How Do You Copy?

There were once a couple of boys who went to the same school and lived within walking distance of one another in Louisville’s Goldsmith Lane/Bon Air neighborhoods. They had a mutual interest in electronics and radio communication. They learned to fly airplanes together at Bowman Field.

The two friends both had CB radios, long before the trucker fad of the 70s, and spent many hours chatting on-the-air. Their radio interests evolved into the commercial aspects of the field – radio and TV stations, advertising, public relations. Careers began in earnest. Marriages and children happened. Life separated the friends by time and the span of states. They sometimes lost touch with one another, but the thread between them was never broken.

Monday evening, using the unpredictable forces that scatter charged particles in the ionosphere, the two friends once again turned on transmitters, opened microphones and said the words “How do you copy?” It was a moment of overwhelming nostalgia and I am sure that my friend felt the same wave of fulfillment.

There is no internet thing, supported with a trillion dollar corporate infrastructure – text, email, tweet – you name it, that can quite compare with the experience of electrically resonating a wire millions of times a second, sometimes with tools of your own making, to send a weak signal bouncing around the planet into the ears of a friend. Here in the day of Musk, Bezos and Zuckerberg, thousands of people (and growing) still practice and refine the art of Tesla, the inventor of FM, Edwin Armstrong, and Kentuckian Nathan Stubblefield, who some historians say broadcast the first radio signals in 1892, three years before Guglielmo Marconi. (The Smithsonian has issues with this.)

Nathan B. Stubblefield

Pondering infinite possibilities and the human perception of time would not have been usual for a teenager of the 1960s caught up in broadcasting, sports cars and airplanes. When I was a boy, I never imagined a distant future when I might once again speak with my friend on our personal radios, this time with his grandson on his lap. But, it happened. Whadya’ know? Maybe there ARE infinite possibilities.

Those stentorian announcers from early broadcasts who proclaimed over the crackling airwaves that radio had a magical ability to span time and space were proven right for me in a very personal way.

I am a fan of cliche´, those phrases and touchstones that we all instantly grok are useful and some apply to this story. You can’t go home again (or can you?). The circle of life. Bridges can be crossed. Deja vu all over again. Time is like a handful of sand. Well, you get my drift.

“How do you copy?”

Allen Brown – Radio Amateur Extra Class – KN4FVU