One of the nice things about having long time friends – like my best friend who’s a retired major from the .mil world, who I’ve been friends with since we were both about 3½ – is that you can share some long-term interests, like ham radio which we both got into at age 13, or so. For the balance of high school we had a friendly ham radio competition.
He’d put up this antenna, or that, built some most excellent Heathkit gear (which you can find oodles of on eBay‘s used radio trading pages) and I even helped him built a two-element quad antenna out of 20-foot sections of bamboo, picked up as I recall from the old Tashiro’s Hardware store in Seattle and then walked back to Beacon Hill where we both had budding antenna farms.
Most of our early ham radio years were spent banging out Morse Code, since voice doesn’t have the range of continuous waves (CW) and one teacher at my high school, the late Bob Langley, K7WYK, whose call-sign was later reassigned, had a Johnson Ranger transmitter and one of the best receivers of the day – a Collins 75-S3B. Bob was a CW artist. And by the time I had picked up my First Class commercial radio ticket at age 16, Bob and I were chatting well north of 35 words per minute and we spent hour upon hour, late nights and weekends, seeing who could get the best signal reports out of Japan and other distant (DX) countries.
It was a fine science to me: Bob was using a 53-foot HyGain Hy-Tower antenna, nothing more than a fancy vertical, but it cost a fortune back then. and he’d spent hours running ground wires over, under, around and through his wife’s garden on the north side of Queen Anne hill. My antenna was usually an inverted vee type, at the top of a 4″ diameter hunk of irrigation pipe that another then young ham and I had carried on our shoulders on a 13-mile hike from up in the Shoreline area (around 179th N.E. to be exact) all the way down to Beacon Hill. It was a long walk, but since I tended to be rabid about any task undertaken, especially if there was a radio in it somewhere, the high-speed CW (Morse) competition was fierce, yet friendly.
Not everyone I knew from back then turned into a high speed Morse op. My buddy who walked the irrigation pipe was good for 30+ words per minute, and he went on after school into the Navy as a reactor operator on subs and was one of the pioneers of a digital mode called BPSK. (Binary phase-shift keying, but it’s a bit early for that level of detail.)
My chum since age 3½ took his school studies more seriously, perhaps because he didn’t go to a public school, his parents instead electing to send him to the “ruler-raps-knuckles” school over on Capital Hill. While he was pulling a 4.0, which led to a BA and honors at Seattle U and Masters (also with honors) at the University of Chicago, I kept puttering with radios and went down the broadcast engineering track.
OK, so what does this have to do with Monday morning, you’re wondering – if you haven’t clicked away yet?
Well, I got an email from long term friend and guess what? Morse Code may be on the verge of a strong comeback! Gmail has a new goodie in development called Gmail Tap and you can see a video on it here. Morse Code is making a comeback! About damn time.
I was going to send my friend an email back, telling him that Heathkit, which made those fantastic radio kits he built through the 1960′s, is planning to get back into the kit business, but I’ve had mixed feelings about that. He’s got a nice life/nice wife and he lives in a deed-restricted area where his single wire vertical antenna is hardly visible against its Doug fir background is considered pushing things.
Still, since his kids are nearly grown, as much as any of our kids really “grow up” I might mention it to him one of these days, since probably half the ham radio population is poised mouse-ready to buy one of the first new….whatevers….the reconstituted Heathkit decides to launch back into ham radio with.
They won’t be alone. There have continued to be some “hangers on” for electronic kit-builders. Outfits like Ramsey Electronics figured (rightly) that it was all about price when it came to kits. No idea how many of their low-cost (and low power) ham radios have been built, but well into the 10′s of thousands, I’m sure.
Another outfit, where you can buy kits is Vectronics, where everything from a basic AM crystal radio set on up to lower/middle challenge level products can be found.
The main competitor which managed the right mix of factory-assembled versus kit options is Elecraft and their newest offering, the KX-3 all mode, ultra portable, offers better performance than a desktop full of ham gear would do when we were kids in a package that’d be the size of two older TV remotes. Not for beginners at kit-building, mind you. If you’re “all-thumbs” and have never wound a coil, or chased around surface mount parts, the assembled version of the KX-3 is only a hundred bucks more than the kit.
