For an overview of radio from an anarchist perspective, check out the zine For An Anarchist Radio Relay League.
1:32:19 SPEAKERS Margaret, Cici, Eepa
Margaret 00:14 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy. Are use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking with two people who have a lot of experience with different radio communications, mostly HAM radio and other means of two-way radio communications. Their names are Cici and Eepa and they work with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and/or the Javelina Network which is a network of—well, they'll explain it. And we're going to be talking a lot about radio communications, and they actually do a really good job of breaking it down—a subject that could feel very technical. I know I get very overwhelmed when I try and understand radio communications. They break it down in a fairly non-technical way that, well, I'm excited for you all to hear. So this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And usually I lead with a jingle, but this week I'm going to do something slightly different and first I'm just going to say welcome to the Maroon Cast. I don't believe they have a jingle yet. But there is a new podcast on the network called the Maroon Cast and it is absolutely worth checking out. And the jingle—they actually call it a commercial—that I am going to play is from the Institute for Anarchist Studies who are offering grants. And here's that. Hooray. Hey radicals, anarchists, and all of you liberatory leftists. Are you a podcaster, video maker, multimedia artist, or writer? The Institute for Anarchist Studies wants to let you know we have grants available for projects focusing on Black and Indigenous archaisms, police abolition and alternatives, and mutual aid. For details and how to apply visit anarchiststudies.org and click on the grants application post on our main page. That's anarchiststudies.org. Anarchist-studies-dot-O-R-G. Applications close January 31, 2021. Spread the word and tell your friends. Okay, so if y'all could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then any political or organizational affiliations that makes sense with what you're going to be talking about today.
Cici 02:32 So my name is Cici. I do she/her pronouns, I also do they/them pronouns. I don't really have any organizational affiliations at this time. I am—I have some experience with radio in a like a certain area, but in other areas I'm still learning and I'm trying to get up to speed. I am a licensed radio operator which helps a bit. But obviously, like, you don't have to be licensed to do stuff with a radio. And that's I guess enough about me.
Eepa 03:13 All right, [I didn't catch a lot of this except Eepa] and I use he/him pronouns. My affiliations, I'm with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and I'm a part of the newly formed Javelina Network. And basically, I am fairly new to the whole communication world. But it's one of those things that I've become very passionate about building up people's knowledge that way in communities for mutual aid, you know, both in disasters and just for general preparedness. We have ways of communicating that don't rely on, you know, corporate infrastructure or government infrastructure.
Margaret 04:02 Yeah, so I guess one of the first things that I want to ask you all, for people who are, like—so this will probably be in some ways a slightly more technical conversation than some of the—some of my shows, just because, at least, there's an awful lot of acronyms and weird technical stuff that comes along with learning about radios. And I think it's worth—I'm going to ask you all a lot about that stuff. But I guess I was wondering if you all could start with kind of like a pitch for why we should care about radios. Like, we all have cell phones. Shouldn't we just use cell phones? Like what are some of the advantages of understanding and having an experience with radio communication?
Eepa 04:40 So one of the things that people should consider whenever they're using—whatever type of communications you're using on a daily basis, that could be using email through ProtonMail or using Signal or WhatsApp, or just using your regular cell phone service—these are things things that are controlled by somebody. So the infrastructure that makes them possible is controlled by either corporations, or they're controlled by corporations and regulated by the government. They're subject to warrants and data collection and they're subject to a lot of other, you know, less security-related, but more just infrastructure in general. You know, if, as we saw in hurricane Maria, when hurricanes come they knocked down cell phone towers and if you don't have cell phone towers, your cell phone just becomes a, you know, a box with whatever photos you have on, it doesn't become very useful for communications. And the same thing goes for emails, when you are logging on to your, you know, ProtonMail account which is, you know, a great service and everything—if those servers go down in Switzerland, then you're out of luck—that that means that communication no longer exists. If the United States government decides to block a certain app that—that could basically cut off your service and take away all of your context. So it's a very fragile thing that we have, you know, during normal circumstances cell phone services is great, it's convenient. And honestly, it should still probably be your primary means of communication because of its ease of use. But there's a lot to be said for having all of the infrastructure you need to communicate in your own hands without needing any external infrastructure, aside from a community of other people who are likewise equipped and trained to communicate with.
