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Ham Radio Operators Are Heroes In Oregon 326

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-first-responders dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We all know the impact that Ham radio can have in emergencies, but that often slips by the public and the authorities. Not so in Oregon, where a day after getting inundated with torrential rains and winds and suffering from the usual calamities those cause, Oregon's Governor called the local Ham radio operators heroes. When discussing how the storm affected communications, the governor stated: "I'm going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning of this...the ham radio operators." Kudos to the Oregon Ham operators for helping out in a bad situation, and getting the recognition they deserve."
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Ham Radio Operators Are Heroes In Oregon

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  • Not Just In Oregon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gbulmash (688770) * <[semi_famous] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:09AM (#21593827) Homepage Journal
    A friend of mine (Randy Cassingham of This Is True [thisistrue.com]) is a HAM radio operator and he's helped provide communications for emergency responders [thisistrue.com] during disasters near where he lives in Colorado. When the chips are down, it seems that radio hobbyists are ready, willing, and able to help out. It's nice to see that they're getting some positive press.

    Hopefully much of this thread will be kudos for Ham radio operators around the world. A lot of them use their powers for good more often than you might think.

    - Greg
    • by GrendelT (252901) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:41AM (#21593983) Homepage
      FWIW, the "ham" in ham radio radio is not an abbreviation. It's just ham.

      There's no definitive answer on the matter, but it goes back to the days when ham radio operators had better sets than the old Navy radios (in spark-gap radio days). Amateur radio operators had more efficient radios and were more powerful than the "professional" radio sets at the time, when a Navy radio operator would try to use the frequency his set was tuned for he may hear some guys "hamming it up" on the air. After a while the saying was commonplace and the term "ham" stuck.

      Officially it's known as Amateur Radio, but most people just refer to it as ham radio.

      "And now you know the rest of the story, good day!"
      • I had always assumed that it's a play on words: Radio Amateur, Radio Am, Ham.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I had always assumed that it's a play on words: Radio Amateur, Radio Am, Ham

          Another variation is that it's a self-deprecating qualifier. "Ham" as in "Ham Fisted". One's "fist" is the distinctive keying pattern a person has when keying Morse code, and a "ham fist" would be one who's a bit awkward at the key.

          Some of these guys were real artists. Try keying "beesnest" in the middle of some text with a speed key. It'll put you off your rythmn, but some folks wouldn't even blink.

          Morse is still relevant in b

      • by OriginalArlen (726444) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:15AM (#21594987)
        There's a chap where I work who's involved in the Radio Amateurs Emergency Network (RAEnet) which provides emergency comms in situations exactly like this, as well as providing backup to the police & emergency services in less dramatic scenarios. At one point he had a relay in his car providing a live feed via a Google maps mashup so we could see where he was when he didn't turn up in the office. He just *loves* it when we call him "rubber duck" ask about his "twenty" and refer to him as a "good buddy". Ahh, simple pleasures...
      • One of them being that there were professional telegraph operators that still worked for the railroads. As amateur radio took off CW (morse code) was what those amateurs used to communicate. It was initially an insult as the professional telegraph operators thought that the amateurs operated their code keys as if they were ham fisted. Ham fisted radio operator later became ham radio operator.

        No one truly knows where the term originated.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_ham_radio [wikipedia.org]

        73 (yes only 73,
    • by kb0hae (956598) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:24AM (#21594229)
      Hi Guys. Try searching on NF5B in your favorite search engine. You will get quite a few results, but a few are links to stories about NF5B and his role in saving lives during Katrina. I am fortunate enough to be a good friend of Richard and Kathleed. This legally blind musician and his Lady (who is wheelchair bound most of the time) are true heros, as are many others who seldome get the press coverage, or the recognition that they deserve. Richard and Kathleed also participate in the Maritime Mobile Service Net. This net is composed of Amateir Operators who give their time and use their radio equipment to help ships at sea, and also others in parts of the world who have no other means of communication except for Amateur Radio. The members of this net have saved many lives, and helped countless mariners communicate with loved ones. I monitor this net when conditions permit.

      There are many unsung heros among the ranks of Amateur Radio operators.
  • by jimmyhat3939 (931746) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:14AM (#21593861) Homepage
    I got my first Ham license back in the 1980s. Back then you had to be able to do 20wpm morse code to get to the highest license.

    Nowadays they've watered it down so that it's extremely easy to get the licenses. In addition, with the Internet you can basically walk to your computer and email the person you just talked to halfway around the world.

    Anyway, in my experience the people left on the airwaves are all at least 60 years old.
    • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:16AM (#21593865)
      "Anyway, in my experience the people left on the airwaves are all at least 60 years old."

