A Refresher post on Ham Radio

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The following is an excerpt of a recent email exchange with Dr. Jeff Baker:

">>Also, I am going to start with the 'no-code' ham test soon and >>would appreciate your advice on the basic 2M etc. equipment I >>might want to look at. Thanks!

The best 2m HT is, believe it or not, Radio Shack's! Buy a used one if you can find it at a local hamfest (Ck with your local hams as to when the nearest/next one is.) If you can't buy a used one buy their #19-1120 @ $199.99. It puts out 5w, which will get you out to 5 miles reliably. Forget about all the high-priced competition, made in Japan, with all the bells & whistles. They 2m guys apparently prefer the Shack's.

But even better is to buy the R-S 'mobile' xcvr, which outputs 45w: #19-1126 @ $249.99. It will get you 25-30 miles reliably.

Of course, you'll want a high quality, rugged, outdoor antenna (a double colinear 5/8-wave vertical, or a 14-element beam.) Depending on your altitude you may/probably will/ want a good-sized mast/tower.


Notice I've said nothing about the repeater network. 'Cause if there's enough power to keep the 'peaters going indefinitely, then there'll be enough power to keep Ma Bell working -- in which case hoo needs radio anyhow!? So bottom line for me and 2m is: PLAN ON OPERATING SIMPLEX MODE ONLY.


As you may know, I'm not a proponent of 2m as a high priority post-y2k comm mode. My scenario is based on HF bands. For $100 more than the $250 for a 2m mobile rig I bought a used TS-120S (Kenwood, 80/40/20/10m 100w rig.) It will get me anywhere in the USA pretty much any time of day or night, regardless of propagation conditions.

What is the downside of my approach? Well except for part of the 10m band, you need to get your General ticket to be on HF. That's a biggie for most people. But break it down to 2 challenges: 1)the 13wpm code test, 2) the General theory exam.

1) 13WPM: Buy Morse Tutor Gold for $30 (Order from HRO, 800-444-7927) -- it's a DOS app but you can run it inside Win95 just fine. Spend 4 ten-minute sessions a day and inside of a month you've can pass your 5WPM Tech+ test. Spend another month in the same way and you'll be ready for your General code: 13WPM. I studied the 1st part (Novice/Tech+) through April & got my ticket on May 2d. This month, with a LOT of interruptions (heavy y2k construction projects) I'm already at 11WPM and gaining fast. I will take my Gen'l code exam June 10th locally.

2) General theory: Buy W5YI Group's (800-669-9594) General Class program for Windows @ $30 or 35. It will run you thru the entire pool of FCC questions, grade it, & show you the right answer if you choose wrong, with an explanation. It will also tell you when you are ready to sit for your exam. In the same package you'll receive a copy of Gordon West's Gen'l Class License prep book. It's a winner: gives you the entire question pool with correct answers (& a brief explanation of same), along with some worthwhile mnemonic reminders.

If you have time you can make up a bunch of flash cards of your 'weak' answers, and strengthen them (I got through New York University Med School on flash cards!) Or you can buy a set of them ready-made from some outfit here in AL (Can't remember the name, but they were at the Birmingham hamfest, & probably your local hams may be able to put you on to the source.)

Why go to all the trouble of focussing on HF bands? Because, Jeff, you and I are about the only MD's I know of who started early enough in our personal preps, and know enough about what can happen medically in a chaotic post-y2k world to be able to help people via radio if the phone system goes down nationally, and in addition ACTUALLY PLAN TO HAVE A HAM STATION. So people will want to get in touch with us not only in your corner of Arkansas & my corner of Alabama, but probably from coast to coast. We can't serve them with 2m local contacts.

[I'm probably going to make this email do double duty, incorporating it in a post to Ed Yourdon's Timebomb2000 forum (& the y2k.entrewave.com forum if it's still up) -- so let me say a word about other aspects of post-y2k ham radio: Not only will people need to hear from docs, they'll also need to talk to people with expertise in gardening, food preservation, woodstoves, water sourcing, defense, photovoltaic systems, animal husbandry, building construction, foundry technology, mechanical and woodworking shop technology, and basic electronics, for starters. None of us will know enough about all these subjects -- when we get to the point where we have to put into use the materials and info we've collected prior to y2k. If the grid goes down, there's no Telco and there's no Internet. Ham radio, stretched as thin as it surely will be, nevertheless will be the only backup available.]

