Amateur Radio And Me


   I recieved my original Amateur Radio license as a Novice-class operator in December of 1984. In April of 1986, I upgraded the license becoming a General-class operator.

   During 1986, Tim Merrill (KJ4PH), Chuck Smyder (KK4HP), and I - at the urgent pleas of Earl Jones (NF4O) to help him in his efforts to pull together an "official presence" of local amateur radio operators trained to respond to disasters - helped to form the Alachua Co. Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). I served in said Service as Assistant Emergency Coordinator, HF Liason. Earl became the District Emergency Coordinator (or DEC) at that time, while Tim Merrill, KJ4PH, took on the duties of Alachua Co. Emergency Coordinator (or EC), and Chuck Smyder, KK4HP, was Asst. Emergency Coordinator (or AEC), VHF Liason.

   Originally Earl wanted me to be the EC but I repeatedly turned down his incessant efforts because I was so afraid that I would end up being stuck with doing all of the hard work while everyone else in GARS ran for the hills. And I turned out to be right on. I'd only been with GARS for a short time but long enough to realize that when you ask for help most of the membership tends to hide. True to my fears, I still ended up taking on most of the tasks of creating the organization, anyway. With nothing to use as a template, and with grudging complaint at being left alone by myself to do it, I personally composed the original Standard Operating Procedures Manual, the original Emergency Plan, and the Memorandums of Understanding between the Red Cross and Emergency Management. I'd even designed the original logo and patches. That being said, while getting it started was easy, getting it organized and recognized at the start was a much more difficult thing because of some interference by a man named Bill Wells/K4RDP, who didn't appreciate our enthusiasm and who did all he could to try to mess us up. In later years, Ed Amsbury, Editor of the GARS newsletter, incorrectly atttributed its founding not to us, but to Mr. Wells. Bill never bothered to speak up and correct it, and continued to publicly take credit for it even up until the day that he died. It is a very despicably dishonorable thing to take credit for the extremely hard work and effort of other good people. They deserved better than that.

   Under ARES, we served as public service communicators for a number of community events, including: foot races, bike races, during parades, and as spotters during Gator games at the local stadium. During the Gator games, I remember days standing quite not unlike an idiot during rainstorms or under the hot afternoon sun looking for fans involved in fights, or for people who might have fallen down stadium stairs, who might just be a bit too rowdy - throwing objects on top of the crowds below them, or watching the areas where senior citizens groups were gathered for signs that some might be suffering from the heat in the unshaded areas of the bleachers. If any of the above was noticed, then we would contact Net Control and guide the police and/or EMS crews to the respective site. When I almost fell over off the back wall of a crows nest position (i.e., over the side of the stadium wall) one day because someone threw something at me while I was intently looking through my binoculars, I decided perhaps the crows nest position was not the best position for me. A good respect for lightning also had some to do with that. 8-) Of course, very next game, I was right back up there - this time with a backpack that contained a heavy rope for tieing myself fast. 8-) Communications wasn't always good from the crow's nest. Back then, we didn't have a repeater at the Press Box like today's ARES group has. (Update: That repeater has since been removed.) So, I would always bring a mag-mount 5/8-wave up there with me. There was also the 'runner' job - where you'd run along with the EMS crews whenever they'd respond to a call. This involved running just ahead of the EMTs helping to clear a fast pathway for them through the crowds.

   I remember that I loved traffic nets. In 1986 I was also a member of the National Traffic System - being an ARRL Official Relay Station (ORS). During this time, I served as a Net Control Station (NCS) for such traffic nets as the All-Florida CW Traffic Net (QFN), the All-Florida Slow-Speed CW Traffic Net (QFNS), the Florida Medium-Speed Traffic Net (FMSN), the Florida Phone Traffic Net (FPTN), among others. In my `spare time', I was guest-NCS on many out of state NTS HF CW traffic nets. I also served as an ARRL Official Bulletin Station (OBS). I just couldn't put the stuff down.

