“Every man should have a hobby…” I can’t remember who said that, (was it Mae West? – I can’t Google it, because I don’t have enough time left on my free 30 mins of Premier Inn internet access) but it’s certainly true.
Women have their hobbies: ironing; washing; cleaning; having babies, etc, so there’s no reason why men can’t have hobbies too.
I’ve had plenty of them over the years, and you’ll probably not be surprised to learn that as a kid, I collected stamps and made Airfix models. Children nowadays – the MTV Generation (no, isn’t that us? Aren’t we the MTV Generation now?) OK, the Phineas & Ferb Generation – don’t have the patience for such things. “Build an Airfix model? I’ve probably got app for that.”
But one of my hobbies has just resurfaced, after a fifteen-year hiatus.
Or, more precisely, Amateur Radio.
Passing my exam in 1984 (I think), I was a keen player of the hobby right up until when I moved house in 1998. My old house was on the top of a hill – the highest point in town – and signals from far and away were easy pickings. But, then I got married and our new house was located in a dip (it still is) and all my radios suddenly went deaf.
But whilst I’ve been away, things have changed. Back in the day, my licence restricted me to operating only on VHF and UHF frequencies, but the rules have changed and I can now operate on HF frequencies too. That opens up a whole new world, as HF frequencies propagate differently and with a half decent aerial system, I should be able receive and transmit out of our dip.
But there have been other changes too. It was always the ‘data modes’ that interested me the most, especially RTTY (Radio TeleTYpe) and AX25 ( a highly resilient packet protocol based on the X25 system used by the likes of BT for data transfer). I’m pleased to see, from reading the amateur pages on the internet, that not only is RTTY still alive and well, but it has been joined by a whole host of other systems, offering more resilience and improved performance under weak signal conditions. And whereas, in the old days, I had to build/buy a suitable demodulator to operate these modes, it’s now all done just using the sound card on your PC.
So, this last weekend – despite having enough other things to do – I dug out my old HF receiver from the loft and downloaded some suitable software.
It was hard work trying to get anything at all, as my receiver is just a ‘cheap’ one with limited sensitivity and rubbish selectivity. And I was just using the built-in telescopic aerial, which is next to useless. But when – on Sunday morning – I managed to resolve some morse code being sent by a chap on the west coast of Wales and then some RTTY from the German weather service Deutscher Wetterdienst, I was more excited than than Jimmy Saville was, when it was announce that the St Winifred’s All Girls School Choir were to appear on Top Of The Pops.
But, that tiny, little success has encouraged me to pursue it further and already I have ordered a load of cable to make an aerial and some bits to make some modifications to my HF receiver to improve its performance.
Mrs Masher has ‘fond’ memories of me cooped up in my room, with a set of headphones on, till stupid o’clock in the morning.
As recompense, I may have to get her that bloody dishwasher after all.