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.
Originally published in the March/April 2014 issue of The Radiogram
In a recent QST article entitled “More Views on Pileup Misbehavior,” the author expressed his opinion that pileups are more unruly now than ever before, and the reason for this is that hams who are calling a DX station have either a genetic predisposition toward conflict, or a complete disregard for the rules. I don’t know about about any of you, but my own experience from recent pileups doesn’t quite match this description. Sure there are always those few who continue calling even if the letters in their call sign are nowhere near what the DX station came back to, or when working split, there’s the occasional few who don’t get the message and call on the DXer’s transmit frequency instead. But these are rare exceptions. The biggest menace lately is the increasing number of what I call “Band Cops.”
Have you ever wondered who these people are? The fact is, we don’t know because they never identify. They sit on a DX calling frequency, (obviously without any intention of contacting the DX, since they don’t operate split). Furthermore, they have stations that most of us would probably envy, because their signals are almost always 20db over S-9! This makes you question why they don’t just work the DX station and move on, but instead they park themselves there for an extraordinary length of time, just waiting for the opportunity to pounce.
But why? What authority do they believe they have to “police” the bands, and for who’s benefit? Certainly not hams like me who are trying to work the DX but can’t hear them because there’s 3 idiots who are screaming “he’s working split! Up! Up! Up!” over and over and over. Most of the time I don’t even hear the so-called offending station – if there even is one! As far as I’m concerned, these “band cops” are causing intentional interference, and are the only ones breaking any laws.
What is the Solution?
Now, in order to best answer this question, let’s first identify the disorder that is at the root of this problem. “Band Cops,” we know, have or show a feeling of patronizing superiority. In psychology, this is called a Narcissitic Personality Disorder. Unfortunately, this is one of the three most difficult disorders to treat. It is definied as an ongoing pattern of grandiosity and need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. It should be noted that it’s three times more common in males than females. (which seems to hold true, since I’ve never heard a YL Band Cop). These individuals have an obvious self love, and they believe they are more knowledgeable and indeed an expert in “the rules of DXing,” among other things. Furthermore, they are usually shocked when they are not praised for their efforts.
The QST article, which blames inexperienced and “unruly” hams for “Pileup Misbehavior” is unfortunately the kind of condescending and unhelpful nonsense that is actually the most damaging behavior in amateur radio today. It seems to me that if this were truly an issue, then the easiest way to fix it would be through education and support – something it doesn’t offer. It is more likely that this particular article, in a misguided attempt to deflect blame, is written by a card carrying “Band Cop” himself.
Since I’ve now shocked the “Band Cop” community by not praising their efforts, I will now attempt to explain my reasoning. The biggest being that you’re doing it all wrong! So, to help assist you in your future band-policing efforts, I’ve come up with a few simple rules:
Rule Number 1 – For a split operation, spend most of your day listening and transmitting on the DX sending frequency. On CW, if somebody calls on this frequency, right away, using your Vibroplex at 5 wpm, send: VP.. UG.. NP… UP (until you get it right).
This has three benefits:
A. Others waiting to work the DX station will be forever indebted to you for informing the offending station that the DX is working split.
B. The offending station will be grateful.
C. You will get some needed code practice so you can get over that 5 wpm hump.
Rule Number 2 – (For those with CW and Voice memory keyers, this will be easy). All you have to do is pre-program some macros with the words: “UP” and “LID.” For the more advanced operators, you can try “SPLIT” or “YOU IDIOT, WORKING SPLIT.” And don’t forget the simple, but effective “FU.”
Using the memory keyers for your days policing will save your voice. Should you happen, by chance, to have a QSO… you might need it.
We are now entering the final month of the Canada 150 Celebrations and the last few weeks to work the RAC special event stations and other special call signs.
The RAC Canada 150 Award is a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday since Confederation in 1867. The Award is issued for contacting RAC stations between July 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017.
As of December 11th, these stations are scheduled be active throughout the month:
VA2RAC – André Perron, VE2ZT, will operate every weekend until the end of December on various band from 80m to 6m.
VE1RAC – Bob Schofield, VE1RSM, Fred Archibald, VE1FA, Helen Archibald, VA1YL and Scott Nichols, VE1OP, will activate VE1RAC for the rest of 2017.
VA3RAC –Rob Noakes, VE3PCP, will operate VA3RAC from Friday, December 8 until Sunday, December 10.
VE4RAC – Cary Rubenfeld, VE4EA, assisted by other Winnipeg Amateurs, will be operating as VE4RAC from time to time until the end of the year.
VE5RAC – Bj Madsen, VE5FX, is operating as VE5RAC on 20m SSB during the year.
VE6RAC – David Gervais, VE6KD, will operate from December 4 to December 10 and Gord Kosmenko, VE6SV, from December 11 until December 31.
VE7RAC – Fred Orsetti, VE7IO, has organized the following volunteers to operate the VE7RAC call sign for the rest of the year: Doug Pichette, VA7DP, Gabor Horvath, VE7JH, Al McNeil, VA7QQ, John Mackay, VE7RB, Al Ross, VE7WJ, Jim Smith, VE7FO, Rebecca Kimoto, VA7BEC, Koji Kimoto, VA7KO, Brian Summers, VE7JKZ, John White, VA7JW, John Schouten, VE7TI and Fred Orsetti, VE7IO. A schedule is provided below.
VE8RAC – Gerry St Amand, VE8GER, operated from his cabin near Inuvik in the Northwest Territories until December 8.
VE9RAC – Jean-Paul Leblanc, VE9BK and Marcel Leblanc, VE9ML will be activating VE9RAC for the rest of the year. Andy McLellan, VE9DX, is also operating as VE9RAC on digital modes only.
VO1RAC – Boyd Snow, VO1DI, RAC NL Section Manager, has organized several RAC members across Newfoundland to activate VO1RAC as follows: Ken Tucker, VO1KVT, from December 3-9; Dave Parsons, VO1COD, from December 10-16; Chris Hillier, VO1IDX, from December 17-23; and Boyd Snow, VO1DI, from December 24-31.
VO2RAC – Nazaire Simon, VO2NS, from Labrador City and Chris Allingham, VE3FU/VO2AC, who will be operating a remote station in Goose Bay from Ontario, will be operating as VO2RAC for the rest of the year.
VY0RAC – Mike Shouldice, VY0CF, will operate VY0RAC until December 31.
VY1RAC – Allen Wootton, VY1KX, will operate VY1RAC until December 8 and David Musselwhite, VY1XY, will operate from December 17 to December 23 and in the RAC Canada Winter Contest on December 30. A schedule is provided below.
VY2RAC – Greg McCormick, VY2MP, Ron Huybers, VY2HR and Ken McCormick, VY2RU, will continue to activate VY2RAC through the end of 2017.
In addition, there are efforts to have all 14 RAC stations active for the RAC Canada Winter Contest, on December 30th.
Click here for more information about the RAC Canada 150 Award.