Letters to the Editor

Volume VI Number 39
October 1-7, 1998

Save 2 for Science

Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:

On behalf of preserving at least two of the towers on Greenbury Point, previous reasons - such as nesting sites, cell phone antennas, land marks for boaters and a reminder of NSS history - are good. The use of two towers by commercial, academic and amateur researchers and experimenters are valuable purposes I have not seen mentioned.

Maryland, Anne Arundel County and Annapolis all claim to be trying to attract and retain hi-tech industries. Anne Arundel Community College is racing to accommodate the demand for technically trained persons by adding specifically tailored courses.

There are few, if any, Maryland industries (other than commercial broadcast stations) that could afford to erect and maintain such perfect towers for research and experimentation as currently exist on Greenbury Point. And very few amateur experimenters could do so. At one time, most any amateur radio operator could throw a few hundred feet of wire for an antenna into trees in the back yard. No longer. American society is crowding together into tighter living spaces with increasingly stringent zoning ordinances and covenants preventing not only amateur experimenters but also industrial labs from erecting antennas in their own back yards.

There are more than 85 ham radio clubs in the D.C., Baltimore, Annapolis area, many of which - such as Naval Research Lab, Goddard, ARINC and Ft. Meade - meet within corporate or government facilities. Most universities and colleges have amateur radio clubs, closely related to the institution's academic programs. The University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, George Washington University and our Naval Academy are just a few of this sort.

Amateur radio in our area has within its ranks pioneers of modern technology including space communications and GPS vehicle location systems. The serious aspects of amateur radio greatly overshadow some perceptions of the word 'amateur' or some negative impressions of a '10-four good buddy' mentality. In fact, the name AMSAT, one highly coveted by commercial satellite operators, is owned by a consortium of amateur radio operators. They were there first.

The infusion of ham licensees into high-tech industries is a win/win situation. Companies have a pool of technically trained employees, and individuals' work increases the skills they can apply to their hobby.

The reason for leaving two towers is this: One tower can provide support (literally) for purposes at and above the VHF range. Frequencies of concern below this range, however, like the lower pitched notes on a piano, require longer length antennas, typically wire strung between two objects.

To illustrate, an ideal antenna at cellular phone frequencies is about six inches long. The same type of dipole antenna at the lower end of the AM Broadcast band is about 850 feet. There are frequencies way below that, such as those at which the Naval towers used to operate, that require such immensely long antennas that physical space for an 'ideal' length antenna is impossible to obtain anywhere else.

Two towers and their maintenance expenses could be shared easily by industry, academia and amateur groups, coordinated by a small committee.

The impact on our flora and fauna would be negligible: it's already their neighborhood! If any person or institution would like to collaborate on this idea, I would welcome responses to rohrer.brad@erols.com.

-Bradley D. Rohrer, Annapolis

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