Mark Frauenfelder at 12:15 pm Mon, Sep 6, 2010
ADVERTISE AT BOING BOING!
Artist Mitch O'Connel bought a some unusual CB radio cards at a flea market.
Love these personal CB radio cards, the more homemade looking the better. The sometimes naive art seems more personal, contains great left field imagery and, as an artist, less threatening!
I love the blurred addresses but the clear call signs. These individuals can be readily tracked by the latter, so the anonymizing the former is really a moot point. Still, I don’t see how these could be published at all without the ID signs without crippling the purpose. An artistic conundrum.
I wrote a piece last year and interviewed members of a long-time Ham Radio Operators club. The gist of it was, the majority of the operators are aging, with no new blood coming in due to the ease of global communication via this Internets Doohickey. Amateur radio is, unfortunately, a dying field/pursuit. While adhering to strict regulation and a perpetually-narrowing bandwidth, U.S. amateur radio operators are the last mavericks of the radio waves, truly keeping the public in public broadcasting. Masters of their own domains (i.e., radio sets), they aren’t reliant on increasingly commercialized corporate/politico networks, and they serve with dedication and skill during times of crisis when other forms of comm are down. Give one a shout out today, or better yet, buy a set and take to the air!
It is too bad that the people you spoke to were so badly informed. What they were probably trying to express is that their older ham buddies were dying off and they didn’t feel that the young punks were worth a damn at the code key hence the art and science of amateur radio was also fading away. I will admit that many younger hams in the last 20-30 years don’t bother so much with clubs due to bitter old WW-II radio operators now in club officer positions slamming the doors in their faces.
Especially in the last decade there has been large growth in new amateur radio license holders.
What is funny is that these people in the article actually printed QSL cards for CB radio which is mostly local prop, maybe it was during a solar max where 27mhz got good skip and they made wink-wink accidental DX contacts during the day. US FCC rules prohibit intentional DX on CB channels although I don’t think the FCC really ever worried much about the 11M sewer as long as the denizens don’t exit their alloted frequencies.
I do miss having real issued CB call signs though, I remember mine from when I was 8 to this day.
You’ve hit the nail on the head with the old timers. A lot of the local clubs take on a social club mentality, and if you are new, you ain’t one of the old boys. I know a few younger guys here don’t bother with the club, because nothing much seems to happen with it. Same old meetings, and the same old Field Day event to cap it off.
I hate to point out that the general theme of these comments is glossing over the point that carrying a handset and knowledge of pre-digital broadcasting is quite different. Licenses are certainly up, but the quality of those licenses has declined; the number of land stations manned by ‘young punks’, those most important in declarations of emergency, have been declining for decades. What was once an experimental avocation advancing broadcasting has become just another hobby for those with enough money and interest to dabble in another comm system while talking on Skype and texting on their Blackberries.
The derisive tone toward the ‘older members’ reveals a startling lack of thanks and respect for those who dedicated their time and skill so today’s hams can ride around and transmit with less technical knowledge than those only a few decades older than they. And while hand keying might seem quaint to the digital users, it served a purpose as both an expansion of skill in extreme circumstances and a de facto rite of passage for entry into a once-highly specialized, yet utterly democratic, field.
Inness, now you are also misunderstanding the younger face of amateur radio. If you read the comments carefully you will see that it is the BAD old hams who ruined many donuts and gossip radio clubs. We all need an elmer(teacher, male or female) and it is the GOOD old and young people who are among those who step up to fulfill one of the charter missions of amateur radio, education.
You seem to imply that everyone under 60 who gets their ham ticket goes out and buys a FM walkie-talkie to CB jabber on the repeater and calls that good. I am beginning to see why the sad old gentleman you interviewed and were so swayed by cant get any new members, although I suspect you may have had a prejudice to begin with. It seems that building a software controlled radio from scratch, programming a PIC controller, bouncing a few watts off the moon and catching it on the other side of the earth are all gimmicks at least to you compared to a admittedly very useful skill of a beautiful Morse code fist and a tube powered HF rig.
Don’t be deceived, there have always been a small percentage of hams who bought a radio and paid an installer but almost every ham I know has several radios that they have soldered together for themselves, and well over half of the antennas, especially the stealthy ones you never see are hand made. It is writers like you who have helped overbearing homeowner associations force us to hide our base stations and degraded the quality of our antennas in favor of stealth against the actual benifit to society but dont worry we are still there in larger numbers than ever ready to grab our gear at a moments notice to make local, regional, or intercontinental communications possible in ANY emergency.
Morse code on HF is still important, Elmers are more important than ever, melted solder is important, building your own gear or modding used or broken equipment is as important as it has always been. Guess what, research into innovation that might even include a digital controller or frequencies above VHF that lack a manual code key are also very important.
People like you attack us the radio DIY’ers and write the articles that inspire big business to lobby their paid for senators to strip the amateur radio service; crusty bums, great old elmers, girl scouts, and everyone in between of the frequency and protection we need to help your community in an emergency, inspire young geeks, or develop the tech for your next generation consumer grade iphone, skype, or IM.