Cici 06:42 I think that's an excellent answer. In addition to what Eepa said I would basically just add on, like, yeah, there's—it's hard with the infrastructure that people usually use—cell phone towers, servers, routers, or at least, you know, commercially available routers and phones and everything. People don't have—people in, like, their communities don't have a lot of control over it. One of the things that I'm actually—I need to do way more study into it, because it's rather technical. But if something were to happen and the internet were to go down, either unintentionally, because—or, you know, not because of a—because like it's natural—something natural happens like a hurricane. Or because the government has shut the internet down for the express purposes of, you know, preventing people from communicating. One of the things radio can do is it can actually mimic a internet, I should—I may say mimic but it's actually a true internet protocol. So you can actually get an internet running up in your community. Those are the kind of things that I think radio is great for. I would echo what Eepa said where it's not really a—in terms of people saying, "Well, I have a cell phone what's, you know, what is radio offer to me?" I'd actually say, yeah, I don't think that just being able to say, "Hey, I communicated with somebody in another spot." Like, that's not really the attraction necessarily for learning a bunch of radio things. I would also note for a lot of people who are just doing off-grid stuff, there's a lot of places where your cell phone just, there's just no signal, it's too far away from cell phone towers. You can still get out with a radio if something were to help. A lot of people are like, well, you know, I'm not gonna be setting up a another Wifi internet system. But, you know, if you're ever hiking or you're doing stuff that's just not close to a big city or whatever, it can still be useful if something happens, you get hurt, you're not out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone signal needing extreme medical attention immediately. So I just like to point that kind of thing out where it's useful on an individual level, but it's also useful on a community level.
Margaret 08:58 Yeah. Yeah. I mean—
Eepa 09:00 I think that that's probably one of those—I think that's one of those misconceptions that people have about radio, just in a general sense, is they think that it's two people on walkie-talkies talking to each other. But there's a whole realm of radio use that includes, you know, sending messages, photographs, even videos utilizing radio that people are probably not aware of.
Margaret 09:24 I only learned about that really recently when someone was talking about how you can take your Baofeng radio and—I think it was, like, get a photo from the international space station on your cell phone by having your, like, cell phone listen to what's coming out of your radio?
Eepa 09:46 Yeah.
Margaret 09:48 That was a good moment of like, "Oh, this is some scifi shit." And I'm like, "Oh, and I mean it's some like 1970s scifi shit." But it's—that's so fucking cool. Yeah, I mean, okay, so like, I'm rudely guessing that a lot of people who are listening, if they have much experience like, say, direct action stuff, they're probably their only real experience with radios might be walkie-talkies. Right? And so I was—I was wondering if there's like a way to, like—the thing that really intimidates me when I look at radios is that I look and then I'm, like, okay, there's high frequency, very high frequency, ultra high frequency. There's walkietalkies which use FRS. There's MURS. They're CB radios, there's GMRS radios, there's the Business Band, there's a HAM radio. There's AM/FM, SSB, contint CW, like, there's like all this shit, right? And so I guess I kind of wanted to like start and try and kind of break some of this down if you all can, like, maybe talk starting with like—maybe you'll have a better pedagogical sense of like where to start or something. But in my head, I would ask you first about maybe, like, Family Radio Service, the walkie-talkies, that people might be used to, like what they can be used for and kind of build out from there. Or if there's another way to introduce all of this that you all would like to use.
Cici 11:18 I can't actually speak too much to the Family Radio Service. I'm glad you mentioned that there's a lot of different modes. What tends to happen is there's very few people that know all of that, or if they do they're a dime a dozen. At least from my experience talking to other radio people, they tend to focus in areas that they think are interesting, or areas that they think are useful, or whatever. So for instance, you mentioned Family Radio and you mentioned, I believe it's GR-GMRS, I actually have like no experience in those. I mentioned in the introduction that I'm licensed. What I meant by that, or I probably should have been more specific, is that I'm licensed as an amateur radio operator. If people have ever heard someone talk about HAM radio, that's basically what I'm talking about. HAM is just another way of saying an amateur radio app. I'm an amateur in the sense that I don't get money. I'm not like a radio station. I'm not commercially broadcasting, like, the radio you might listen to music or whatever. So that's all that means. Amateur doesn't necessarily mean you don't know a lot or that, you know, it just means I don't get paid. And that my license basically says I can't get paid to broadcast. So that's kind of my experience. So yeah, I don't know if Eepa would be able to talk about the Family Radio Service. Some people have heard CB radio. I believe that's—it's similar to amateur radio but it's it's still very different. I actually associated with truckers doing stuff in the, like, I know, that's kind of an old association, doing stuff in their cars. As far as modes, I know Margaret, you mentioned things like single sideband which is that SSB. That's a voice mode. You mentioned—I guess I should start with the—you mentioned high frequency, very high frequency, and ultra high frequency. Usually people will shorten that to the individual letter. So like very high frequency they'll just say VH, VHF. Those just basically are a shorthand way of talking about how far you can talk. So for instance, people that have Baofengs are often going to be using very high frequency or ultra high frequency. Very high frequency is usually going to be a line of sight, maybe a little bit further because radio waves can actually see a little further than, like, the way we see the horizon. But for instance, if you and a friend both had Baofengs and you lived in the same city, depending on your antenas, that a bunch of other technical stuff, you should be able to hear each other. A lot of times the type of radio also use a repeater. The repeater is basically something that will send the signal further—it's it's own equipment but it will send your signal further than if you just had it by yourself. So when people hear that I just want them to think, "Oh, that's just distance." My interest is in very high—or, excuse me, is in just high frequency, just HF. That tends to be very far distances. So like that's usually talking to people in other countries, or talking to people across, like, a country, like a big country like the United States, or the so-called the United States. I'm in the Midwest, I can use high frequency to talk to someone in California which is obviously not line of sight or, you know, horizon. So that's all that means. I don't—a lot of times HAM radio and radio in general uses these terms that make stuff sound really technical and really like scary, but it's actually just a—there's an easier way to understand it. So that has to just do with distance. That's all I'll say about that for now. I don't want to overload but uh...