   I also served for a short period as Secretary of the Gainesville Amateur Radio Society, as well as serving as Associate Editor for thier newsletter, the ACE REPORTER, which soon thereafter became the GARSMouth. (The cover art for the original GARSMouth newsletter was designed the then girlfriend of the Editor at the time, Chuck Smyder, KK4HP.) As for the duties involved in producing the newsletter back then, they would include cutting and pasting submitted articles onto flat sheets of paper with messy glue. And if they didn't stick, you pounded them. If that didn't work, you jumped up and down on them. If that didn't work, you pulled out the power drill. Often people would submit articles in complete ignorance of requests to keep the margins within a certain limit. (Actually, if someone submitted an article and everything was perfect, you were mad at him because it threw you off.) 8-) Then you would have to completely retype the article. When the original draft of the newsletter was completed, you submitted this to Nick Koenigstein (WB9ELP) for review. If it `worked,' he made a final working copy and produced multiple copies of THAT which were then sent back to you forrrrrr...collating and stapling, licking, stamping, and mailing. Seeing me running around the house in a panic with a stamp stuck to my tongue with dried glue screaming for the glue remover was not all that uncommon a sight. (I did eventually get it all down pat enough that I stopped stapling my thumb.) If your rough draft DIDN'T `work,' he sent it back with a very nasty note with a few curse words scribbled across the newsletter (and a coffee ring stain), and the process started all over again. (Just kidding, Nick. 8-) ) Major improvements and advancements in computers since that time have made this whole job an absolute `breeze' for others. You have to remember that back in the mid-80s, the Internet had not yet been made available to the general public, and it was just a relatively small network used mainly by universities. (Al Gore hadn't "invented" it, yet.) As well, the IBM PC was a new thing, and people were still using computers such as the VIC-20, and the Commodore 64 to handle their tasks. Printers were slow and noisy and tractor-fed. So if you were a small club publishing a newsletter, you couldn't send it to someone's email inbox so easily because it required manually retyping it in text format, and then it would have been without pictures. No, you retranscribed that which was hand written into the computer, printed it out, and pasted it onto a page for Nick to handle. Nick then used his printing press business to print out enough copies for the club membership, with a few spare for "archiving". Today, you type it up, cut and paste a few pictures and other images, publish it pretty much at home, and send copies to everyone's email inboxes using the Internet.

   I am officially rated by the ARRL to copy CW at a speed of 20 words per minute, though I know I can copy a tad faster than that. During my first year as a Novice-class licensee in 1986, I tried my first contest, called the Novice Roundup, and took first place in the Northern Florida Section.

   In 1995, being the hyperactive, OCD person that I am, and with access to a brand new thing called the "Internet", I began work on a new project. Travelling a lot to visit family up north, and having lived in New Jersey before, and having personally experienced what it can be like to not realize that each state seemed to have its own laws regarding the mobile use of radio frequency scanners, and having had my scanner once confiscated before by local law enforcement officers who didn't even know their own laws very well regarding such things, much less understand what a "ham radio operator" was or why they might be "exempted", I decided to do some legal research of my own and compiled a list of all the known laws regarding scanner use across the country. There was anoher list on the web but it didn't list the actual text of the laws, and didn't even go as far as to cite the actual statute numbers so that you could look them up yourself. You basically had to go on trust that the list maker had all the laws and that they were still current. So, since there was no other like source such as that out there, I decided to take it on. While doing this research, I noticed that radar-detector laws would very often be listed in nearly the same place as the scanner laws. Since they're also used by people while they travel, I added them to the list as well. Today, every ham across the country is well familiar with my site, which is called, simply, "Mobile Scanner & RADAR-Detector Laws In The United States". Before 9/11, the site was approaching a quarter-million hits a year. After 9/11. the country's fear showed, as travel died down drastically in the days and weekd following that, and the hits did, too.
   Unfortunately, a few years later, I even caught Officer Roy Reyers, a rather infamous Maricopa County Arizona FHP officer who runs some commercial radar-related sites for profit, cut and pasting my web site over to his own in order to try to use it to attract people over to his sites to help him make a profit. I had done all that research, and put it up on the web for people to access for free as a public service...only to watch Roy use it to help himself make money. :( What a jerk. When confronted with why he had done it, he said that he had made certain minor changes to my work, and that as a result, it was "no longer yours". In actuality, Roy had exactly described what in legal parlance is called a "derivative work", which IS the property of the original owner. ...A twenty-year COP...didn't understand the law. Since then, I have resorted to various copyright protection methods to try to catch people who do that in the act. If you're going to do the work yourself, by all means claim credit for it. But don't steal someone else's work and call it "yours" after simply changing the font typeface or color. He'd even stole my maps, at first! (sigh) No matter. Even today, when you do a keyword search for radar detector laws or scanner laws, my site still pops up at the very top, regardless of the fact that Roy has even paid for top billing. I've been around longer, and mine is updated more often. It's something others aren't willing to keep up with on a regular basis. Just too much work.

   At the same time as the MSRDL page project, I also decided to garner as much information as I could about local area frequencies and service-related codes, and I put it all together into a web page called the North Central Florida Area Scannist's Page. The page was originally designed for ham radio operators, who often used scanners in their public service work; but I realized that scanner enthusiasts would also find it useful. I'd personally contacted various local area public service leaders and garnered their frequencies and codes, and sometimes even maps of territories, myself.

