Taking a close look into the open channels of ham radio.
We’re closer now than we’ve ever been to the Civil War or economic collapse, so why not take $20 bucks, go on Amazon, and get a ham radio? It’s like an FM radio you can use to broadcast and receive messages on multiple radio frequencies.
When’s the last time you even heard “ham radio” aloud? It could be that your grandpa was an operator. Maybe you’re into prepping – no one is laughing at Survivalists anymore.
Thanks to a gross overestimate the government made, you have the $10 needed to become a Ham. Yes, that’s radio slang for what ham radio users are really called. There’s a lot of terrible slang made by old white gentlemen. In a worst-case scenario, ham radio could be the difference between life and death. For now, it’s a Friday night that includes basic algebra and some great chipmunk talk.
Full disclosure: Ham’s are almost 100 percent old dudes. There are some NASA workers who don’t know how to spend government paychecks on anything cool. The first thing you realize listening in on ham transmissions is the income gap. The basic chatter includes Trump voters babbling about their immense property before a strong transition into plans for the regatta. Fingers crossed that’ll take place next year.
The most interesting thing about amateur radio is that the whole service is reliant on the operators in the local area. These people run repeaters that boost signals. They train and help educate curious and future ham radio operators as an “Elmer.” Yes, more radio slang! Licensed hams have been called to broadcast emergency messages across the country. There are rules, but the FCC can’t police every local radio transmission in the country. It’s a waste of time, but some of these older gentlemen do have the equipment to track you down.
Most of the real talk happens on the net. A net is just a meeting on an open ended frequency at a set time. Anyone can listen in, but only licensed Hams can talk at any time. Imagine a live, open to the whole word style DM group chat with a leader.
Nets have people giving info for other upcoming Nets. On occasion, giveaways may be underway. Some Nets also have a trivia question and everyone gets a chance to speak and give their call sign and answers.
It’s all good, clean fun, but don’t talk without a license! It’s like $10. The test is more difficult to study for than taking the test itself, but you will have to study. Up until recently, you had to know Morse code as well. However, you do have to jump through some pretty weird hoops.
You first have to register with the FCC to even attempt to take the test. Even if tests aren’t your thing, listening to the nets can get pretty weird – especially some of the late-night ones. Once more, it’s illegal to talk on your ham radio without your license on almost every frequency. You’re left with little choice but to listen and and hear what people have to say.
Sometimes there’s a literal ham legend like Gordon “Gordo” West WB6NOA. He wrote the book on amateur ham and many other classes of radio testing. Sometimes you can catch him answering questions for anyone who wants to ask. That is, until someone breaks into the Net. In my experience, I’ve heard people mention dildos in their dresser, one guy screams “fuck you” every fucking now and then. The best part about it is that no one acknowledges it – they keep moving forward. You get envious of those old, rich white NASA workers. They sit down, fire up the radio, and talk to some old friends.
You can definitely call people on the phone now, but it feels different to talk on an open channel. If the world takes a shit, radio is one of the only ways to talk to your buddies down the street. You know, like how to figure out how you’re going to topple the patriarchy or whatever the next thing to sort out is when money isn’t worth anything.
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James Earl Brassfield or simply JEB is a writer, podcast host, humorist, actor and “Black Hunter Thompson” type madman of no ill repute. Language has yet to evolve fully to describe his unique view of Northeast Ohio and the world. JEB produces work across all media with his original and clearly stated voice. @Jearlbrass