Today starts a big adventure for me, or at least the first big milestone. A little more than a week ago, I decided that I was going to take something that I always thought about, and make it a reality. That is to become a licensed HAM.
I picked up the ARRL technician license exam book from my local library that Friday, and took the exam the following Monday. I passed of course, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be so happy to write about this now. But today, today I’m going shopping. I am eating lunch here in wonderful Milwaukee WI, on my way to Amateur Electronic Supply, one of the largest retails of HAM radio equipment in the country. Tonight, I will be making my first transmissions. KC9SJQ will officially be on the air.
The aspect of ham radio I’m interested in really has to do with narrow band data communication. The ability to use only a small bit of bandwidth to send digital signals from one point to another. The simplest form is that of Morse Code. The downside of narrow band is that the pace of data transmission is very low, usually around 30 – 500 bytes per second, compared to the 10s of millions of bytes per second provided by modern WIFI or to hundreds of thousands of bytes per second by 3G wireless. The plus side is that it is very tolerant to noise, and can run at very low frequencies, allowing the same amount of power which would push WIFI 100ft to push a HF signal thousands of miles.
It’s one of those things where most of the time, I would be happy with a simple cell phone service, but this way, I can talk to specifically my home PC, using something like ssh or pop3, from many places all across the country, all without having to use any infrastructure beyond my own simple base station and a portable radio the size of a good sized walkie talkie. All with no service costs at all, ever. All in all, a pretty nice setup. We’ll see how well it all works in the near future.