      The barriers to entry that kept the hobby purist worked a bit too well.
      • by Mike Buddha (10734) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:41AM (#21594319)
        Purist or Elitist? I've got a General license and I find that particularly on the internet, old hams are dickheads. They act as if we new hams are invading their private paradise, and instead of assisting and community building, they bitch and moan and howl about how ham radio is turning into CB, and how the sky is falling. Those old farts still on the air are just as crotchety as you'd expect, whining about how all the new hams are walking on their amateur band lawns.
        • Purist or Elitist? I've got a General license and I find that particularly on the internet, old hams are dickheads. They act as if we new hams are invading their private paradise, and instead of assisting and community building, they bitch and moan and howl about how ham radio is turning into CB, and how the sky is falling. Those old farts still on the air are just as crotchety as you'd expect, whining about how all the new hams are walking on their amateur band lawns.

          About 20 years ago a friend was the

        • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @09:06AM (#21595821) Journal
          So, it is kind of like Linux then?
      • Say what now? The test is like ten dollars, and they dropped the code requirement for all classes. The only other barrier to entry is that you have to buy or build a radio. (which ironically is actually quite a bit easier if you're building a CW rig...)
      • by thephydes (727739) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:44AM (#21595103)
        Morse is king if you want effective communication over long distances and have only low power available to you. If you have a computer then psk31 is probably (possibly) next best. Good software can pick up psk signals that are so quiet that they are below the noise floor. Ham radio experimenters are responsible for the early development of many communication technologies that we now take for granted. Don't write us off yet, there's still life in the hobby believe me.
    • by Scud (1607) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:31AM (#21593933)
      That's the problem.

      Guys like me (50 years old) don't care to, or are able to, do 5 WPM in Morse code. And as far as that goes, learning Morse never made sense to me anyways, not since the advent of the PC. Hell, I've had an Icom 735 for over 25 years without a license. I like to lurk. :)

      So how do you attract new blood to an activity that's waaay too geeky to begin with? Kids aren't going to bother learning Morse when they can use a program to do the same thing - why would they bother?

      So faced with either keeping the hobby "pure" and watching it die out as the oldtimer's keys go silent, or conceding to reality and making membership more attactive to younger folks, which would you choose?

      But you're right, it's definitely not the same as it was 20 - 30 years ago.

      • by plover (150551) * on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:43AM (#21593993) Homepage Journal
        While I agree with you (mostly) that ham shouldn't just be about the Morse code, Morse has a huge advantage in reception -- a weak signal may be useless for voice, but tones can still be recognized.

        Also, disasters strike in many different ways. It's conceivable that there might be an occasion where the only viable communications medium you have is boolean (a carrier wave with no microphone or modulator circuit, or hammers and pipes in a cave-in, or whatever.) If that's the case, it's Morse or nothing.

        Ham radio operators pride themselves on being able to communicate when absolutely nothing else works, and the world is crashing down (or blowing up) around them. Morse is another tool in the toolbox.

        • by JK_the_Slacker (1175625) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:34AM (#21594281) Homepage

          Funny how I've seen PSK-31 (a digital mode) work perfectly without a detectable (to my Field Day trained ear) signal. Morse may be better than voice... but a computer can outdo a human ear.

          Note that I say this as a computer scientist and as a ham radio operator myself. I'm not suggesting that Morse is obsolete or useless... just that it's not automatically the best thing ever. The wonderful thing about this hobby is that it breeds innovation. From the earliest days of ultra-wide-bandwidth spark gap generators to a complete packet transceiver the size of an Altoids tin, the world of amateur radio, and the amateurs that have built it, is nothing short of amazing. However, if we really want to bring life back in this hobby, we need to stop all the infighting and think. We need to look at each operating mode honestly and attempt to appreciate the merits and the shortcomings of each of them. For every great thing you can name about the code, I can name another mode that does it better. But that's not what the hobby is about.

          In response to the article, good on the Oregon hams, and congrats to them for getting recognized. They deserve it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by afternoon_nap (640340)
            Ham radio is alive, even with computers, and that goes for cw and PSK31. If you use a computer for decoding PSK31 (which I do) then why not use the same hardware for decoding cw? I use a computer to decode my cw. I've passed my 5wpm test a few years ago and can copy 10-15wpm. However, with a wife, a career, and kids running around the house I can't dedicate time to improving my cw copy speed. However, for a few bucks at I can make a cw and RTTY keying interface for my computer and let a number of progr
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by plover (150551) *

            For every great thing you can name about the code, I can name another mode that does it better.

