The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL)
May 8, 2001 9:32 AM   Subscribe

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) was founded in 1914 to support amateur radio experimenters (hams) that the U.S. began licensing in 1912. The ARRL's 163k+ members refer to each other by strange codes, speak in arcane abbreviations, and do extremely cool things like talk to the space shuttle and international space station via ARISS/SAREX (in the news recently), do two-way EME (earth-moon-earth) communication, and ragchewing (chin wagging) with folks in other countries via commercial and homebrew equipment. And their handbook is a great reference for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of electronics. Sounds like fun.
posted by jplummer (20 comments total)
Indeed. My old, well-worn 1991 copy of the ARRL handbook is currently on loan to a friend who wanted to learn about antennas, db gain, SWR, and other goodies because he's been playing with the idea of starting up an Austin community wireless net.

The ARRL antenna book is fabulously interesting, in a most geeky way, too.

And you forgot to mention QRP operation -- running stations that operate on extremely low power (just a couple watts, or even a fraction of a watt). Contacting stations in distant lands by tapping out morse code and transmitting it over a tiny, low-powered device that you built by hand in a 5x7 index card file is really a great thrill.

The world needs more hams.

KE4JZN, general class license holder since '94.
posted by jammer at 9:35 AM on May 8, 2001

Omigod...I'm about to reveal my geekiness: KF4LRL.

But out of curiosity, why the ham post now?
posted by jennak at 9:45 AM on May 8, 2001

But out of curiosity, why the ham post now?

I'd say it's a great example of a Memepool-style entry, covering all the cool bases of a topic in a single post.

I'm not a ham but I've got a few received QSL cards in storage somewhere, including a pirate out of Texas.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:00 AM on May 8, 2001


It's cool that there are still people out there plugging away at this when the Internet has so completely exploded the ability for people to communicate into a gazillion permutations.
posted by briank at 11:07 AM on May 8, 2001

Recommended, vis a vis telegraphy: The Victorian Internet. We've been down this road before. ;-)
posted by bradlands at 11:17 AM on May 8, 2001

"The Victorian Internet" was one of the most disappointing books I have ever read about technology. Yet another case of a magazine article expanded into a book by adding lots of filler.
posted by briank at 11:25 AM on May 8, 2001

Indeed; I too was wondering what was up.

But, instead, I'll just point out a news outlet that covers the service (I was going to say hobby, but if you've ever found out your daughter in a hurricane area was safe from a ham, you'll understand why I changed my mind), an outlet that, though it's changed it's name to the stunningly unimpressive Amateur Radio Newsline, *I* will always thing of as WestLink.

Bravo, BTW, Jenna; where were you when *I* was that age and there weren't any female hams under 40...?

Oh, and BTW: Briank? What happens to your internet connection when the hurricane knocks all the wires down? :-)
posted by baylink at 11:52 AM on May 8, 2001

Oh yeah: ex-KA1FJX/4

Gotta go re-test...
posted by baylink at 11:53 AM on May 8, 2001

That's a lot of wires, baylink.
posted by briank at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2001


Unfortunately, Amateur Radio will only be truly cool again when Mars is colonized. Or aliens finally make contact.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:26 PM on May 8, 2001

If you want to get involved in ham, where's a good place to start?
posted by SpecialK at 1:01 PM on May 8, 2001

SpecialK, assuming you're in the US, you can contact the ARRL. Or do a Web search for a local club in your area.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:04 PM on May 8, 2001

But out of curiosity, why the ham post now?

I had recently gotten my hooks into a couple of kits from Solarbotics. They were cool, but I didn't really understand how the circuits worked, and I wanted to know more. I had learned a bit about electronics in my childhood, but needed an accessible book that could lead me back into it. My Dad's recommendation: the ARRL Handbook. That rang a bell, but in the distance, faintly. I ordered the book, and it arrived yesterday. With it, a flood of memories: sitting on my step-grandad's lap in his basement in Helena while he listened to some fellow on the east coast tap out a (to me, unintelligible) message; my Dad's green sweater that said K7RYN on the back; the strange and ambitious forest of tubes in a childhood neighbor's basement; calling for help when our alternator gave up the ghost in the Rockies...

I'm *that* close to picking up either BEAM or Ham radio and running with it. Then again, it may be another in a long line of things that I get interested in, and never really make good on.
posted by jplummer at 1:32 PM on May 8, 2001

SpecK, the Gordon West books are a real good resourse too.

I'm KB9YRN, but only have an ICOM Hand-held right now. A stormchaser never leaves home w/o his HAM!
posted by toastcowboy at 1:32 PM on May 8, 2001

SpecialK, many amateur radio clubs offer classes for getting you your first license. If you can't find a local club, or need help getting a pointer to one, the ARRL is always glad to help. Just check out the links given above.
posted by jammer at 1:39 PM on May 8, 2001

The ARRL also has a search engine that'll help you find the ham club nearest you.
posted by jplummer at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2001

Sadly, ham radio in the US has been dead in the water for some time, and is declining rapidly. I've got several ARRL books and keep toying with the idea of getting my license, but the problem is that there are few active hams under the age of 50, and most are a good deal older. It means that getting involved with the hobby is rather like joining the Shriners, without the fun of the drunken conventions and the goofy little car parades.

If I could just find an elmer my age, I'd probably still go for it, though. Are any of you with licenses actually active?
posted by aaron at 2:53 PM on May 8, 2001

Not since 1979? 1980? It was fun as a 14 year-old (no Flash or Japanese music laying around...)
posted by ParisParamus at 2:59 PM on May 8, 2001

It's cool that there are still people out there plugging away at this when the Internet...

One of the neater things about hamming is that you can get into doing stuff that few others are, like E-M-E, meteor bounce, very-low-power CW ... and still "contribute to the state of the art." Veeeerrrry little of that gear is available off-the-shelf.

getting involved with the hobby ... without the fun of the drunken conventions

Hmmm. In my experience, ham clubs always have a dedicated core of "sudsers". As far as old-timers... yeah, they are often the most prominent, but there are usually a few 30s/40s-aged guys who don't come to meetings because they're so deadly boring. For beer and signs of life, check out this June's Field Day!

W0RHX, just checking in for the count

posted by Twang at 7:19 PM on May 8, 2001

That's a lot of wires, baylink.

Yep, it is.

Roughly the number of wires knocked down in Hurricane Andrew.

That picture is captioned "The last radar image taken from NHC before the WSR-57 radar was blown off the roof, 0835 UTC August 24, 1992."

Do you have *any idea* how solidly those radars are bolted down? :-)
posted by baylink at 1:14 PM on May 9, 2001

« Older This is the NEXT   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments