I was wireless long before it was in vogue

I was perusing the CW website and came across this article "Want to bone up on wireless tech? Try ham radio" by John Edwards.  It got me thinking about my own fascination with wireless communications and how it helped me dramatically when I dove into IT.

Back in 1975 I got my first CB radio. It was a Midland model 13874. It only held crystals for eight channels so I had to pick which channels I wanted from the available 23 of the 27 MHz band allocated by the FCC to CB radio at that time. Having played with my friend's radio for several years, I knew all the ins and outs and even spoke the CB vernacular. Needless to say, I chose my channels wisely.  

It wasn't long before the FCC expanded the available channels to 40. I sold my little Midland in 1978 and bought a nice 40 channel radio equipped with upper and lower single side band channels effectively turning the 40 channel limit into 120.  Single side band was nice because the greater range allowed for a much bigger calling circle. Those who wanted even more power saved their pennies and bought (black market) bilateral linear signal amplifiers which could be used to increase range ten fold. It even allowed users to "shoot skip" and talk around the world when conditions were just right. When you refract signals off the ionosphere it's officially known as skywave propagation but we just called it  "shooting skip". For the record, linear amplifiers were and are illegal by the FCC so you had to be very careful with their use.

I was so fascinated with the CB/HAM radio technology that I started learning everything I could about communications; amplitude modulation vs frequency modulation and how the phone carriers used SSB over long distance telephone lines  using Frequency-division multiplexing (FDM) to have many voice channels down a single physical circuit much the same way data is sent long distances today. I became so well versed that when it came time to sign up for selective service both the army and marines wanted me for communications after taking the aptitude test. I never served as I went off to college instead, but my CB knowledge was very helpful when computers came into their own.

One thing I liked about CB, in those days we could actually hear the person we were "chatting" with (and even knew if it was a guy or girl).  Sometimes you'd meet at a neutral place like a burger joint or mall and become friends.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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