If I have time I will post an article on ShortWave radios in y2k. Also one one on CB radios. And if time permits, will start a y2k Ham Radio Network later this summer, probably on either 20m or 10m."

Bill, KG4DHJ

-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), May 31, 1999


Good post, but I can't resist making a few comments about the RS gear:

"The best 2m HT is, believe it or not, Radio Shack's!"

BS. The RS stuff can't hold a candle to a Kenwood, Yaesu or Icom H/T.

"Forget about all the high-priced competition, made in Japan, with all the bells & whistles. The 2m guys apparently prefer the Shack's. "

Pure BS. Any radio op worth his ticket wants THE BEST GEAR AVAILABLE. Believe me, it ain't from RS. No ham I've talked to (including ops that own them) has much good to say about the RS rigs, except that they're cheap.

"But even better is to buy the R-S 'mobile' xcvr, which outputs 45w: #19-1126 @ $249.99. It will get you 25-30 miles reliably."

Same comments as on the H/T - spend the extra $50-$100 for a DECENT rig. 25-30 miles? Maybe if you're in Kansas, but reduce that figure considerably from a location with even so much as rolling hills, even with a yagi.

Much better, as stated, to get your General ticket and either a good used HF rig like the 120S, or a new HFrig in the $700 range like the Yaesu FT-840.

-- hamster (lurking@this.forum), May 31, 1999.


Two things:

1) I bought an entire hamshack on ebay for $400. It includes an HF transceiver, VHF Mobile unit (2 Meters 25W), and 2 meter HT (Icom). My HF transceiver was probably a once in a lifetime buy, though.

2) I was a licensed amateur for many years, but let it lapse when I was in the Navy in 1982. Do I have to start over again? I can still do code in my sleep, so I can certainly do that part.


-- Jollyprez (jolly@prez.com), May 31, 1999.


Well my booboos and your uncovering them -- what a metaphor for Y2K truths and falsehoods! As you maybe could tell, I do NOT have any first-hand experience on 2m. So I talked to my step-S-in-L & got his take on 144MHz equipment.

Your aversion to Radio Shack gear validates all the experience I've had since the mid-seventies, when I tried building a medical info system using various Shack PC platforms. What an experience (I had already been into computer hardware enough to recognize bad design, bad fabrication, bad QC, & terrible repair support --- Shack had it in spades. As they came out with each succeeding PC model it got worse and worse. Finally gave up & used an S-100 based system to get the reliability I needed.)

All right already, so avoid Radio Shack. What to get instead? I reco used Kenwoods or Icoms, 'cause they're reliable, easy to find, and inexpensive. (Most people tell me they can hardly afford a CB rig.) 'Nother problem with the new rigs: all the bells and whistles mean they can't be repaired/aligned easily ("Problem during warranty? Hey, just send it back to us at the factory & we'll fix it pronto." ------- WHAT factory, post-2yk?! And if the factory's still there and healthy it means we gloomers were all wrong about y2k, in which case HOO NEEDS RADIO?)


Yes, unfortunately, if you've let your ticket lapse >2 yrs you've got to re-exam. That's what happened to me in '95 (Got mad at the local ham club -- they weren't interested in any emergency net, which was my main reason for my ticket.) Your code test will be a breeze, but get Gordon's manual (you can buy it without the software), to get up to date on the new questions: much lighter on electronic theory and much heavier on RF safety.


-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), May 31, 1999.

Doctor Bill wrote:

(I got through New York University Med School on flash cards!)

I hope your not still getting through operations this way ! :-)

-- Berry Picker (BerryPicking@yahoo.com), May 31, 1999.

Hi Bill,

I let mine lapse, too (after 20 years active).

I agree with most of what you've said (including RS gear -- it's made by Alinco, I think).

However, there are faster ways to learn the code (and cheaper). Jerry Ziliak (KB6MT) has a series of code and theory courses that he guarantees 100% that you'll pass the tests in 7 days *if you follow his instructions.* Each course is $19.95 (code is one course, tech is another, general is another). The no-code tech guarantee is 14 days (combines tech and general theory). I don't know if he's on the WWW, but his phone# is (714)990-8442.

These courses are pure key-word memorization (fine for code, and theory is picked up by osmosis, I guess). If all you want is the license, they work.

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (KB0ZDF, ex W1EDY) (dtmiller@nevia.net), May 31, 1999.

