“This is not your grandfather’s amateur radio service,” points out the West Seattle Amateur Radio Club, inviting you to stop by Field Day on the south side of the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) campus any time before 10 am tomorrow. What’s Field Day, you ask?
Every June hams across the country take their radios outside and run them free of the electric grid. Joining with members of the Auxillary Communications Service (amateurs who work with Seattle Department of Emergency Management) and the Puget Sound Repeater Group, West Seattle Amateur Radio Club members will operate radios and communicate with other hams around the world from West Seattle. We operate using power we generate including solar panels and batteries. We build our stations in the 24 hours prior to the event
Yes, you’ll see that big antenna in our top photo – with which they’ve even been talking to the International Space Station – but then there’s smaller equipment:
(The water bottles, we were told, are just for counterbalance.) The club explains further:
As a group, some of us just built our own software defined radios. The only analog part of these radios is the antenna connection. We are deploying a wide area microwave network and in doing so are learning mesh networking and how to offer services across our homebrewed internet. Knowlege like that will make hooking your printer up a snap next time. We routinely use digital modes that allow effective communication using 1/1000th the power needed just a decade ago. While some of us still employ large antenna arrays for worldwide communication, it is now possible to work the world with a very modest station.
We peeked in the main tent, and found Jeff:
Anyone you find will be happy to talk with you (as well as with whomever they’re transmitting to and receiving from). Outside, talking to Curt, we were reminded that amateur-radio operators are deeply involved in emergency preparedness – and in other tasks that need close communications coordination – even on the sidelines at the West Seattle Grand Parade (watch for them July 19th).