Good little Wall Street Journal article about the radio waves that fought against Katrina's. Sample:

In an age of high-tech, real-time gadgetry, it's the decidedly unsexy ham radio—whose technology has changed little since World War II—that is in high demand in ravaged New Orleans and environs. The Red Cross issued a request for about 500 amateur radio operators—known as "hams"—for the 260 shelters it is erecting in the area. The American Radio Relay League, a national association of ham-radio operators, has been deluged with requests to find people in the region. The U.S. Coast Guard is looking for hams to help with its relief efforts.

Gratuitous Evil Corporation quote:

"Something is better than nothing, that's right," says Jim Screeden, who runs all of Motorola's repair teams in the field for its emergency-response business. "But ham radios are pretty close to nothing."

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  1. It’s a pretty well known phenomenon, actually. After major disaster strikes, the first people to re-establish contact with the stricken area are usually Ham radio operators.

    It’s the KISS principle in action.

  2. Ham radios are very sexy. Fuck the WSJ.
    It took them this long to realize that this was a story shows their cluelessness.

  3. But ham radios are pretty close to nothing

    Which is exactly why the Red Cross asked for them.

  4. Vacuum tubes are pretty close to nothing. That is why they survive a EMF blast.

  5. Wow. That’s a great quote. Right up there with “what do you mean you object to clubbing baby seals?” What a tool that guy is.

  6. Interesting that spontaneous remedial efforts like ham radio and rash herding decisions like Jabbor Gibson’s bus rescue actually had some lifesaving impact while the centrally-planned operations were largely ineffectual.

    What does this say about individuality’s contribution to our collective safety?

  7. Would now be the time to mention the fact that the FCC’s plan for broadband over powerlines kills ham radio dead?

  8. Not when all the power lines are down…:)

  9. Actually,I’ve been out of the Ham operator world for a good few years but the idea that BB over powerlines kills amature radio dead strikes me as unlikely. After all, there are many amature bands covering a very wide spectrum. If BB over powerlines killed all these it would do the same to most shortwave radio and much microwave radio Hams aren’t the only people using these frequencies. Still many amature bands are under threat from comercial interests and I suppose I can’t deny the logic of it. Bandwidth is a finite resource (but much bigger than it seemed only recently) and Hams have no money to buy space.

    Well known Ham operators? Barry Goldwater (R) K7UGA. Former King Hussein Amman of Jordan KY1. Nice to be able to pick your own call sign but I’m not sure I’d go with “KY”.

  10. RandyAyn

    I’d seriously love for joe to respond to that. When he’s got a good point to make, it’s there. However, I don’t see it happening. Mostly because the weight of history proves that it’s individuals, not collectives, that make a difference.

  11. Um, that RandyAyn reply should have been from me.

  12. If Jeff T.’s comment piqued anyone’s interest, there’s a good ham-centric take on Broadband Over Powerlines at http://www.qrpis.org/~k3ng/bpl.html

    Would someone be good enough to post a rebuttal pro-BPL link (so as not to hijack the thread)?

  13. Very intersting article about BPL. Thanks for that.

  14. Ham radio with technology that hasnt changed since WW2 ???
    Wake up , they use computer chip based tuners/transmitters just like everybody else.

    This came up during the Y2K scare. The only radios that run on valves and flickering dials are in museums.
    Anyway cellphone service is restored pretty quick, with truck based cell units and so on.
    leave the ham radio operators to contact each other on the other side of the world , while if you want to call baton Rouge from NO, just pick up the cell phone

  15. “The only radios that run on valves and flickering dials are in museums.”

    You obviously don’t know too many Ham operators…

  16. Amen N7 (can I call you N7?) Ham played a BIG part in the tsunami communications and recovery.

  17. Well just plug HAM RADIO into Froogle and up comes

    DX 2517 10 Meter Base Ham Radio

    Click to enlarge
    Galaxy DX 2517 Features:
    New main PC board for increased stability and sensitivity
    Five digit frequency counter
    Two large, easy-to-read Meters
    Meter Scales for Signal, Power Output, SWR and Modulation (AM only)
    Variable dimmer control
    Red/Green Transmit/Receive LED
    Noise Filter circuit for increased signal-to-noise ratio
    “On-Demand” switchable Talk Back circuit with Volume Control
    +10 KHz Switch
    Noise Blanker/Automatic Noise Limiter
    Roger Beep
    Mic Gain
    Receive Gain
    SSB in addition to AM/FM/CW/PA
    PA includes Echo
    25 watts Maximum Output Power – SSB
    10 watts Maximum Output Power – AM
    Variable Output Power
    1.5 KHz Clarifier for Receive only
    5.0 KHz Clarifier for Receive and Transmit
    19″W x 6-1/2″H x 14″D (with handles)
    16-1/2″W x 6-1/2″H x 13-1/4″D (handles removed)

    Main PC board ?
    I suppose the microphones are WW2 technology.
    Then again we could retrain all those first responders in morse code so they can actually talk to someone.
    The point is New Orleans was flooded but not cut off at any stage, I have been able to listen to the NOPD police scanner from the otherside of the world , you guessed it , via the INTERNET.

  18. About the indignation of folks over the “technology has changed little since World War II” bit, lighten up, folks.

    Yes, solid state transisters have replaced vacum tubes and digital tuners have replaced mechanical ones. So what.

    The same goes for A.M. radio. But the overriding technology (i.e. how the shit works) has changed little.

    The old tube ham radios, for the most part, will still work – as do crystal A.M. radios.

    Seems these days people aggressively seek out things to get twitchy about.

  19. if you want to call baton Rouge from NO, just pick up the cell phone
    Sorry, you can barely dial Baton Rouge to Baton Rouge these days, let alone get a call thru to/from New Orleans.

  20. There is also a nifty technology, whose name escapes me for the moment, that turns HAM radios into a packet switching network that functions like the internet for sending a large number of short text messages. A guy I worked with at Apple ran one of the stations out of our facility. The utility of such a system in a disaster area is obvious.

  21. “About the indignation of folks over the “technology has changed little since World War II” bit, lighten up, folks.”

    watch this, 2+2-1=3. just wait, this being a Reason comment board at some point someone will explain why, in the most snarky I’m smarter than you way possible, how it’s incorrect.

  22. ‘Snarky’?


  23. Uhh, Shannon, I’ve heard it called “packet radio.”

    Believe it or not!

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