For a 160-year-old technology that's
pronounced dead at least once the year, Morse code is a pretty
The Morse code signal CQ ("calling
anyone") is still heard on short wave radio. Morse gets a
message through under conditions that would defeat modern digital
I turned on my short-wave receiver the
other night with a sense of foreboding. I just read another "Morse
code is dead" story and feared the worst. But no, all was
well. The familiar rhythmic beeping filled my headphones. There
was a ham operator in Newfoundland, chirping away with someone
on a South Pacific atoll. Up the band, another ham in Georgia
exchanges a chatty weather report with a fellow in Idaho.
Down in the maritime bands, a Liberian-registered tramp negotiated with a ship handler in Panama for a new gearbox stuffing. Somewhere in eastern Siberia, a lonely Russian operator reported the day's weather to Vladivostok. Ail in Morse code. I learned the code 25 years ago to earn my first ham license. I never meant to use it. I thought it quaint and fussy that the FCC still required it. Why bother with dits and dahs when radios have microphones?
Soothing and Lyrical Sounds
But once on the air, I found Morse code
strangely addictive. There's something soothing and lyrical about
it. I was charmed by the gentlemanly formality of the veteran
Morse ops, who addressed me as "OM," for "old man,"
despite my beardless youth.
I also found, to my surprise, that when it comes down to actually getting the message through, Morse has it all over the microphone. Time after time, trying to dig out of the static some weak, rare Station in Ukraine or Peru, I found myself reaching for the telegraph key.
Compared to modern digital modes, of course, Morse is glacially slow. Twenty words a minute is about average, although a good operator can do 40 or 45. But Morse takes up little bandwidth, requires only the simplest of equipment and is understandable through noise that would reduce the slickest 56K modem to blithering babble.
That's why it's still in use in many Third World countries, even in the age of global satellite communications systems. If you know where to listen, you can hear police outposts in Latin America exchanging wanted bulletins, airports in Central Africa requesting weather reports, Chinese army units reporting the number of cadres fit for duty.
Well into the 1970s, planes of Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, flew transoceanic routes with Morse operators aboard, tucked into a tiny cabin aft of the cockpit. A Fist from Far, Far Away.
There is a beauty to well-sent Morse
that can only be compared to fine calligraphy. I used to drift
to sleep on late winter nights listening to the lone op at a Russian
weather station somewhere deep in Central Asia. The text was nothing
more interesting than rows of numbers and an occasional place
name, but the man or woman had a wonderful "fist," fluid
and lyrical as music.
Inevitably, as satellites and high-speed
data connections became more reliable, use of Morse code declined.
Last year, the Coast Guard abandoned its watch on 500 kHz, the
Morse maritime distress frequency.
Additionally, the International Maritime Organization quietly dropped requirement-dating back to the Titanic disaster-that ships over 300 tons have Morse equipment aboard. Now they will rely on satellites. I can't help wonder if this is wise. On May 19, the Navy announced it would no longer teach celestial navigation to young officers, since satellite navigation had become so reliable. That same day, the Galaxy IV satellite failed, throwing much of the country's communications into chaos.
It's Not '30' Yet. But, Morse lives
on. Hams are keeping it alive for the sheer joy of the art. The
the owners of many of cargo ship still find it cheaper to pay
a Morse operator then installed expensive and quirky satellite
gear. The robust clarity of Morse has found it a spot in some
surprisingly high-tech applications moon-bounce, for instance,
in which experimenters bounce very-high-frequency signals off
the moon. And it's not widely known, but tucked discretely into
the shining digital control panels of the ultra-high-frequency
radio used aboard U.S. space shuttles is a tiny, collapsible telegraph
key. Just in case.
The above article was sent in by Fred
Gehricke, KG6QV who got it off the net at: http://www.abcnews.com/sections/tech/DailyNews/KWMorse980716.html
At our November meeting, we will hold elections
for officers of the GARC for the 1999 calendar year. Our Election
chairman this year is John Edell. If you would like to run for
an office, or suggest somebody, please call John and let him know.
