The Maine Bicentennial Special Event, an amateur radio activity celebrating the 200th anniversary of Maine statehood, will take place between March 16th and March 22nd, 2020.
Twelve special event call signs will be active, each representing one of Maine’s nine original counties, plus three special locations that have historical significance. These include the city of Boston (K1B), which was capital of the District of Maine while it was still part of Massachusetts, Jameson Tavern, in Freeport (K1J), where the papers were signed that separated Maine from Massachusetts, and Portland (K1P), which was Maine’s first capital. The original nine counties will be represented by the following call signs during the event: Cumberland (W1C), Hancock (W1H), Kennebec (W1K), Lincoln (W1L), Oxford (W1O), Penobscot (W1P), Somerset (W1S), Washington (W1W), and York (W1Y).
Maine became the nation’s 23rd state on March 15, 1820, following an election in the District of Maine, and passage of the Missouri Compromise in Washington. Although the idea of separation from Massachusetts was a controversial one, 70% of Maine voters eventually chose statehood.
The ham radio special event will coincide with several other celebrations during Maine’s Bicentennial year. Amateur radio operators from across Maine and Massachusetts, will operate from both portable and home stations. On-air activities will begin at 0000 UTC on March 16th, and continue through 2359 UTC on March 22nd.
Certificates will be awarded to hams who contact special event stations, with endorsements available for bands, modes, and a clean sweep for contacts with each of the Maine 200 Special Event call signs.
YORK, ME – The WS1SM team ventured to the summit of Mt. Agamenticus on May 19th, meeting for breakfast at Maine Diner, in Wells, before making their way up the mountain. Among those who participated were Greg Dean K1ME, CJ Carlsson W1CJC, Brad Brown KC1JMH, Eric Emery KC1HJK, and myself. It was my second activation from the summit, having been part of the 2013 team, but for the others, it was their first SOTA activation from Mt. Agamenticus (W1/AM-381).
Being a former ski area “The Big A,” Mt. Aggie is more developed than most of the mountains we hike to. There is a summit house, that was once a ski lodge, well groomed hiking trails, a parking area, and remnants of an old T-bar chair lift, among other relics. We set up our stations on a picnic table on the northern side of the clearing at the top.
Among the equipment used were my Yaesu Ft-857d and BuddiPole rotatable dipole, which I used on 14 and 21 MHz, CJ’s Icom IC706, which was paired with a 40m dipole strung in the trees, and various VHF radios. Greg brought a yagi for 144, which made for some interesting contacts, and we also used a TYT TH-9000D and J Pole for 220 MHz. Brad KC1JMH also took the opportunity to try his partially finished QRP kit on the air for the first time.
The weather was cloudy and windy at times, but otherwise pretty nice compared to the several days of rain that preceded the expedition. The only rain we experienced was a little bit on the drive toward the mountain, and some during setup, but it didn’t last. Conditions on the HF bands were much worse, however, and contacts were slow going with only a handful on SSB and CW. We made the majority of our QSOs on VHF, making one summit-to-summit contact, and one as far away as Boxboro, MA on 2 meter FM Simplex.
Photos courtesy of Eric Emery (copyright mark), and Brad Brown
For more information about WSSM SOTA expeditions, click here.
Amateur Radio has never been considered a mainstream hobby, but it has had its fair share of time in the spotlight of American popular culture – the most notable being when the hobby is featured on television or film. We’ll take a look back at some of ham radio’s more memorable appearances from the past, and a few recent ones.
When I was a boy, I used to love reading detective books and watching movies of the same genre. One of the first ones I remember that featured ham radio was a film called Nancy Drew, Detective, starring Bonita Granville (Warner Bros., 1938), where the teenage sleuth’s friend, Ted, showed off his radio shack and demonstrated the art of making a QSO. It played a minor role in the plot of the story as well. Ted even had a call sign – W8YZR, by which we can infer that Nancy’s fictional home town of River Heights must be located somewhere in the Midwest.
Another film from around the same era is The Men of Boys Town (MGM, 1941). In this sequel to the popular film Boys Town, Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney), has frequent conversations with his friend Pee Wee (Bobs Watson) over the airwaves. Whitey transmits from the home of his adoptive parents, while Pee Wee operates from the Boys Town club station.
A scene in Orson Welles’ famous rendition of The War of the Worlds for Mercury Radio Theater, which aired on October 30, 1938 over the Columbia Broadcasting System, features an amateur radio operator saying: “2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . New York. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone . . . 2X2L”
The Glass Bottom Boat (MGM, 1966), starring Doris Day, who has a “20-foot antenna,” shows her corkboard full of DX QSL cards above her Collins and Marine radio gear. Day uses a radio to talk to “Pop” (played by real-life ham Arthur Godfrey, K4LIB).
Based on true events, The Red Tent (Paramount, 1969), tells the story of the dirigible Italia, which crashed over the Arctic ice cap after flying over the North Pole in 1928. Authorities believed no one could have possibly survived the accident and soon gave up searching for survivors, until a young Russian radio amateur, Nikolai Schmidt (Nikolai Ivanov), heard on his modest radio set the faint SOS signals sent from the wreck site by Roberto Biagi (Mario Adorf). Thanks to the information provided by Schmidt, the rescue of the survivors was organized. The Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, first man to reach the South Pole, perished during the rescue operation.