Eepa 15:01 Yeah, and so basically what I'll add to that is there's two basic things that somebody who's new to radio needs to do to understand what their radio is going to be used for. And so like Cici was talking about with the frequencies: Frequency is one of the two things that you really need to pay attention to when you're a beginner, is frequency and wattage. So wattage is just how much power is actually being emitted from your radio. So one of the ways that you can think about frequency—we'll start with frequency first—is it's basically wavelength. And so the shorter your wavelength, the smaller it is, the smaller the distance—or the frequency or sorry, the frequency. So ultra high frequency, very short distance. Very high frequency is going to be kind of a medium distance. And then high frequency is long distance. Now what the Family Radio Service radios that you're talking about, they broadcast on very high frequency. But what makes them not very good for communicating at distance is they have a low wattage, so they're legally not allowed to go above a certain wattage. And so that means that they can only communicate at like a very, very short distance. Basically, these radios were designed so that way parents and kids could have radios or, you know, a family convoying on a vacation—this is in the days before cellphones—could have communication with each other. And so they didn't need very high wattage, and they didn't want these radio frequencies to be basically blocking other radio traffic. So it's a low wattage, very high frequency and that means that it's going to be a very limited distance. So even with like ultra high frequency, if you have a low wattage, you get even less distance. What amateur radio opens up to you is higher wattage, and it opens up more frequencies. So that's the key thing there.
Margaret 17:09 Okay, yeah, I took a bunch of notes about this right before. Right before we started I was trying to like map out all of this because I've been learning about this some for a while. And I was just trying to map all of this out. And what I came up with was basically like three types of, in the US, unlicensed types of radios, and then like two sort of types of licensed radios with HAM radio being kind of like the big—or amateur radio being like the big open one. And it was kind of interesting to me because I learned, like, for example, like I was reading about, like, what the hell is the difference between CB and FRS, and between walkie talkies and trucker radios as I always kind of saw it. And yeah, so I guess if CB is high frequency it needs—it can go further on lower wattage—or I don't know if it goes through a low wattage, but it can go—it bend—the the frequencies like bend around the horizon and hills and shit better. But apparently it takes like a much, much more of an antenna and it doesn't like going into buildings and shit very well as compared to like—
Eepa 18:17 Yeah.
Margaret 18:17 UHF, which is like much more—I don't know, in my head it's almost like piercing rather than, like, you know, it doesn't go very far but it like goes through things a little better or something? And doesn't need as much of an antenna. I don't know, that's what I—what I—so I guess—like, what I came up with as the things that you can use unlicensed are—well, I mean, you can theoretically use anything—well anyway—actually, I'm gonna ask you some about some of that stuff and a little bit, what you can get away with. But unlicensed, you can use FRS which are like the walkie talkies, you can use CB which has like a slightly higher wattage limit and is shortwave only but requires more of an antenna, and then something called MURS, M-U-R-S, Multi Use Radio Service, which is, like, a little bit better. And then, I think, in terms of licensed radio, I'm actually—I'm running this past youu so you can like tell me if I'm wrong. But also if I'm right then I'm just expressing everything that I learned to the audience. In terms of licensing, there is one type of license you can get without taking a test, you just give the US government 70 of your dollars. And it's General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. And it's, like, still substantially more limited than amateur radio, right? But it allows more—I don't know, it's a little bit—it's nicer than than family radio service. It's nicer than a walkie-talkie. It's like a fancy walkie-talkie. And you don't have to take a test, versus amateur radio, which I guess you have to in order to—you have to pass these very intimidating tests in order to start using it, or in order to legally start using it. And I guess—I dunno, does that match up with with—does that seem correct? This is just like what I put together right for the show.
Eepa 20:08 Yeah, so if people wanted to just get on the radio, like, tonight, if you could just go down to the store and pick something up and get on the radio. Basically, what you outlined is spot on, you know, Family Radio Service is probably the weakest kind of radio that you can get. And, again, if you're within, you know, eyesight of the person you're talking to those kind of radios will work for you. CB radios are larger, typically they're mounted in like a vehicle. So they are a little bit less easy to keep on your person but they do carry further. So this is what nowadays you tend to see, like, off -oaders and other things like that use whenever they're going out in the desert and off-roading. Again, you have limited channels on both of those. So you have, like, you know, theoretically there's a bunch of channels in there, sub-channels, but it's very limited. So if you're in a city or something, you could find very easily that all of those channels are occupied and being used by people. And so that could just make things really confusing and really challenging. CB radios are kind of known as, like, the wild west of like the radio world, because you can say and do anything on that radio channel without any kind of punishment. So it's full of very not great things. And, again, it's a very busy radio channel because it's used by a lot of unlicensed people to communicate. Now, when you're talking about basic commercial radio, which is that license you're talking about for those handheld, the GMRS, that is going to be something that usually requires that you show you are a business. So you need to have an LLC, a nonprofit, some kind of designator, some kind of, like, you know, tax ID or whatever, to tell the FCC that yes, I'm a business. They will assign you a little tiny frequency of the spectrum that none of the other businesses in your area have and then you're stuck with it. So that means that you might have a few channels on your radio, but that's all that's going to be available to you to legally use. And you're having to pay money on a regular basis to keep that license.
Margaret 22:23 Okay.
Eepa 22:24 The one upside to that is you do get to use a slightly more powerful radio that—I mean, they are designed for, you know, like, mines and construction sites and factories, that's typically where these kind of radios are used. So they are more powerful and they also have the legal ability to be encrypted. So you can actually get encrypted radios, which is not legal on any other radio service. The only way you can do that is through the GMRS. But you have to go through a major company to get your encryption service which means if somebody wants to de-encrypt your radio, all they have to do is get in contact with the company and find out what your encryption keys are and then they're in. So this is also something that you see a lot of law enforcement that had switched to is this style of radio, just a modified one that are, you know, higher power and use repeaters. So these are all legal non-testing options, but they're purposefully designed to limit you. They're designed to basically reduce your capacity to communicate beyond line of sight in a way that, I mean, the amateur radio community would say the reason why is because, you know, you can't have people running rampant on the on the air, there needs to be, you know, law and order on the air. So that's part of the reason why the amateur bands are more thoroughly regulated, is to basically make sure that there's a system of accountability to the government.
Margaret 24:00 Okay.
Cici 24:04 Actually, I'm really glad that Eepa shared tha. I have—my information outside of HAM radio is very limited so I actually learned a lot listening to that. The only different thing I would like to say is there's actually a lot of changes coming with the—not with the testing, but the FCC—this is extremely recent. Like, I think the actual report from the FCC is, like, was dated like December 28—of like a few days ago, like last month, basically, it'sless than a month old. But they did actually say they're going to start charging people for HAM radio licenses. This is extreme because it used to—like, as of right now it's completely free. You have to take a test, but you don't have to pay any money. Sometimes if you look online you'll see people saying they want $15. That doesn't actually go to the FCC, that goes to the people providing the test itself. Those people are actually just HAM radio operators. It's, one of the interesting things is that the FCC actually has a very decentralized, like, they basically let HAM radio operators test each other and that's—they just send the paperwork to the FCC to get your callsign. So if anyone's at home thinking, "Oh, I was thinking about getting licensed and I think I'm ready." If you don't want to pay the FCC $35, like, I would, I would say, like, do what now. Along with that, they actually cut the GMRS license to $35 as well, it used to be $70. So they actually made getting a GMRS license and getting a HAM radio license the same price. HAM radio—people on ham radio, very upset, like, they—one of the big things is, oh, we need to attract people to HAM radio. So, like, the community in general is not happy about this change. It hasn't taken effect yet. The report doesn't actually say exactly when it's supposed to take effect, like, it's supposed to take effect the month after the report, but then it has to go through a bunch of bureaucracy. If I had to guess I'd say they're probably going to try to do it sometime around February/March. But it might be sooner, it might be more after that. As far as my experience, I—that's correct, you do have to take a test to get into HAM radio. Even in HAM radio, the first—there's three levels. Basically you have to pass each test to get to the next level. So like you can't just, like—so the levels, the first one you have is technician—technician level. The second one's a general level, that's actually where I'm at. I have a general level license. And then the highest one is called amateur extra, a lot of people just say "extra." That's—extras basically have the most privileges on the HAM radio.
Margaret 26:36 They all sound inverted. Like, if I was to come up with the hierarchy, I would be like amateur, general, technician.
Cici 26:44 Yeah no, they're like actually, like, holdovers from older—like there used to be advanced, there used to be a novice and, like, they've changed—the FCC is the one that's in charge of making these levels. And it's like, it's changed a lot. It used to be kind of like five or like three and a half kind of, and now it's basically just the three. Sometimes you'll run into a really old HAM who's like, "I haven't advanced license," and it's, like, what the hell is that? But it's basically like an old, depreciated license that they don't issue anymore. So yeah, I'm at the middle level. You can't just jump straight to, like, one of the levels. So like, if you're like, "I think I know enough to get an extra license," you can't just go and say, "Give me the extra test, I'll get an extra license." But you can take them all in one sitting. So like, if you're like, "I'm pretty sure I could do the extra," they'll give you a technician test. If you pass it, they'll give you a general test. If you pass it, they'll give you an extra test. The extra test has more questions, it's—I'm actually studying for it right now. It's very technical. It's kind of like what Eepa was referring to. There's kind of a culture of HAM radio. And it's, there's this idea that you basically have to earn your privileges on the bands by knowing what you're doing and all this type of basically hierarchy type of ideas. But I mean, it is helpful to know some of the things that are in the test. I've actually learned a lot, just from having to study for the technician or the general test even though I've forgotten some of it. The licenses are good for 10 years. So you do have to actually renew them every 10 years. So yeah, after a few years I'll have to renew mine, and pay them this stupid fee that didn't exist when I first got it. But yeah, also something I want to put out is if you—you only need a license if you want to transmit. By what I mean by that is if you want to send a signal out. That's important if you're, like, if you're in an emergency situation, you're probably going to want to send a signal out. If you're trying to communicate with people that are not near you, you want to send a signal out. But if you just want to listen you actually don't need a license, you can actually go grab a radio tonight, tune your radio to HAM radio bands and just listen all day long, as long as you don't transmit. And technically you're not supposed to interfere. So you can't, like, jam other people's signals. But, like, if you're not transmitting, you can listen, like whatever. Like there's no license to listen. So that's something interesting I want people to know: if you just want to listen to stuff, you don't actually need a license.
Margaret 29:05 What do they talk about around you? Because around me, like, I got a scanner and, you know, it doesn't transmit any way, right? And I set it to listen to HAM radio channels, and I mostly heard like a 70-year-old talking to maybe a 15-year-old about like how to cook hot dogs and how to get trucks unstuck in mud, and then started explaining a story about snakes that I found very improbable. And that was about the most interesting thing that's happened, like, all of the many hours I've, like, just had the scanner on in the background. I don't know. I'm curious what you all have heard people talking about on these things.
Cici 29:45 So for me, I actually don't do that much listening. Going back to kind of like different areas of different—I guess that's something called "rag chewing." In the HAM radio world that's if you hear someone say, "Oh, you're rag chewing," that's basically you're getting on the radio, you're just listening to other people. A lot of times people will make—I don't want to say a game, game probably sounds—is the right—is the wrong—but people will actually do this as a contest. Like, sometimes people will try to contact as many people as you can in a certain amount of time. You've heard of people called "contesting," that's what they mean. You'll hear some people "de-exing," this is better if you have that—so if you're in the high frequency, you try to get people as far away from you as you can. A lot of that, actually, you don't say much. Because you want to get as many contacts, you'll actually have this very non-conversation. It's basically like your call sign, like, some necessary information and that's it. Some people actually automate it. It's interesting. So you don't actually say a lot when you're doing that. However, I know we mentioned ultra high frequency, the UHV—or excuse me UHF, I'm sorry—UHF earlier, and somebody might be thinking, "Why would I want to even talk"—like they're very short, like, distances. They can penetrate into buildings which is helpful. So someone's like, "Why would I want to do that? If somebody right there, like, what's the point?" I mentioned earlier, one of the things you can do is you can create your own WiFi networks. Those actually operate. And those vary—or excuse me, not very, but ultra high frequency. 13 centimeters is about where that happens if people are able to look at a band plan and, like, see what links go where. If you were trying to set up your own—like, even like the commercial WiFi networks operate in that same thing. That's why your router is generally limited to your house and just outside your house and why you can't pick up a router like a mile away. So that's kind of like—I know, this is getting away from the question of what do people talk about around you.
Margaret 31:50 Oh, no, no. Go on. This is a better tangent.
Cici 31:55 It's like you don't have to necessarily even if you—there's a lot of people that have radios and they hardly ever listen, they don't ever rag chew. One of the things I'm trying to learn is it's basically Morse code. I don't know why I said basically, it is Morse code. It's called—for technical reasons it's called "continuous wave" in HAM radio. So if you hear people saying CW, that's Morse code. One of the attractive things in Morse code—because someone's like, "Well, why would you want to do that, that seems way more, way more like technical and you have to learn a whole thing and then"—it gets out when nothing else can. When I say that is a radio signals take up a certain amount of space, basically, in the bigger—the more space it takes up—bandwidth is how, I guess, the technical word for that. But the more bandwidth it is, the harder it can be to get that signal out. This is particularly pression, as Eepa was saying, a lot of times you're limited in how many watts you can put out. So if you're running something that's not a lot of watts—especially you've got like maybe an antenna that you've made or an antenna that's not extremely efficient—if you can do something like Morse code, it might get out, when if you were trying to do a voice code wouldn't get out. Now you have trade-offs with that, like, you know, you have to, you have to have equipment that will use it, you'll have to have somebody on the receiving end that can listen to it. But actually a lot of people use automatic—something, I forget what it's called. But it's basically something where when it comes up to your computer, or your radio, depending on if your radio is nice enough, will just automatically translate the Morse code for you. So you don't necessarily have to know it. In the HAM culture it's kind of like, well, that's cheating, you know, like you're supposed to like actually learn it and whatever. But if you're using it as an emergency thing, for instance, it can be really important. Another thing is if you don't really want to listen to what people around, you have to talk about, like I don't want to care—I don't care how people make hot dogs. The jokes is actually that if you are actually—a lot of it's just what gear do you have, what radio do you have? And like, "Oh, how nice is your radio?" And it's just, like, this is not information I need. One of the things, you can actually send out images? Which seems kind of like, "Well, I've got a computer, why do I care that I can send out images and like actually receive them?" This can be key if you're in a place where the government's actually shut down on purpose, you know, your your internet or your cell phone stuff, because they're doing things that they don't want people to know. For instance, I don't actually, I don't know if it's still happening. But I remember in the northern region of India, there was a blackout there a year or so ago. The Indian government was doing just, we don't really know because nothing could get out. But if you had a radio that could send out—there's fast scan and slow scan—TV is what it's called. But if you could send out an image without the government knowing, you could potentially let people know what's going on and in a situation where it's otherwise impossible to get communication out. So I mean, that's something that I—basically my answer to the question, "What do people talking around me?" is, "I don't really know." I'm not listening to people around me so much and I'm not a I'm not rag chewing, basically. But that's just to give people examples of what you can do if you're like, well, I'm really antisocial, I don't want to talk to anybody around me about just random stuff. So...
Eepa 35:14 Yeah, for like around me, one of the things that—I actually do listen. I'm actually still in the process of getting licensed. The tests are themselves are, you know, intimidating and challenging but you can develop a lot of interesting insights, basically, by listening. And, I mean, around where we're at it's simple stuff, like, they have little game shows where you can, like, call in answers to trivia questions. And they have, like, little social meet and greets. They've got like a technical night where if you're having a problem with your radio, you can call in and they'll help you troubleshoot what's going on with it. And this is all done via repeaters, which means you could use a UHF or VHF, you know, like a Baofeng basically, to talk to somebody in Ohio. Now, again, these repeaters are run by local radio clubs which means, you know, you don't control the infrastructure, which means if those repeaters were to go down or, you know, the government was to take them over or something like that, you could lose access. And that's one of the reasons that I'm very interested in HF because HF is a self-contained communication system where you're able to do everything on your own. The IF's in contact with some of the people—some of the anarchists in Ethiopia. And during the recent civil war in Tigray that was one of the issues that they were running into and something that they had wished that they had basically prepared was people who could actually send out images and send out news reports on the radio from within Tigray because a lot of the news was only coming from the Ethiopian state forces. And there were, you know, reports and rumors of massacres and other things like that. But there were no images, there was nothing really to substantiate what was happening. And so just touching on that, the ability to send images and things like that is really nice. But just when it comes to listening, I think that's actually something really critical to think about when you're looking at radio from a prepper kind of standpoint, from a—the idea that you are trying to get into communications because you want to be a part of community awareness. The primary thing that you will be using radio for in a situation where communications are shut down through normal means, and that could mean just a grid down, you know, Hurricane knocked out the power grid or something like that. Or it could be something more sinister where, you know, the government is purposefully denying people access to communication. The primary thing you're gonna be doing on radio is listening, is intelligence gathering. It's figuring out what all the other HAMs that are on the radio are talking about, what are they seeing, you know. Are they seeing, you know—are there rumors of, you know, troop movements to the north? Are there rumors, that there's a food shortage in the town that's north to you or that, you know, they're sick people really concentrated in a certain area? That intelligence gathering is something that you can do with really cheap equipment. You can—one of the things that we recommend on our site is to get a shortwave, you know, receiver or something that can listen to all of these different bands. And just use that as a tool in your community to get people the ability to listen and learn because information is absolutely critical for survival, it's the central thing you can have in a situation where stability has crumbled, is to have information awareness on the ground. So listening, even when you're, you know, not licensed, can do that. It also can kind of give you an idea of what your local HAM community is like. Because one of the things that you will very, very rapidly learn, if you're a minority and you're involved in HAM, is that the community is blazingly white. And sometimes they can be fairly reactionary. And you can actually start to take notes of people that are actually kind of cool on the radio and people that you never want to talk to you again, just based off their call signs because they're required to give those. And that can help you decide in the future how reliable somebody information might be, or what kind of perspectives they might be providing in a disaster situation. So that kind of, like, finite information gathering is an important skill to develop even before you consider transmitting, you know, that's something you can work on right now.
Margaret 39:59 Yeah, that makes sense.
Cici 40:00 I'm actually really glad he mentioned that. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Margaret, I'm sorry,
Margaret 40:04 No, go ahead.
Cici 40:05 I was just gonna say like, I—I'm gonna preface this just legally by saying, don't ever do anything illegal on the radio. But one of the things that I don't think people necessarily realize is that the FCC isn't—they don't have the manpower to sit and listen to like every single band. So like, generally, if you're doing something say, untoward, or you're not necessarily licensed, it's not the FCC that's going to like find out. It's the other HAMs. HAM radio is largely kind of self-disciplined. It's self—like, for instance, we do our own testing. Like, it's not like if you do—if you do something someone's—the band hammer is gonna come down. It's basically if you piss off enough HAMs or if they know, they'll— they're the ones who's going to report it. Eepa had mentioned earlier in our conversation that in HAM radio you can't send encrypted communication. However, you could send—and there's kind of a formality of how you send information via HAM radio—but for instance, you could say what they would expect you to say if you were doing a regular HAM conversation and it could mean not what they would necessarily expect it to mean. So for instance, one of the things on—I don't know a lot about voice because I actually am trying to focus more and Morse code, but one of the things that you're supposed to do on Morse code to call a another radio is CQ, CQ CQ. And then someone will be like is, you know, are you looking for someone? You can use those codes to mean for your intended audience whatever you want them to mean. So it's not encrypted. But it's also something where the other HAM radio, if someone happens to be listening, has a HAM radio, they won't necessarily know what's going on. Again, you should never do anything illegal on the radio. I just want to let people know that it's not like there's a radio police that sits and actively listens, like, it's really just other HAMs that are gonna report you. Also, that's something to know. If you note that you're in kind of a, you know, maybe you live in a really remote area and there's just not a lot of other HAMs, you're listening on the air, and they're just not a lot of other people, you don't hear a lot of other people. That also might mean there's not really a lot of people listening, which means there's not a lot of people that could report you to the FCC. So that's something to keep in mind as well. If people were, you know—also something to note that even in a licensed situation, for something that's considered an emergency, and this is actually one part of the test, you can break HAM radio protocol and laws in the case of emergency. And that's actually something that's acknowledged. So like, if something were happening where it's like, this person needs immediate attention, you're not expected to follow all the—like, you can get on the air and be like, "I'm not licensed, but I need help," and most HAMs are gonna not, you know, they're not going to get on you. Like, that's allowed. So that's also something I want people to know, like, if you just want to radio for emergencies technically you should be licensed and it's good, because you'll have experience and you'll know what you're doing, but if it's something like this is like four death, or this is extreme, other HAMs aren't gonna report you. Like, people are generally, you know, and also that's allowed. So even if they did report you other HAMs would be like, well, that's allowed in the rule. So something I just wanted people to know.
