A weight off my hip

We’re having one of our periodic “please look at what you’re spending” go-arounds at work this week; I realized that I’d been carrying my pager around for years and years, but that I hadn’t actually gotten any important messages on it for at least the last three months. So I decided I could save the company a few bucks every month by giving it up, and popped it into the mail this morning.

Even though the pager hasn’t done much for me for a long time, I feel almost naked without it — but I’m sure I’ll adapt.

Actually, I had hoped to replace the pager with a RIM Blackberry, but I found that it didn’t fit my work style very well — I saw too much mail twice (once on the Blackberry and then again to dispose of permanently on my computer), and the temptation to look at e-mail for “just a minute” when it was sitting on my nightstand was awfully hard to resist. After the second time that “just a minute” turned into an actual session on my computer, I realized that instant access to my e-mail was probably a stronger lure than was safe for me.

Listening to static

When I was in high school, I did a lot of short-wave listening (and broadcast band DXing, too), and my Mom always called it “listening to static”. I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to master the code enough to get a ham radio license when I was young (I didn’t think I’d be able to put together a station), but in 1989, I fell in with a Bad Crowd here at work and learned enough code to pass a Novice test and got my license — I even convinced Diane to get her license, too.

It was a good thing that we were both licensed when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, because we were able to talk to each other and find out that we were both OK. Working emergency communications for the next few days was good, too, because it kept me from thinking about aftershocks (of which I’m sure there were plenty, but I was too busy to notice).

And having my ham license got me interested in TCP/IP (running TCP applications at 1200-baud half-duplex is interesting — and it makes watching paint dry seem to be a study in rapid activity in comparision). That led to my playing with Gopher, which then took me to the Web, which led to my current job (and at least two promotions).

Not bad for a hobby. But today’s high schoolers are probably less likely to get into shortwave listening as a starting point — at least here in North America. According to Ham Radio Online, the BBC is about to discontinue its World Service broadcasts to North America, relying instead on streaming audio on the Internet.

Listen, Ma — no static!