Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever

As many a radio amateur will tell you, ham radio is a hobby with as many facets as there are radio amateurs. It should be an exciting and dynamic place to be, but as those who venture forth into it sometimes sadly find out, it can be anything but. Tightly-knit communities whose interests lie in using $1,000 stations to chase DX (long-distance contacts), an advancing age profile, and a curious fascination of many amateurs with disaster communications. It’s something [Robert V. Bolton, KJ7NZL] has sounded off about in an open letter to the amateur radio community entitled “Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever“.

In it he laments that the influx in particular of those for whom disaster preparedness is the reason for getting a licence is to blame for amateur radio losing its spark, and he proposes that the hobby should respond by broadening its appeal in the direction of the hacker community. The emphasis should move from emergency communications, he says, and instead topics such as software defined radio and digital modes should be brought to the fore. Finally he talks about setting up hacker specific amateur radio discussion channels, to provide a space in which the talk is tailored to our community.

Given our experience of the amateur radio community we’d be bound to agree with him. The hobby offers unrivalled opportunity for analogue, mixed-signal, digital, and software tinkering in the finest tradition of the path set by the early radio amateurs around a hundred years ago, yet it sometimes seems to have lost its way for people like us. It’s something put into words a few years ago by our colleague Dan Maloney, and if you’re following [KJ7NZL]’s path you could do worse than read Dan’s long-running $50 ham series from the start.

Via Hacker News.

Header image: Unknown author, Public domain.

236 thoughts on “Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever

    1. Rudolph Wratten (KA5PIU)
      Ham radio is not the adventure it once was.
      This Mergency! Needs to stop!, We already have a pandemic.
      January 1st, Texas will cut off out of state electricity.
      Both California and Mexico will notice this.
      Most people went out and bought everything but pay the rent.
      Others have moved out.
      In case of?
      It has already started.

      1. I realy need to say to those ham old timers that think a new ham operated needs to lern mores code. And build there own antenna or radio. Your killing the hobby… Those days are all gone.
        This is so sad to see. A small old group of people is going to die with there radios and leave nothing behind. I have listened to those that have studied hard to get there full licence to operate all the bands leagaly.. And what I’m hearing is. I did it so you have to. Times have changed. Money as you all know is hard to come buy.. I’m 60..amd in Australia 45years ago you payed for your cb licence..
        Not now… That’s good as there’s no one on it.
        Listen if there’s a young person that’s going to spend 1000 dollars on a used set up.
        Or not. Let him join a ham group for say 10 sessions get him qualified in using the radio.
        Show him the frequencys he may only be using and to stay away from those he cannot.
        This is not for the dying and privet snobs arena..
        I have wasted my money to find there is no one on Chanel.. Hf bands.
        Are you thinking that I’m going to spend thousands of dollars and comply WITH fcc rules and regs when there is no one on Chanel.
        Take a good look at the future of ham radio.
        It could be alot better than this

    2. I agree, can you suggest a good sdr transceiver, im a newbie to the hobby but i want to buy a moderate priced radio, ive heard some good things about the ic 7300. I wanted to hook up a base station and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 73 tom

        1. Interesting. I currently have an FT70 handheld and was looking for a 50 W rig. I am looking for some thing in general more user-friendly with larger display, easier to navigate setting and storing your frequencies, etc. ideally, given my age I would like something that resembles a Collins or Drake rig from the 70s with meters and Diles but I know it’s not gonna happen! Recommendations appreciated as well. The best advice I have gotten so far is the YaesuFT 400.

      1. Cb radio is dead… Loved it 40years ago.
        Started to study for hams licence..
        Brought a ham unit.. Turned it on.. All is good.. No one is there…. What is the point.. Like most things as they say in most churches. If you don’t make way for younger people it will die… And it’s happening.. Doing test for what..
        To find out a wave length… Lurn about power.
        All this to get on a radio and talk… That’s it.
        For me you must join a hams group.. Show up to 10 classes know how to communicate correctly and that’s it..