Margaret 43:44 Yeah, that actually helps.
Eepa 43:45 So if you break your leg out in the woods, go ahead and get on your Baofeng and start honking.
Margaret 43:51 So I feel like at this point, I should probably tell the audience what a Baofeng is. Which is, as far as I understand—because that's actually, that's how Baofengs were introduced to me, right is like, "Oh, yeah, I got a Baofeng." Like, "Oh yeah, there's radios over there, they're Baofengs." And like, everyone like talks about it, like, "Whoa, like, this is the fucking coolest thing ever," right? And it's just a really cheap radio that can do a lot of things. And it can do a lot of things that are legal like transmit at low wattage on FRS. And it can do a lot of things that would only be illegal if you were licensed. But it's just kind of like, what, a $20 or $30 radio you can buy on the internet and you can like swap it out with a nicer antenna? And it's just kind of like—it's become, like, kind of like a thing in this sort of like tactical and prepper and whatever worlds is like Baofengs is, like, the thing. But actually what you were talking about, about how you can use it in emergencies. That's kind of how I've always seen, like, I have a Baofeng, right? I don't really know how to use it. I've pretty much just used it to listen to things. But I'm like, okay, I could theoretically transmitted an emergency if I needed to. And, you know, for a $20 thing that can transmit in an emergency, that's cool. It's also cool that it's a tool that, like, isn't limited, like, I hate when I buy something and it's like, this is locked down to make sure that you can't do the things it's supposed to do. Just the things that you're allowed to do. You know?
Eepa 45:23 Yeah.
Margaret 45:23 I hate that kind of shit, I—there's a, just, I don't know, whatever. I'm clearly an anarchist, I—there's—I don't really have to defend this position very hard.
Eepa 45:36 Yeah, and so like, those Baofengs are basically like, I mean, the the way that you can think about it is, like, your first, you know, foray into radio if you are, like, just—what I generally recommend Baofengs for is if you're actually interested in doing like, computer stuff with it, if you're interested in doing programming, they can be really fun to play with. Also, if you're interested in a radio that the cops can confiscate and you're not going to miss it because it's not that much of an investment, that's another really good reason to get a Baofeng. But if you're a beginner and you're serious about getting into radio, I do think that there are better options for just ease of use, because Baofengs can be very difficult to program, sometimes, they can be very finicky to use all of the functions of it. And so something like, you know, an Alinco, or a Yaesu, you know, these types of like, you know, Japanese radios can be a little bit more easy to use and they're going to be much more durable, you know, as far as like weather proofing and things like that. But again, that's something you have to weigh the pros and the cons of, you know, is this something that's gonna be confiscated at a protest, I probably don't want to spend a lot of money on it. Whereas if you're something where this isn't my go bag, I need something that's going to survive no matter what, then you might want to invest more money in something that's going to be easy to use and is going to be durable. So I mean, yeah, the Baofeng s ubiquitous, because it is cheap and there are better options that are still affordable.
Margaret 47:20 I feel like the Baofeng is like such a perfect way to introduce someone to help goddamn convoluted radio looks, like, you know?
Eepa 47:30 It can't—that's one of the issues with it is if you were—if I was to hand you a Yaesu. Like if I was to give you just like a Yaesu FT4X you would be able to program that without plugging in into a computer. It's much easier to use. You can just run to the menu, everything's right there. It's not convoluted and complex. And I think that's one of the issues with the Baofeng is it kind of—if you're not used to radio it can be very, very intimidating if you see that as your first introduction to radio. At least that's been my experience. I do have Baofengs, I was that typical person where I went out and I, first thing I got was, you know, a four-pack of Baofengs that I split amongst some of my comrades. And we were, you know, learning how to use them. But it was much more challenging. And the first time I used a radio with a nice, smooth, easy operation interface, you know, a nice, easy menu system. It really—it made it a lot less intimidating.
Margaret 48:35 Now you sold me. I mean, yeah, like, I basically look at my Baofeng and I'm like, I'm an idiot. And I'm like, I know how to program a computer to some degree, like, I've been doing technical shit for very long time. And I just look at it, and I'm like, I don't have enough time to dedicate in my life. Actually, this ties back to something I don't remember—I think it was Cici who was saying it but I'm not sure—earlier about how like, you know, Cici's like well, I actually very involved in this community, right, but then you're like, but I only know about the stuff that I'm interested in. I don't necessarily have to know everything a…