The father of survival
There were two kinds of kids in the neighborhood in which I grew up: those who lived, breathed and died sports, and those who did not. Most of those who fell into the latter category also were brainiacs — which, of course, further ensured their ostracization.
I was one of the exceptions. I was good enough in sports that my friends looked past my penchant for using words — in complete sentences, no less — that contained more than three syllables. My friend Tommy Sarro wasn’t as lucky.
Tommy was a brainiac if ever there was one. He was my patrol leader in Boy Scouts, and thus was entrusted with choosing the name for our patrol. In our troop, the names gravitated, as one might expect, towards ferocious beasts: bears, lions, tigers and the like. We were the Ocelots. Thank goodness my parents had invested in the World Book encyclopedia.
When we were eighth-graders, Tommy built a TV for his science fair project. He won, which was no great surprise — he certainly had my diagram of how a radio works beat. Several of my friends didn’t think Tommy deserved his honor because he had gotten help from his much-older brother. I didn’t share that view because I wouldn’t have been able to build a TV from scratch, even if I had Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth helping me.
Many of the world’s Tommy Sarros grew up to be amateur-radio enthusiasts. And thank goodness they did. Over the past three years, we have written several articles that chronicle the crucial service hams provide in times of crisis. Often they go to heroic lengths to provide lifeline communications when all other forms of communication have been decimated, protecting valuable property and saving invaluable lives. For that, we all owe them a debt of gratitude.
Unfortunately, amateur radio finds itself at a crossroad today. There once was a time, as Senior Writer Donny Jackson reports in this edition’s cover story on page 50, that ham radio was the only way one could talk with someone on the other side of the planet. Today, voice over IP — a less complicated, less expensive technology — puts such communications within reach of anyone with an Internet connection. Consequently, fear is growing that amateur radio one day will fall by the wayside and eventually disappear.
That would be a shame. If it is true that necessity is the mother of invention, then reinvention is the father of survival. Amateur radio must reinvent itself to ensure its relevancy. I have faith the hams will find a way. The brainiacs always figure things out.