If I'm not mistaken, the Radio Shack equipment is built for them by Uniden(tm) -- middle of the road stuff, not great, but no bad either, which is why opinion is generally divided right down the middle on it. :)

If you're going to cuss Radio Shack, don't ever go into a typical broadcast facility; even the Big Guys like CBS and Fox use odds and ends from Radio Shack. The stores are conveniently located, and they make a few gadgets that are hard to get elsewhere. (g)

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), May 31, 1999.

RS looks a lot like ICOM.

I have an all ICOM shack, couple old thumbwheel 2 meter rigs, a multi-mode synthesized HF rig, etc.

Art helped me get the RS 2 meter HT and it looks a lot like my ICOMs to the point that the battery pack interchanges.

I'm kinda busy these days but Frank and a couple others have been talking about a Y2K net.

73 de ah6gi/3 214 days now.

-- ah6gi/3 (kiyoinc@ibm.XOUT.net), May 31, 1999.

Short comment:

Radio Shack does not make squat of their own. My HTX202 2 meter HT's are made by ICOM. My 242 45 watt mobile is a Kenwood unit. My shortwave receiver from Radio Shack is a Sangeon unit, except the RS version uses D cells instead of C cells.

Another hint: Most any RS store hasen't the faintest idea where their stuff comes from, and RS aint saying.

Final Hint: Watch VERY closely for RS stuff to go on closeout. Look for the CLEARANCE tag, not the SALE tag. The item can drop 50% or more, but they sell out real fast. I got a two new HTX 202 2 meter HT's for $100 each, brand new, with warrantee's doubled because they were shelf demo's.

-- Art (artw@lancnews.infi.net), May 31, 1999.

Whether the gear is made by Alinco, Icom, Sangean, whoever, the point is that RS has the equipment made for them as a "stripped" model, less features and hence less cost, and, I suspect, less quality control. I've looked inside an HTX-202 and the one I saw wasn't pretty - solder splash, excess rosin, pinched cables, etc. Wouldn't want to bet my life on one.

Bill, another comment:

"'Nother problem with the new rigs: all the bells and whistles mean they can't be repaired/aligned easily ("Problem during warranty? Hey, just send it back to us at the factory & we'll fix it pronto." ------- WHAT factory, post-2yk?!)"

One of the hallmarks of an amateur radio operator is the ability to fix his own equipment (not to mention design and build it, if necessary). This may sound harsh, but if any prospective ham isn't willing to hit the books and learn even basic radio repair, including digital circuit troubleshooting, I wish they wouldn't even consider getting a ticket. We really don't need any more "appliance operators" in the service whose technical ability is on a par with a well-versed CB operator. Understand this: equipment WILL malfunction. If you've put your reliance in your equipment, or worse, if other people have put THEIR reliance in you and your equipment (like when you're part of an emergency network), and you can't fix it when it fails, you're probably going to be worse off than if you'd never had the gear to begin with, and hence hadn't come to rely upon it.


-- hamster (still@lurking.about), May 31, 1999.


Yes, I always used flashcards, for my 30 years in practice -- aren't you glad I retired in '87?!


Tnx for the poop on alternate routes to passing exams -- I recollect seeing his ads. Anybody have validating experience on Ziliak's method? If so, please report in.

Funny thing about exam passing methods --- they seem to be radically easier/tougher for differing types of brains. For example, I bought that CodeQuick2000 method and tried it. What a total loss for me -- lost a month of practice -- my brain just isn't designed for that combo of visuals/audio/phrases/ input!!


Yeah, I've been forced into buying R-S miscellaneous component level stuff (& occasional inexpensive testing equipment) when I HAD to have it TONITE, instead of being sensible & waiting a few days to get it from Hosfelt, Electronic Goldmine, ALL, or DigiKey. Surprisingly the stuff works more often than not, even though QC isn't always the best.


Hey, you should be ashamed of yourself taking advice from Art Welling, that ex-papparazzi! Besides being a Yankee (I'm no longer one -- I can say "swang" instead of "swing."), he's one of those y2k Gloomers who speaks heavily from the right hemisphere, and puts value in those things you can't measure with a 'scope -- so you KNOW they can't REALLY be real!)

Hopefully, you and I & others like us can get some kind of net going, if time permits.

(P.S. Did u get my recent faxes, signing up for WRP's and telling you about my LED task lite posts?)


