Fidonet

I don’t recall precisely when, but somewhere in the misty past I’ve written mentioned the old Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) of yon. Well, I’m about to mention it again. It began about 1982 or 1983.

A son-in-law had just started at Oregon State, bent on earning a Computer Science Degree. And he turned me on to computers. I wanted one. Choices were limited, not only in size, but cost as well. I finally took a Commodore 64 home. I was in over my head from the get go, but friends and a Commodore user group kept me afloat until I discovered the BBSes.

A host of systems sprouted up overnight—Rhinoceros Kitchen, The Machine, Bill Board, Com-Line, Cloud 9. At least two dozen were within a local call radius. My favorite BBS was Dr. Rom.

Faster computers with larger storage were soon affordable. Along came the Internet. No more long distance phone bills. No more SysOps pulling the plug when my time limit was reached. The BBSes fell by the wayside. Even Dr. Rom. He sat in the garage on standby until 0001 hours, the morning of year 2000 when his plug was pulled.

Somebody had to pay for all this speed and convenience. Today, advertisements flash on and off, while others nearly crowd out the text and photos they are supporting. I yearned for the ad-free BBS days, the days when Fidonet, the worldwide group of 1500 hobbyist/enthusiasts provided email around the globe, often for the cost of one local telephone call.

This past week a friend on the west coast sent me a URL for an active BBS, a  Fidonet. WHAT?

One clue led to another and by dinner time I had unearthed 430 active BBSes, some that have remained active for 30 years.

Choices

Advertisements

Yellowstone Lake

A close friend, the late John Sturman, and I both retired in spring 1999. While we shared ham radio and bicycling, our ways physically parted that spring. He and his bride drove to Yellowstone Park to work the concessions for the summer, Barb and I hopped on a Suzuki motorcycle and headed for Arizona in order to experience the Sonoran Desert. After we were settled we established a Morse code contact every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon, Mountain Time. Our point was not to share a lot of information, but hobby, and maintain our friendship. Our chats usually lasted about a half-hour. Code is slow–20 wpm at best. as opposed to about 250 using sideband (voice). But maintaining a friendship is not based on words exchanged, It’s based on time shared.

In the autumn of 1999 John was heading home. So through the use of email, telephones, and ham radio we managed to schedule a reunion at a motor park in Baker, Oregon, a night to share some savored rum and discuss our summer experiences. My experiences were run of the mill life on the low desert floor. John’s experience, however, was focused on the vacationing folks and activities occurring at Yellowstone Lake.

John, a skilled photographer and photo finisher–in the days before digital photos–quickly nailed a job in the photo lab. That afforded him the opportunity to process and view thousands of photos. Some interesting, others not so much so. However, a geological team was already established photographing the floor of Yellowstone Lake. Twice each week a younger member of the team brought in a few frames by for processing. This individual usually waited for the pictures. John, making certain the machines were reproducing the images on the film couldn’t help but notice this man’s shots were always of  bump on the lake floor. A superimposed grid was displayed on each frame, but without the graduation values thereof, they meant little to John. Toward the end of summer the bump which was always centered appeared to have grown larger, but John didn’t know how much, millimeters, centimeters, even meters?

His new friend didn’t volunteer much information other than his team had been monitoring this subject for about fifteen years. This was the first year there was any activity other than the release of steam on occasion. When John asked what it was, he was told they didn’t know. It might be a new geyser. Maybe a volcano vent. maybe a volcano itself. It was too early to know.

John’s health began to fail and he was unable to return to the higher altitude of Yellowstone, so he and I were not able to discuss a second chapter. Now, twenty years later, it’s making headline news that generate theories and opinions that stretch from hither to yon.

This morning someone reported the sighting to four UFOs near Yellowstone Lake. True? Who am I to say? Another twenty years would put the date at about 2040. I wonder how the headlines will read?

The Berlin Wall

A Chunk of It

A wall, to me, symbolizes fear, heartache and misfortune. It’s an ugly blemish on we humans.

It may have been 1996 that my friend, a lumber salesman for Bohemia Lumber Company, returned from Germany where he was selling American Lumber. While he was there the Berlin Wall was designated to come down. Berliners had been waiting for a decades, and they and set in on it with sledge hammers, jackhammers, and bulldozers. Excitement ran high over the entire planet. Word of the activity quickly reached the hotel where my friend was staying. He detoured to Berlin. Unprepared for such a moment in time, he had no tools, so he gathered fragments he could fit into his pockets.

He called me after arriving home. He had something to show me. I met him at a cafe on the north end of Eugene, Oregon where he spread the pieces of the Berlin Wall over our table. It was history and we were both excited to be alive and witnessing such an event.

“Would you like a piece of the Berlin Wall?” he asked.

“You bet your life,” I said, and I could not believe he considered me worthy of sharing. It was like a moon rock. This would be my only opportunity to have a piece of the Berlin Wall, the theme of Checkpoint Charlie and so many dark memories, memories that gave me pause throughout much of my lifetime.

Memories of A B-36 Radio Operator

A couple of years ago Roger Stigney sent me an email asking if I knew the location of his enlisted men’s barracks as it existed at Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico during the 1950s when the 60th Bomb Wing was stationed there. Being a decade prior to my arrival on the island, I couldn’t provide the information he was seeking. However, I had contacts, even though I left there more than 50 years ago. So I renewed some old friendships, and few weeks later a detailed map arrived in my inbox with an “x” marking the location of his old quarters.
A series of email exchanges followed and I eventually I learned that Roger had earned three different amateur radio call signs, and he furnished me with a list of them. After a period of time I was able to extract enough details from him to write the article that follows.
The photo came from the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and was furnished by the former president of the Ramey Air Force Base Historical
Association, Chris Talkington.
Memories Of A B-36 Radio Operator
by Scott B. Laughlin
Copyright 2015
Radio communications has become simplified during the last sixty years, or so. The co-pilot now does the majority of the communications. But it wasn’t always that way. Case in point involves Airman Roger Stigney, a radio operator who served aboard a RB-36 during the 1950s, attached to the 60th Bomb Squadron Operations headquartered in hanger #5 at Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico. Stigney was one of 22 crew members aboard the aircraft when it was fully armed. With several radios – ARC-27, ARC-13, BC-348, and a manually tuned long-wire HF antenna -Stigney handled all communications, in addition to monitored CW frequencies transmitted from the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Headquarters at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. For routine communications the Air Force relied on AM (voice) signals, but for more sensitive, classified messages SAC relied on encoded CW (Morse code). Morse travels a greater distance, and is accurately copied even through heavy interference, both man-made and atmospheric (QRM and
QRN, respectively). CW provided yet another layer of security because not everyone receiving the signal
could decipher the information carried therein at the speeds sent.
Because so much vital information arrived at his airborne post by way of CW, Stigney’s skills had to be up to snuff. In order to be prepared he was required to pass a 20-wpm code test prior to each mission. In addition – since he had more than one job while aloft – he also had to spend
time on a 20mm machine gun simulator. Stigney was also the electronic countermeasures (ECM) operator – jamming enemy radar – as well as right-forward gunner.
As if he had not quenched his thirst for radio, he also earned his Novice ticket in 1951 and was issued the call sign WN9TP. In 1953, after transferring to Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico he was issued KP4ABS. Later, he upgraded to Extra Class changed his call sign to AJ0P. While putting the finishing touches on this article, Stigney told me he has a closet-full of radios, and he’s considering giving amateur radio a third whirl.
The time spent aloft varied from 24 to 27 hours. However, he recalls one mission lasting 40 hours. Most of these sorties were routine, long, uneventful hours spent in the sky. But there were exceptions.
Once, a landing gear failed to extend. Someone had to crawl out into the wing-stub and manually release it, allowing gravity to pull it down to the locked position. This emergency procedure did not allow for the opening of what was commonly called the “canoe door”, the last door to close after a gear is retracted. It was ripped from the airplane in the process.
Another time an engine fire occurred. Controlling it was unsuccessful. It burned so hot that the engine eventually fell from the aircraft.
Yet another time one of the blisters (window) burst at high altitude, causing rapid decompression. That is an event for which no one is ever prepared.
Last, but certainly not least, Stigney was a flight crew member on a B-36 on display at the Wright-Paterson AFB Museum until 1970. Originally, this aircraft was a YB-36 (42-13571). Later, prior to going to Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico, it was converted to a RB-36E model. It was later replaced by a B-36J model (52-2220) the aircraft that is currently on display at the museum.
Does he miss his radio operator job? Yes, but communications were changing, requiring less hands-on. The B-36 replacement, the B-52, had no need for his unique skills.

1946

I was eight years old in 1946 and living in Southern California. Being the last person out of the house each morning, it was my job to wash, dry, and put away the breakfast dishes for 25 cents each week – a respectable sum, considering that Mom earned $3 per day at Woolworth’s 5 & 10 cutting wndow blinds.

My maternal grandfather, a widower, had recently relocated nearby. So my mother watched over him. I’d overheard the comment that he had a sweet tooth, as did I, so I kept an eye out for any special treats that might not have been public knowledge. And one morning as I put the dishes away I discovered the “Mother Load”, six raisin tarts hidden behind the coffee mugs. I helped myself to one of them. Wow! It redefined the word sweet. I couldn’t finish it.

I worried about possibly repercussions, but the missing tart was never mentioned.

Mentor

Mentor: Without a doubt, many definitions for this word exist. i don’t mean they will be listed in Webster’s. The word creates a multitude of mental images, all based on experiences.

Me, a thirty-year amateur radio operator veteran, have relied heavily on my mentor. However, he/she is recognize by a different name – Elmer. There are many things to know and understand concerning the radio world – electronics, science, electromagnetic theory, Doppler effect, journalism. and worldwide friendships and languages. Our Elmers enable us, we radio people, to recognize our friends by their voices over single-side band, and by their fists when they use Morse code. Our hobby is the original social media, spanning the decades back to the days of the Titanic, and earlier.

The ins and outs of radio – as well of many other endeavors – are many. Without a Mentor/Elmer to lend and hand one runs the chance of ending up “half-baked” wherever we are headed.

This is the first image I connect to the word Mentor.

.

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/mentor/">Mentor</a>

Who I am

Hi, Scotty here. You,look often find me standing watch here at the Keep.

I’ve been married to Barb for 56 years and retired for 19 years. She’s suffered two heart attacks which has left her in poor health, so we are stay pretty close by. Television no longer interests us. Has it changed or have we? I spend much of my day writing. Barb embroiders. After the kids were overloaded with embroidery things she went to embroidering quilt blocks. Since she’s limited on how much stress she can cope with I bought a Singer sewing machine and watched many hours of YouTube videos until I felt brave enough to become a stressed seam-stress. So we are a team building what she calls a quilt-as-we-go quilt which suits our close quarters. Can’t complain. Life has been good. We weren’t always this low key.

I’m an air force veteran, serving as a navigation equipment maintainer on combat aircraft. Also, im a member of American Legion, a 30-year general class ham radio operator – n7net.

We owed 11 motorcycles and three tandem bicycles. We’ve lived in Oregon, California, Puerto Rico, Arizona, Texas, and now Arkansas.

We’ve given up on television. It was hardly tolerable when it was free. So we haven’t watched it except in the doctor’s waiting room. I write a lot, mostly fiction. but my reading preference is nonfiction. Some of my favorite authors are: William Least Heat Moon, Umberto Eco, William Shirer, Dan Koontz (fiction), and there are others. My taste changes with the weather. I like Henry James. His stories are somewhat timeless, in my opinion. Of course, I can’t afford all these books, not could I store them if I could. So I’m a regular customer at the library.   

I’d appreciate exchanging tales with others who have gone full circle.

Scotty, at Scotty”s Keep.