|Routine phone patches are used on many of the HF frequencies, but, as mentioned, especially on the Maritime Mobile Service Net and the Pacific Seafarer's Net. Other non-US nets also provide phone patches for boats at sea (with amateur radio equipment and licenses.) The MMSN has also provided a lot of non-routine (emergency) phone patches over the years, and probably does so about once a month for a vessel in trouble. |
Patches within the US, just conversational patches, are a rarity. Yours was one of them. We used to, for example, set up HF stations in shopping centers and run Mother's Day patches, most of which would be from state to state. These have totally disappeared, as every son, grandson, daughter, granddaughter, mother, brother, uncle, aunt, dog and cat, kitten and goat, have computers with at the minimum email, and usually with live chat. No one is interested in such patches anymore. Changing times.
The autopatch on VHF is a somewhat different animal, as the "auto" suggests. With the autopatch, the ham can direct dial from his HT or mobile, while with normal phone patch, that is not done. Instead, a ham at the other end will dial and then connect the radio to the phone line manually.
Autopatch is used often, not only to report accidents, or just to say "I'm on my way," but to call wifey and see if she needs a loaf of bread (what CB was originally supposed to be for.) It is handy and can easily substitue (and often does) for a cell phone. In emergencies, it can allow someone on the scene of an accident, where cell phones might not work, to speak directly with a police dispatcher or a medical person. Mostly, though, it is used for very casual things. In the past two or three years, many of the hams who got tickets solely to be able to keep in touch with their spouses have left ham radio and moved to cell phones, as those phones and phone plans became far more attractive with more features and lower rates. A good many repeaters, though, still have autopatch capabilities, and it is definitely nice to have, though I haven't used one myself since the mid seventies.
If you would like to check out phone patches, monitor the MMSN on 14300 USB daily for a while. They don't run one every day, of course, but you will hear patch requests from vessels at sea, or in foreign ports (they have to be careful to meet legal criteria) asking for patches back home. The Seafarer's Net is, I believe, on 14313 in the evenings, (while the band is open in the Pacific area) though I have not listened for a while.
Reply to a comment by : KA7GKN on 2004-02-19
I recently reinstalled a phone patch as a way to be prepared with respect to homeland security. I opted for a "real" phone patch system instead of the Kenwood or Heathkit. I installed the JK audio inline patch.
This unit is what the professional stations use. It's easy to install, provides excellent separation, and is routed via a mixer.
It's too bad we get so little press whenever Hams assist local emeregency agencies. If we had more good press perhaps we would have a better argument against BPL and homeowner associations. Maybe the ARRL would also have a better class of lobbyist.
If you use a phone patch only once a year to help someone, it's a good thing!
regards, marty ka7gkn