Another film from around that time, The Anderson Tapes (Columbia 1971), starring Sean Connery who portrays a recently paroled thief that decides to rob an entire apartment building, while unknown to him, the government is watching and listening to every move via telephoto lenses and shotgun mikes. His character disables all telephone lines, but a young boy, in a wheelchair, is able to summon help via his ham radio. In the end, the government destroys all tapes because they had no legal business placing him under surveillance.
Ham radio enjoyed a renaissance in popular culture in the 1990’s. Some movies from the time include Pump Up the Volume (New Line Cinema, 1990), where a teenager’s father provides him with amateur radio equipment to keep in touch with his friends on his native east coast when his job transfers him to Arizona. However, the teenager uses the equipment to start a pirate radio station promoting his cynical views on American life.
The science fiction film, Contact (Warner Bros., 1997), starring Jodie Foster playing Dr. Arroway, opens with the heroine operating a ham radio transceiver as a child, using the callsign W9GFO. She later becomes a researcher working in SETI.
The Sweet Hereafter (Alliance, 1997) starring Ian Holm, features a scene where a man is sitting at a table, holding a pair of communication headphones up to one ear. On the wall is a plastic QSL card holder full of cards.
In the mystery-science fiction film, Frequency (New Line Cinema, 2000), John Sullivan (played by Jim Caviezel), and his father Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid) use ham radio to communicate; due to unusual aurora borealis activity John is able to communicate via ham radio with his father 30 years in the past.
So far, we’ve looked primarily at movies, but ham radio also been referenced several times in television and short film as well. One of the more-subtle references appears in the Disney cartoon, Donald’s Better Self, (Walt Disney, 1938), where Donald Duck is pursued by both angel and devil versions of himself. In one scene, the devil duck calls CQ from a mailbox as he passes by.
In the popular TV show, ALF (1986-1990), an Alien Life Form crash lands at the Los Angeles home of Willie Tanner, who is a ham.
In an episode of the Munsters (1964-1966), Grandpa Munster, uses an army surplus BC-654 field radio as a ham station.
In an episode of The Loretta Young Show (1953-1961), a young couple are snowed in at a ski chalet when a boy with pneumonia shows up at their door. Rita (played by Loretta Young), uses a ham station at the chalet to summon medical assistance.
In a double episode of The Waltons (1971-1981), Jim-Bob uses ham radio to help two young guests speak to their mother in England.
In an episode of The Jetsons (Hanna-Barbera 1962-1963), George’s son, Elroy, uses an interstellar version of ham radio to chase DX.
In an episode of M*A*S*H (Fox, 1972-1983), called “Springtime”, Henry uses ham radio so Father Mulcahy can marry Klinger to his girl back in the USA. The other “ham” that gets in the middle of the QSO with her recipes is Mary Kay Place.
Similarly, in an episode of McHale’s Navy, one of McHale’s crew members finds out about the birth of his baby back home via a phone patch from a Stateside ham radio operator.
On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that aired May 13th, 2005, they held a showdown between Morse code ops Chip K7JA of Yaesu USA and Ken K6CTW and “the fastest text messagers in the country” to see who could transmit the message “I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance” faster. The Morse code operators won by completing the message first.
The main character of Last Man Standing (Fox, 2011-Current), Mike Baxter, (played by Tim Allen), is a ham radio operator, and ham radio is figured into many episodes – one of the most memorable is a scene where Mike retreats to his basement ham shack during Thanksgiving dinner to talk on the radio while his family squabbles upstairs.
Club member, Brad Brown KC1JMH, let us know recently that, in addition to the character, the show’s executive producer is a real licensed ham and he and several other crew members are on the air every Tuesday night at 23:45 UTC (6:45p EST) as “KA6LMS”. They often work 20 meters, and post where they are on dxsummit.fi. They also post the station log on Facebook and send out cards. This coming Tuesday, they plan on being active on D-STAR REF 012A during the same time slot.
Amateur Radio has also been prominently featured in print. One book that I remember distinctly was a Hardy Boys mystery called “The Short-Wave Mystery” (Grosset & Dunlap, 1945). The events that set the plot into action are when the Hardy Boys hear a mysterious call for help on their shortwave radio set: “Help — Hudson”. This happens while their father, Fenton Hardy, is investigating nation-wide thefts of radio equipment by a group of criminals called “The Hudson Gang”.
Ham radio is also featured in an Archie Comic, Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure (1997), and in at least two Dilbert cartoons. In one of them, Dilbert’s date hints that Dilbert’s sex appeal would be increased if he got his ham radio license. In another, one of Dilbert’s team members says that she got her ham radio license in a workshop held by Dogbert.
Looking back, a lot of these rekindled old memories. At the time I first encountered many of them, I had no idea what amateur radio was really like, and remarkably, many offer an accurate portrayal. This was by no means a complete list, nor was it meant to be, but hopefully you’ve had as much fun revisiting them as I did.