beige_alert: (Science)
I went to a ham radio swapfest on Saturday morning. It was a fine event, and I did buy a few items, of a sensible sort. Unlike my girlfriend who tends to end up buying kitchen appliances at ham swapfests, I got some radio stuff. I picked up a few adapters between SMA, BNC, and PL-259 connectors, and a little cheap magnet-mount antenna for car use. Lots of interesting stuff for sale. The really antique-y stuff isn't really the big thing I'm interested in, but it is fun to see some of it. Lots of people selling random-seeming vacuum tubes. A few old tube testing machines. I remember that back when I was a youngster, I saw tube testing machine in a store that was still in actual service, although by then it was a bit past the peak of people bringing in their tubes to test to try to fix their radios or TVs or whatever. I got to see and play with a few Vibroplex bugs, the mechanical Morse code keys that can send a string of dits with a mechanical vibrating thingie. My Morse is rusty as can be and learning to use one of those would be interesting, but it's a very cool mechanical device.

I did notice something about the people there. I've been lots of places, done lots of things, but whether it's a long track speed skating race, casual running, an organized marathon, a mass spectrometry conference, a show primarily oriented toward hunting and fishing, seminars in the biochemistry department, kayaking, trail running, gatherings of musicians, a room full of people soldering blinkies together at a con, or darn near anything else, the only place I can think of with a similar ratio of men to women is when I have to pee and pass the sign saying "men" and enter the room with all the urinals on the wall. On some rare occasions, even that room has a more equal balance.
beige_alert: (Bike)
Amateur radio operators have all sorts of diverse interests, and there are contests and various awards for hams who have the persistence and skill (and equipment) to achieve some goal. As one example, there is the Worked All States award for making contacts with people in all 50 of the states in the USA. I was just thinking, though, that not everyone shares the goal of demonstrating skillful and cooperative radio operation. Some people have other interests. After scanning the local repeaters(*) yesterday afternoon, I propose the Kerchunked All Repeaters award, for people who kerchunk(**) every single repeater in a three county region a minimum of fifteen times each in a single afternoon. I'm confident that lots of people would pursue a Big Lid(***) Award eagerly!

Notes:
(*) A repeater re-transmits on its output frequency everything it receives on its input frequency. Normally it has a good antenna way up high in a good location, enabling people with less impressive antennas or hand-held radios to communicate over the entire city through the repeater system.

(**) Kerchunking the repeater is the practice of transmitting a few seconds of silence—and not giving your callsign, the sending of which is mandatory under the rules. This causes the repeater to fire up its transmitter, and then, when the few seconds of input is over, you get the burst of static, it sends a beeping sound, shuts back down (another burst of static), and sooner or latter it starts back up to transmit its callsign and possibly other info. A certain amount of this happens just by accident—when you have two different push-to-talk buttons and a tangle of wire stuff happens—but it pretty clearly isn't all accidental.

(***) Lid being ham radio slang (****) for an unskilled or rude radio operator.

(****) Hams have a lot of slang that sounds like the kind of slang that only an elderly white man would use. Um, probably just a coincidence...

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January 2015

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