some robotics project. Show them that even with a code free technician license that they can be sending data over long distances without wires or the Internet and you will have their interest. Show them APARS, Packet Radio, remote weather stations, repeater controllers and other possibilities for controlling devices at a distance and they will want to learn more.

I hear constantly about how we need to bring more young people into the hobby and that is a statement that I agree whole heartedly with. I think though if you rely entirely on the “hook” of the “magic of radio” to snag them you are going to come up short of your goal. Especially in the era of cell phones and the Internet. There are still a lot of bright intelligent people out there, and not all of them young, who have an interest in electronics that we should be inviting into the world of amateur radio.

If you know someone like that you don't you give them an invitation? Invite them to a local club meeting or even just over to your shack to let them see what you are up to. Have any old issues of QST or CQ that you are thinking about putting in the recycle bin? Pass them along and don't be shy about ear marking the construction articles. Amateur radio is one of those rare commodities that increases in value as you get more of it. If you make more microprocessor chips each one gets less expensive. Each time you add a new ham to the hobby it is one more person that you can talk to and share interests with. So the hobby as a whole becomes more valuable to the new member. I haven't added any new members to the ranks lately but I am always on the look out. I hope you are also.

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