“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Keeping up with the local area.

I've written a good bit about short wave radios, but here are some radios that will keep you aware of what's going on in your neighborhood.

This is a Uniden Madison base unit,  a CB set that operates in AM or SSB configuration. With a good 20 foot whip you can skip the signal all over the country even without an amplifier.  It's actually a good tool for communicating with locals, though.  When I lived on Emerald Island, one of the outer banks islands in North Carolina, I could routinely communicate with people up and down the coast as far as 40 miles away. That's because salt water is an excellent surface to transmit over, and nothing attenuates your signal when there are no hills, trees , etc between you and your distant station.  The shrimp boats all had CB, and sometimes they would call me on mine, which I left on til I went to bed.  Usually they wanted me to call their homes and tell the wife they'd be in late. I was always glad to help. It was interesting to walk out on the wrap around porch and see those lights bobbing around way out there on the dark ocean, and know I'd just been talking to them. There was an octogenarian styled "The Red Rooster" who liked to scan the channels until he found a conversation going on, and then just break in with a flood of invective, cursing all and sundry. He used a 100 watt linear amplifier and I know of at least three times while I was there when the Red Rooster got busted by the FCC and they confiscated his gear. But he'd be back up and running before long.

Due to terrain masking here in the mountains, I can't rely on the kind of range I had on the island, but I can talk to people in six different counties, largely because they are located in direct line of sight from me, through gaps in the mountains. It helps a lot that I am way up on top of one of the higher mountains in our area.

CB is a lost art now, largely displaced by cell phones and "sports radios." All of the people I talk to are older with the exception of one younger man who is using his dad's old equipment.  For the most part, this kind of communication is handy if we have had snow, ice, or big thunderstorms because you can get first hand reports of conditions around you.  It's also nice to visit with people and drink a cup of coffee. Lots of the CB types are up late at night, because that's also when "the skip is in" and you can talk to people all over the country.  At night, the ionosphere cools and becomes denser. Instead of punching through and heading into space, your radio signal bounces back down to earth. You can't really control where it comes down, which limits your ability to pick where the receiving station is.   It's all hit and miss on that , so your odds of talking to the same person again are slim to none.

This is an old radio shack scanner. It will work vhf transmissions and I can listen to the air field frequency as well as an added bonus. I have this one set to our local law enforcement frequency,  the volunteer fire department, the EMS, and the hospital.

This is an ancient crystal set.  Today scanners are digital and tunable. But when this set was produced, you had to buy crystals for the frequencies you wanted, and plug them into the radio.  Despite it's age, this is a stirling piece of equipment, and works beautifully.  It's set for local law enforcement in this and the surrounding counties. I usually leave it on my county though. The far right button is set to the forest service , because if I smell smoke I can go in and turn it on, and they will be chattering about where the fire is, what is going on, and who is fighting it. Handy to know when the smoke starts wafting in through the woods.


20 comments:

  1. Nice post, Harry. This kind of post keeps reminding me to finish upgrading my ham license. I get started and then wander away, usually wasting time on the internet.

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  2. I really looked at ham. I had to learn morse code when I was in the service, but of course I promptly forgot it. When I went to the Ham club here you still had to learn morse code to get an amateur license, but I think I remember reading somewhere that's no longer a requirement. Ham is big here, the club is large and you frequently see those big whips people use on their vehicles. I ought to get it back on track too, that's a useful and fun skill and could be vital if the day comes that you need to communicate without phones.

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  3. CB doesn't work real well around here with all the rolling hills. Your lucky if you can reach out 5 or more miles really. I have an old Robyn base system I leave on at night sometimes and I rarely if ever hear anything on it these days. I also got five portable handheld CBs that all work that I use when I am up on the roof or out in the fields and I might need to get my son to do something for me.

    Last time I used them I was checking the flow into the septic tank and needed to be able to tell him when to flush :)

    I need to get a HAM system but just can't find one that will fit my needs to buy. They are a little high dollar to just jump into without an expert on retainer.

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    1. Southern Prepper 1 covered some low dollar equipment he liked on his YouTube channel this week.

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    2. I am told you can find used Ham equipment for decent prices on E bay, though I have never tried myself. I use those little "sport radios" for the kind of work you were talking about. I had two portable walkie talkie type cb radios but I was using them at the Civil Air Patrol building and somebody swiped them.

