Saturday, August 8, 2009

Traditional Sized

I am a ham radio operator, the holder of a General License although I have retained my original Novice license. I did that so as not to intimidate the youngsters who attended my classes in Morse Code and basic electronics.

Many were drawn to ham radio because it allowed them to maintain communications with their home or office... assuming there was another licensed ham radio operator on the other end. But ham radio was also of benefit during the Voyager's around the world flight in 1987, when a group of us monitored the progress of the flight.

I still use ham radio to monitor the location of my 1965 VW bus. Should I ever go missing in the desert -- or should the bus be stolen -- its location can be determined to within 50 meters or so through a combination of ham radio and GPS.

In the delightful novels of Alexander McCall Smith, author of 'The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' and more than thirty others, Mma Ramotswe, the Botswana detective describes herself as a lady of 'traditional' size. By comparison, the 'traditional size' of the station of the typical ham radio operator would fill six to eight feet of shelf space, which makes it rather difficult to grasp the size of the present-day 'communications station,' which fits in my ear.

Actually, the ear-piece is just the microphone and head-phones. The transciever is my cell phone, which fits in my pocket. Anyone having the number of my cell phone may contact me any time I am 'on line.' Which isn't very often.

Of course, the modern-day system of cell phones depends upon the existing system of land-lines to work. That is, our cell phones connect to a local receiver-computer which locates the station you are calling. It then uses the land-lines to send your message to a transmitter/receiver nearest to the station you are trying to contact, which then connects you to that station. The key point here is that your cell phone depends upon the existence of the traditional web of wires or cables. Should there be a disaster that damages those land-lines, your cell-phone will not work, whereas the traditional ham radio station will continue to work since it does not depend on land-lines.

Today I am measuring valve springs for four heads. I'll be working in the shop where I can't hear the ring of a telephone. So I'm wearing my cell phone in my ear. The ear-piece talks to the cell phone in my pocket. About the size of a pack of king-size cigarettes, this has become the 'traditional size' for personal communications


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