His phone number is 516-536-6561. Phil, our Treasurer, has been
released from his Grumman employment. He starts a new job in the
city soon, and this will cause him to not be attending board meetings,
or general Club meetings most of the time. So, we really
need a new Treasurer, and I hope one of you people will step up
to the job. If we don't get a replacement, then I have to do all
the Treasurer stuff, as well as the President things. And I have
a full time job as well as a part time job. Not too much idle
time on my hands these days.
We also have 3 Board positions up for renewal.
Paul Chalson, Howie Liebman, and Marty Miller are nearing the
end of their terms. We may re-elect any of them, or nominate someone
else. Candidates for any Club office should be relatively sure
they can attend the monthly Board meeting, and of course, the
If we find that attendance at Board meetings
is difficult, we can change the time and place to make things
more satisfactory for all concerned. Note that Bill, Paul, and
Phil have all changed jobs in the last year, making their attendance
almost impossible. But the most important thing is this: If we
want the Radio Club to continue functioning, we need to give it
the necessary support. If we can't support the Club, then we have
to bring in new members and turn the reins over to them. But,
if we do nothing, the oldest Radio Club on Long Island will soon
fade away into nothing.
At our October meeting, Marty (NN2C) related
his adventures in the U.K. at the RSGB's IOTA convention. Marty
attends every year, and we always find his stories interesting
Our November meeting will feature Ken Neubeck
(WB2AMU), alleged son of Ray (W2ZUN). Ken has written a lot of
articles on 6 meters. His latest is in the current issue of World
Radio, and you should try to view it. Ken's articles have been
featured in many Ham magazines over the years. He's going to bring
us up to date on the recent 6 meter activities, speaking about
Dxing, FM repeaters, etc. If there's any specific topic you would
like to hear him talk about, let us know by email so he can spend
a little time preparing.
There's been no further news on reconfigurations of Company property in Bethpage. Still a little talk about moving some of us out East, back into the Great River building, which we no longer own. We would rent office space there to help seed a business technology center. I believe that it's an important economic boost for LI if that can be made to happen.
That's it for this month. I hope to see you soon. -Pat KE2LJ [email protected]
Writing in a foreign language is not easy, but the ARNS Bulletin articles and technical suggestions have improved our publication so much that I would like to share some of our experiences with other editors.
Being the editor of a bulletin seems
to be simple, most members of the clubs do not realize the pressure
experienced by a club member carrying this responsibility. It's
a never ending task. You finish one issue only to start the next,
month after month!
Editors usually encounter problems not
only with the preparation and distribution of the club's newsletters
but with the printing cost, mailing fees and ...usually, the lack
of collaboration from fellow hams.
In Puerto Rico it is not much different. Printing costs are forever rising, and mailing costs, in our case more than in the States since 15% of our 400 copies are mailed overseas!
Our paper varies from others for many reasons. First, we do not have the advantage of "cutting and pasting", most of the interesting articles are in English and our bulletin is in Spanish. We have to translate a lot, even the captions for cartoons and drawings. Second, it serves as the ONLY news media in Spanish for amateurs in the island. Most Puertorricans speak English but prefer to read in their native language. Not only do we have to produce an enjoyable bulletin, we have to publish the news while it's still news. This, believe it or not, changes the whole picture of publishing because we have to reduce the time lag and cut to a minimum the deadline for submission of articles. In most instances we have to get the news from sources other than QST, CQ, World Radio and the other excellent publications. By the time we read ham news in these publications they are long past their interest to our readers. We have to go to the source by telephone, fax or eMail, many thousand miles away from home to get the true facts on time. In many instances we have to sacrifice the rules of basic publishing in exchange for page space at its maximum.
