Repeater Safety

To continue with RAWNY’s dedication to teaching new hams about how to get on the air, and as a refresher to those with years of experience behind them, we present the following article which originally appeared in the January 1983 issue of QST (and later reprinted in the April 1993 issue of QST) entitled “Repeaters: An Eavesdropper’s Paradise” written by Richard Rhodes – at that time an agent of the CIA.

In this article, Mr. Rhodes talks about repeaters and how they can literally open the conversations of ham radio operators to the entire world if we let our guard down and fail to operate discreetly. Keep in mind that this article was written when there were no cell phones, social media, or the internet for that matter. His mention of a “phone patch” brings us back to a time when making a phone call through a repeater was a relatively common function to those who had the access codes to turn the patch on or off.

In the article, Mr. Rhodes mentions getting information about a ham in the “Callbook”, which was similar to a telephone directory where a ham’s address was listed. Thanks to the Internet, more specifically, it’s now easier to find exactly where a ham is located. Google Maps can even show your house complete with antenna farm.The age of the article, or Mr. Rhodes humorous but serious approach doesn’t fail to convey the urgency of the topic especially if you’re giving out what should be personal information to total strangers simply by putting it out on the air.

Imagine being a married man and making a phone call via a repeater to your “girlfriend” saying you’re on your way over but neglecting to realize that what you’re saying is going out on the air! Food for thought to say the least. Think before you hit the PTT.

Repeaters: An Eavesdropper’s Paradise

1 comment for “Repeater Safety

  1. Alan
    January 26, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Hi Aaron, I listened as you talked about this on the RAWNY net the other night and gave your personal story. It definitely got me thinking, and I’m sure got others thinking as well!!

    I also had a small electronic mishap that wasn’t quite shack related so I didn’t want to tell it the other night on the air. Here goes… I used to be a television tech, for quite a while actually! Anyways… One day I put a 27″ RCA tv on a jig, meaning the entire chassis was pulled from the TV enclosure. As anyone in the repair business knows the more you fix the more money you take home, if you have alot of dogs a particular week, you may be eating RAMEN noodles quite a bit! What i’m meaning is, you are in a hurry fixing units. But sometimes it pays to take a second look before you actually hit the “on” button.

    In my case, I accidentally left the high voltage anode off the crt, it was actually hanging off the bench entangled in with alot of other wires, tough to notice in the spaghetti. I was standing there in shorts (summer time!), the anode was at the left side of my left calf, my left hand was on the tv tuner (a steel enclosure soldered to the main board). When I turned the tv on I had about a 2″ 27KV arc from the anode to my leg, go thru my body and out my finger into the steel tuner!! I seen the arc in both places and smelled the burning flesh!

    Anyways… that’s my electronic mishap, one among a few that I may share another time!

    Alan KD2AGL

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