Hey, you should be ashamed of yourself giving advice to Cory Hamasaki, that Polly masquerading as a Doomster!

Yeah, R-S doesn't make hardly any of their stuff. Tnx for pulling back the sheets & exposing the bodies --- did you make sure to take your flash pics & send them in to the New York Enquirer?

Also, am always envious of you because you keep finding those impossible bargains, and thereby do your bit to undermine corporate America.


Now HERE's a post I can really bite into!

"One of the hallmarks of an amateur radio operator is the ability to fix his own equipment (not to mention design and build it, if necessary)."

I built my 1st superreg rcvr in '38, used to glue my face to the 1939 NY World's Fair ARRL display booth window, finally learned enuf electronics to get my Commercial RadioTelephone License with Marine in '65, then my ham ticket in '85, & in betw designed & built various PC gear. Thus I heartily endorse your high ideals -- your statement above was The Received Doctrine for generations up till the early '80s. But WHO are you talking about in the present-day ranks of hams? A few guys like you and me (and the rest of my gray-haired, rag-chewing generation?) There's always ONE guy in every ham club (They often call him "Doc") who fixes everybody's radio and the repeater when it goes out (every month?) -- is HE the guy you're talking about?

" This may sound harsh, but if any prospective ham isn't willing to hit the books and learn even basic radio repair, including digital circuit troubleshooting, I wish they wouldn't even consider getting a ticket. We really don't need any more "appliance operators" in the service whose technical ability is on a par with a well-versed CB operator."

What kind of work schedule would you recommend for the average GI, your prospective newbie ham, who's never held a soldering iron in hand, doesn't know a MOV from a Zener, has a wife and 2 kids to support, works at least 40 hr/week somewhere --- to get the cash for his y2k preps, and is INCIDENTALLY, going bananas trying to DO these preps? Is there a night course he could take at the nearby Junior College, say between 2 and 6 AM?

"Understand this: equipment WILL malfunction. If you've put your reliance in your equipment, or worse, if other people have put THEIR reliance in you and your equipment (like when you're part of an emergency network), and you can't fix it when it fails, you're probably going to be worse off than if you'd never had the gear to begin with, and hence hadn't come to rely upon it."

You've just given wonderful support for my reco of buying Simple, not Complex, when it comes to radio gear. And you're 100% right about the MTBF (mean time betw failure) of radio gear, especially if you factor in Murphy's Law (& Cohen's Corollary of same.) So if Y2K is really bad, people are going to drop out of the comm loop 'cause their gear will go South at the least convenient moment. (There might even be other inconveniences, like people may die from diseases and accidents, with no hi tech med care available.) Such could be life after y2k. I'll be in a better position re radio backups (if I haven't already had a coronary or stroked out or gotten a good dose of cancer) -- I've got QRP kits up the kazoo for various HF xcvrs. And I'll get a couple linear amp kits to boost the output, too. I'll bet you've got backup gear too, besides being able to use a scope, a freq counter, a DMM, a sig genny, noise bridge, etc.

So, you RODENT, you --- we'll be counting on you to be in the middle of Net activity. We might even get you to volunteer for Net Control, and FORCE you to talk to 'appliance operators,' as a kind of fate worse than death.

I appreciate your good ideas and knowhow, and your good posts on other subjects.

73, Billy Jim (as they call me down here in Rebel Land)

-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), May 31, 1999.

Hello everyone, I have been poking around in this forum and found this post and thought that I might add something. Get your TECHPLUS license NOW!!! The FCC has agreed to get rid of this licinse and make all Hams with this license a General. Hey, Big time HF here I come!!! Just bought a triband beam and it will be ready, willing and able when my license is automatically upgraded in the next 3 months. The Radio Shack Equipment is garbage, bottom of the barrel, If someone tells you how great it is, it tells you that it was all they could afford. All my 2 meter gear is Icomm, best of the best as far as I'm concerned, also all my 440 gear as well. HF on the other hand is Kenwood. Good, Strong and reliable. 100 watts output and hook that puppy up to a longwire or a Yagi and you'll get just about anywhere you need to get. Larsen Antennas for mobile VHF, and Cushcraft for Base VHF Yagis and then you can pick an HF Yagi from any of the true manufacturers. Well anyway, good luck to you all, but Come Y2K, my station will be ready and waiting to handle any emergency traffic that comes my way.

