Ham radio operators computer dependent

As I’m sure you are aware, I do other things besides computing, at least some of the time. On April 21 through April 23, I traveled to Visalia, California for the 57th International DX Convention, a convention of amateur radio operators.

For those not familiar with amateur radio or “dx” we are those people who are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to use the airways to, as a friend says, “talk to people we can’t see.” And “DX” signifies “distance” or when we talk with people in foreign countries. So at the DX Convention, there were over 700 amateurs who specialize in talking to people all around the world. We had amateur operators from many countries and we enjoyed visiting with those we may have talked to but never met face-to-face.

There were a number of presentations from amateurs that took trips to very obscure places to operate radios there to give us home bound amateurs a chance to talk to strange places. One presentation was from a recent trip by a group of about 20 that went to Peter One Island, a small, windy, snow covered island within Antarctica. No-one lives on this remote island so, unless radio amateurs visit there, there is no opportunity to add this “country” to the list that we can talk to.

Another presentation was by a group that recently visited Kure Island, the western most island in the Hawaiian Island chain. One caretaker lives on that island, but it seldom is visited. Unlike windy, snow covered Peter One Island, these hardy amateur radio operators spent their time in very hot conditions. A friend of mine from Tustin was on this expedition.

Incidentally, “countries” are defined in an arcane manner peculiar to amateur radio. I believe, all told, there are about 380 “amateur radio countries.” I have friends that have talked to almost all of these, though I haven’t yet.

Since this primarily is a computer column, let me say that most of us amateur operators use computers extensively. We keep track of those to whom we speak using special computer programs. And at the convention we saw demonstrated possibly the future of radio communications equipment. We all have radios that have zillions of knobs and buttons. But there we saw “black boxes” that contained all the radio circuitry but were controlled by a computer whose screen had an image of all the radio controls, digitally displayed and operated by mouse and keyboard. And the black boxes could be controlled over the Internet by operators miles away. The military already uses this type of equipment and we may soon. Progress.

Like most of you who are involved in hobbies, my particular amateur radio hobby has around 300,000 “hams” in the United States and probably 200,000 more worldwide. It’s a fun hobby and is getting more and more computer dependent.

If you would like to hear more about Ham Radio or other computer topics, visit “Coffee and Computers” at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. ‘C’ Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit. And visit my blog at

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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