The Amateur Amateur: The Junkman Cometh, Part I
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
My brother, Chris, is my Elmer. He's also an inveterate accumulator of
stuff--also known as "junk."
May 17, 2003
is my brother Chris, K1KC--and, yes, he got that tag by accumulating
lots of junk. He just loves to attend hamfests and government surplus
sales. The bigger the item, the more he wants it. Oh, he plans to use
it all, or sell it all, someday real soon now
. In the meantime
it all sits around, cluttering up his house, his garage, his barn and
Chris rolled into my driveway in his "mobile shack."
Chris is also my
Elmer (ham radio mentor). The only problem with this arrangement is
that I live in Missouri, and he lives in Georgia. But whenever I have
a problem or a question I just call him up. He's always willing to
give me an answer.
We did manage to
get together recently, though. Chris had some junk--a recent
purchase--to pick up in southern Illinois, so he decided swing by St
Louis for a visit. (Actually, Winterfest was being held in the St
Louis area the following weekend, and the Junkman does find it hard
to pass up a hamfest.)
into my driveway in his "mobile shack," a monstrous truck
with about a thousand antennas on it. When I say "monstrous,"
I mean really honking big (did I mention that he likes big
stuff?). The wheels of the truck looked like they belonged on a
Boeing 747. The back door of the truck was larger than my garage
door. The truck was almost as tall as my house, so its antenna array
challenged my rooftop antennas for dominance of the sky. (Thank the
sky god Iono that he had left his trailer--and his "purchase"--in
My brother gave
me the grand tour of his truck. It seemed to have everything except
an elevator (something it could have really used). The daunting
electronics cluster included a laptop computer, which was primarily
used as an expanded front panel for the main radio. It was all very
impressive, much more exotic than anything I had in my shack. It left
me feeling like a really amateur
piece of equipment was a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. He
was happy with it but wanted to find a way to attach it to the laptop
computer in his truck. He needed special software. He needed special
cables. He needed special connectors, adapters, fasteners, holders,
mounts, and so on and so forth. But once he sets his mind to
something, very little stops the Junkman. That became his big project
while he was in St. Louis.
The first place
Chris wanted to visit was the local Bass Pro Shop. He wasn't
interested in fishing gear. He wanted to check out the GPS counter. I
drove, since I was more familiar with the area. My brother sat in the
passenger seat amusing himself with his GPS.
The wheels of the truck looked like they belonged on a Boeing 747.
in Hazelwood," he said.
I thought. Then I noticed that Chris wasn't looking at road signs, he
was reading the tiny screen on his gizmo.
crossed McDonnell Boulevard. We just went under a railroad bridge."
to turn right in two miles."
The GPS did seem
to know exactly where we were.
in one mile."
Yes, yes, I
can see the signs
, I thought.
one-half mile... one-quarter mile... one-eight of a mile..
one-sixteenth of a mile.. one thirty-second of a mile . . ."
"I'm impressed! Enough already!" I yelled.
The laptop and the GPS . . . but how to connect them?
Chris didn't say
anything more during the trip, but I could see his lips moving.
Once at the Bass
Pro Shop we looked around for GPS devices. They weren't hard to find.
In the GPS section, Chris found a clerk, and the two of them quickly
slipped into some kind of techno-speak that I couldn't follow. All I
know for sure is that Chris was able to obtain some
items he needed and that they cost a wad of cash.
week that Chris was here he made some progress, but was unable to
complete his project. He did get his GPS device temporarily connected
to his laptop computer, but only while it was in my house. I found
out that my house was stationary, except for the occasional abrupt
change in elevation the GPS unit indicated. (I try not to think about
Not long after my
brother got home, he sent me an e-mail message with some attached
pictures. They showed the interior of his truck proudly sporting a
newly mounted, fully functional laptop computer. It was now capable
of controlling his main transceiver and
his GPS device. He had
completed his project.
A few weeks later
I got a birthday present from Chris--a GPS unit.
What do I do now?
And why does
the elevation of my house keep changing?
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Web page. Readers are invited to contact the
© 2003 American Radio Relay League