            Only because you brought it up, I will point out that packet transmitters will likely not survive an EMP. Digital transmitters, receivers, and decoders will be useless from that moment forward. Even transistor-based analog radios will be destroyed. The induced current will cause semiconductors to fry themselves out in everything from mainframes to iPods, and cars to refrigerators, regardless of their power

        • by jma05 (897351)
          He is not saying that Morse code should not be used. Rather that the users should not be required to LEARN morse code. Morse code can remain the encoding for transmission but the device can provide the a less arcane interface like a keyboard and a small display for the operator. Sort of like compilers and machine code these days. Small processors to handle this now cost peanuts unlike back then. Or I don't know what I am talking about. As a kid, 20 years ago, I made a brief attempt to acquire one but never
          • He is not saying that Morse code should not be used. Rather that the users should not be required to LEARN morse code. Morse code can remain the encoding for transmission but the device can provide the a less arcane interface like a keyboard and a small display for the operator.

            Yeah but its pretty embarrassing that aircraft pilots have to learn CW and radio operators do not.

            I never got my radio license but I am glad I learnt morse code. And Braille for that matter. Its handy to know.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              yea, if you simutaneously get your eyes jabbed out and your vocal chords ripped out in a disaster situation, you''ll be laughing at all those naysayers then won't you.

              or rather, tapping out .... .- .... .- as you will have no vocal chords.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                You can still get a message across in the bush with your car horn when you're far from the nearest phone cell, too. Morse can be useful.

                Have you ever noticed the dit-dit-dit dah-dah dit-dit-dit of some phones' SMS alarms? Well, that's what it is -- Morse for "SMS".

                See? You're still using it.

        • by mstahl (701501)

          Absolutely. Morse code also has the advantage of being usable on a wider range of frequencies, which cannot always be modulated effectively to voice, but can exist as a carrier and travel great distances. This is why bands like the 80 and 160m bands are morse code only. Also, you can scrape together enough parts from broken electronics or from junk (really) to make a radio transmitter capable of generating a carrier wave with no modulation, but even though an FM transmitter is also pretty simple to build, i

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tgd (2822)
          Meh, I'll just tap it out in ASCII. I'd be willing to bet there are more people that can do 7 or 8 bit binary to ASCII in their head than morse anymore. (And I am someone who has their Amateur Radio license and debated doing the additional licensing that needs morse, which I know, but not fast enough or well enough to pass).

          Plus, if I'm trapped, I want to be able to tap out messages kids today will understand: "Z0mg, r u there? Needz h3lp, legs broken. S3nd hlp n hookers. ;)"

          Try sending an emoticon over mor
      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        And as far as that goes, learning Morse never made sense to me anyways, not since the advent of the PC.

        That's because, as a fallback, nothing really beats CW/Morse Code for efficiency. The bandwidth for a CW transmission is 500 Hz. And it'll get through in conditions where SSB or FM voice transmissions won't.

        • by Blakey Rat (99501)
          Yes, but you kind of missed the point. The point is that the Morse requirement was driving away potential HAM operators, and so they went on to other hobbies. You can reply until you're blue in the face about how great Morse is, but that's not relevant to the topic at hand.
          • by jamstar7 (694492)
            Not really. Were you around when 11 Meters really took off back in the 70's? They didn't call it 'Childrens Band' for nothing. All the hams I knew back in The Day were always going on about how it was an exclusive hobby that catered to the more altruistic natures of the hams involved. And no, they didn't want their hobby diluted by the lunacy happening up on CB. They were always going on about how once a year they did Field Day as part of their emergency preparations, and how they'd get through when no
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by mikiN (75494)
              I'm a HAM radio operator, and the requirement of learning Morse code to be allowed to operate on shortwave has always baffled me. Yes, I can imagine that knowing your dahs from your dits can be an advantage in bad reception conditions and in emergencies, but there is so much more.

              For shortwave, knowledge of radio propagation and atmospheric conditions, good antenna design and particularly good Operating Practice are way more important IMO.
        • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:29AM (#21594255) Homepage Journal
          These advantages are shared by computer-generated modulation schemes such as PSK31, which theoretically fits into 31 Hz (though in practice many signals are distorted and splatter over more spectrum than that) and which can be decoded when it's too faint to be heard through the noise.
      • Morse code is overrated, but useful. I had to pass the 5 WPM test, but I don't feel bad that I never had to take the 20 WPM test to get my extra class license - I think coding Bell 202, PSK-31, and SSTV modems from scratch in an 8-bit micro makes up for that. CW (Morse code) was long retained as an artificial barrier to keep out those who weren't serious more than it was to ensure aptitude in a useful skill. There are MANY other ways the average Slashdot nerd can prove their 'worthiness' and stay true to
      • by Bartab (233395) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @03:13AM (#21594467)
        The code requirement for license to operate on radio bands that are considered long distance is mandatory by the treaties that setup a global radiospace for ham radio.

