Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hamming it up

This isn't a post about Jon Hamm (although it could be - I could create an entire blog about himImeanWHAT?).  Sorry, lost my train of thought there for a second (speaking of Jon Hamm, that reminds me of Mad Men - I certainly COULD do an entire post about the props on that show - talk about ephemera goodness!).

No, this kind of ham involves a radio.  Ever since I worked at Waldenbooks (1998-2003) and would stock the reference shelf I've been fascinated with shortwave and ham radio operation.  Imagine being able to contact someone halfway around the world....what's that, you say?  We can do that every day, instantaneously, via the Interwebs?  Yes, that's true.  But sometimes it's more fun to do things the "hard" way.  I could certainly see the intrinsic value and satisfaction derived from such an endeavor.

It'll be interesting to see what will happen to the hobby in the next 25 years or so, when most of the operators are gone.  With aps and programs like Skype, will anyone even bother with it?  Will it be a lost art, resurrected by some hipster 100 years from now, when people long to return to the "simpler times"?  I fear this hobby may be another casualty of the Information Superhighway (I love using that arcane term). 

If you've never heard of ham (or amateur) radio before, here's the Wikipedia definition:
Amateur radio (ham radio) is the licensed and private use of designated radio bands, for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication.
(It's a pretty long and involved process and hobby - from what I hear if you get into it, you REALLY get into it).

Radio waves are ephemeral, to be sure, but you may ask, "What's in it for me, as a collector/artist?"  Well, in the photo above, you'll see the calling cards of different ham radio operators all over the world (I love that I got an Appleton, WI one - from a trade in AUSTRALIA!).  These are cards that operators collect to denote who they've contacted (if you're interested in what the combination of letters and numbers means, head on over to this definition). Brian's uncle Gene is a longtime ham radio enthusiast and his binder of calling cards is quite impressive!  I believe the furthest he's ever reached was New Zealand.

A quick search on Ebay suggests you can get lots of cards for fairly cheap.  Mine all came from one person, but I wouldn't mind snagging some more!  In fact, I see here that there's auction ending in an hour for....

SHEESH!  I have to stop trailing off today!  :D  
I've only used one of my cards so far in my art, but I'm always thinking about ways to use my ephemera.  Here's an ATC that I made using a card from Japan:

Postscript:  DANG IT!!!  Note to self:  NEVER research items on Ebay when you're writing your posts; otherwise, you may just get grabby and purchase a lot of 260 old ham radio calling cards.  :D


  1. So...did you win the auction?

  2. Well Eileen - sort of. I found an even BETTER auction - a "buy it now" auction whereby I got 260 ham radio cards for $7.99. WOO HOO! :D