Winter 2007 Issue


A Call to Action

By Tomas Hood,* NW7US/AAAØWA

An artist’s conceptualization of the space environment around Earth, and the sensing craft (satellites and space probes) used to monitor and forecast space weather. With ever-increasingly sophisticated instruments and technologies, space weather is becoming more and more understood and predictable. (Source: Center for Space Environment Modeling [CSEM])

You will know from past editions of this column that I believe in you. In your care you have the future of amateur radio and the potential to impact the world of communication. In addition, you have the chance to make a positive difference in the lives of people around the world. It is true. The radio amateur has traditionally brought new technology, methods, and skills into the light of the modern day. It was an amateur scientist who became an amateur radio pioneer and ushered in the era of radio: Guglielmo Marconi.

Guglielmo Marconi, a self-taught 21-year-old from Bologna, Italy, was convinced through his experiments that it was possible to send signals by using electromagnetic waves. His first “DX” attempt was over a very short distance—100 meters between his house and the end of his garden. Excited with that success, he demonstrated that these waves could propagate through the ether between two points separated by an obstacle.

At the time, 1895, the general view held by scientists and other experts was that electromagnetic waves could only be propagated in a straight line and then only if there was nothing in the way. Moreover, this common view held that the main obstacle to these waves was the curvature of the Earth’s surface.

Marconi was a true pioneer and never allowed the tide of popular scientific opinions to deter him from his love of amateur science. Like every self-taught amateur scientist and hobbyist, he was more interested in pragmatic application and experimentation than pure theory. Armed with resolve and deep investigative dedication, he continued to improve his experimental equipment and pushed every limit he could think of. He placed his transmitter near his house and the receiver 3 kilometers away, behind a hill.

Marconi’s aide, Mignani, whose only duty consisted of firing a rifle shot when the signal was received, waited by the receiver, out of sight of Marconi. When Marconi “sent” his three-dot Morse coded “S” transmission, Mignani fired his gun. For the first time in history, Morse code, and thereby the first communication, had travelled through space.
That’s the power of the amateur radio scientist, too. You are among the ranks of potential pioneers, improvers, and implementers who will move radio technology and electronics forward into new territory. All it takes is your dedication to do more than turn on an appliance and settle for the bare minimum.

In prior columns I’ve shared online resources and communities where you can plug in and participate. In addition to getting on the air and communicating, experimenting, and pushing the limits of non-HF radio, the amateur scientist must document, share, compare, and challenge the raw data of real-world experience.

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