-- Richard N7MER (hondacon@cnnw.net), June 01, 1999.


Tnx for all the info. I've been reading about the proposed FCC license changes for a while -- didn't know that it was a firm 3 months from now for grandfathering Tech+ into General. If that's true it solves a MAJOR dilemma for ham newbies. Tell me it's really so -- did you read it in print somewhere, or did you hear it firsthand from the horse's mouth?

BTW, if it's really true, you newbies not only better get your Tech+ license now, but also your used HF rig! All those old Kenwoods will be snapped up at swaps & from the classified ads real quick. My reco: get a Kenwood TS120S -- cheap($350), non-complex, all solid-state, digital readout, 80/40/20/10meters (you don't need any other bands for y2k.)

Buy it from a ham whom you know personally if you can. Right now you're at an advantage in the market: "nobody" uses HF rigs anymore (except doddering 'ragchewing' oldtimers) --- if you're "with it" in ham radio today all you do is 2m HT to your local repeater -- very convenient -- and very worthless if the grid goes down for more than a week post-y2k.

If you can't find a reliable single-party seller, try Burghardt's in South Dakota (800-927-4261.) That's where I got mine. 90-day parts & labor warranty. They're so backward in S.D. they haven't even learned how to lie yet (obviously learned nothing from our Chief Executive back in D.C.)

Stay away from anything that has tubes in it or has an 'analog' readout (like my old TS520S) -- buy only 100% solid-state digital readout (other examples of good, somewhat more expensive, vintage models: TS130S, TS140S.) A good rule of thumb: spend up to $500 for a used Kenwood.

People who've used old ICOM brand HF rigs like them, too -- but I'm not familiar with model numbers. Same rules for purchase apply to them.

Bill, KG4DHJ (ex-KA7VPX)

-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), June 01, 1999.

William, Yes, it is indeed true. All of us Tech+ will become Generals and all No-code techs will just be Technicians and the Novice will go the way of the Dodo. It will look something like this. Technician, VHF and 10 meter, Generals, original Generals and Coded Techs. and all others remain the same. The reason? you guessed it, Money. The manufacturers, Icomm, Kenwood, Alinco Etc. are not selling enough radios and may get out of the Amateur Radio business. So, our everloving Lobby, The ARRL has asked the FCC to change things so that we have more hams with HF priviledges so the manufacturers can sell more radios and the amateur market will remain profitable. Don't you just love it!!! This is supposed to happen beginning to end of third quarter, June to August time frame for all of you who don't know what that means. Yes indeed it's true and will happen soonest!!! hurray for our side!!! lol

-- Richard (Hondacon@cnnw.net), June 01, 1999.

Just what we need,more trolups,dingbats,wingnuts & kmow-it-alls on HF. Good Lord what next?

-- DBQham (DBQ@ham.net), June 01, 1999.


I looked all over the ARRL and the FCC websites just now, & can't find any evidence of the licensing restructuring happening anytime soon. Have I missed something?


-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), June 02, 1999.

Y2K Ham Radio's nemesis: Morse Code

A quick but crucial 3 pieces of advice:

1) Do NOT try to learn Morse code 'manually' -- spend the money and get a computer program. (I like Morse Tutor Gold for $30 [Order from HRO, 800-444-7927.])

2) Do NOT try to learn code by listening to Novices on the Novice bands -- they will be sending at about 5 wpm (words per minute). The important thing to grasp here is that they will be sending each character at a speed which will total up to about 5 WORDS per minute. That is BAD! Why? Because at that speed each "dit" and "dah" (dot and dash) will be coming at you so slowly that you won't be able to hear the 'rhythm' of the combo of dits and dahs. You will be able to separate out the dits and dahs. That's bad. You want, as soon as possible, to hear the Gestalt of the character, not the individual components.

So the ideal is to have code sent to you, if you're studying for your Novice or Tech+ license, at 5 WORDS per minute, but at a much higher character rate. The best rate for novices seems to be a character rate of 15wpm. How can this be done? Well, the computer program can be ordered to increase the interval between characters, in order to slow down the total time to 5 wpm. The end result is that you will hear the code sent to you at 15wpm for each character, but at 5wpm for each word (and the entire message.) Sounds confusing but it works. It's called The Farnsworth method. Make sure your code program is capable of this mode.

