Ever since I was about seven or eight years old, I learnt how to distinguish the sound of each note, hence how I developed my absolute pitch. At the time, I didn’t know that there were others like me, such as Joybubbles, a famous telephone phreak or phreak known for whistling into the telephone to make long-distance calls for free. However, I discovered that I could apply this perfect pitch to understand not only musical notes, but also use it for learning to dial the telephone, or recognise certain textures of sound pertaining to several digital modes such as fax machines or dial-up systems. At the time, I knew that these were tones that a person could associate with these things. When I started getting more technical in later years, I learned that computers used tones in various forms of frequencies and waveforms to communicate to each other audibly and mathematically through long distances. These tones also included different types of noise as well. That brings me to something I just discovered. Up to this point, I did not know that the emergency alert systems found on television and radio used tones to send encoded messages across the network, yet when I heard the tones I associated them with an emergency message, which actually turns out to be an added benefit because it sounds like an alarm. I did a bit of research and learnt that the series of tones I was hearing was called the specific area message encoding, or SAME. It is used by software-defined radios, so if you have an NOAA weather radio, you might see the text of the message on your screen. The mode that amateur radio operators would use is called AFSK, or audio frequency shift keying, although another article referred it as PSK31.
As blind people, and maybe some deaf-blind people, we tend to be more aware of our surroundings with our third or mind’s eye or ears. We are able to see and hear beyond, like in The Giver. This doesn’t mean that we cannot see and or hear physically, but it just means we are able to view the world differently. Perhaps that is why the ham radio community treats people with disabilities as VIP’s. I have been able to recognise speech synthesisers that you would normally find in screen readers on places like the public city bus, in movies, the ATM, and other keosks. Of course, this doesn’t mean that blind people are the only ones who know about it, for certainly there must be a number of abled people who know about these things, only the majority of them are not recognised by the general public. I know a number of amateur radio operators, and as mentioned in my post, blind people seem to develop their own culture that is devoted to the mannerism associated with radio communications. This leaves outsiders who cannot conform to the culture to be overwhelmed because we cannot understand their close-mindedness. I didn’t think I’d join them several years later, but I did, and I plan to help anyone else who might need it. I certainly don’t believe in the whole brogrammer thing.
I looked into the phantom flute phenomenon where, if you play two flutes in the high ranges, you will often hear a third flute that is not present. This is due to the resultant (sum or difference of two frequencies) that I was picking up. As a prospective piano tuner, I had to know what these were, and how they would get in the way when I was tuning really high strings. The same applies for dual-tone multi-frequency or DTMF tones. When you dial a number or letter, two given frequencies that are predetermine create a unique texture that allows a person to know what is being dialed. In FBI and other forms of criminal investigation, people like us who enjoy tinkering with data transmissions can listen to numbers being dialed so we can track the numbers of the party the person is calling. This same principle applies to people who are incapable of measuring heart and breathing rate save for the equipment they are using. Since I am pretty good at estimating beats per minute, I don’t think I’d really need something to tell me what it was. The same goes for counting drops in an IV line. When I learned how to differentiate beatings, I also learnt how to calculate frequencies that humans cannot hear based on how they feel. I could mention in a resume or job interview that I can calculate a person’s heart rate, or a tremor based on my knowledge and muscle memory. I can calculate how fast a fly’s wing is buzzing while scientists had to use expensive equipment to do that. It’s a shame, because they could have matched the tones using a free programme like audacity and the recording of the insect’s wings.
While making these discoveries, I knew I wanted to try out a facsimile machine, and use dialup, despite the fact that people said those things were going out of date and that dialup was slow. It wasn’t because of the obvious that I wanted to use these systems, but it was because I was fascinated by the sounds it made when it communicated across the telephone line. Amateur radio operators have successfully connected to the internet using only their radios. So, if I wanted to send an E-mail whilst out in the wilderness, I could easily do that with the right equipment. I was wondering if, some day in the future, transhumans could decode various digital protocols the way we can already understand Morse code , without using implanted devices. CW, or continuous wave, is considered to be a form of digital data. I got inspired by this idea when someone told me that scientists would be able to upload brain waves that escaped from your ears into a database. They would burn those brain waves onto a CD, which would hold some form of music. Let’s say you are dancing. They would be able to record how your brain behaves when you dance. If they could copy that into a computer and replay it back in a room full of people, then everyone would start dancing because their brains would be decoding the brain waves, unless there were genetic markers that would only make it so you were the one to dance.
Update: I got my ham radio licence on 11 March 2019, though I took the test on 2 March. Part of the reason I’ve been wanting to get my licence for a long time was because I read a book by Victor Appleton, or whoever the real writer was, and one of the books was called Tom Swift and his Wireless Message, or, the Castaways of Earthquake Island. There, I learned about how some people built a wireless station to call for help, and (spoiler alert) how they were rescued in the nick of time before the island sank.
So, I have met other blind people who shared this same passion of mine, and we believe that if more people were interested in a certain way, not to the point where we know all about it, but to a certain extent, we could change the world in getting more people to pay attention more closely. What do you all think? I think we can learn how to be more aware of our surroundings if we just stopped retreating into our iWorld environment and get out into the real world, because the iWorld is for people who are close-minded and selfish and the real world is for people who really care. We need to keep onto empathy and compassion.
Check out my comment on this blog post about how we can continue tinkering away. Here’s my comment in case you have trouble accessing it.
I am very interested in recruiting new hams, especially kids, by getting them to participate in simulated emergencies. There are often times when we are struck by natural or human-made disasters, like hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, tornados, earthquakes, etc, or wildfires, Amber alerts, and more.
It’s so easy for kids to think they can be connected to the world with social media and the internet, but they don’t realise that all that requires a massive infrastructure that could one day fail. I personally run a VPS where I host my website, but I make backups on my local computer, just in case.
I think kids will really like using ham radio if they learn how to use their smart devices to interface with things like AllStar, IRLP, and EchoLink on a Raspberry Pi. It is a great way for them to learn about science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
There’s also HandiHam, and people with disabilities also get a lot of benefit because of their unique talents and skills. I don’t know if Stephen Hawking was a ham, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was. We can also have kids practise communicating using CW with lights and tones, vibrations, or just squeezing hands or blinking eyes.
Having ham radio clubs in elementary, middle or Junior, and high schools would be a great way to start making progress.
The problem is that nobody’s prepared for what will happen. People just regard it as fearmongering. I think one really good example of this was when a false alarm was issued for a nuclear disaster in Hawaii back in January 2018. Scientists and other researchers would have a real treasure trove of data to work with about how people responded, what worked and what didn’t. It was a real wake-up call to many folks.
So, do what you can to prepare for a major widespread disaster. Get an NOAA weather radio with SAME capabilities, learn what SAME is by studying digital modes, and get an amateur radio licence and a transceiver, and, unlike a gun, learn how to use your radio right away, because say! You never know!