Daily Archives: June 30, 2016

Television, But First, This Word . . .

I confess that I don’t watch a lot of television, mainly because of lack of time. I do watch the local news as I’m getting dressed in the morning, which is mainly limited to weather, traffic, and a smattering of journalism. There are a few prime-time shows I like, but normally we watch those through the DVR.
I understand that commercial advertisements pay the bills for television stations, but sometimes it seems a bit overdone. I have never timed it, but it seems like the local morning news is about 50 percent commercials. There are pitches for replacement windows, new and used cars, lawyers, furniture stores, pawn shops, and even churches. During elections they add a ton of political attack ads. Alas, while I’m trying to wake up in the morning, I’m not particularly persuaded to seek anything from those advertisements.
Our cable company overrides customers’ ability to record the most popular prime-time programs on the in-house DVR, but instead shifts them to their “On Demand” service. The difference is that with their recording one can no longer fast forward through the commercials; if you pause the program for too long, it disengages and you have to restart the program from the very beginning.
The commercials on the time-shifted programs include erectile dysfunction drugs, other programs from the same network, erectile dysfunction drugs, public service announcements, erectile dysfunction drugs, an occasional product, and, of course, erectile dysfunction drugs. I suspect that these are not exactly the same as during the original broadcast, but that’s just a guess.
It’s no wonder I prefer movies and books.

Disaster Communications

This past weekend, amateur (ham) radio operators in the Western Hemisphere participated in an annual emergency exercise called Field Day. In the event of a disaster, regular communications is often disrupted. Not only can cellular equipment be damaged, but the system can be overloaded by increased usage; in some cases, cellular communications can be limited to essential personnel ONLY by FEMA.
Most home telephones (for those who still have them) are not independent circuits, but are part of the house’s internet/cable television system. If power is lost, anyone with a wireless telephone won’t be able to use it.
Handling short range communications via amateur radio is relatively easy. Field Day is to practice as to how long range communications can be ensured without relying on existing systems. Our local club set up seven radio stations at a local park; antennas designed for the various operating frequencies were strung from trees, with the highest being at least 60 feet off the ground. The radios—along with computers, and the all-important coffee maker—were powered by solar cells or generators.
The actual communications portion of Field Day began at 2:00 PM on Saturday and continued around the clock. During that time, over 700 other stations were contacted; most were other stations set up for the drill, but there were amateur operators from around the world that made contact with us as well.
Most of us hope never to have a fire, but we have smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and fire insurance. The few of us that do have a fire are relieved to have the additional protection. The same holds true for amateur radio’s role in communications. It’s not needed every day, but when it is needed, it can be a life saver.
The best part? Hams often arrive with their own equipment and provide the service at for free. THAT is the reason it’s called the Amateur Radio Service; hams cannot be paid for the services they provide.