        The code-free tech license is in bands that are for all intents (near Canada/mexico border would be the exception) are US only.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kadin2048 (468275) *

          The code requirement for license to operate on radio bands that are considered long distance is mandatory by the treaties that setup a global radiospace for ham radio.

          The code-free tech license is in bands that are for all intents (near Canada/mexico border would be the exception) are US only.

          I'm sorry but that's just wrong. It might have been true at some point but it's certainly not true now. Most of the European countries have dropped Morse completely -- the US was one of the last holdouts. (Probably not the last, but definitely up there.) And the Morse requirements for commercial/marine radiotelephone operators licenses are gone too. There's no international pressure to learn it anymore -- most of the impetus to retain Morse in the U.S. was coming from the ARRL, basically from old Hams who

        • by alienw (585907)
          It's been changed a couple of years ago. Now you can go all the way up to an Extra-class license with no code requirement.
        • by CharlieG (34950)
          Bizzzt
          The treaties that kept "No-code" off the HF bands went away 4-5 years back, and last year, the USA dropped code for ALL license classes.

          I'm a "slow code" extra - and know of a few "no-code" extras
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) *
        Pardon me, but the Morse code argument is OVER. There is no Morse code requirement any longer, anywhere, with the possible exception of Russia.

        Unfortunately, this came a few decades too late. We did not get an increase in new people becoming hams. A lot of existing hams upgraded their licenses, but the overall number of radio amateurs is declining today. New hams are not enrolling in sufficient amounts to replace those with expiring licenses (who are probably mostly dead).

        Bruce

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GrendelT (252901)
      I'm not 60.
      A vast majority are, but ham radio was the "cool" thing when they were younger, now we have these new-fangled computers and Internets with it's tubes and everything. All the old-school hackers were hams. In the 70s and 80s they all moved toward computers. There's still a subset of younger hams (I'm 27 and almost always younger than anyone I meet on the air.).

      Also of note is the fact that Morse code was dropped from ham testing almost a year ago. The jury was out on whether licensing would pick
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Deadstick (535032)
      Anyway, in my experience the people left on the airwaves are all at least 60 years old.

      Perhaps that's because they've had their houses since before subdividers began putting a stop to amateur radio with covenants against antennas.

      rj

    • by wikinerd (809585)
      I bet we would have more young ham radio ops if no licensing were required or if the licensing was more decentralised (why not have individual ham radio non-profits do the licensing?)
      • by joto (134244)

        Nah. I guess ham radio is just too boring for todays youth. Kids these days already have the Internet. Why bother with a slow, unfashionable, quirky medium that requires expensive equipment and training, when you can just drag your notebook to somewhere with wi-fi, and use fresh and fashionable GUIs to talk to someone who is actually your age (and not a boring ham-radio-geek)?

        I'm sure the geeky boys did flint-knapping 10000 years ago. The world has moved on. No matter how much you simplify the requirement

    • by Tom Rothamel (16)

      In addition, with the Internet you can basically walk to your computer and email the person you just talked to halfway around the world.

      The thing is, I can talk to and email people around the world without first contacting them using a radio. That is, I think, the fundamental change that's hurting ham radio as a hobby. Things like this article, which talks about the usefulness of ham in emergency situations, is what might motivate me to get into it... talking to people around the world is not anything to wr

      • I know a couple of ham operators(around age 45). One of them pointed out now that if he wanted to talk to strangers from around the world, he could just go on the internet. Plenty of voice chat software, chat rooms, even video. He admits that newer technology has covered a lot of reasons he got into it originally. Internet, cell phones, etc. That doesn't mean that ham radios aren't useful, it just means that the basic functions can be handled by the current existing infrastructure. When that infrastructure
    • This is actually typical of your standard amateur radio operator. I too got my license back when you had to pass a morse code test, but I'm somewhat shocked (not really) that you'd use this forum to bring up an age old debate instead if encouraging people to learn about the hobby and become operators themselves.
    • I got my first Ham license back in the 1980s. Back then you had to be able to do 20wpm morse code to get to the highest license.

      Morse code is what held me back from getting my license. I was able to build my own transceiver but was bad with Morse code. I was glad they got rid of the requirement for Morse code.

