New Directions Radio: Amateur Radio Communication

Writer Copthorne Macdonald discusses the basics of amateur radio operation and his plans for New Directions Radio, a semi-organized on-air gathering for amateur radio enthusiasts.

| November/December 1973

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    Writer Copthorne Macdonald with mic and amateur radio set.
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    Diagram showing how the radio frequency spectrum is allocated for AM, FM, TV, and amateur radio broadcasting.
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    Diagram shows how amateur radio frequencies can travel a long distance from their origin by bouncing off the ionosphere.

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Did my previous MOTHER EARTH NEWS amateur radio article excite you about the possibility of dialogue-at-a-distance via your own personal communication system? If so, you'll be happy to know that—in the best "MOTHER EARTH NEWS tells you how" tradition—we'll be around in this and future issues to help you add this particular alternative to the matrix of others you're putting together.

One-way media such as books and magazines are great...they've helped change my head about a lot of things. But we also need to rap, to engage in dialogue, to try our newly hatched ideas on other human beings and get their reactions and input. I hope you'll join us in doing just that.

The emphasis in this column will be different from that of the ham magazines (which stress the mechanics of radio). Instead, New Directions' interest is people and their need to communicate. For us, the hardware exists as a means to a human instrument to help us expand and develop our humanity through contact with many who would otherwise be out of reach. We'll use the technology, and learn what we must about it, but we'll think of it as a tool —like a knife or a plow or a stove—possessing neither wondrous magic nor hidden devils.

Every technology has an effect on life and Mother Earth. What is the impact of ham radio? Well, a typical rig requires a few pounds of various materials for its creation, and an average power input of a hundred watts or so while it's being used (the same amount that's needed to work a 100-watt light bulb). The equipment has a useful life of many years, and produces no emissions harmful to living organisms. Some large ham antennas are considered eyesores (as, on occasion, are windmills). Simple wire aerials, however, are seldom noticed.

The question of whether or not the human benefits of do-it-yourself radio are worth this price is a personal value judgment. Obviously, my evaluation is that they are.

Gathering Places

The on-the-air meetings mentioned in MOTHER EARTH NEWS are underway. The New Directions Roundtable is a scheduled get-together in which an individual presents an interest or concern of his own and a group rap session on that subject follows.

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