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  4. One can go to www.qrz.com , as I did, study the practice exams (the questions of which are the ACTUAL test questions used, all multiple-choice) until you feel ready to take the test, pay your $14 (I think) test-taking fee, and if you pass, get a ham license good for ten years. I took my "Technician" test almost five years ago after about a week's study maybe an hour a night and passed handily, and then was allowed to see if I could pass the "General" test and barely failed it. I didn't have to know Morse Code for either, and won't now when I finally get around to taking the General exam, which would open up more frequencies for me to play around on. Right now, I have a Yaesu FT-60R handi-talkie that has a pretty good scanner built-in, but will transmit and receive on the 2 meter and 70 centimeter (or "440"-from the 420-450 MHZ frequency range therein) FM bands. I love the radio pics-I need to get some sort of CB radio, but I wonder, living in town as I do, in a brick building, I can't seem to pick up much CB traffic on my shortwave radio using the built-in telescoping antenna, this being either side of 27.185 Mhz AM, which I think is channel 19. KB

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    1. I think I could get the license if I worked on it. As you say, you can study before taking it. I might go at it the reverse way, find the right radio transceiver, buy it, and then I'd be motivated to get going and take the test so I could use it.

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  5. Oh, for what it's worth, that Brother Stair chap sends his broadcast out over WWRB radio, this being a shortwave radio station out of Morrison, Tennessee, which appears to be somewhere in the center of the state... KB

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    1. I thought it might be coming out of Tennessee when I first heard him. Seems like most of the strange little mini broadcasts originate in Tennessee, Missouri or Kentucky. I heard one fellow say once that he was transmitting out of his barn, so they aren't big dollar outfits, that's certain.

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  6. I was in Civil Air Patrol they have a nation wide network. I had a hand held radio I used all the time. Many kids got into comm and seemed to enjoy it. A former co worker had CB equipment and would talk to family in Louisiana (all the time here in MN), from his home or SUV.

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    1. Rob, I was in the Civil Air Patrol too, until the Air Force took away our T-141. Without an aircraft the squadron just kind of folded up. Most of the pilots (like me) were really there for the cheap air time. You could rent the plane fueled for $15.00 an hour when it wasn't being used for official business.

      Are you sure the guy had CB? Could it maybe have been Ham gear? It's possible it was CB but it's tough to go that distance consistently even with an amplifier. Or, he could just have been better at it than me! ;-)

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  7. this post makes me think i need to dust off the old base station and CBs i have stored in the shed.

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    1. Fire it up! It's a great hobby and can be really useful as well.

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  8. For awhile I've thought of getting a scanner to keep track of significant events. Sort of nice to know what is going on when a bunch of cop cars are in the area.

    Also like the idea of CB's to keep in touch around our area past walkie talkie range if cell phones didn't work.

    Interested in your thoughts on what currently available reasonably affordable gear would be good choices for both. Would need the capability to run all with batteries.

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  9. All of my gear is pretty old, as you can tell. I haven't bought any modern CB or Scanner radios in ten years. One of my scanners, the newer one, has batteries as a backup but the old crystal set is useless without power. Since I have the generator I haven't given it much thought but maybe I should.

    I had been thinking lately I might need to get another scanner. My old Bearcat 300 finally died after many years of good service. I'll shop around and let you know what looks interesting.

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  10. I hope I'm not beating a dead horse to death, but for what it's worth, this WWRB is indeed a real, "legitimate" (as in licensed by the FCC) United States radio station on which "The Overcomer" is broadcast, as opposed to a real, "illegitimate" (non-licensed) pirate radio station, broadcast out of one of those barns you mention. KB

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    1. You're not. It's hard to keep track of them. Until you mentioned it, I never thought of using the internet to try to figure out just who I was listening to.

      I have heard some pretty good preparedness programs on some of these stations, and then there are the really strange broadcasts like the one I listened to recently where the lady was telling us that anyone who eats potato chips is doomed because they have some nasty chemical in them. I don't know but that she is right, it just seemed an odd thing to devote an hour to. The people who call in are pretty odd sometimes as well. But I suppose that's what makes it all interesting.

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  11. The neighbor kid brought me a CB to fix - I did, and all I heard was a constant stream of bad language and what seemed to be insane people yelling at each other. I'm not sure I did him a favor.

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    1. I think it depends on location. I never hear dirty language from local area people. When I am listening to skip I mostly hear people on SSB using amps, and they don't tend to be foul mouthed, although there are "Red Roosters" everywhere I guess. I think if you lived near a big road you'd pick up some unpleasant stuff. There are certainly CB trolls lurking out there but thankfully not many in this neck of the woods.

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