      Falcon
    • In addition, with the Internet you can basically walk to your computer and email the person you just talked to halfway around the world.

      The thing about email is you have to know who you're going to contact. It's kind of hard to duplicate an experience of discovering who's out there or the randomness of reaching someone totally unexpected, living very far away. I suppose voice chat rooms come the closest to this experience (Paltalk & Yahoo Messenger), but they do rely on an infrastructure that would l

  • by calebt3 (1098475) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:17AM (#21593867)
    If one could account for signal distortion/degradation, ham radio sets could conceivably be used for broadcasting files. And I mean as a binary ogg/mp3/aac/flac/whatever, not as audio that can be played by any radio.
    • by corsec67 (627446) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:26AM (#21593907) Homepage Journal
      You mean something like Packet Radio [wikipedia.org]
      • by gbobeck (926553) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:53AM (#21594061) Homepage Journal
        Actually, I prefer D-Star ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-STAR [wikipedia.org] ) over packet radio.
    • Packet Radio (Score:5, Interesting)

      by camperdave (969942) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:36AM (#21593955) Journal
      If one could account for signal distortion/degradation, ham radio sets could conceivably be used for broadcasting files. And I mean as a binary ogg/mp3/aac/flac/whatever, not as audio that can be played by any radio.

      It's called Packet Radio [wikipedia.org], and has been around about as long as the internet itself. In fact, one of the first demonstrations of TCP/IP's versatility was the connecting of a satellite network, a packet radio network, and the ARPANet. This happened back in 1977.
  • Peace of mind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:23AM (#21593889) Homepage Journal
    Cell phones are very convenient, but what gives me peace of mind is knowing my quad-band (70cm, 1.25m, 2m, 6m), wide-receive, submersible Yaesu VX-7R hand-held transceiver is close at hand. If James Kim would have had even a basic Amateur hand-held transceiver with him things would have probably turned out much different.

    Dan East
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bl4ckJ3sus (1081165)
      If James Kim had a $100.00 handheld GPS with him, things would have been different.
      • by Forbman (794277)
        Uh, I think they had a GPS unit in the car, oddly enough. Would it have saved him? No, probably knowing which road he was on, and the "Oregon Gazeteer" book by DeLorme, he could have dead-reckoned from the map, even though it's 1:150,000.

        Hey, it could have been 99% of most Americans. Stressed husband, stressed wife, running late might lose reservation at the inn, wife bitching about how he didn't/wouldn't stop for directions, him saying, "I am pretty sure this is the right way to go" but feeling bad because
    • Re:Peace of mind (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:19AM (#21594205)
      Link for those (like me) who aren't familiar with the story: James Kim [wikipedia.org].

      Sure, having a basic radio could have saved James' life. So could have a GPS, or if the gate had been locked, or if he hadn't decided to leave the car, or if his family had taken the train. Anybody can think of dozens of ways he could be alive. Tragedies like this are always the result of a long sequence of events going wrong -- if any had gone right, it would have been avoided.

      That's not at all specific to ham radios, though. Ham radios aren't magic, and won't solve every crisis. It's just the nature of tragedies.
  • It's still a mess (Score:5, Informative)

    by Z80xxc! (1111479) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:23AM (#21593891)

    I live in Oregon, and let me say, things are still a huge mess around here. Although I personally didn't need rescuing (although someone I know did!), I must say that the HAM operators are an invaluable asset in an event like this. On the coast, communications are still spotty, if existent at all. There was an article in the Oregonian [oregonlive.com] today about how some places on the coast don't even have 911 service, since all of the fiber links for phones are out, and the 911 center doesn't have power anyway - the gas for the generator ran out. It's situations like this where HAM radio operators are particularly useful.

    It's still a mess out here. Lots of roads are still closed - Interstate 5 is closed in Washington, effectively cutting off all transportation between Portland and Seattle. Thousands of cars, and most importantly, trucks, travel[ed] this highway daily. The train tracks are closed too, so there's no amtrak or freight trains. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens... things are improving, but in no speedy fashion.

  • I'm a Hero! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Abuzar (732558) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:34AM (#21593943) Homepage
    Yay! Finally! Someone recognizes I'm important! Now, if only I could get a date...
    Goddess, I just wish there would be a natural disaster and a cute girl for me to save ;-)
  • Oh Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:35AM (#21593953) Journal
    Yeah, they're heroes today, but when Oregon's power utilities decide to start providing Internet over their power lines, turning their electrical grid into one vast RF radiator that wipes out HAM frequencies, we'll have all those all-knowing /.ers declaring HAM radio a thing of the past, that they should get a life, and my personal favorite "Don't worry, when the power goes out, we can turn on your HAM radio sets and save us all, so what's the problem?"
    • Re:Oh Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecransNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:46AM (#21594015) Homepage

      Yeah, they're heroes today, but when Oregon's power utilities decide to start providing Internet over their power lines, turning their electrical grid into one vast RF radiator that wipes out HAM frequencies, we'll have all those all-knowing /.ers declaring HAM radio a thing of the past, that they should get a life, and my personal favorite "Don't worry, when the power goes out, we can turn on your HAM radio sets and save us all, so what's the problem?"


