Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vietnam -- ET Call Home

Okay, maybe it wasn't ET. But RT Edwards did.

Just not by conventional land phones.  Would take a bit more than D-Cell batteries and a hand crank to make the connection.

Fact is, the roll of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) stations was to provide an up link to civilian radio stations throughout the world. Basically, the forerunner for the world wide web.

The idea was to promote the use of single side band (SSB) transmitters and receivers as a civil defense network.  Why use SSB? Simple. Double the wave on itself and you have a condensed carrier wave capable of going around the world with just about the same wattage usage as your micro wave.

Furthermore, digitizing a wave as a folded over conventional wave meat that the wave could run up a metal pole and be sent sky word so that it radiated in a 360 degree area. The problem is, the voice wave carried with the wave could cut across the normal AM/FM frequencies. So the umbrella effect could and did disrupt normal TV and radio voice waves.

When you have an I Love Lucy show addict watching the show and a local MARS station came on line, well, there were calls made and the MARS owner would get a fine and either shut down completely or simple run his station late at night.

If you've every driven along one of the interstate highways and your radio station suddenly becomes a Breaker, Breaker One Nine, most like, the guy in the rig has fired up his SSB CB Radio.

Simply put, a low cost transmitter and receiver -- or combination of both known as a transceiver was purchased by a hobbyist or Amateur Radio Operator or ham radio operator. We also built our own.

Anyway, during the conflict, cell phones, e-mail and the WWW did not exist -- although some of these types of capabilities were transmitted back and forth between civilian stateside stations and the military.

Indeed, the military embraced the use of this system as a means through which soldiers and their spouses could talk to each other. Morale and welfare messages were key to maintaining a soldier's sense family life back in the states.

A very well known card was passed over to the civilian community during the conflict along with other incentives to participate in the program.

This card was known as a QSL card. These "Call Cards" could come from anyone around the world. And they did. From Japan, Germany, South Africa and South America.  Even from places in the United States.

I personally and professional find it intriguing that QSL becomes SQL and MARS is also associated with the use of SQL Server and Multiple Active Result Sets (MARS).

Especially when a transmitter came on line, the first twitter was "SQL" followed by the call sign of the licensed operator and location. 

I called my mother three times while stationed in Vietnam using a MARS station located at Camp Eagle.
Very awkward to have to say over every time you're done with a sentence.

Final thoughts.  If you ever wondered how the anti-war protesters knew what was going on in Nam almost as fast as it happened, you can thank MARS and all the listening stations for that. Almost anything we did in Nam was being sent over SSB and picked up by every receiver in the world.

Including the enemy.

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