My new neighbor up the street put up this large, gangly antenna in his backyard. I made the mistake of asking what it was.
Apparently, amateur radio is alive and well in the age of the internet. My neighbor is a ham radio operator. He’s also a Mac user, so we have something in common. The only antenna I have is wrapped around my iPhone, or buried in my Mac. How does a ham radio operator use a Mac?
The Real Wireless World
Amateur radio is a different world from those of us with Wi-Fi on Mac or PC. Think of Marconi and Morse Code but in a strangely modern way.
Amateur radio, ham radio, has been around about 100 years, so it’s ancient technology.
Yet, ham radio aficionados pushed packet radio back in the 1970s, and employed TCP/IP long before the internet took off for the masses in the mid-1990s. A number of digital modes exist in the shortwave bands, including VoIP.
Amateur radio may use technology we regard as ancient (transmitters, receivers, and very tall antennas), but they’re hardly die hards from a different generation. They’re Mac users.
Ham Radio, Mac User, Log Book
Among the couple of dozen pieces of radio equipment in my neighbor’s house, was an iMac and a MacBook. I jokingly asked him if he has any specific apps just for amateur radio.
Enter Aether Log Book, the amateur radio users logging app.
Apparently, amateur radio operators keep detailed logs of the fellow radio operators, known as QSOs. Aether Log Book is used to track, organize and search through QSO entries. It works with all the basic Mac apps—Spotlight for search, Address Book, AppleScript, Mail—even Google Maps.
Click a button in Aether Log Book and get a map of a station’s exact location, including automatic calculations of distance and beam heading to other stations.
Dear Mac user, this is a whole different world.
Aether Log Book does more than just capture information from another operator somewhere else on the planet. ALB can also pull in call book data from the FCC’s database (US only). It also provides direct RS-232 communications support for connected transceivers, so frequency, mode and power information can be read and filled in when logging a QSO (another radio operator or station).
I’m a bit of a geek by trade, so I was completely fascinated by my neighbor’s set up.
The rig—all the receiver, transmitter, antenna, and related equipment—as well as how he integrated his Mac into the operation.
Macs are in every facet of industry, business, academia, science, education, but I never suspected it could be a key component in what I wrong believed to be an ancient and dying practice—amateur radio.
In fact, even the term amateur is a misnomer. These folks are skilled and knowledgable and on top of the latest technology, but they’re not working in an official government or commercial capacity. Hobby? Perhaps. It’s a different world but the Mac seems quite at home among all that radio equipment.