      I was actually thinking the same thing. I mean, I'm all in favor of a new form of broadband to promote competition, but IMHO wiping out HAM to do it just isn't worth the price. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a few states including a few weeks of basic HAM instruction as part of the standard high school curriculum so that people are more aware of an incredibly important resource in emergencies.
      • Ham radio is the remaining long range communication technology that is only controlled by the government as long as the participants agree. Unlike cellular, POTS, or the Internet, you can't shut down ham radio communications by cutting wires in a few critical spots. It's also only traceable by general physical location, and again the courtesy of those involved taking the extra step of identifying themselves.

        Why would you think that a government would take significant steps to preserve such a medium? So that
    • by timeOday (582209)
      I think we need to stop relying on ham's for emergencies. Most people will never be a ham. In this day and age there's no reason it should take special skills or licensing to keep emergency communications open. Maybe what we need is airborn cellphone stations that can orbit over disaster areas. (Feel free to suggest something better).

      Note, I'm not saying we do not today rely on hams, only that new technology should be introduced to obviate it.

      • Maybe what we need is airborn cellphone stations that can orbit over disaster areas. (Feel free to suggest something better).
        kinda like a satellite phone?
  • by HW_Hack (1031622) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:45AM (#21594005)
    I live in the Portland-Metro area and can confirm we (as in the Pacific NW) had a doozy of a storm. Mist - rain - horizontal rain - and rain like a cow pissing on a flat rock.

    This is basically a repeat of what we got in 1996 which I believe was rated as a hundred year flood -- so within 10yrs we have another event. Wonder how all this maps into the whole climate change picture.

    And yes - thanks to the Hams for helping out as they always do. In any major disaster where public communications infrastructure will be damaged --- independent radio operators can make critical connections
    • by Forbman (794277)
      Not as bad in PDX as it is up in Seattle, the coast, Vernonia, Tillamook or Clatsop counties, or Centralia/Chehalis WA. I live outside of McMinnville...
  • by xPsi (851544) * on Thursday December 06, 2007 @01:48AM (#21594027)
    i.e. good job
  • kudos as well.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hillview (1113491) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:06AM (#21594123)
    To the governor mentioned, for giving credit where it was due. All too rare these days.
  • Good job! (Score:5, Informative)

    by SamMichaels (213605) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:08AM (#21594145)
    It's good to see some publicity about amateur radio.

    Pretty easy to get your license, too. About a week's worth of studying will get you on the air. The ARRL [arrl.org] (American Radio Relay League) has a ton of info about getting licensed.

    It's exciting that you can IM someone through the internet and have it appear in a couple milliseconds........but how about sending a transmission through the air to someone on the other side of the world at the speed of light using something half the size of your laptop and an antenna as long as that crazy cat-5 wire you have stretched across 3 rooms?

    73 de KB3OOJ
    • Re:Good job! (Score:4, Informative)

      by gbobeck (926553) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:38AM (#21594301) Homepage Journal

      It's exciting that you can IM someone through the internet and have it appear in a couple milliseconds........but how about sending a transmission through the air to someone on the other side of the world at the speed of light using something half the size of your laptop and an antenna as long as that crazy cat-5 wire you have stretched across 3 rooms?


      Even better... sending that transmission using less than a watt of power through a homemade antenna to the other side of the world.

      73. W9QNY
    • by prakslash (681585)
      How about using a cellphone?

      I hear they are pretty fast too - and smaller still.

      • Re:Good job! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DeepHurtn! (773713) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:03AM (#21594669)
        I'm no ham, but I think the difference is that in the case of a cellphone, *you* aren't sending that message across the world -- your cellphone carrier is. You're dependent on them; if they go down, your phone becomes absolutely useless. The ham operator, on the other hand, is actually self-sufficient.

        Some people value that, *especially* in emergencies like what we're talking about here, when ham radio became literally the *only* method of communication available.

