Decades ago, we discovered that by manipulating ripples through the ionosphere – the electromagnetic field that blankets the entire planet – we were able to send messages back and forth across the planet.
Since then, hobbyists (HAM radio), professionals, researchers, and more have found endless fascinating and exciting ways to use this technology – everything from masts to handheld two-way radio. It’s thanks to this discovery that we have television, WiFi, Bluetooth, and telephones.
But rather than simply leaving this to the professionals, why not get involved? Like a polymath of old, or like a modern-day Tesla, there is no reason you can’t build your own equipment and start tuning in to those waves – or even broadcasting your own. You can listen out for messages from space, or try and make connections with people across the other side of the world.
When you do, you may encounter portable radio operations – examples of these pioneering and tinkering individuals and organizations that are using their skills to explore and to share their experiences.
A portable operation is an operation that usually has the suffice ‘X’ on the callsign. This means in turn that the operator is working away from their licensed station address, which may be because they are on a DXpedition, or because they are reporting from the field. They may have visited an area with a large empty space or high up vantage point in order to broadcast farther and wider – or perhaps they simply want to communicate with the locals, or maybe they want to communicate with others back home in order to share their experience.
Either way, this is an individual or group of individuals using a two-way radio from a remote location.
The reason for the suffix is partly in order to indicate to listeners what they are doing, but it is also partly for official reasons. The reason this is important, is that in order to engage in ham radio, an operator will need a license. Like any license, that license will be registered to the address of the usual base – and so if they are going to be operating elsewhere, then the officials will want to be able to find out who they are and quickly identify whether or not they have permission to communicate from that location.
Any form of portable operation will need to work using mobile equipment, meaning there will be a lesser power supply and lighter tools will need to be used. But there is something extremely exciting about setting down somewhere with a some cobbled together equipment and then reaching out to a huge audience – or even just listening in on what else is going on.
Operating maritime mobile from sea meanwhile is another unique form of portable radio operations, that of course involves operating from sea. These stations will utilize a Marine VHF Radio and broadcast on specific frequencies over long distances. Again, the fact that they are at sea means that they will be able to spread their message further and wider.