October is festing all over, and if last weekend wasn’t enough, you’ll have to do more pre-planning this Saturday to take in all the stuff going on in these here parts.
First of all, the Trinity Site open house is Saturday, and you’d better get in line early because, according to the White Sands people, a larger-than-average turnout is expected this time on account of the popularity of the movie Oppenheimer. And per usual, the Very Large Array is once again piggybacking onto that with its very own open house with guided tours and such. And hey, you might want to slow down going through Magdalena for the community yard sale.
If that’s not all, the Socorro Amateur Radio Association’s Hamfest returns Saturday morning out at the Firefighters Training Academy, where all the hammers get together once a year to check out the latest in the amateur radio world and swap stories.
And to be clear, Hamfest has nothing to do with ham, you know, the kind that goes with red-eye gravy. Nor has it anything to do with actors who “ham it up,” although that label was used to ridicule the talkative operators of amateur radio in the early part of the 20th century. This so amused the growing cadre of operators that they adopted it proudly. Subsequently, you might run across a canned ham at the event. You never know.
My one foray into amateur radio was in the mid-1970s when CB radios were the big thing and probably got started during the oil crisis when the federal government lowered speed limits to 55 on all highways. That meant if you had the hankering to go faster, you needed to know when to slow down lest you get a ticket from “smokey.” Who among us remembers Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit? Anyway, CB radio was the most popular way to communicate with other travelers before the 2000s, and I’d bet a lot of truckers are still saying, “breaker-breaker-one-nine, you got your ears on?”
I’ve always considered the idea of radio an amazing thing. Even when I was little, I learned how to make a crystal set, the kind you clipped onto a chain-link fence or something similar, and could hear the AM station playing the latest Beach Boys song through an earpiece.
I don’t know if those primitive Heathkits are still sold or if kids today would even like to tinker with them, what with all the “user-friendly” gizmos out today; the things kids take for granted. But those of us older than Millennials are prone to make sure the younger generation is reminded of how things were before they came along. When I was a kid, we were reminded how good we had it as opposed to our parents, but even so, I can’t remember ever being told by my father that he had to walk five miles to school in the snow. Barefoot.
All I had to complain about in my youth was the grumpy old guy in the house on the corner who yelled at me to stay off his lawn when I tried to cut across his yard. Not much has changed there.
The world was, in a way, easier to understand, and if there was nothing to do, you had to find something else to do, like read a book, write a letter, paint a picture, exercise, and other semi-productive things like that. That was back when going “viral” meant something bad. Or a cell phone might’ve been something in prisons. Or when a browser was someone who didn’t buy anything. When Java was a cup of joe, Spam was just spicy ham in a can, or a website was where a spider lived, and hashtags might’ve been smothered in gravy at Waffle House. Yum.
I like to think before computers, life was relatively peaceful and pleasant, and the world wasn’t so overly digitized. On the other hand, I do, in fact, like being able to boot up my Fire tablet and ask Alexa for the weather forecast each morning. Or make sure my checking account hasn’t been hacked yet.
But even in this day of fiber optics and satellites and cell towers ad infinitum, amateur radio pretty much remains the most reliable as a fallback for emergencies (or simply just shooting the bull with someone literally on the other side of the continent). And the thing is, it’s fundamentally the same technology as when Guglielmo Marconi was showing off his wireless apparatus over 125 years ago.
After the wireless took off and AM radio stations began popping up all over the country (including KOB in 1922), he said, “Have I done the world good, or have I added a menace?”
That, prophetically, was way before rappers. Or Taylor Swift.