I am W7MAH.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time with my father. He’s teaching me how to be a ham. Ham radio is fun, social, educational, and is regularly a lifeline during times of public or personal emergency. I want to inherit my father’s call sign W3ACO, when he passes. My father was first licensed as a ham in 1957 and has been building antennas and talking to the world ever since. He is only a few contacts away from having talked to every registered radio authority in the world. I think that is pretty cool!
Last spring I passed my technicians’ license exam and got my own call sign, W7MAH – that’s Whiskey-Seven-Mike-Alpha-Hotel to those on the radio waves. Hams have their own language to communicate in the shortest and most audible way. While the NATO phonetic alphabet is in English, it is simple to learn, converts to Morse code, and means that you can communicate who you are, and where you are from, to anyone else no matter what your native language is.
Last weekend, there was a competition to see how many contacts one could make in a 48hr period. I am allowed with my technician’s license to speak on the 10-meter band: that is 28.300-28.500 MHz. In less than two hours, I made 25 contacts and exchanged my information with them. There were 24 men and one woman. All female hams are referred to as “Young ladies”, or YL for short, in the logs. So I will forever be a YL in the logs of all the contacts I made that day. It made me happy to know that for some, I might be the only YL in their log, a newbie aspiring ham from Oregon. If I get my own radio working soon, I might join the Young Ladies Radio League. Only 15 % of hams are YLs in the United States. Male operators of any age are addressed as OM or "old man", I love that.
With some changes in the direction the antenna was pointed, I was able to talk to people from from all over the world:
YV1KK Venezuela – Julio, a ham since age 15!
WP4SK Puerto Rico
WP2AA US Virgin Islands
VP5H Turks and Caicos Islands
V26M Antigua and Barbuda
TI5W Costa Rica
NP2X US Virgin Islands
NP2P US Virgin Islands
NP2J US Virgin Islands
KP3Z Puerto Rico
J69MV Santa Lucia
IZ2DJP Italy (this one took me awhile to figure out, as Adelio has an Italian accent and the call sign is long!)
I think my father might have been more proud of me on March 6th than the day I got my PhD. It was truly a joy to see him beaming like that! But what was even more profound, was how quickly and effectively I was able to communicate with so many people from around the world that I did not know, and to be able to uniquely identify myself in those contexts despite most everyone having a different native language. It got me thinking about the similarities and differences with our current approaches to scholarly communication. What if we all had scholarly call signs that allowed us to any time, anywhere, post our results, our ideas, and develop relationships and conversations around them in real time? OH WAIT… maybe we are actually getting closer to that with some of our social media venues, where we similarly broadcast content. However, such venues have the ability to link these posts to content on the Web. With the combination of fast communication transactions, persistence, registration, typed linking of versionable content, and quality translation tools, perhaps we ARE in fact developing an ecosystem that might someday be as effective and efficient as what has been happening on the radio waves for over 100 years. Maybe I can even get some hams to come to #Force2016 and give us their ideas for how to do it!