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Hamming about hamming


I’ve had my Ham Radio license for over 10 years now but have not exercised my privileges in many years.  Once you get your ticket and you radio all set up and find someone on a frequency to talk to the conversation naturally turns to what type of radio are you using, what kind of antenna do you have, what type of mic, etc.  Most of my ham radio experience has been talking about how to get setup, how much power to use, where to put your antenna, what type of antenna to use, etc.  The actual purpose of the radio, to talk to other people, seemed to be a secondary issue since when you did talk to other people on your ham radio it was mostly about what kind of signal you were getting and what you were using to get it with.  That is why I stopped using my radio.  You don’t IM your friends and then spend most of the conversation talking about what type of computer your using, what ISP and software your using.  When is the last time you emailed a friend and said “Nice typeface on your last email, what email software are you using”.  When is the last tie you IMed and friend and said “what version of gtalk are you using?”.  Its not about the method but the result.  Its not about what you “can” do or what you “will” do.  Its about what are you doing.

Most the cool stuff I remember about ham radio didn’t even involve people on the other end.  ATV, trying to pick up satellite signals, or mainly using the ham radio as a scanner, packet radio.

Doing a google search for some ham radio blogs brings up tips on hardware and radio and mechanical filters.  That’s great and all but what does it have to do with the purpose of ham radio.

If you want get me interested in ham radio again you need to find a way to connect.  I’m not talking about the tech beind it.  And there in lies the problem.  You can’t.  All ham radio infrastructure is volunteer built, maintained and payed for.  If instead of putting up a video youtube, you had to build a web server, write code to play video and get bandwidth for visitors, I bet most people’s videos would be about how the server is setup and what kind of cameras they are using.  Ham radio is both a closed system (you need a license) and volunteer supported and there in lies its down fall.  The internet was built by a closed community built but open to anyone that connected.  Ham radio is volunteer built but closed unless you get into the club.  If instead of just signing on to gmail and sending an email you had to run your own smtp server and connect to every other smtp server on the internet alot more of your email communications would be about the email process itself.  You’d be emailing about emailing.

When someone goes to buy a car, they don’t ask about what type of welds were used in building the chassis.  There most concerned about the color and the cup holders. Why?  Because they look at the car color and they use the cup holders.  I don’t want to spend time tuning an antenna.  Antenna tuning is not the hobby I was interested in.  Making long distance contacts without using modern data networks was what I signed up for.  Not figuring out best repeater to use in an area.  That sounds harsh, since many people spend alot of time and effort building and maintaining those repeaters but honestly I don’t care.  My goal is not to hit the repeater.  My goal is not to find out about some strangers ham radio setup.  No goal is to… well that’s the problem… what is the goal of modern ham radio?  And is there such a thing as modern ham radio?  Either way, let me know what you think in the comments.

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Categories: Technology Tags: ,
  1. August 26, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Your spot on with your feelings Mike, Radio is Radio nottelephone lines… anyone can talk over a computer.. may as well pick the phone up, Im only a MW3 but still recognise radio as radio and refuse to integrate it with the PC…
    Ok you have to know the fundemental basics of radio and antennas, but after that its plain sailing… or should be, I make contacts with folk worldwide as you do… even on my 10 watts… but its the antenna doing the job,and it helps if you have a good one, I like to talk with my contacts, I like to make friends with them, and find out what they’r all about, I hate the Ur 59,qrz… not for me Im afraid.
    anyway interesting article, hope we se more of you,.

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