Cost of publication
Our ten years of experience may perhaps give some ideas to editors of similar bulletins for clubs in the Continental USA. We are a small club, some 300 members, so we do not have the resources for fancy printing. Our monthly bulletin carries 16 pages. Included are general interest, technical and historical articles, changes in the art, drawings, pictures and cartoons. It's composed using a regular PC with the aid of Aldus Pagemaker and lots of memory and disk space. We found it practical and effective to prepare all the pages as one document. This way we can change, shift, and expand articles easily without losing valuable time. The master copy is printed in an HP Laser and duplicated on 11" X 17' regular paper by xerographic (now laser) commercial means
We were able to negotiate a price of less than 50 cents per printed copy by agreeing to a yearly contract; 4800 copies (16 pages each) plus all other printing work required by the club. In our case we also print a great deal of material for our weekly license preparatory classes.
For material, try to recruit a few hams willing to prepare a monthly article, (most hate to write). Askthem for ideas, rough articles, information on any interesting subject, clippings, etc. Tell them you'll polish and rewrite the article if necessary but don't forget to give them the credit. Hams love to see their names and call signs in print. Eventually you may find out that you'll have plenty of material coming in every month.
Another source of savings is postage. Check your postal code, it's the same as ours sii~ce we are part of the United States. You can go one of two ways: pay first class postage and cover your costs by selling advertisement or go "Non Profit" without advertising revenues but significant savings in postage costs. Figure it out and select whichever is more profitable for you. If you want to save even more, try the "Non Profit Automation Rates" (DMM C810), you'll end up paying around 9 cents for 3.3 oz.! Call your local postal office, they'll help you to get a "Postal Permit" and suggest the lowest rates possible. Sorting, using Zip +4 codes and bar codes seems to be a complicated task but once you get the hang of it, it's simple and you save lots of money. Automation rates may require a few minor changes to the format of your newsletter. In our case it was simple: We reversed the address page so that the fold is at the bottom. We changed the overall format of the page since no printing is allowed on the right or left of the address line and no staples, the postman hates to get his fingers caught by the sharp ends of the staple wire!
We mail our bulletin to members at no
cost to them but have found out that many non-members are willing
to pay for a subscription. At the present time we have around
100 copies going to non-members and the subscription cost pays
for about half of our production cost. Try it, it may work for
you and save your club money.
Electronic or paper.
It's not practical for us to switch
to an electronic bulletin. Only 40% of our members have e-Mail
facilities. Trying dual publications proved to be costly and not
effective. Experience tells us that few people read web pages
when they consist of plain text material. We are using a happy
medium. Our bulletin is published in the conventional way and
mailed monthly but we also maintain a multi-page web site. News
is posted in the form of a digest within a few hours of the actual
happening and then expanded in the paper issue. Colors, special
fonts and animated icons attract the attention of surfers. In
return, the web site has increased the interest in the conventional
paper bulletin since hams read the summary in the web and can
hardly wait for the month end issue to read the details. With
the addition of the web page, we expect a 50% increase in individual
subscriptions by years end.
The electronic site should not only
cover news, it should also display activities, schedules for classes,
ARRL/VEC exam sessions, publications, and a page dedicated to
DX. Contesting and packet information is also a good idea. Repeater
coordination and even photos of recent activities will make the
site more attractive. If you get into this project, make sure
you update your pages constantly. Old stuff and outdated information
only helps to make your site a disaster. An electronic web page
can be maintained at practically no cost to your club. Try getting
one through a local educational institution, you'll be surprised
at how envy it can he. We were able to get a private domain at
NO cost from one of the local universities. Try [prarl.LCE.org/prarlnews.html],
you'll enjoy it. Don't worry if you can't read Spanish, we publish
an English Digest so you can get the taste of it. Incidentally
we also use the same facility for the club Gateway (KP4ES), a
superservice for ham radio, we think!
Comments on our pages, in English or
Spanish, are welcome via [email protected] or using our Guest Book
at http://prarl.LCE.org/prarl- news.html.
