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General Ham I Am

Updated: Dec 22, 2019

That’s the General Class Amateur Radio Operator, the next level above Technician which I passed about a month ago. I figured I would reach for the added privileges while I was still “hot” at exam taking. The iPad app was most helpful and after taking practice exams about 20 times, I was ready. I got just one wrong on the 35 question test. Now I can use the high frequency bands, the ones that usually require large radio sets, accessory appliances, and elaborate antennas.

The HF bands are where I can talk to California or Florida or Russia, but usually only at night. I don’t know yet were I will fit into the ham thing except to help in community preparedness and public service. Hams often help out at races and parades to help the organizers keep track of sprained ankles.

Today I participated in a city-wide drill for neighborhood organization and communications. I drilled at Maple Leaf Park built over a reservoir at one of the highest points in the city. It’s not exactly in my neighborhood, but it’s the closest one. Five hams showed up and four of them came equipped for the zombie apocalypse including big radios, cables, special antennas, and boxes and boxes they never unpacked. I had a laptop and a handie talkie. The needed electrical power. I used batteries. We will see who the zombies kill and who survives. We practiced talking to other neighborhoods and sending digital messages. Everything worked and we worked.

There was a funny episode. The people in charge of the Emergency Operations Center asserted that someone was trying to jam the frequencies. So they set up a secret frequency, not to be discussed on the air, to be used if we got jammed. They set up a telephone conference call, the kind were you dial in and enter a code, so all the chiefs could evaluate the thing in private. My hub chief (he had so much stuff he just parked his SUV next to our picnic shelter) asked for someone to monitor the conference call. I dialed in on the iPhone with the ear buds and pressed mute. I listened to them discuss how “sophisticated” the jamming was. They were cross banding the repeater, etc. They compared signal strengths in various locations and opined that the jammer was in Interbay. No Shilshole. Boy this guy is crafty. A specific name came up.

Then an old timer said it sounded like a hot mike, someone sitting on their push-to-talk button. You could hear people talking and laughing in the background. There followed a radio by radio check to see that there wasn’t some voice activated setting or something. One hub in northeast Seattle, on the frequency I controlled would not come up on the air except for me. So I radioed in and got a phone number. The chiefs called in and it turned out that a radio had a loose connection. oops. Sophisticated jamming my ass. (reposted from 2015)

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