Blogs > Cliopatria > Of Blogs and Ham Radios

Dec 29, 2004 4:04 pm

Of Blogs and Ham Radios

This New York Times article on Blogs and the impact of the Tsunami is another testament to the power of Blogs in the world today. Given the sci-fi bent to my imagination, I can’t help imagining this as a new stage in the development of a world-wide nervous system. (That, in turn, reminds me that one of the subtlest aspects of the relationship between sensation and thought is how the animal mind ignores most of the sense data delivered to it).

But I digress. The real point of this post is to consider the relationship between Blogs and Ham radios. For much of this century, the first news out of a disaster area came from the lonely voice (or Morse click) of an isolated radio operator, getting power from who knows where, and casting out a tenuous thread of communication, hoping someone else in the world could pick it up.

It still happens, as we can see in this story about an emergency amateur radio network set up in the aftermath of the Tsunami. Although wireless blogging is growing, blogs are still far more vulnerable to land line destruction than amateur radio operators. Blogs can report. They can also warn, if someone relays the message. But in the aftermath of disaster, the radio operators remain essential. The more damaged the area, the more essential they are.

Postscript: I had planned to say something about the decline of Ham radio in the US, and its being supplanted by cell phones and the web. But the statistics on this amateur radio history site suggest that, at least in total numbers, there have never been more people in the US with licenses than there are today.

Postscript number 2: It is easy to forget how old and new technologies overlap each other. I cannot remember the source, but I once read that it was not until around 1850 that the freight traffic on Mississippi steamboats exceeded the traffic on flatboats.
Postscript number 3: I got this email concerning U.S. Ham Radio operators and my comment about license numbers above. It's informative, and a bit sad.

It is true that there are more licensed hams in the US than ever, BUT many are NOT active, and even if they are, just TRY and get them active in their local Amateur Radio Emergency Service group.

You would think that in the US, they (we) would not be needed - but look at 9/11 - The hams were the only way the Red Cross could get info in and out of the Ground Zero area - look at this years Hurricanes - The hams were needed again

One of the"Interesting" problems is that many of the local agencies say"we don't need them anymore - we have this nifty Nextel" (It's always Nextels for some reason). Then a disaster hits, and the end up yelling for the ham groups they have been dissing for the last few years, but now, they have no operators who know them, know their setup and the like

Oh well

73 de KG2V Charles Gallo Queens County Emergency Coordinator NYC District ARES

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William Harshaw - 1/1/2005

Clayton Christensen in Innovator's Dilemna argues that new technologies often are inferior to old, when they are first conceived. He argues using a number of examples from recent history, most notably the development of hard drives (although this was before IPod). He convinces me.

(I remember my mother reminiscing fondly that you could let the horses find the way home to the farm, after spending a long day in town selling produce, not something you can do with a pickup.)