Don’t worry, when we trot out the actual value we represent to the world it has been enough so far to hold back ever hyper profitable mobile phone corporations.
We seem to be arguing while agreeing on a multitude of points. I am definitely not “people like you,” and while I resent the ad hominem attack, I’ll sidestep the affront for the sake of my initial, seemingly still misunderstood statement, that the “Elmers” (the ‘good’ ones, as opposed to the “bad” ones) deserve respect; and the field deserves increased interest from more than hobbyists.
The crux of the dissent seems to center on the adjective “young”. As I only report what I’ve seen, I’ll agree to end this without forwarding the curmudgeon defense; that all latter generations are inferior to their elders.
I think you may have difficulty getting an address from these callsigns. They’ve not been issuing CB callsigns for a very long time. Ham radio is another story.
I’ve been involved in ham radio since my early 20s (now 32), and have been hearing that same story over and over. Ham radio is dying, no young people are getting into it, etc. Others tell me that they’ve been hearing that since the 50s. Meanwhile, US amateur radio licencees are at an all time high, and new licenses are being granted at rates that break the record every year for the past several years. It’s the same story in many other countries as well. I don’t think it’s going to be dying out any time soon.
I’ve been into computer communications since I’ve been able to, from BBS to modern internet, and I can say that the Internet has had a great positive effect on ham radio… it’s a great way to quickly spread information about new pursuits, methods, and to arrange on-air contacts. Without knowledge and software gained from the Internet, I probably wouldn’t have tried Earth-Moon-Earth communication, for instance.
If you are into electronics, communications, and experimentation, getting an amateur radio license will allow you to use radio frequencies for all kinds of neat stuff. It’s a lot of fun!
Sean – VA5LF
Also, while there is a constant battle to keep our freqs every few years we end up acquiring some new frequency especially in the HF region where we lost so many chunks during and after WW-II. Don’t worry about amateur radio, it is where most telecommunications advances are born, even now.
Sure there will be less Morse code since they removed that from all tests, but with all of the great digital modes and higher frequency equipment amateur radio is still the worldwide pool of experts and frequency that will drive innovation.
These CB QSL cards, based on Amateur “ham” Radio QSL cards, are clearly from licensed individuals — note the callsigns. Before the CB boom, the Citizens Radio Service was utilized by thousands of individuals and small businesses who followed the FCC (Part 95) rules.
But please, don’t confuse CB Radio with Amateur “Ham” Radio, and despite what inness wrote, ham radio is far from dying. Yes, today’s youth has alternatives to ham radio, like computers and robotics, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t kids getting involved and licensed. Good information is available online at arrl.org.
Hams continue to develop technologies that become commonplace, almost always without the public having any idea that volunteer “hobbyists” were instrumental in making digital cell phones and wireless email, for example, possible. (Google “amateur packet radio” — hams operated an international, wireless email network in the 1980s.) One of the first TCP/IP “stacks” for DOS computers was developed by radio amateur Phil Karn, in part for use of ham radio, and was named after his FCC-issued ham callsign: KA9Q. And the technology for “mirosats” (extremely small, earth-orbiting satellites) was developed by radio amateurs as a way to more economically increase the number of AMSATs (AMateur radio SATellites) in orbit. Yes, hams have their own “fleet” of communications satellites in orbit. (I seem to recall that the first non-governmental, communications satellite was an AMSAT.)
Oh, yeah, the cards. Google for “QSL Cards” to see examples of the cards ham operators still exchange to confirm their radio contacts. (We also use verified computer logs these days, but there’s still something special about the cards.)
(And yes, I still have the card from my first ham radio contact, as well as cards from well over 100 countries.)
There is a huge archive of these at http://myqsl.org/
Pretty neat stuff!
I have fond memories of CB from the late Sixties.
My father loved to talk with people in his car and sometimes from our “base station.”
Call-signs were loosly-enforced, if at all. No one particularly swore or ranted, or abused the medium.
It may sound too good to be true, but that’s the way it was.
I remember being a kid, and getting my first CB radio and license. It was so much fun that when the band went to the toilet shortly there after, I was motivated to get my first Amateur Radio license. That was in ’76, and I have an Extra Class ticket now. Actually knowing some radio theory has come in very handy working with various wireless technologies. Just as knowing some electronics has been damn handy when working in networking.
The funny thing is, from what I’ve seen, the hobby is doing pretty good. Then again, I was connected to a club that was not dominated by old folks who weren’t interested in the kids. Which might be odd, as it is the oldest continuously operating Amateur Radio club in the country. Yeah, the club had a lot of older members, but the most active of them were the most mentally agile of them, most of the most active people, however, were often the youngest. I moved away a couple of years ago, but I stay in touch, and the club is still introducing new people to radio, and getting them trained and licensed. Membership has actually slowly grown, as the club is bringing in slightly more than the replacement rate. Which is pretty good, when you figure I can do more on my cell phone then I could do on a radio back when ham radio was at its peak.
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