Tag Archives: amateur radio in the news

Iraq to Be Back on the Air

Iraq to Be Back on the Air Later This Month (Nov 13, 2007) — Diya Sayah, YI1DZ, President of the Iraqi Amateur Radio Society (IARS), announced today that effective November 20, all Amateur Radio activity will be “back to normal” in Iraq. Sayah said, “All Amateur Radio operators in Iraq who carry a valid Iraqi license will be able to use their radios according to regulations of IARU Region 1 and the IARS.” Amateur Radio activity in Iraq was suspended in March of this year, with the suspension affecting both Iraqi citizens as well as any foreigners — including military personnel and contractors — who have been on the air from Iraq. The request to halt all ham radio activity and the issuance of licenses in Iraq originated with a letter from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as part of a new security plan, Sayah said.

High-tech culture of Silicon Valley originally formed around radio

Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, September 30, 2007

They weren’t out to make history, the eight young engineers who met secretly with investor Arthur Rock 50 years ago to form Silicon Valley’s ancestral chip company, Fairchild Semiconductor.

The men, among them future Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, mainly wanted to escape their brilliant but batty boss, William Shockley, who had just shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics for his role in the invention of the transistor.

Shockley, who had started a company in Mountain View in 1955 to commercialize this breakthrough, had bullied and browbeaten his young engineering staff, whose numbers included future venture capitalist Eugene Kleiner, at 32 the oldest of the bunch; the rest of the renegade group were younger than 30.

So when the Traitorous Eight, as they’re sometimes called, held their hush-hush meeting in San Francisco, they had reason to fear discovery – but no way to know that by quitting safe jobs for a risky startup, they would earn a place among what Stanford University historian Leslie Berlin calls the “Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley.”

But wait. The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the garage in Palo Alto where David Packard and William Hewlett started their company. Isn’t that the birthplace of Silicon Valley?

And here’s a hitch. Not until 1971 was “Silicon Valley” used to describe the concentration of chip-making firms in the South Bay.

So what is Silicon Valley? How and when did it arise? And most important, perhaps, what is the future of this region that has become a synonym for innovation?

“There is this myth that Silicon Valley was all orchards when the chip companies arrived, but it’s not true. It had been building, building for a long time,” said Christophe Lécuyer, a Stanford-trained historian who turned his dissertation into a book, “Making Silicon Valley.”

Lécuyer, now an economic analyst with the University of California system, said the region’s technological awakening began almost a century ago when, not long after the great quake of 1906, the Bay Area – and particularly the Peninsula – began innovating with the then-hot technology of radio.

“The San Francisco Bay Area was a natural place for interest in radio because it was a seagoing region,” said Timothy Sturgeon, an industrial researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who described this radio period in a paper, “How Silicon Valley Came to Be.”

Lécuyer and Sturgeon argue that, roughly 30 years before Hewlett and Packard started work in their garage, and almost 50 years before the Traitorous Eight created Fairchild, the basic culture of Silicon Valley was forming around radio: engineers who hung out in hobby clubs, brainstormed and borrowed equipment, spun new companies out of old ones, and established a meritocracy ruled by those who made electronic products cheaper, faster and better.

As Sturgeon notes, as early as 1909, Stanford graduate Cyril Elwell was acquiring patents for new radio technologies and persuading university officials, including then-President David Starr Jordan, “to finance a new company” in Palo Alto that would be called Federal Telegraph Co.

That same year in San Jose, Charles Herrold started a school for radio engineers and began broadcasting to radio hobbyists and later to a small local audience to become what a 1994 PBS documentary called “Broadcasting’s Forgotten Father.” Back then, the region had none of its present cachet relative to other clusters of radio activity like New York, New Jersey and Boston.

But in this rivalry with the industrial powers of the East, the future Silicon Valley would find a powerful customer with deep pockets – the U.S. military.

Sturgeon said U.S. naval officials, impressed by Federal Telegraph’s technology, gave the Palo Alto firm huge contracts during World War I – the first but not the last time war would fuel the region’s tech firms.

In another hint of the future, Sturgeon writes that around 1910, Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham quit Federal Telegraph “to start a research and development firm in a garage in Napa” to improve loudspeakers. In 1917, they formed Magnavox, which built public address systems for destroyers and battleships in World War I.

The war’s end took the wind out of Silicon Valley’s sails. The Eastern radio powers, notably RCA, dominated the field during the 1920s and 1930s. The region’s entrepreneurial fire cooled but, as history would show, didn’t die.

Creation story

The next chapter in the Silicon Valley story involves the familiar tale of how Hewlett and Packard hatched the region’s first technology giant in a Palo Alto garage.

Sophisticated versions of this creation epic also credit their mentor, Stanford engineering Professor Frederick Terman.

Terman, who began teaching at Stanford in the late 1920s, would spend the rest of his career formalizing the university-industry collaboration that would come to typify Silicon Valley.

But in the hardscrabble ’30s, it was all Terman could do to hold together the ecosystem of tinkerers and researchers who were trying to survive the Depression.

He had help from tech pioneers such as Charles Litton Sr., who in 1932 established a machine shop that made better vacuum tube manufacturing tools. Tubes were the workhorse of electronics before transistors and – according to Lécuyer – Litton’s tools allowed San Bruno vacuum-tube-maker Eitel-McCullough to build superior components – and a reputation.

Another seminal event was the 1939 invention of the klystron tube by Stanford research associates and brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian, who would later start Varian Associates. The klystron tube led to more powerful radars, helping the United States and its allies gain an advantage in World War II.

In his 1995 memoir, “The HP Way,” Packard himself provides a glimpse of this ecosystem in action, telling how Terman arranged for him to work evenings at Litton’s shop.

“Charlie Litton had started with the Federal Telegraph Company in Palo Alto,” Packard wrote, adding, “My relationship with Charlie developed into a long and enduring friendship.”

Garage-era Silicon Valley also adopted the business model of the radio age – supplying the U.S. armed forces.

“Military funding was critical for the rise of Silicon Valley from the very late 1930s to the early 1960s,” Lécuyer said. For instance, he said, Eitel-McCullough had about 15 people making vacuum tubes before the war. That swelled to 4,000 employees in 1943, then contracted to 200 in 1945, when peace crippled demand for tubes.

So, by the time the Traitorous Eight started Fairchild, the recipe for Silicon Valley largely had been written. Still, the notion that they founded the valley is justified by what financier Rock brought to the party – the money to bankroll bold engineers.

“The venture capital sector really arises along with the semiconductor industry,” Lécuyer said. “Once the venture capital is in place, it makes all the other things possible.”

From Fairchild forward

Investment that rewards risk became the final catalyst for the Silicon Valley we know, where ideas, nourished by money, spawn startups, products, even whole industries, like biotechnology.

The first big wave of startups created by venture investment were the dozens of Fairchildren – chip companies like National Semiconductor, Advanced Micro Devices and Intel – started by engineers who traced their ancestry to the Traitorous Eight.

Intel became the largest of these Fairchildren, and Moore the best known of the eight. But the gang leader was his charismatic colleague Robert Noyce. A technical innovator – in this meritocracy he had to be – in 1961, Noyce designed the first chip that enabled two transistors to work together on a single slice of silicon. Called the “integrated circuit,” it is the ancestor of today’s billion-transistor chips.

In 1971, when trade press reporter Don Hoefler used “Silicon Valley” to describe the concentration of chip-making firms on the Peninsula, the name stuck. But almost from the start, it stood for more than chip-making.

“Silicon Valley created an environment that allowed ideas and money and people to combine more easily,” said AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the School of Information at UC Berkeley and an expert on the region.

The early chip industry, like the two waves of innovation before, initially depended on military expenditures, Paul Ceruzzi, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, writes in his book “A History of Modern Computing.”

Only this time, it was the Cold War that opened the government’s checkbook.

