In the magazine section
I took a break from my daily routines to spend some time at a local book store (yes, there are still a few of those around, thank goodness!). I thought I would explore the magazine section, the ever dwindling magazine section, to see what radio communication magazines there were on sale. It was a tough problem. They were buried under the fashion magazine, next to the hobby and fishing section behind the home electronics magazines. You had to get on your knees and dig through the pile and discover them behind all of the other, more popular choices. There I found some interesting magazines…Monitoring Times and CQ Magazine. Now, I realize that ham radio was never a huge section, at most I would only find few pretty obvious titles: QST, CQ, Monitoring Times and some British magazines. Not that magazines are a barometer of the health of our hobby, but it says something about how visible our hobby is to the world. I mean, we’ve lost almost all of the retail storefronts. There are hardly any ham radio retail stores anymore, almost everything has moved to the Internet. Of course, that assumes that people know to look for such places there. My point is, we have a huge opportunity to tell our story.
So, I bought Monitoring Times and was comforted by the very familiar stories it was presenting. I started out as a short wave listener, so their article on the Russian Woodpecker Array from the 70’s brought back some great memories of me trying to understand the nature of the sound and its purpose. It was widely believed be a jamming device – and fed my old Cold War phobias about nuclear doomsday scenarios. I grew up in a day when we would do nuclear attack drills in school. At the appointed hour, we would all get under our desks and…well, pray. I don’t know what the nuns thought they were protecting us from, because if there were a real nuclear blast, we would have been vaporized with our books. But, it did break up the day from the lesson plans, so we all went along with the drill. Turns out, the Woodpecker was really a radar early warning system that the Russians used to detect potential offensive strikes on their borders. That was what fascinated me about radio – it carried all sorts of mysterious sounds or mysterious languages and programming from around the globe. I loved to listen to other countries blasting our politics. Short wave provided a perspective to our everyday life that main stream television didn’t provide. Not sure much of that is around anymore…seems that China still maintains a pretty aggressive shortwave presence and the BBC has all but gone to the Internet, which has left the airwaves free for every type of religious programming, mostly from the US. There are some fascinating new things out there…like radio bloggers…people who have taken to the airwaves to just offer their POV on all sorts of things, mostly fairly extreme. So, shortwave still is around but it has just become less engaging, perhaps.
This issue of Monitoring Times was all about listening to various kinds of emergency traffic. They also had a fascinating article on antennas, showing some fun methods that cell phone companies have employed to hide their antennas. Seems that the world hates antennas! They also had a great little article on an antenna that was designed by an Artificial Intelligence computer for satellite service. Basically, they plugged in all of the parameters, power sources, uses and it came up with a shape that looked like the frame of a tiny tree you would use on a HO train model set! They are actually going to deploy the antenna in space!! So, there are still plenty of fun things to be explored by this hobby…somehow we need to be able to share our love of listening, antennas, knobs and buttons, electronics with younger (and even not so younger) generations. If we could get them to understand the power of discovering the world with their ears, we might have a chance of capturing the imagination of the next generation before we lose them entirely to the touchpad.
73 Rob K9RST