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Ham Radio/help! doing research for a novel


I'm a fiction writer and am working on a novel that takes place after an unprecedented economic collapse and power outage...which means only solar power, if that.

I have a character who is a former Army man and a bit of a ham radio operator. I also have a main character who is looking, for a variety of reasons, to start radio broadcasts to her community and beyond. There is also an evangelical preacher who has been able to broadcast his sermons far and wide and lure people to the mythical Center where he promises them amenities and "Ascension."

I need some help with language and conceptualizing how a ham radio operator might help an activist start a low-power community radio station that could repeat broadcasts in other communities?  There are solar panels (though not tons) and there is access to old equipment if need be. But what would that equipment be? And what would he need to do to upgrade.  Maybe this is a bigger question than what you can handle here and I'd welcome additional exchange.


It all seems perfectly reasonable, Kimi.  Ham radio can be very versatile under all kinds of circumstances.

Ham radio is not just one hobby, it's a group of hobbies all tied together by the commonality of using radio frequencies.  There's voice communication, slow scan TV, moonbounce, ham satellites, Morse code, packet data, facsimile, and teletype (probably forgot a couple).  All manner of power sources are used including house current, batteries, generators, solar cells, wind power, fuel cells.  Hams are not tied to just base stations at their homes or mobile stations in their cars.  Once a year, as a demonstration of emergency preparedness, Hams all over the country participate by traveling to a remote, temporary location like the top of a mountain or a wilderness campground.  There they set up a temporary station or group of stations and see how many other hams they can talk to in a weekend.  They string antennas from trees, set up generators, set up photovoltaic arrays, and batteries.  Extra points are awarded for using battery or other alternate energy sources.  The event is called "Field Day".

There are thousands of existing low-power broadcast radio stations around.  Many colleges have them and many small towns have them.  They are usually FM with limited power and range.  These could be operated using limited power.

There is a Ham band just above AM broadcast frequencies.  There is no channel 1 TV because it is actually a Ham band.  There is a ham band just above FM broadcast radio.  Most multi-band Ham radios can cover broadcast radio frequencies but are "locked out" of transmitting on non-Ham frequencies.  An advanced Ham can unlock a radio to transmit on most any frequency.

To relay a broadcast to another community, a Ham could set up "repeaters" on a couple of mountain tops and link two communities.  A "repeater" listens on one frequency and simultaneously retransmits on another frequency.  There are currently thousands of Ham repeaters in the country, many actually run on solar power and batteries, and some are interlinked to cover several states.  In theory, given a total lack of FCC restriction in broken society, a Ham repeater system could be established that could cover 90% of the country and rebroadcast community-style radio from each repeater site.

I'd be happy to help as much as I can, just need to know what you need.

Chris Bushman
WB6EEQ - Colfax, CA

Ham Radio

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Chris Bushman


I have been an amateur radio operator for about 41 years.


In real life I managed a small motion picture film lab in Hollywood. I've been a fireman, a teacher of English in Okinawa, a personal computer tutor. I am an Advanced Class Ham radio operator using my originally issued callsign WB6EEQ. I have operated for extended periods of time from Okinawa (KR6FX & KR6OP), Texas (K5VXG), and Mississippi (K5TYP). While in the Air Force, I was a Manual Morse Radio Intercept Operator.

BS Zoology, UC Davis

Member, Society of Motion Picture/Television Engineers - Member, American Radio Relay League - Member, Quarter Century Wireless Assn. - President, Zen Nippon Airinkai, So Cal Chapter - Member, Maltose Falcons Homebrewing Society - Alumni, American Brewers' Guild

I have held Conditional, General, and Advanced Class Ham radio licenses. Attended UC Davis to study Zoology. Go figure!?

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