Watches, Warnings & Advisories for Sunflower Co.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On the radio...

When we think of amateur (or HAM) radio, images of guys huddled in a corner with a Morse Code key on the desk, tapping out messages to far flung corners of the world as a series of dots and dashes.  Well, that may well have been the original form of text messaging, and it is still used as one of many modes that amateur operators use to communicate.

If you'd been listening around on a scanner in the Mississippi Delta tonight around 145.550 MHz, you would have heard some pretty strange sounds, far different the staccato cadence of Morse Code.  You would have heard the sound of a Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System being tested.  Sounding somewhat like a FAX machine, the data being carried over the airwaves was the Hazardous Weather Outlook you can read in the post right below this one, along with a host of other messages.

While we "do" amateur radio for fun, part of our FCC license privilege requires that we possess the ability to send and receive emergency messages to support the communities we live in.  Whether that message is transmitted over twenty or two-hundred miles, it is important that the message be accurate. 

Digital modes of communicating far supersede the accuracy of simple voice.  We can encode the data stream in such a way that the receiving station can do a quality-check to make sure the data "makes sense" and is therefore accurate.  Not only for accuracy's sake, but often times we can transmit a message much more quickly. 

Practice makes if you happen to hear some really strange sounds on the air, know that we're just trying to perfect our art and get the message through.

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