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April Blog

Lately, I have been knee deep in programming radios for the Shamrock Shuffle. This is an annual ritual that requires checking all of the radios for the command tent, programming them with new frequencies and generally preparing for the public service season. This is not arduous but it can be brain numbing because so many of my computers have aged out.  My old radio programming laptop has XP on it…and my newer computers don’t have the programming software installed. So, slowly, I have integrated all of the programming software on my newer computers.  Part of the issue is transitioning from serial ports to UBS programming plugs.  It gets crazy fast.  All it takes is money and, just like that, it all works great! 

The Shamrock is the baby brother (or sister) of the Chicago Marathon.  It is a place where we get to play around with various ideas and new modes. This year we are experimenting with DMR and some chat services to provide a back channel.  Over the years, I have maintained some correspondence with the hams that operate the Boston marathon.  On Sunday, we had a two hour discussion about how we both approach this communication during these events.  On the call were 8 people who serve on their communication committee…and, the most remarkable part, they meet every week on Sunday from now till the event in April.  That impressed me.   Even though the Boston event had to virtually reinvent its communication strategy after the bombing incident, hams are still part of the program. Interestingly, they were working actively to remove anything that smacks of ham lingo from their vocabulary…even the words “ham” or “amateur radio.”  They are now communicators.  Not net controls, not command…they are resources.  Part of this to make sure the organizers see what they bring to the table as partners, but the other it to make it clear that they are there to serve the event.   As a group, ham radio hasn’t always done a great job of understanding where we fit into the service equation.  When I got involved with the Red Cross, they told me they would never use ham radio people again! I was stunned! Why not? Well, turns out the previous group got upset and pulled all of their embedded gear out and left them high and dry. This is not a single event…I have heard this multiple times over the years of my doing public service.

We have worked very hard to overcome this obstacle and have made it clear to our volunteers that we are here first to serve…in whatever capacity. We take communication seriously. It has taken a while, but we are being noticed by the served agencies and the event organizers.  That part has been rewarding as we enter our 10 year supporting these events.

I am also preparing for Dayton…at least getting rooms and signing up for seminars.  I often leave Wednesday of Dayton week and got to the QRP event, Four Days in May.  The seminars on Thursday are always superb and attract an audience of about 250.  They have activities that happen all weekend, but I usually end up spending all of my time at the Hamvention.

The NSRC will have its booth again. We are still looking for a few folks to help hold down the fort.  Let me know if you are going and if you can help out for an hour or so.  The booth is in a perfect location, right off the main midway where all of the exhibit buildings are located.  

Well, got to return to packing and checking antennas.