A lot less expensive radio kits are out there, including YouKits which has gotten pretty good reviews of its HB-1B four-band radio for about $300. The Elecraft is more expensive because it’s a highly refined radio in comparison, offering single sideband voice, and so on. The HB-1B is strictly a Morse box.
If you’re wondering why I’m going into such detail about the goings on in the ham radio cult, there are two reasons, really. The main one is to stir up your interest in learning Morse Code. If Google is interested, maybe you should be, perhaps?
There are lots of reasons, as a person gets older, to have this onboard back-up communications system locked up in your brain.
Imagine, for example, having a stroke and not being able to talk or even write something down due to the paralysis involved. Yet any body part that can be reliably “driven” by the person inside your head can get a message to the outside world. There are many recorded cases of injured ham radio ops communicating with medical types (and family) this way.
A more selfish reason for mentioning all the other kit-makers is I want the first Heathkit and if you’ve been lulled into a KX-3 build, then that’s one less person in line ahead of me.
Grabbing a soldering iron and wiring up a Morse code capable radio – then banging out code to someone halfway around the world may not seem logical, (but compare that with what’s on Facebook and hams look pretty damn sane) but there are no tariffs or monthly fees and local ham radio clubs do a fine job of teaching the basics and since the FCC changed the rules a few years back, there is no Morse required.
Still, with outfits like Google rediscovering Morse code, kids like my son (if that’s what you call a 32-year old Extra Class ham), are getting interested in adding it to their personal skill bank. I’m encouraging it, too. Even went so far as to pick up the one of those Morse Code “coins” which are selling on eBay and mailing it up to G,II.
So that’s the point of this morning’s off-news report: What comes around goes around:
Morse Code is making a comeback in mobile aps where it’s being “born again.” Hallelujah!
Heathkit is reported on its way back into the kit business.
The electronics kit field, though smaller than years ago, is still robust meaning someone in America still knows how to solder – thank God!
And you never know when Morse will pop up. When my flight instructor and I were ferrying our old Beechcraft back from Ohio last year, he turned on a nav station and asked me how I would identify it, expecting me to look the radio frequency and scan navigation aids on the chart for the right VOR.
Instead, knowing Morse, I was able to say “That’s RID…” or one of those. May be the only time I’ve ever seen him surprised…and not often you can do that to a 40-thosuand hour pilot. “How’d you know that?“
Next thing you know, Google’s going to rediscover the Q-signals, too…which Wikipedia describes this way:
“The Q code is a standardized collection of three-letter message encodings, also known as a brevity code, all of which start with the letter “Q”, initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph communication, and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio. Although Q codes were created when radio used Morse code exclusively, they continued to be employed after the introduction of voice transmissions. To avoid confusion, transmitter call signs are restricted; while an embedded three-letter Q sequence may occur (for instance when requested by an amateur radio station dedicated to low-power operation), no country is ever issued an ITU prefix starting with “Q”. The codes in the range QAA–QNZ are reserved for aeronautical use; QOA–QQZ for maritime use and QRA–QUZ for all services.”
Not that texters haven’t gotten the general idea of abbreviations right.
As luck would have it QTF isn’t taken and the change from from texting WTF to QTF could be used to designate a code-competent texter as what goes around comes around.
And maybe, just maybe, Google could “invent” high speed telegraphy for the texter set. The world record for Morse text is about 72 words per minute, but in HST competition, using messages in an expected form, speeds even higher have been seen. For some, it’s almost as fast as typing and you can still keep your eyes on the road. Though I still make mistakes on a key, just like here on a keyboard.
Say: What day was that posted by Google?
A cutter will bring a couple of injured sailors into SF today – caught out in a Pacific storm in the Clipper Round the World yacht race.
