It’s a small world, and electrons are really fast

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 2/28/2014)

Across the years, each generation has found the world a tad smaller. I imagine early hunter-gatherers, accustomed to walking from place to place, were impressed by how much ground could be covered on a horse. And I can almost hear Mr. Ugh grunting to Mrs. Ugh something to the effect that “kids these days move too darn fast. They miss everything that’s going on around them.”

Then came trains, cars and airplanes, and each prompted Mr. and Mrs. U to assert the latest version of, “If God had meant us to fly, He’da given us wings.”

Then came the Internet.

A few days ago, a friend turned me onto an online conversation taking place in a photography forum I frequent. I usually pay more attention to discussions about my camera model and related equipment, or about history, travel and environment – favorite targets for camera and pen, er, keyboard.

In the particular conversation, however, a participant had noted several people signing their postings with what appeared to be amateur radio call letters. The gentleman was curious how many members were both avid photographers and Hams (the latter being the nickname for the aforementioned amateur radio folks).

So I introduced myself. My call is KN7ITZ, a license I was issued circa 1975 when I passed the exam on Adak, an island at about the midpoint of the Aleutian Islands. As years progressed, I passed more exams and was assigned other licenses, according to FCC mandates, until the commission discovered it could get $50 from every Ham who wanted a call other than the one issued for free by computer.

I paid. There was pleasure, some would say perverse, in having Extra class privileges disguised by a Novice license.

And that is how I met Jon Bloom, KE3Z. He was raised in StrabanTownship. He served in the Navy, and was on Adak part of the time I was, though we never met.

“Small world, John,” he commented. He had left AdamsCounty some 40 years ago. His dad was a Gettysburg College Civil War history professor. His mom, Dorothy, was a Gettysburg Times reporter.

“BTW,” he wrote, “if you know where the Wendy’s is out by the Walmart, it sits exactly where our house was when I was born. Back then, there wasn’t much else out there. Across the road, where the strip mall is now, was a farmer’s field. There was one behind our house, too, and next door was a farmhouse where I used to help the kids collect eggs from the hens.”

Now, he is a high school sports photographer in Connecticut.

I spent a goodly portion of my U.S. Navy career getting away from ships and bases to meet people who lived in lands of which I’d only read. When I retired and went to college, Mark Zuckerberg was a name a couple decades from becoming universally known, but I became one of the early adopters of the ability to communicate long distance, keyboard to keyboard, with several students attending universities in the Eastern hemisphere.

A few years ago, after I arrived in Gettysburg, Facebook fostered my reintroduction to a young woman with whom I’d attended Emergency Medical Technician classes more than 25 years earlier. We’d lost touch, and the 17-year-old student had become a wife, mother of a 10-year-boy, and IT systems administrator at, by turns, two renowned research institutions.

I’ve connected with relatives long unknown, or at least unseen, and a friend introduced me by email to the lady who became my wife.

We do, indeed, reside on a steadily shrinking planet. I’m looking forward to more conversation with Jon Bloom, and others I may or may not yet have met.

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One Response to It’s a small world, and electrons are really fast

  1. Sharon says:

    Sometimes it’s good to go back to the old days and see how they fit our present day lives. Good story, John.

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