Computers dominate most of my time. My job keeps me tapping on the keyboard most days, and my love of learning about new technologies (and administering my many Gentoo Linux machines) keeps me tapping away most nights. Sometimes I need another outlet, which is why over the last few years I have become more active with my amateur radio hobby -- a.k.a. ham radio.
Although wireless communications are now commonplace, there is a certain mystique in pulling signals out of the air that most people don't even know are there. The shortwave (HF), VHF, and UHF radio bands are full of interesting programs, conversation, and mysterious bloops. In my quest to contribute as many bloops on the air as possible, I recently purchased a nice radio kit called The Rockmite.
The Rockmite is a low power (QRP) shortwave transceiver (combination receiver and transmitter) that can send morse code (CW) on a variety of frequencies. I built the 7.030 MHz model, which operates on the 40 meters ham radio band. It has a maximum output of 0.5 watts, which may sound wimpy to most, but on shortwave frequencies such a rig is capable of sending signals around the world. In fact, the distance record for the Rockmite is a ham in Tennessee communicating with someone in New Zealand! Yes, I can call anyone in NZ for free on Skype wirelessly on my iPhone, but that's not the point -- it's the mystique and satisfaction that a few diodes, some wire, and a few hours to solder it together can create a useful communications tool.
Amateur radio is probably one of the few technical hobbies that still exist. The community reminds me of the old days (late 80's) computer fair scene, before AOL plastered the world with their free demo CD-ROM's.
Posted: Sep 15, 2010
Keyword tags: ham radioshortwave radioamateur radiorockmitetransceiverCWaltoidselectronics