  • by SmoothTom (455688) <Tomas@TiJiL.org> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:11AM (#21594171) Homepage
    I live north of most of the problems, but have friends right in the middle of the flood disaster in SW Washington state: http://flood.dothelp.net/ [dothelp.net]

    Much of the communication is out due to drowned central offices, soaked cables, power outages, and such. Even the remaining working cell towers are in serious trouble, seriously overloaded, and communications is very spotty.

    20 miles of Interstrate 5 are closed, with a several hundred mile detour over a mountain range, and the highway will likely be closed for a week, possibly more. Some parts of it were ten feet under water yesterday, and there was a lot of damage to the highway and it's foundation.

    In conditions like this, hams with mobile or portable radios, or with emergency generators are often the ONLY communication to the outside.

    http://flood.dothelp.net/ [dothelp.net] has a lot of information about the damage, rescue efforts, pictures, etc. (The server itself is OUTSIDE the disaster area.)

    Thanks to the hams!!!

    --
    Tomas

  • The hobby is growing (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2007 @02:21AM (#21594213)
    Here in Canada amateur radio is a integral part of almost every city/town. Many radio clubs/societies receive grants from municipal and provincial government bodies to purchase gear, train new members,etc.

    A good 1/3 of our members now are under 30. With such a young crew we can invest in and easily learn cutting edge technology to further assist the population in a time of need. We actually run asterisk based voip, video conferencing, instant messaging and of course email between our EOC's (emergency operation centres). Connectivity is done by way of 11Mbps wireless data on the 2.4ghz amateur radio band (non-802.11). We also make use of low speed packet based systems on VHF/UHF for your basic email (winlink: http://www.winlink.org/ [winlink.org] ) and message handling.

  • by TekGnos (624334)
    There was a guy who not only used his 5 Watt HAM radio to communicate directly with the Space Station, but he also bounced radio waves off of the moon to communicate with someone in the other hemisphere! I don't know his exact setup, but he was into some serious HAM. Its amazing how great the spectrum they use is... Oh and passing the HAM test is probably doable without any studying. Its multiple choice and pretty damn easy if you can take those kinds of tests. I took it so I could operate an amateur TV
    • Hmm. 5W eh? What was his PEP?

      If I did 1 degree beamwidth, I could get some pretty impressive distances too. He probably wasn't doing 5W on an omni.

      Also, EME these days is done over the internet to coordinate times. Also required is a computer with cw detector through the sound card.
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @04:09AM (#21594687) Homepage
    I've actually encountered Ham radio operators during my MS150 charity bike rides. The 150 stands for the distance (usually more) we ride over two days to raise money for research on multiple sclerosis. Along the way I remember seeing Ham radio operators at the various stops operating radios and coordinating the support for the riders. Most of the routes MS150 rides go through is just the country side far away from urban areas and when a rider needs help or is injured, you need a reliable form of communication. Imagine going down 80 miles from the nearest city with no cellphone reception. I am thankful to have them volunteer for the events.
  • For a number of reasons:

    1.) It takes skill and dedication to master the code. You can't buy that, you need to invest into it. Take a look at this guy:

    http://youtube.com/results?search_query=dj1yfk&search=Search [youtube.com]

    2.) You are missing out most of the real DX

    3.) Simple set ups can work miracles. Case in point: Last night I set up a 30 feet fibreglass pole on my balcony and talked to guys in Oregon, British Columbia and Wash. State. From Europe with 100 Watts.

    4.) Point to point communications requires no addit
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      1) It takes skill and dedication to widen your ass like the goatse guy. You cant buy that, you have to invest it. See. Thats no argument.

      2) Well, maybe not if the "new" one became the "real" one. Which it will, considering the old farts getting past their "best before" date.
      3) I am talking to you across half the world right now. Without a 30 feet fibreglass pole.

      4) Point to Point communication only work because so few poeple are using them.
      5) See goatse.

      And your last line just shows what a narrowmindet reta
  • Boy Scouts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SoyChemist (1015349) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:07AM (#21595191) Homepage
    I remember participating in Scouting on the Air, a ham radio event for Boy Scouts, and hearing the leader tell us how Ham radio operators are so helpful in disasters. They tend to be great people. I strongly agree with him. The guys at Cal IT 2 in San Diego are amazing with using supercomputing to update maps of disaster areas.
  • Thanks, guys! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Thursday December 06, 2007 @06:59AM (#21595351) Journal
    I always like it when Ham Radio Opers get the credit they deserve. When Hurricane Bonnie rolled through the south east, I was working with the guys at W4AQL monitoring emergency comms. I also gave an interview for local TV about how Ham Radio operators are a crucial part of any disaster plan.

    I have never heard of it, and I realize it may be a false assumption that one does not exist, but I am wondering if FEMA has an official process for calling up Ham Radio Opers to help as part of their disaster plan....

