While HitOldies is all about the music, some of our members are into other types of radio frequency. This short article will attempt to introduce our listeners who aren’t familiar with Amateur Radio already, into the interesting world of voice repeaters, networking, and internet links.
Ham radio is not CB. It’s not the FRS (Family Radio Service), nor is it the newly created GMRS licensed service. Amateur radio is a service in every stretch of the imagination, where technically inclined individuals are licensed by the FCC and use a super-wide variety of communications devices for the express purposes of providing a bonafide service to the community, the enjoyment of the radio hobby, and experimentation with new technology and communications modes and methods. It goes without saying that the ham radio community has had a hand in the development of everything from satellite radio to remote control devices.
I could write an entire book on what the ham radio community does and how to get into it, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of our HitOldies community. Besides, most of you would probably get bored reading. But I do wish to talk about my latest ham radio ‘toy’, how entertaining it is for me, and how it relates to data streaming, such as how we stream the hit music to you on your devices here at HitOldies.
At left is the exact model that I’m using. This is the ZUM Radio “ZUMspot Elite 3.5 Pi-Star MMDVM”. It’s the latest in a line of interfaces that take the RF transmitted from a user’s (my) UHF digital transceiver, decode it and send it along an internet stream to a server that connects virtually hundreds of thousands of different audio connection servers, in the 6 different digital modes currently being used in the Amateur Radio service. These include P25, Yaesu System Fusion and Icom’s “D-Star” modes, plus DMR and a couple of others. This technology has been around for serveral years, although these internet linking modems are a relatively new thing, going back to 2017 and they are constantly evolving and upgrading.
Here’s the fun thing. I have several UHF (440 mHz band) transceivers here in my ‘shack’. While the availability of digital repeaters down at my low elevation along the river is almost non-existent, this opens up the whole world to me, while I drop back to low power (1 watt on my Icom ID-31 ht and 5 watts on my Yaesu FTM400XDM mobile rig). I literally talk to the entire world, depending upon what server I connect to. And don’t think this is my radio talking to the internet only. The other side of this “tunnel” is connected to actual radios, transmitting RF to specific regions. For instance, yesterday, while I was on this main computer programming HitOldies music, my Icom radio was connected to the node known as “America-Link”. That node is so popular that it has hams from all over the world tuned in. In this case, I talked with another operator named Tommy, who was located in northwest England. Just using a small walkie-talkie-looking device set to low power – one watt, from my back porch. And while I was talking to him through my internet connection, understand that the same internet connection was streaming the audio you hear on HitOldies! The bandwidth used to carry on this conversation, or, QSO as we call it in ham radio, is very small. This uses very few resources.
If you want more information on ham radio, how you might get involved, or if you’re a ham now, and want to just share your stories, send an email to email@example.com and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Alternately, go to arrl.org, and read for yourself what amateur radio is all about and discover how you can get licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.
I’ll see you on the air!
Steve “West”, K1FRC