I was listening to the excellent 100 Watts and a Wire podcast the other day, which recently featured an interview with Ward Silver, NØAX. They were discussing the evolution of the ham radio hobby, and Ward opined that every ham views the five year period centered on the time he or she was first licensed as the “golden age.” If that’s true, then my golden age will be ending in about six months.
Since the sun is setting on my own golden age in the hobby, I decided I need to get a jump on my fist-shaking “get off my lawn” speech. So pull up your polyester slacks and steel yourself for my own incoherent tirade against all the new things and ideas that might be coming down the pike. In no particular order…
Digital Mobile Radio
I recently met a ham in Houston, TX, who had installed in his truck a VHF DMR transceiver. He was talking to a friend who was on a road trip in New Mexico. Back in my day, we used 2 meters as God intended: to announce our presence to anyone who might be listening to a local repeater, and then wait in silence for no one to respond. These new-fangled DMR repeater systems let you talk to anyone anywhere. How is a person supposed to think if people actually respond when I put my call out on 2 meters? I mean EchoLink and IRLP which, as everyone knows aren’t real radio, were bad enough. This DMR nonsense just tears it for me.
And another thing…I recently read about a new geosynchronous ham radio satellite! It’s all downhill from here, boys. These young folks will never know the satisfaction of tracking a satellite pass, setting up a transceiver to deal with Doppler shifts, and hoping someone responds in the four and a half minutes when the satellite is overhead. With this new setup, the satellite will always be in the same place, and making satellite contacts will be easier than it used to be. Where’s the fun in that?
Back in my day, if you wanted to set up a mesh network, you had to scrounge around for old WiFi routers, or fuss with a Raspberry Pi. We Real Hams™ knew also that once we set up a few nodes, we would be competing with the neighbors for space on the 2.4 GHz band. These new hams are using amateur-only frequencies, like 3.4 GHz! What’s even the point? They may as well be using the Twitters and the Googlybooks.
Learning Morse Code. VOLUNTARILY!
When I became a ham, I had to endure the shame of being a no-code ham. I paid my dues listening to the older folks complaining about how I wasn’t required to learn “the code.” I accepted that I was inferior, because I only had to learn useless stuff, like how radios work, the characteristics of different types of antennas, and FCC regulations. These kids today have the sheer effrontery to learn Morse code because they want to! They have no respect for the pleasure older hams derive from pontificating over the demise of Real Radio™. Just cut it out!
I don’t even know what to say about this. If people can modulate beams of light to carry information, then what’s the point of being a ham? I give up.
OK, OK, it’s all in good fun. And don’t get me wrong…I have nothing but respect for the hams that have seen it all, and know what they’re doing. The overwhelming majority that I’ve met or interacted with online are gracious and generous with their time and knowledge. Whatever I’ve learned about this fascinating hobby I owe to those that have shared their experience with me, either directly, or through books and articles they’ve taken the time to write.
I am interested to know what emerging trends in radio I’ve overlooked. One thing is certain, though: whatever comes will be interesting, exciting, and will make someone mad.