Studying Ham

This entry was posted by on Sunday, 9 May, 2010 at

My dad used to be into scanning police conversations, and I recently found his old top-of-the-line 1994 scanner in an old box in our basement. I spent a weekend trying to fix it — taking it apart, trying to replace parts, etc. I eventually gave up in frustration, but before running out to buy a new scanner my wife suggested I ask to borrow one from a co-worker first.

So I did. I put out an email to all the engineers in my office, and one of them lent me a nifty handie-talkie (a Yaesu VX-3R) and a giant instruction manual. Sure enough, I was able to scan, but was curious about the “PTT” button he told me not to push. Next thing I know I’m listening to net meetings over local repeaters! A few days later, I find myself reading the ARRL Technician textbook, and thinking “hey, this is basic high school physics!” Not so hard at all.

I’ll be taking the Technician exam in a week or two, so I can buy my own HT. But my goal is to (probably) upgrade to General and put up an antenna somewhere, so I can use HF to chat with specific friends across the country who I only (just this week!) discovered were licensed hams.

It’s sort of incredible — ham culture is like this ancient geeky brotherhood that secretly infiltrates all other nerdy hobbies. I’m discovering swaths of friends and acquaintances (gaming friends, Google co-workers, open source people) who all have callsigns, sort of a secret handshake. And reading about the culture in the exam textbook is fascinating — someone ought to write an ethnography of this group!


  1. Ham Radio: the saga continues @ iBanjo