A bit of a personal tangent for this post, as I've experienced an interesting development in life recently. I’m taking another run at the “Maker” concept after taking a few months away from it. And I’m coming at it from an entirely different angle. The combination of data, radio waves and networks has piqued my interest. Some background:
My father was an amateur radio operator back in the day. It was one of his passions…so much so that his radio call sign (K0RFS) is engraved on his tombstone. Big radio, big amplified, big antenna tower with multiple antennas in the backyard, the best Morse code keys money could buy, etc. He saw it as both a hobby and a way to render service to others (he used to patch up a local family of Argentine immigrants with their family back home on a regular basis). Dad’s heyday in amateur radio started immediately after WWII and continued through his passing in 1990.
Amateur radio technology is generally very old school. Marconi made the first wireless radio contact from Cape Cod into Europe in 1912 using Morse code. Voice technology was added around 1921. We’ve seen the additions of packet radio, APRS, RTTY, SSTV, PSK31, radio propagation beacons, radio satellites, and other interesting stuff. But it all comes back around to the same old radio wave technology.
Except it’s not. Amateur radio operators can communicate with radios across the internet utilizing the IRLP system. Heck, you don’t really even need a radio to play anymore - EchoLink allows computer>radio, radio>computer, and even computer>computer communication. And it’s the merging of old technology with more recent technology in new and interesting ways that has really gnawed at my imagination.
Becoming a licensed ham radio guy has been on my bucket list, mostly as a tip o the hat to the old man. Years in coming, I finally passed the Technician’s exam here in the States and thus earned my license (call sign K1RFS…what else?). And I’m planning on using my Tech privileges as a springboard into some interesting maker experiments. Some of the things on my project backlog include:
- Building a Yagi antenna from a metal tape measure and PVC - and using that antenna to talk with the ISS
- Making an OS-agnostic communication logging program in Oracle APEX
- Working with amateur radio frequency beacons to track objects in areas without internet or cell service - power generation here will be interesting - then creating RESTful services to display the tracking of those locations
- Building an HMSS mesh net in my home that can be accessed via radio wave technology - 2nd step includes reliability when the electrical grid is offline
- Creating a permanent IRLP node with a Raspberry Pi
- Leveraging a combination of an AMSAT satellite and a smart phone to send and receive amateur TV images wirelessly - my target audience is one of the science exploration stations in Antartica
- Communicating via IRLP and Echolink through wearable hardware