While checking my blog stats the other day, I noticed one visitor from Macedonia. I’m ashamed to say, though I consider myself fairly well-traveled, I had to look it up on a map, which is to say I Googled it.
This fascinating land-locked republic occupies less than 10,000 square miles yet boasts more than 50 lakes and sixteen mountains higher than 6,500 feet. Who could possibly be living there that would be somehow interested in me? This is the power of the web, the power of communication. It has its drawbacks, when credit cards are hacked and people abuse the freedom of voice. Yet, think about this fact, as I toil away on the back side of a mountain in New Hampshire, someone else, perhaps on a mountain, in Macedonia has heard my “voice.”
I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. My grandfather had an enormous “Ham” radio in his basement in Peterborough, NH. It sat on a large desk; clad in dark mahogany woodwork, it housed tubes, lights, dials and switches. Often, after dinner he would retire to his “office” in the finished part of the cellar. He sat with ear phones, a mammoth microphone on the desk, and gently moved the switches and dials, calling out to other Ham operators around the world. They used call letters and a succinctly constructed language; a code that had been translated worldwide. On the wall was a world map from one of the National Geographic Magazines that filled the book cases around him. This map was peppered with push-pins, marking all the places he had “spoken to.” Was this his Internet and the walls of NatGeo his google?
As a side note, I relied heavily on my memory to write about this, but in fairness, I did enough research to know the world of amateur radio operators might as well be on Mars for me. Though I worked in technology most of my adult life, it continually confounds me. I can recommend an excellent article to anyone with further interest in the subject. The author, W0BG writes in-depth and engagingly covering the past 100 years of history in amateur radio. I humbly extract and reproduce what struck me hardest in the piece:
…My grandfather, Eugene Ladd, lived there. He had wanted to be a ham operator, but in his final days with emphysema, he didn’t have the energy to learn the code. He had a mobile home full of radios of all kinds. His most prized was a Radio Shack DX-150A which he used as a short wave listener. He loved tuning into the ham bands. Well, after a good hour of rag chewing on CW with my new WB6 friend, I asked him if we could QSY to SSB for a phone patch with grandpa. He told me no, whereupon I was bold enough to ask him why, at least three times. My brass pounder friend told me he was blind, deaf and mute. I proceeded to ask him how he copied my CW. He explained, “I removed the cabinet to the speaker. I’ve got the volume up high so I can feel the pronounced vibrations of your code through my fingertips.” I wept humbly knowing that I was one of a select few who could converse with this dear OM near the California coast.
The code is foreign but the sentiment is timeless. Hello Macedonia!