Just as important as knowing when to embark on dangerous adventures is knowing when to quit. I hung up my motorcycle boots when I hit the low 50′s, getting too old for real offshore sailing, and airplanes will go by the wayside in a few years. too. What was it that Clint Eastwood said in one of his flicks? “Man’s gotta know his limits…”
They move over time. (I plan to quit writing at age 95, too…might have run out of stories by then.)
To-Do List: Update Cookie Manager
The folks at Maxa Research have a new (small) tweak for Cookie Manager which can be downloaded from inside the product for users. I will put the updated download on tomorrow morning when I get out of my writing frenzy.
Around the Ranch: April Fool’s Day
As promised, I cut my hair on April Fool’s day. A little different than my usual “buzz cut.” Elaine was lending a hand, but Panama (who I suspect cut more than one head of hair in his 20+ years in .mil land) hauled out his Remington with a long (1″) guide and administered the best haircut I’ve had in 20-years.
Don’t know if you own a hair-cutting rig, but even a $40 kit like the Wahl 79524-3001 Home Barber 30 Piece Kit pays for itself in a few months.
Strange thing to put on a prepping list, but a buzz cut is a lot easier to maintain than longer hair. For now I look like a banker, all right-respectable like. When the heat of summer arrives, the hair gets progressively shorter.
May help with dieting, too, come to think of it. I seem to remember from my study of hypothermia in my sailing days that the body loses something like 40% of its heat through the head. Stands to reason that keeping the “insulation short” would be a diet aide.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Off TV Dinners for a while – Elaine cooked up a mess of BBQ and teriyaki chicken. That and coleslaw plus vitamins for a few days.
Write when you break even: email@example.com
Of Interest to Readers:
Be Sure to Visit: The UrbanSurvival Amazon store. Books, computers, software, and outdoor gear. You’re going to buy things on Amazon, so use this handy portal…
Now on our premium content site: www.peoplenomics.com:
Trayvon Martin is not the only problem to crop up in America in recent weeks, although certainly one of the most visible. Yet there is other evidence becoming visible of “sand in the gearbox” that could indeed lead coming months to be the “summer from hell.” In addition to unveiling some of theses none-too-cheery prospects, which could lead in to a “summer of hell” being this year, we’ll take our usual look at the news will set a lot of this into perspective, so more coffee and seat belts, please.
Safer Computing: Swearing Off Cookies
It has been a while since I roared the praises of the Maxa Cookie Manager which you can download and install for a free test drive by clicking here.
To upgrade from the demo to full working is still less than $30 (During their Spring Sale) and one heck of a bargain at that, if I do say so.
I am a high-reliability computing kind of guy – and near as I have it figured, the road to a hassle-free computing experience is (like flying an airplane) a matter of going through a proper checklist before popping onto the web:
You need an active cookie manager – because sites you visit can put small bits of code on your computer and some of these are designed for Flash, have no expiration, and can really bugger-up the computing experience. This part gets handled by Maxa Labs’ product which on my system says 184,380 cookies have been removed, 73,881 “web bugs” which can track movement from site to site and such, and I have only 10-active cookies.
Second thing you need is a good antivirus program – and I happen to really like Avira’s Antivir pro.
Then you need to deal with Malware so for this Malware bytes is updated and run daily.
And last, though certainly not least is the firewall and the one in Win 7 works fine.
Like anything in computers, updates are critical so before work every morning, the computer does its update ritual – Check of Maxa (5.3.02 is current) Avira, and Malware bytes.
Toss in a good bit of common sense (example: Don’t open email purporting to be from UPS, IRS, the US Post Office, or anything else that even has a hint of fishy odor to it) and first thing you know, the internet’s actually a useful tool.
“Live on $10,000″ A Year
Having a hard time making ends meet? (Like who isn’t, right?) A good starting point to better match up income with outgo is our $10 e-book “How to Live on $10,000 a Year…or less!”
It’s an automatic download. It’s written in an information dense style: The whole thing runs about 65 pages, but it gives you a vision of how to not only live on the cheap, but also how to migrate up the economic foodchain if you have a little hustle left. A bonus section called “How to Build Anything” should instill confidence if you’ve never taken on a home improvement/home creation project before, too….. Click here for the index and details.
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