Victor Madera-KP4PQ has held a ham license
since 1951. lie is the publisher off "Hacia la Radioaficion"
a book in Spanish on radio theory for beginners. (Library of Congress
TXU 801-806), and A Translation of Spanish question pools for
Novice, Technician and General FCC examinations. (Library of Congress
By training he is an electrical engineer whose career included 15 years as VP and General Manager of Westinghouse PR, and 26 years as Director of Manufacturing for 26 Westinghouse Electric plants.
He is married to another ham (KP4ENJ)
and has 6 children - the youngest is 34.
He is currently editor of iEUREKA! & "PRARLNEWS WEB PAGE", official bulletins of the "Puerto Rico Amateur Radio League" a Special Service Club of the ARRL.
Victor welcomes comments or questions about his ham radio activities and may be reached at the e-mail address given above or at: PO Box 191917 San Juan, P.R.
The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:10 PM. All persons present introduced themselves.
Phil read the financial report that
indicates that we are doing well.
The PCRC controller for the Hauppauge
repeater will be traded for a RC-1000 unit that Bill, N2NFI has.
Gordon showed a copy of an issue of QST dated March 1934 that
he had found in the Club library on the roof of Plant 5.
There was three VE's present. They had
one applicant who failed the Advanced test.
The following applicants were approved for membership pending receipt of dues for 1999: Cathy Davis, KC2YW, Tech Plus, for full membership.
Andrew Mule, N2SEK, Tech, for sustaining membership.
Pat reported that the Company was still trying to close all of the Bethpage plants. Governor Pataki has made a statement that Northrop/Grumman will stay on Long Island.
Mike, KJ6XE went to a Suffolk County Radio Club meeting and thanked them for their participation in the Field Day operation. They want to participate with us again next year.
Twenty Meters: 14.275 at 12:00 PM EST Wednesdays.
Forty Meters: 7.289 at 8:00 AM EST Sundays.
Two Meters: 146.745 at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.
145.33 at 8:45 PM Thursdays
145.33 at 9:00 PM EST Mondays (ARES/RACES).
VE exams for all classes of amateur licenses are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 500 PM in the Plant 5 Cafeteria. (See page 7 for directions to exam site.) The exam fee for 1998 is $6.35.
Thanks to Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP for this information. The meeting was closed at 5:32 PM
General Meetings of the GARC are held on the third Wednesday of each month, at 5:00 PM in the Plant 5 cafeteria. All who are interested in Amateur Radio are invited to attend. Board meetings are held eight days before the General Meetings and GARC members are invited to attend, but please call Pat Masterson, KE2LJ, at 346-6316 to confirm place and time of meeting.
An interesting program was presented
by Marty, NN2C, who told us about his experiences in England at
the Radio Society of Great Britain and Islands on the Air (RSGB/IOTA)
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
Fifty Years 1944 - 1994
PO Box 0644
Bethpage, NY 11714-0644
Indecision: Under the whether
Intense: Where campers sleep
Ketchup: What the runners behind in a race want to do
Kinship: Your brothers boat
Laundress: A gown worn while sitting on the grass
Legend: The edge of a cliff
Midget: Center engine of a three-engine fast plane
Minimum: A very small mother
Nitrate: Cheapest price for calling long distance
Observatory: What Washington asked his spies to do
Pandemonium: A housing development for pandas
Paradise: Ivory cubes used in craps and backgammon
Paradox: Two physicians
Paralyze: Two untruths
Praise: Letting off esteem
Protein: 1) An advocate of teen-agers rights 2) Lady of the street too young to vote
Rampage: Section of a book about male sheep
Sarcasm: Quip lash
Sherbet: A tip on a horse race or sporting event
Skier: A person who jumps to contusions
Sleet: A slipcover
Stirrup: What you do with cake batter
Subsidy: A town underneath another town
Received by ARNS in an E-mail message
from a forgotten source