Every cell phone user has been in a cell-dead area with no service. Fortunately most of us don’t have an emergency when in the dead zone. Do you know where cell phones came from?
Some time in the 1960’s, the engineers [who were also amateur radio operators] at Motorola in Chicago began experimenting with two-way commercial radios and amateur repeaters with voting receivers, which means a single repeater or transmitter would be connected to several remote receivers, and the one with the strongest signal would be the receiver which was then re-transmitted out over the repeater transmitter. This ingenious system allowed a fairly large area to be covered by low power mobile two-way radios, greatly enhancing the communications system, be it police, fire, or public works departments. One of these hams, or amateur radio operators, then added a telephone line connection to the repeater transmitter and a touch-tone phone pad to his mobile radio, and presto, the inexpensive mobile phone was created. [NOT IMTS, which was a phone company system, and very expensive. See slideshow]
This amateur experimenting was the genesis of the modern cell phone system, which we first saw as the bulky phone packsets, about the size of a lunch box…..do you remember them? The modern cell phone network grew from there, with the thousands of cell towers, all linked via internet networks, hand-held phone units half the size of a cigarette pack, camera phones, and now, computer phones. It’s amazing, isn’t it ?
Here is a cell phone story about a person who eventually turned to amateur radio to get himself out of a bad situation –
After a day of exploring the Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area, which covers 50,692 protected acres in Florida’s Lake, Polk and Sumter Counties, Joe Cody, KE4WDP, of Winter Haven, Florida, with his grandson, saw that the roads were flooding and becoming unusable and hazardous. As he tried to drive out of the area, Cody’s small pick-up truck got bogged down in the mud. Since he was out of cell phone range, Cody tried calling for help on the Dade City 146.880 MHz repeater. Richard Parker, KF4ORW, of Dade City, Florida, heard the radio call and answered.
After hearing of the situation, Parker called 911 in Pasco County, who put him in touch with the dispatch in neighboring Polk County. Cody passed his location on to Parker, who in turn passed it on to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “Polk County 911 took over trying to get help,” Parker said. “They called me back several times for more information and I was able to relay information from Joe back to the Polk Sheriff’s dispatch. Then Ted Bulmanski, W4TKB, who is also from Dade City, started monitoring and copying Joe’s information.”
About 30 minutes later, Parker saw a helicopter fly over and around Cody’s position, and after another 30 minutes, Cody radioed back on the repeater, saying he was on his way home, thanks to a Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy in a truck that had a winch. “We learned that Joe was eight miles inside Lake County,” Parker explained. “That’s why the Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded instead of the Polk County authorities. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office called me back to say that the helicopter from Lake County found the truck inside Lake County and sent both a deputy from Lake County, as well as a Fish and Game Officer, and were able to winch him out of the mud. Joe called me back to thank us for assisting the stranded pair. Ham radio still works when other forms of communications don’t.” [Thanks to ARRL West Central Florida Section Public Information Coordinator Kevin Poorman, KV4CT, for the information.]
If you have an interest in amateur radio and want to pursue getting your ham license, here are a couple of links to get you started –
Tampa Amateur Radio Club – TARC
For examples of modern amateur radio equipment which can be used with repeaters or as a simplex walkie-talkie, try these sites –