The Soviet launch of Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957, prodded the United States to modernize its missile and space program. The newfangled silicon chips were considered vital – albeit costly – components, and Ceruzzi writes that NASA and the Defense Department bought so many “that the price dropped from $1,000 a chip to between $20 and $30.”

Falling chip prices fueled development of new electronics for corporate customers and eventually individual consumers. Reliance on military purchases lessened, though defense dollars remained important in spurring research. Thus, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin later dreamed up Google, a defense research grant helped support their work. And when Stanford computer scientists won a robotic car race in 2005, the prize came from the Defense Department.

By the 1970s, therefore, Silicon Valley was poised to capitalize on new civilian technologies like PCs, as exemplified by Apple Computer.

In the 1980s, excitement shifted to scientific workstations and networking devices from firms like Sun Microsystems and Cisco Systems, and to software like the version of UNIX perfected at UC Berkeley.

In the 1990s, the point-and-click browser popularized by Netscape ignited the dot-com boom and, after a painful bust and slow recovery, the recent rise of Google and social networking sites such as Facebook signal another wave of entrepreneurship.

Back to the future

Today, Silicon Valley is showing signs of age. Traffic is bad. Housing is worse. And it’s competing with every metropolitan region in the nation – indeed, the world.

Saxenian, the Berkeley dean, is optimistic. Her most recent book, “The New Argonauts,” posits that Silicon Valley will remain a design and innovation center by partnering with lower-cost manufacturing centers overseas.

“Viewed from outside the United States, Silicon Valley is an amazing place,” she said. “I’d put my bets on innovation coming out of the valley for the next 20 years.”

But jobs are a concern. Tech employment hasn’t yet recovered from the dot-com bust. The American Electronics Association says California had 1.2 million tech jobs in 2000. Its most recent snapshot found 280,000 fewer Californians collecting high-tech paychecks.

Is it outsourcing? Is it globalism? Is it a problem? Maybe the answer depends on whether you’re looking for work or looking to hire.

And more to the point, after all this time, do we know what Silicon Valley is, or better yet, how to keep it vital?

“My biggest hope for the valley is that we continue to have the focus, creativity and capital to reinvent our future and the future of technology,” said Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel Corp., the most prosperous of the Fairchildren.

“My biggest fear is that we will get complacent and allow it to happen elsewhere.”

Visalia man installs radio antennas to talk to son in Iraq

By Nick McClellan
Staff writer


Visalians driving south on Court Street just north of Caldwell Avenue may notice two skeletal misfits between the trees and houses on Oak View Drive.

But don’t mind them — they are there so a father can talk to his son deployed overseas with the Marines.
Or at least that’s what will happen after some further modifications.

Dan Woolman, who lives at 111 W. Oak View Drive and owns the 60-foot and 35-foot towers, first flipped the switch on ham radio at the age of 13. Now at 55, Woolman has resurrected his past enthusiasm for amateur radio in his retirement by investing more than $100,000 in top-of-the-line equipment and antennas.

“If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s ham radio,” said Woolman, whose call sign on the airwaves is W6ATR. “It’s been a lifelong avocation for me.”

Woolman is also involved in the Navy-Marine Corps Military Affiliate Radio System program, which sends messages to service men and women overseas.

He hopes that once he has placed an 80-meter antenna onto his larger tower he will on occasion be able to speak to his 18-year-old son Brett, who has recently completed his fifth week of training with the Marines.

“I’m pretty proud of my son,” Woolman said. “He’s quite a kid.”

Woolman also wants to use the setup to help other families communicate with their loved ones who are in the military and overseas. That communication is usually through computer messages, called MARSGRAMS.

New technology has largely diminished the useful role ham radio once played in keeping military personnel in touch with their families back home.

“It has slowed down now with the advent of cellular telephones,” said Wilbert Musselman, a fellow ham radio user in Goldsboro, N.C., who chats with Woolman on air. “But it’s still active and [we're] doing a lot of computer correspondence now.”

