Fairly recently, Jack started doing Zoom meetings for a committee he is a member of. A local outfit it is but still, easier to chat with neighbors within a radius of 10 miles or so.
There is a mute function at the top of Jack’s screen that shows his face on the screen. Clicking it silences any vocals or noise from Jack’s workspace. Clattering pencils, coffee cup clanging, all silent for the other participants. Of course, the camera showing everyone in a smaller space on the screen is difficult for Jack. No matter where the camera is located, Jack seems to be looking up or sideways. The other folks don’t seem to have that problem. Jack will have to ask why.
Recently, Jack remembered a similar chat format that he had with some friends in the big city in the late fifties. Most of the guys in the chat were friends of similar age except for Brother Dave in South Minneapolis.
Since home computers and cell phones were decades away, the multi chat ‘room’ was done over Amateur radio. Jack was in eighth grade as were most of the participants and all of them held General class licenses. This allowed them to use audio transmissions and more ‘bands’ of short wave to do so.
The chatting was done on the Ten Meter band which was much wider in bandwidth than the popular citizen’s band radio. That slot in radio bands was much higher around two meters and was disdained by Jack and his friends. No training or knowledge of circuitry, antenna construction and Morse code was required for that citizen’s Band. Elitist Ham juveniles. Citizen’s band is still used by OTR drivers as a useful tool, but the range and power is very limited.
So, there we were, a group of nerdy young amateur radio operators and we came up with a plan for a ‘network’ or net to join us all at the same time. We decided on a frequency at the edge of the ten meter band and called our little group the ‘Fish Net’
We would log on when we should have been in bed on school nights and talk about school and ‘social’ events that it seemed we were on the outside of: football team stuff, flirtatious gossip and the ‘In’ crowd. You may have been in on that or if not, you know the isolation of not being approached to join one. No doubt, we radiated (pun) our superior minds and scientific abilities that made us total outcasts. Jack went on to a custom loud chopped Harley in the early 60’s and confirmed his rebellion. Another column. (Jack sold his ham gear to buy chrome plating and engine parts.)
So, late at night, Jack and his friends would establish contact. One at a time we would announce our monitoring the exact frequency we would meet on. Jack rigged up a string to his foot switch which would switch from listening to broadcasting. Switching antenna for receiver to transmitter and standby to both parts of his ‘rig’ The string went up the ceiling and down to his bed.
Jack took his microphone to his bed, laid down and would pull on the string to make the switch. It worked and a few times, Jack would fall asleep at the switch. It was fun and almost impossible to convey to school mates. Several times, a ham operator from another part of the country would log in and chat a bit too. A bit of another difference between Citizens Band Radio or CB. That can not be done with 5 watts of power. We had a hundred watts or more and ionosphere radio wave ‘skip’ now and then.
It was fun and connecting as we all went to different schools. Early Zoom, about fifty years or so. Pioneers in communication as it were. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator