The Amateur Amateur: Raiders of the Lost Shack
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
are a busy time. There is so much to do, and it seems that most of it
requires making a trip to the basement.
December 23, 2005
Entrance to the basement. Legend has it that the Lost Shack is somewhere down
Ah yes, the
basement. It's the repository for most things used only occasionally
things never actually used but too good to throw
. And something else as well. For it seems that every time I
rummage around in the basement looking for ornaments or packing
material or Christmas tree lights, I get a sense of longing, as if
something is missing from my life.
Some times when
I'm in the basement I also get a sense of nearness
, as if I'm
close to an important, perhaps even great, discovery. It's as if
there is some long-hidden treasure down there, just waiting for me to
find it. Sometimes I feel as if I can almost identify this treasure.
I wonder. Could it be that I'm sensing the Lost Shack?
Right around this area I get a sense of nearness to the Lost Shack.
Shack is probably only a myth, something I dreamed about after taking
a heavy dose of flu-symptom medication just before going to bed. It's
a mystical place where all sorts of wondrous things reside. There are
supposed to be meters and dials and strange boxes whose functions are
unknown. It's a place of amazing sights and sounds, like nothing
heard anywhere else. It's rumored to be a place where magicians go to
commune with each other through some fairy-web stuff called ether.
I have memories,
probably false ones, of a great ledger in which such magical contacts
are recorded. It's full of cryptic charms used to call other
sorcerers; their secret names, used only by other magicians; and
indecipherable runes, probably having to do with the phase of the
moon and the alignment of the planets. "K1KC 7.163 MHz 0020 UTC"
Who knows what
it might mean?
I also recall
some plants, creeping vines of various sorts, which wind around
virtually everything in the Lost Shack. Some are thick and heavy.
Others are thinner and more flexible and seem to insinuate themselves
everywhere. They tend to grow in pairs, one shiny black and the other
brilliant red. I seem to remember that the vines have valuable
magical properties, but that if you aren't careful they will grow
wildly out of control and cover everything. I have vague
recollections of them occasionally trying to grab my feet and trip
An artist's conception of the Lost Shack.
remember correctly, there is a part of the Lost Shack that is called
the Land of Forgotten Projects. It's where great ideas never realized
go to languish. There are books and papers and articles and notes,
all containing wonderful notions. These notions are all, alas, things
that were never done. Forlornly they sit, awaiting an interested
wizard, a bit of inspiration, a touch of solder.
I can almost hear
the mini-TNC calling to be plugged in and tested. The Near-Vertical
Incidence Skywave literature cries out to be read. Power inverters
beg to be attached to batteries. Piles of books plead to be shelved
in an orderly fashion. A rain gauge waits in misery to be taken out
of its package and to be put in action.
meanderings also call up images of many happy hours spent in the Lost
Shack. I can see myself conversing with mages and agreeing to
exchange magical spells via QSL cards. I envision myself battling
wits with Iono, the great laughing demigod of the sky. I can picture
myself using a butane-powered magic wand to heal some broken
artifact. I can feel the puzzlement of trying to solve the
incantations set forth in a circuit diagram. I remember the shock of
finding that I had let loose the Demons of RFI. And I can clearly
call to mind the joys of conjuring voices from lands far, far away.
Such is the magic
to be found in the fabulous Lost Shack.
Oh, I know I'm
too old to believe in such fairy tales, but I can't shake the feeling
that such a place as the Lost Shack really existed once. Maybe it
did, a long, long time ago.. before the holidays.
Editor's 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
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2005 American Radio Relay League