Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nerds to the rescue -- again

Well here we go again. On the Florida Amateur Radio Emergency Service nets this morning, I learned that the Florida contingent of radio Amateurs is wrapping up operations in Haiti. Most phone service is still out on the island, with cell towers destroyed and lines cut and power out. The same goes for the internet. Of course the military has it's own communications, but nobody else does. Haiti is too poor to have a resident base of radio operators, so volunteers from the US have been living there in squalid conditions without any pay.

Hams have been using techniques like Winlink2000, a digital PACTOR III based system which allows users in Haiti to send e-mail and data to a remote internet node elsewhere in the world and High Frequency voice communications using SSB are carrying the rest. Somehow the press thinks this is hilarious and despite the cutting edge technology none of them can understand, "low-tech." Yes, we've been sending text messages for a hundred years and making phone calls from our cars for nearly 40 years.

I'm sure the Chile earthquake this morning will have severely disrupted communications in that country and perhaps the inevitable tsunami will have terrible effects all over the pacific rim and islands. I'm listening to the SATERN net, run by the Salvation Army - now on alert condition 2, and the Intercontinental Traffic Net this morning, but so far I'm not hearing anything coming out of Chile. I'm sure that will change as the day goes on and I'll be listening in. If you have a radio that can receive 14,300 MHz and 14,255 MHz Upper Side Band, those are the primary US frequencies at the moment.

Yes, we're just funny old nerdy dinosaurs with our expensive microprocessor controlled digital equipment, our Amateur satellites and our Echolink internet radio protocols, but in 2004, my local friends were handling all the communications in West Central Florida after hurricane Charlie. It took a month for phone and internet communications to be restored in my county after Francis that same year. Guess who filled in. After Katrina, President Bush had to rely on Hams to send a message to the Governor of Louisiana because those cellphones you think work anywhere didn't work anywhere. No, you didn't hear that on CNN, but you should have.

When everything else fails, as it so often does, it's hams to the rescue.


Baltazar said...

My Grundig FR200 gets 14M.Will careful tuning get USB?.I notice yours doesn't have a crank..gee?

Capt. Fogg said...

No crank, but I do have two record players that do.

To get SSB, the radio needs something called a BFO and few radios designed for short wave listening do. If you hear anything at all, it will sound like Donald Duck on helium. :-)