Woolman’s friend Mike Meraz of Visalia advised him in the building of the towers.

One of the more difficult tasks, Meraz said, included the piecing together of each of the antenna elements on the ground and delicately placing and balancing them onto the boom, which is suspended in the air.

Though Woolman elicited some attention from the city of Visalia over the structural integrity of the towers, Meraz said the cement has been stress-pressured. Aside from tightening bolts to the boom that may become loosened by torque from the rotating antenna, the structures are sound, he said.

“If he wants to, he can drop [the towers] all the way down, and it can clear

the roof,” Meraz said, which Woolman does do when high winds risk toppling the towers.

Woolman added that the towers are designed to withstand 70-mph winds, which are not frequent in the Valley. Woolman said the 80-meter antenna, will enable contact with his son and further participation with the military radio program. It operates at low voltage so it will not interfere with any of the neighbors’ electronics.

He said he offers filters to anyone who tells him they suspect the signals are responsible for interference.

Meraz, who will help him place the antenna on the 60-foot tower, said the two plan to install it this month.

As far as the reception on the airwaves to Woolman’s high-end hardware?

“By golly you have a good signal,” said one broadcaster.

# The reporter can be reached at nmcclell@visalia.gannett.com

On the same wavelength

December 04,2005
BY JANNETTE PIPPIN View stories by reporter

NEWPORT – When the National Weather Service opened its office in Newport 12 years ago, head meteorologist Tom Kriehn was quick to get to know the area’s amateur radio operators.

Kriehn knew they would be a valuable asset in providing severe weather information from the field.

“They have a long history around the country of working with the National Weather Service,” he said.

Not all storm spotters are hams but the combination of a spotter trained in communications is an ideal situation for forecasters, who count on real-time reports to help warn the public of severe weather such as tropical storms and tornadoes.

“The best spotters you can get are those who are also communicators; people in the field who can communicate back to us in a hurry,” Kriehn said.

That makes the ham radio community a big part of the Skywarn program, a network of people that report severe weather to local NWS offices.

To show its appreciation to the amateur radio operators in its 15-county operation area, the National Weather Service office in Newport participated in the SKYWARN Recognition Day held Saturday around the country.

It was an informal opportunity for the radio operators to gather and for the meteorologists to say thanks.

“No matter how good the technology is, nothing beats a pair of human eyes to tell you what is going on,” said meteorologist Hal Austin, who is also a ham radio operator.

Austin said spotter reports provide information on everything from hail size and wind damage to flooding and tornados. It corroborates and details what is being seen on weather service radar.

“It helps us confirm what we think is going on and helps us get that information out to the public,” Austin said.

For the ham radio operators, it’s an opportunity to put the skills they know to use to help others.

“It’s an opportunity to be able to help out, to help our neighbors and everyone in the area,” said Eric Christensen of Greenville.

Christensen was presented with a certificate of appreciation for developing a Skywarn Web site for the Newport district. Bill Sanford, the Skywarn emergency coordinator for the Newport district, was recognized for providing the weather service office with technical assistance in updating its ham radio equipment.

Ken Ball of Morehead City accepted a certificate on behalf of the entire Skywarn network for the area.

Ball, who has had his ham radio license for 14 years, said there’s a public service aspect to amateur radio that extends beyond just storm spotting.

Ball said radio operators are a major part of emergency response and disaster recovery efforts as well because they are often the only communication available when phones and other conventional communications go down.

It was seen recently during the catastrophic Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and right here at home several years ago when Hurricane Isabel disabled communications in Carteret County’s down east communities.

Ball said ham radio operators provided communication between down east canteens operated by the Salvation Army and response workers in other parts of the county.

Bernard Nobles, section emergency coordinator for ham radio operators in North Carolina, said amateur radio is the back up communication for public service agencies such as emergency management offices in the state, the National Weather Service, and groups like the Salvation Army and Red Cross.

Contact staff writer Jannette Pippin at jpippin@freedomenc.com or by calling (252) 808-2275.