The Amateur Amateur: Reality Amateur Radio

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
April 2022 (April Fool!)

With the proliferation of reality TV shows, I guess that it was inevitable that the FCC (Fantasy Communications Commission) would eventually authorize Reality Amateur Radio. The ink was barely dry on its Report and Order before applications came pouring in. Some were quite novel. But others looked suspiciously familiar.

For example:

Sister Wires -
A group of sisters, who all happen to be married to the same man, travel from site to site connecting guy wires to tall masts that aren't properly anchored. It's unclear whether their motivation is safety, or just to spend some time away from “Husband”, who stays at home in his own private enclave. Given his looks (and his breath), one cannot be sure.

Big Holes in the Ground -
A crack team of Amateur Radio operators make the trip to sinkholes, abandoned excavations, and subsidence zones looking for any place that doesn't have an HOA. The idea is to pour a lot of concrete and form bases for very tall towers. Problems abound when they can't get permits, get run off of private land, and lose two concrete trucks as they slowly disappear into the soft ground.

Uncontacted Island -
Formerly called The Last Grid Square, a stalwart band of investigators goes in a futile search for an island, any island, that has not yet been worked by Dxers. Anything that might have been available is, or soon will be, covered with water.

Love Me, Love My Rig -
Bachelor Amateur Radio operators seek women to marry. Specifications are that the prospective wives will never complain or frown when the operator declines to attend the wedding of the wife's sister. Also, they should sit quietly in a corner knitting when the bands are hot. So far this particular Reality Amateur Radio project has a failure rate of 100%.

Seeking Nazi Radios -
German engineering having the reputation of lasting forever, hopeful searchers go all over the globe seeking World War II radio equipment. Using dubious rumors, unqualified “experts”, and misinterpreted maps, these cheerful fellows never give up. They also never find anything. They do, however, occasionally wind up brawling with Big Holes in the Ground team members about who has the right to risk their necks going down unsafe mineshafts.

Naked Except for My Handheld -
The less said, the better.

The Bands Are Hot At the Top of the World -
These brave teams climb active volcanoes to operate from high altitudes. Their theory is that hot lava acts as a perfect ground reflector, really giving their signals a punch. It's not clear whether or not the premise is valid, as none of the teams have reported back yet.

Battle Watts -
Members compete with each other. Initially, the idea was to see who could make the most distant contacts. It later devolved into trying to blow each other off the air with sheer power. Some operators have actually succeeded in melting wires, blowing fuses, and shorting feed lines. But so far, only on their own stations.

Fast Bands -
This attempt at combining illegal street drag racing and mobile radio is still looking for a way to meld the two pursuits. Problems encountered so far include -

  • Transceivers blowing up as soon as the driver stomps on the accelerator
  • Having a second occupant in the car to handle the radio adds unwanted weight
  • Antennas being ripped off of the cars during acceleration
  • Antennas flying off of the cars during deceleration
  • The radio operator only being able to squeak as the acceleration compresses his chest
  • The race being over before the radio operator can complete his call sign

Real Hamwives of Newington Connecticut -
These women are licensed to gossip. Snide remarks include chatting about a third party's old, out-of-date equipment, the state of cleanliness of her shack, how she was only able to obtain a rather pathetic vanity call sign, and the fact that her two-year-old doesn't yet know Morse code.

Backyard Tower Crash -
No one signed up for this until the name was changed to Backyard Tower Hoist. Then it looked as though it would be successful, despite numerous HOAs, FAA challenges, and Molotov Cocktails tossed into the yard by irate neighbors. What killed it off, however, was the friends recruited to help had no skills and a no sense of safety (a lot of beer was consumed during the projects). Eventually, the original name became a common reality, and the whole idea was scrapped.

The Loudest Voice -
Operators vie with each other to dominate the airwaves. Very poor Amateur Radio etiquette. Lots of fuses get blown.

Supernatural Signals -
A group of operators will take their specialized equipment and knowledge and go anywhere there is said to paranormal activity. Using the power of self-delusion, they can positively identify almost any phenomenon as having an otherworldly source. Other than their own confident assurances, however, the only actual documentation was of a ten-year-old neighborhood boy using an illegally modified CB rig and moaning, “OOOOOooooooooooohhhh....,” over the air.

Surrender Your License -
This is a court drama in which hams accused of operating illegally are given an opportunity to defend themselves. Lots of intense drama, but the results are always the same.

Glitter Hunt -
Rugged, well-outfitted operators go out in the field looking for gold. They aren't trying to get rich from what they find, they just use it to coat their connectors.

Flip This Shack -
A house-flipping company has a small specialty team that comes in whenever a radio shack is discovered on the premises. The team cleans it up, modernizes it, and puts in all brand-new equipment. Nine times out of ten the original owner will buy back the house.

As Seen From Space -
There are reality TV shows in which the producers scan huge numbers of satellite photos looking for “the inexplicable”. The As Seen From Space Reality Amateur Radio project, however, consist of ham operators looking for isolated places where they can erect exotic stations without incurring the wrath of local residents or governments. Potential sites must, however, be within a few miles of a Starbucks.

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