3) If you've passed your Novice and are studying for your General, then make a change in your program's parameters: change the character speed from 15wpm to 18wpm. The increase in character speed won't make it more difficult to copy -- it will make it EASIER. Why? Because it will be easier to hear the 'rhythm', mentioned above. It will make an immediate improvement in your rate of copying. Changing from a character speed of 15wpm to 18wpm changes the method's name too: "Slow Farnsworth" to "Fast Farnsworth."

Why will this change speed up your copying ability? Because it will prevent you from 'counting' the dots and dashes. The counting is a left hemisphere activity -- rational, linear. It's something we gentlemen depend on more than ladies. Hearing the character in 'Gestalt' is much more efficient (faster,) based as it is on right hemisphere activity. That is the best explanation for why women usually learn the code faster than men.

If all this Morse code stuff sounds too intimidating then just skip the whole subject and go back to using Ma Bell's device --- it will be there post-y2k. Count on it.


-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), June 03, 1999.

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

Ham Radio Operators Getting Ready

Wednesday, June 23, 1999, By Richard Colby of The Oregonian staff

HILLSBORO -- If the world crashes at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2000, Greg and Mark LaHaie of Hillsboro will be there to get the word out.

Armed with Morse Code's shorts and longs, the brothers are just two in an army of ham radio operators already prepared to handle all of society's vital information should the long-anticipated Y2K bug paralyze regular communications.

For Greg LaHaie, 48, a second-generation men's clothier on Hillsboro's Main Street, it's the latest twist in a hobby that first bit when he was 12.

Mark LaHaie, 43, a computer systems manager who works from his home, says he just likes the scientific and technical challenges of sending and receiving information via radio waves, sometimes by bouncing them off handy satellites passing overhead.

This weekend in Silver Falls State Park, between Stayton and Silverton east of Salem, the LaHaies will show what they know.

As part of ham radio hobbyists' ultimate ethereal convergence called Field Day, annually held on the fourth weekend of June, the LaHaies will work messages to and from as many other U.S. amateur radio operators as possible between midday Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

From Caribou, Maine, to Carmel, Calif., an estimated 30,000 fellow amateurs will be signaling each other during that time.

The LaHaies chose the state park for their exercise because of its relatively remote location -- forcing themselves to be more self-sufficient in a tent -- and because an inquiring public will be able to view them at work.

Transmission success, says Greg LaHaie -- call sign K7YDL --will depend on each operator's skills and the independent reliability of his or her equipment.

For the brothers -- Mark LaHaie is KC7VPR -- that means trying to power all their radio transmissions with batteries charged ahead of time using solar power. With other batteries handy as backups, they will at least have no computer-driven power grids to worry about.

Not coincidentally, Greg LaHaie says, the battery-from-solar practice will mean extra points in the national competition that's part of the Field Day exercise.

An organization based in Newington, Conn., called the American Radio Relay League will compare each operating team's contact log with those from other teams to determine who had the most contacts, among other things. The winners won't receive cash or other awards, but they will get bragging rights in the amateur radio fraternity.

And, says Mark LaHaie, the practice will bring him and his brother closer to readiness if a real emergency strikes. "A dry run flushes up any inconsistencies," he says.

A real emergency could be a Y2K paralysis in January, or it might be that devastating earthquake that geologists have been saying could strike Oregon from the Pacific Ocean to the middle of the Willamette Valley sometime in the next 50 years or so.

In West Virginia, Greg LaHaie says, amateur radio operators were participating in last year's Field Day when a real emergency hit.

Floods struck a town, and hams quickly began relaying information from the National Weather Service to an emergency operations center.

In cases when it's not Field Day, the clothier says, hams can be out and operating within an hour or two for as long as authorities might need them.

Since his Hillsboro childhood, Greg LaHaie says, he's seen changes in ham radio technology that have embraced the personal computer.

"Packet" communications, which his more computer-savvy brother handles with a Y2K-ready laptop machine, mean much more efficient use of the airwaves by transmitting gobs of information digitally -- as ones and zeroes -- compared with much slower voice communicating.

But if the occasion calls for the old standby "CW" transmissions -- what ham radio operators call Morse Code that is still about 10 times more efficient than voice calls -- Greg LaHaie says he's ready with a long-practiced telegrapher's hand.

You can reach Richard N. Colby at 503-294-5961 or by e-mail at dickcolby@news.oregonian.com
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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 25, 1999.

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