Sometimes I send voices [and other communications] into space too!

When I was about four or five my brother and I got hold of a pocket-sized crystal radio that belonged to my dad. Actually, I think he built it from a kit. We would go outside and clip the antenna lead to something and the ground to the fuel oil tank at our rural Indiana home and listen to magic! I remember hearing WBZ in Boston! WJR in Detroit! And of course WOWO, the big 50KW station in Ft Wayne. Its like some people who survive getting hit by lightning; I've never been the same since. I remember discovering a box with some cool junk in it when I was about seven or eight. One of the things in the box was a 1957 edition of the Radio Amateur's Handbook, from the American Radio Relay League. It was jammed with radio stuff. You could actually BUILD your own radio transmitter and receiver and talk to people all over the world! Wow! At the time the "handbook" was a lot like reading "Scientific American" is for me today. Totally cool subjects, absolutely fascinating, but after the third or fourth paragraph they dive straight into the quantum mechanics and I'm lost.

Another thing that was like being dropped on my head was that at the age of five my dad decided to teach me Morse Code. Turns out he enlisted in the Army in 1942, stoked to go to radio school. He'd taught Morse Code in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30's, and was very interested in building radios and listening to them too. Well, in the true Army Way they found out he'd worked summers at his uncle's BBQ joint in Texas and they made him a cook! I forgot most of my Morse code, but when I found the "handbook" and some telegraph equipment, I got a formal course for Christmas. It came on those strange helically-encoded vinyl discs that people talk about today with such nostalgia. I actually learned it pretty well at the age of nine.

All this went by the wayside, of course, since there's so much world to explore for a kid. Many years later a friend of mine told me the story of how he asked some old timer to show him his amateur radio setup. The went up into the attic, the old guy uncoiled his antenna wire, wrapped it around a nail at the far end of the room, and they made contact with a guy in Madagascar!! Well, at the age of 20 I studied for the easiest class of amateur license I could get, the Novice, and I was on the air!

I've been an amateur or "ham" radio operator since 1976, and I've had lots of great adventures with radio since then. I force-fed myself a little Algebra, leaned how to design and build electronic circuits, met lots of great people on the air and in person, have operated from tents in the Asian desert and the African veldt, hotel rooms in Moscow, and learned great lessons in physics. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Phillip Morrison told me he got his start in physics because of Amateur Radio! He started out as a ham!

Anyway, here are some more places to go if you're interested in radio. Some of them are super amateur pages with links to over a thousand hams who have something happening on the internet, some are awesome commercial radio pages, like the CKLW page. Hey, you can even listen to the radio in a few dozen cities right now from your computer! Enjoy!


There's No Place Like Home...