Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dad's Ham Radio

          I am participating in the  
          March Slice of Life Challenge
          Each day we post our thoughts. 
          Thank you, Two Writing Teachers

          Day 9 - Dad's Ham Radio

My Dad had a ham radio while we were growing up. I was fascinated by all the dials, the needles floating across gauges, and that microphone he used to talk with people from around the world.

In addition to talking on the radio, my Dad also used Morse Code. Morse Code still captivates me. All those dots and dashes that turn into a message of words. I remember my Dad practicing Morse Code. I can recall the tapping sounds from the oscillator that magically turned those tapping sounds into words that were sent over the radio waves. 

Each ham operator was licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and  had a "handle" that identified him - a unique combination of letters and numbers. My Dad's "handle" was K8ZYZ. He had post cards with his "handle" printed on them. When ham radio operators connected with another ham radio operator they would send each other postcards. My Dad had a wall where he hung so many post cards from all over the world. 

We were careful not to interrupt Dad when he was on his radio, but once in awhile he would let us sit with him and we would be in awe. I remember once when Dad let me sit with him at his radio and try to dial in and talk to someone in another country. The sounds coming from the radio were scratchy and difficult to understand. But I heard a faint message from someone in Russia and my Dad and I had a brief conversation with them while the words faded in and out from somewhere very far away. Talking to someone in another country was by far a unique experience. It was magical.

You have to try to imagine how little communication was possible in the mid to late 50s. We still had telephone party lines. (You shared a phone line with someone you didn't even know. When you used the phone you had to listen first to make sure no one was talking on the line before you dialed your number.) Our family still owned a black and white television. There were no personal computers or cell phones. Ham radio was a gateway to the world. 

Times have changed. I did some research as I was writing this post. Now, there is an iPhone app that lets you practice Morse Code. There are ham radio Pinterest boards. You can talk to astronauts aboard the Space Station who are licensed ham radio operators. You can connect a Global Positioning Receiver (GPS) to a radio (via a specialized interface) and have it automatically transmit your location. Now you can type a text into a computer that connects the computer with a radio that can send and receive text messages.

My memories are a stark difference to our communications today. Today, our students use so many platforms to connect with others. Our world has become smaller in many ways.
The connectedness that was so fascinating to me as a child has expanded to unlimited opportunities for children today. 

How do we connect our children today? 
What experiences can we provide for them in school? 
The opportunities our endless.
The world has changed.