    73
    N2JBE
  • by GomezAdams (679726) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:48AM (#21595513)
    I was near Detroit on a business trip when the grid went down in 2003. In under 8 hours the cell phone towers went dark and my 2 meter hand held made it possible for me to talk to local hams and get information.

    Another example of the use of amateur radio use in disasters is during the tsunami in 2004. Amateur radio was used to carry messages using low power battery operated equipment using morse code. Morse code uses far less power to put out a useful signal then voice and other modes. A lot of information was passed using 5 watts of power and code.

    Morse is still useful and Army MARS (Military Amateur Radio System) is going to start using morse again on their nets. I hope Navy MARS does too.

    A 'Know Code" HAM (www.fists.com) - Straight Key operator (www.skccgroup.com) - Navy MARS operator.

  • by thorkyl (739500) on Thursday December 06, 2007 @07:48AM (#21595515)
    I for one have seen the impact they make.
    I work Mounted Search and Rescue, (horse back) and have hauled their equipment to the tops of mountains for them so they can set up comms for the area.

    I have also had HAM's make a radio call to another state just to make an emergency phone call. So its real good seeing this kind of press for them.
  • by whoppo (218875) * on Thursday December 06, 2007 @05:40PM (#21603859)
    "When all else fails"... four words that really sum up what amateur radio brings to the community at large.
    Many people hear the term "Ham Radio" and can only imagine a long-bearded nerd wearing headphones and shouting "CQ" into a vintage microphone. While that may be an accurate description of some hams, it's but the tip of the iceberg. I personally know hams ranging in age from 6 to over 100, and the individual interests cover the entire spectrum of available operation modes... CW (morse code), RTTY, PSK-31, Packet, SSTV, AM, FM, SSB, the list goes on and on. There are hams in just about every profession imaginable.. students, lawyers, physicians, truck drivers, programmers, home makers, teachers... again, the list seems to never end. Much, if not most, of the communication technology that is taken for granted these days can be traced back to amateur radio and/or amateur radio operators who've applied the knowledge they've developed as hams. Equipment in use today ranges from single vacuum tube transmitters, to microprocessor controlled marvels.. my own shack has a transmitter from the 50's beside a receiver from the 40's, beside a Kenwood TS2000X that covers amateur radio bands from 1.6 MHZ up to 1.2GHz on all modes... about the size of two stacked laptops. Vintage or state-of-the-art, there's plenty of enjoyment to be had. With less than 100 watts of power, I've talked with hams in more than 130 countries from my SUV. No matter where I am, I can communicate with friends and family anywhere in the world... even where there's no power, no cell towers, no visible satellites (oh yes.. there are ham satellites too... and plenty of 'em).

    The ability to communicate globally without commercial infrastructure is the key to amateur radio's real value to the world community. When large scale disasters occur, the commercial infrastructure is often impacted. Power is lost, phone lines go down, cell circuits are jammed (until their backup power fails.. then they disappear), simply checking on the welfare of friends and family in the affected areas could be impossible if it were not for amateur radio and the hams that diligently maintain equipment and train to become proficient communicators. From a Red Cross shelter that needs supplies, to a sailboat taking on water hundreds of miles off shore... ham radio has saved the day countless times.

    Ok... now that I've spit-shined ham radio, it's only fair to acknowledge the other side of the coin. Ham radio operators are human beings... and as a result of that, there are hams that truly deserve to wear the "Ass Hat" on a daily basis. I've run across foul language, bad attitudes, malicious interference, complete lack of respect and all of the other unfortunate manifestations of today's society. There's no escaping this in ham radio, CB, the Internet, the local pub, school, work... it's a part of living and interacting with other human beings. For these situations I can only offer the suggestion of changing frequency... there's plenty of spectrum for everyone if you're a little patient.

    I'm in my late 40's now and have been a ham since my high school days (give or take a year or two). I've tested for technical knowledge, morse code proficiency and operating regulations... I hold an Extra class license... I'm the Emergency Coordinator for my county affiliated with ARES, RACES and County EMA, I'm an ARRL VE and I help proctor license examinations every month. I've had the pleasure of checking the "PASSED" box for new hams as young as 6 years old as well as for folks more than twice my age. My significant other is a coded general class ham and she loves everything about amateur radio. It really has so good much to offer that the bad things pale in comparison. I have no problem with the elimination of the morse code requirements.. most of the new hams that have been able to pass the test as a result are fine operators and contribute immensely to the community (some fall into that other category.. remember... humans) and while I encourage them all to learn mors

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