Fans of the empirically awesome Netflix series Stranger Things will recall that at one point our adolescent heroes use ham radio to communicate with their pal, who is stranded in another dimension circa 1983.
We have no proof that ham radio actually reaches other dimensions, but on then again, we have no proof that it doesn't, either. And as Trace Dominguez explains in today's DNews report, it's not that crazy of an idea, because ham radio can go a long way.
Ham radio is another terms for amateur radio, and works just like the broadcasts you pick up in your car stereo. The differences are that ham radio is strictly non-commercial and dedicated to specific frequencies or bands on the RF spectrum. There are nearly three million ham licenses worldwide, with major populations of licensed operators in Japan, Germany, England, Indonesia, and South Korea. According to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), there are more than 727,000 licensed ham radio operators -- called hams -- in the United States alone.
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As with commercial broadcasts, ham radio signals go out in three main bands within the radio frequency spectrum -- High Frequency (HF), Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). The naming protocol is refreshingly straightforward and that first designation is actually the most interesting.
Ham radio in the HF band is sometimes called shortwave radio and messages can essentially bounce off Earth's ionosphere -- the electrically charged layer of the atmosphere. This allows ham radio signals to skip around the planet. Ham radio messages that are rebroadcast in relay can literally go around the world.
They can also go out of this world. In 1969, a ham radio operator in Kentucky famously picked up radio transmissions from the Apollo 11 astronauts on the lunar surface. You can still talk to astronauts with amateur radio today. In fact, the crew of the International Space Station schedule regular ham radio chats with amateur operators in specific locations as the ISS passes overhead.
These are, as you might imagine, utterly transcendent moments for ham radio nerds of sufficient intensity. Trace has many more details in his report, or if you're interested in getting started yourself, take a leisurely scroll through the generous introductory material over at the ARRL website.
-- Glenn McDonald
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