Taken November 16, 2008
So you people don’t know this, but I actually live a life of secret celebrity. The issue is to quote my brother it’s in a hobby that’s probably up there with accordion playing so you’ve never heard about it.
In short I have been an amateur (Ham) radio operator since the age of 16, and because there’s a greater gender disparity than a physics department and I happen to be good at operating- think I set a new record for the Great Lakes region in our last contest good- most people who hear me on the air immediately know “the YL [young lady] from W8EDU,” the callsign of the Case Western Reserve University station. (I have my own callsign too of course, KB3HTS.) Or maybe they looked up amateur radio operator on Wikipedia, whatever.
Anyway so what is Ham radio anyway (is it kosher?) and why do I like it? In short, you take an exam and get a callsign and get on the air and talk to people- Hams are the ones who will get on the air when disaster strikes and all other communications are knocked out, so you’d better be nice to us. What I always loved most about it though is the broadcasting- I know lots of people must think the Internet got rid of the intrigue of talking to people in faraway lands (and to be fair for many it did), but there’s definitely a romantic magic to getting your station on the air and knowing anyone from San Francisco to Swaziland might call back over the cackle of static. For someone who loves to travel, there’s something amazing about knowing my voice has traveled to every US state and Canadian province and nations spread over five continents, even if the rest of me never did. I’ve talked to people in war zones and remote Atlantic islands, people sailing from California to Hawaii and even heard the astronauts chattering above. How could the Internet replace that?
Anyway, I’m wrapping this up now because I’m heading off to see the USA-Ghana game in a sec and then going out for the biggest Ham radio contest of the year- 24 hours simulating emergency conditions, which means generator power and temporary antennas (and believe you me, when the tornadoes sweep through our area people are glad someone knows how to do this). Wish us luck!