   Around late 1996, I became interested in the weather and noticed that we had no actual local storm spottter program. So I set out to try to garner support to get one started. As always though, I found myself asking for help and only being able to get GARS and GARC to "support he idea and the concept", and that was about it. (sigh) And most hams I'd ask for help would clap at the idea but could never be nailed down to take any official positions or be called upon to take any long-term duties. So as usual, I took upon most of the whole task by myself, while people criticized and complained along he way. So in 1997, I had founded/created Alachua County SKYWARN largely by myself because no one else wanted to do it. (Seems to always end up being my motto: "...Because no one else would do it!") In the end, without even incorporating or asking for any monies to get the job done, our program had become so large and so successful that we even ended up supporting oher nearby counties because the other counties didn't HAVE their own SKYWARN programs, much less many opportunities for classes as a result. In the beginning, our web page was one of the largest and most informative on the web. We even created a list of other SKYWARN sites on the Internet (see Index to SKYWARN Web Sites On The Internet) before anyone else did - including the National SKYWARN Home Page, which at first, under the control of a 16yo kid who was running it at the time, was cut and pasted from our own list without even bothering to remove the copyright notice at the base of our page! People from all over the country came to us asking for help in creating their own local SKYWARN organizations because at the time there WERE no templates from which to create any Standard Operating Procedures Manuals. It was for that very reason that I placed our own SOP manual up on the web, so that other's could use it to use as a template for their own groups. We received a LOT of compliments on out SOP manual, and on our net operations manual. When I created that document, there WERE no templates to use. The ARRL had the Emergency Communicator's Handbook but back then it was less than a half inch thick and contained documents which had nothing at all to do with our own local situation. At the time, being a fan of the spaceflight program, I borrowed from it. As a fan of the space shuttle program, and I had rare documents such as the Space Transportation System Reference Manual (also known as the "NSTS Ref"). I loved how NASA handled launches, dividing up a huge project into teams run by leaders who had seats inside the Firing Room a KSC and in the Mission Control Center at Houston, and handling everything in a recycled "check list" fashion which to me seemed to very extremely efficient. So I borrowed from that idea in the creation of our own SOP and Net Operations manuals. People from all over the country and the world have asked if they could use our manual as a template from which to create their own programs without realizing that that is the reason WHY I placed it up there. Even military radio organizations have asked to borrow our SOP manual. I'm very proud to have played such a hugely helpful part in the development of the SKYWARN program, nationwide.

   In 2003, I noticed that the GARS By Laws were a ragged, incomplete mess. It contained just a couple of paragraphs and ended in what almost looked like something which had been created by a man who must have died while in mid-composition. It had sentences which ended in words which themselves were incompleted, and the rest of the page was blank. It was as if RTTY telecommunication had been interrupted by a voice carrier on top of it. It ended in incoherent,jumbled characters. It was not a complete document. Technically, it was not a legal document, and the club was actually operating illegally. At the time that it was noticed, it was after I had left the club and I wasn't even a member. But I volunteered to fix it up to par for them, and even added some improvement changes to make it more acceptable as a legal document. I even gave a POWERPOINT PRESENTATION about it to the entire club. The Executive Board examined, approved, and adopted the document. Ed Amsbury, the newsletter Editor at the time, again incorrectly attributed authorship in the GARSMouth to Jeff Capehart and Susan Tipton. Jeff and Susan never bothered to correct it and to this day continue to lay claim to the document's authorship. I gave a POWERPOINT PRESENTATION in front of the entire club about the problems with their document and my suggested fixes and addtions...and Ed gives credit to someone else who had nothing to do with it. Being officers in the club, they had simply "sponsored" it for me since I was not at the time a member of the club. I had wanted to know which "rules of order" the club used so that I could correctly file a proper complaint against some members of the club who were stalking and harassing me. When asked, they could not give me a complete document which actually HAD that paragraph. At that point, having had tons of previous experience at that sort of stuff (sigh), I volunteered to fix it for them, created a document which HAD that, and which had other improvements, and it became adopted. So, Jeff and Susan had nothing to do with it except to "sponsor" it.

(To add: 1998 - Jammer Incident - Bill Wells interference, GARS threats)
(To add: 2003 - founded Alachua Co. EMWIN Project)
(To add: 2005-present - Problems with local hams stalking and harassing me)

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Page Created: June 28, 1995.
Last Updated: January 18, 2012.

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