When I was growing up, my father worked as an underground electrician on a coal mine. In his spare time he was a radio amateur (also known as ham radio) , as was my mother. This was way before TV in South Africa – we only got that in 1976. Today’s cell-phones and internet were the stuff of science fiction. I grew up with voices from the other side of the world in a time when air mail letters were high-tech.
If he wasn’t on shift, my father would spend most evenings at his ‘rig’ in his ‘shack’ talking to other amateurs around the world. No matter how fancy a radio amateur’s equipment was, it was a ‘rig’ and wherever it was located was his ‘shack’.
On the 22nd November, 1963 my father was chatting to a ‘ham’ in America, who happened to have the television on, as his ‘shack’ was a corner of his living room. The rest of us were busy in the kitchen. To this day I can remember my father suddenly appearing in the doorway. ‘They’ve just shot the American president!’
We must have been among the first people on the continent to know. But in those days there were very strict regulations governing radio amateurs. We couldn’t tell anyone. If I remember correctly we only heard about it on the radio news the next day. In 2001 the attack on the World Trade Center was broadcast live to the world.