SOME PEOPLE SAY life runs in cycles and if that is true then I am back where my communications ran through MARS and my daily vector is governed by MARSA. Both of these acronyms are a foreign language where I work today but in the 80s they represented a special connection to home and family.
I used to ring home through the Military Affiliated Radio System (MARS), sometimes calling from sandy phoneboxes and steamy hilltops. The far-flung outposts would provide a phone connection to a local ham operator who would relay my phone call over upper sideband and across the world. Long-time neighbour Dick Kendig would answer my call on his basement ham radio. He could either ring my dad who would come over to visit or Dick would patch my call to the home phone with his acoustical cups.
This often sounded like tin cans and wires but it worked. I called home after flying tonnes of small arms ammo into undisclosed central American locations. I took an incoming MARS call while camped in a lagoon on the Indian Ocean next to a broken nuclear submarine. And I reached dad on his birthday by calling MARS while under a nondescript Scandanavian runway counting unverified American Army Humvees.
My handheld data service today feels like MARS used to work. In order to send this email to my blog, I have to manually reroute my mobile phone's data services around a malfunctioning O2 3G mast. Thankfully, I can easily direct my Nokia phone to use a specific data service just as a MARS operator can choose upper or lower sideband to skip a phone call under the ionosphere.
My days using MARSA came into sharper focus this week after getting word through the Zoomie Nation Network that one of my college classmates was certifying trans-Atlantic heavy cargo drags. These flights use a conecept called MARSA (Military Assumes Responsibilty for Separation of Aircraft) that permits some flight operations without radar separation. Every October along with a few other special ops aircrews, we practised crossing the Atlantic and through London Control under MARSA. A six-ship formation of heavy cargo aircraft declaring MARSA overhead my home in Ireland would be an airborne aluminium overcast. From the sound of the Zoomie update, that has happened already.
Thousands of feet below, sucking off a mobile data pipe that is currently delivering no more than 300 baud service, I feel like venting my frustration by calling home via MARS or by asking to climb aboard a MARSA formation.
Sent mail2blog using O2-Ireland GPRS Typepad service from the southwest side of the Rock of Cashel.