    3. Computer clubs and early computer experimenters were hams.
      Old people could be also hackers, and making an HF amplifier using power triodes or a portable trapped dipole for instance is tricky.

    4. You are spot on. Since the invention of Ham Radio “Auto-patching” which was originally intended to Couple Phone Systems to Ham Storm Watchers…and
      to give out info and whereabouts of the safest shelters during broadcasts of all mandatory evacuation plans…

  1. I’ve been trying to build my own SDR-based transmitter, and it’s proving interesting. I’m able to talk simplex, but I’m having trouble getting into my local repeater, and I’m not sure why. I think that as radios become more integrated, information about the absolute levels of things (like how high the CTSSS and audio levels should be) gets lost.

    Or else I’m simply missing how one goes from hacking/theory to proper operation.

  2. Of course emergency communication goes way back. Ham radio helped to define what radio could be used for, simply because it was pretty wide open. If I recall, the radios were there when a flooding occurred, I think in the thirties. Still early enough that there wasn’t too much radio in use. And then “emergency preparedness” became leverage, one more thing to list when asked “what good is ham radio?”. So there’s long been people drawn for emergency.

    But the shift wasn’t sudden. Again, the shift seemed to be outsiders wanting in, but not wanting “that technical stuff”. “All we want is to talk on the radio”, which ironically happened for the masses when cellphones came along. So testing was simplified, and eventually the code requirement dropoed. Things that weren’t a burden to any 12 year old, but was to people later in life.

    And that shifted things away from technical. All those kids coming in scrounging receivers and building simple transmitters, even if they went to commercial equipment later, they had that entry. The magazines didn’t avoid technical stuff, QST had articles about parametric amplifiers and under the noise reception back when they were new to the hobby. You couodn’t avoid it.

    But simpler entry requirements shifted the hobby to older, and non-technical. Canada restructured in 1990, and it wasn’t big news, it even seemed like the hobby faded from public view. Maybe no connection, but if simplified entry was needed to keep numbers up, why wasdn’t it a selling point?

    Simplified licensing meant a shift to 2M FM as entry. And once you’re limited to that, what else is there but emergency preparedness? And once you’ve lost it as a technical hobby, you need emergency preparedness even more to justify existence. Quantity replaces quality.

    And decades later it’s reinforced by leadership, who didn’t come in as a teenager lured or at least tolerant of technology, but who came in as an adult who just wants to talk. Fifty years ago things had changed but the hobby was still rooted in the past. Now there’s a lot less of that past.

    So nobody in power is fighting for the technical angle. QST more and more drops the technical articles. There was even an editorial last year about needing to simplify to draw members, forgetting that in doing so they are selling off the hobby.

    Ham radio needs to revert to its past. “Make” had a ham columnist, but it was about buikding qntennas and using scanners. She never knew of the time when ham radio was in the hobby magazines, as cinstruction articles as well as other things.

    1. The interesting technical articles are in QEX. That costs 40 bucks extra. every year With ARRL membership you get QST magazine and you can’t get QEX without membership. I don’t want QST. Half the magazine is about contests and I don’t care in the least about contests. People don’t talk they just spend 10 seconds making a contact and move to the next. Boring. That’s why I stopped being an ARRL member. The closest ham radio club is 50 miles away from me. I didn’t bother to join because it’s 6 geezers talking about contests and they were not interested in new members. I fit the age category but my primary focus is building things. ARRL doesn’t seem to support that.

      1. At some point they changed the rules, you can subscribe to QEX without being a member. And not a premium price. I suddenly noticed last year, and subscribed with no problem. But a thin quarterly doesn’t give much for the money.

        And for ARRL members, they now let them read the digital version of QEX for no extra cost.

        But no, it’s not like the old days.

        1. Thanks. Maybe I’ll give them another try. It’s been a good few years since I looked at ARRL. It seemed to me that half the magazine was contest and whining about homeowners associations and the other half was ads for multi-kilobuck radios. Sure, the world changes and you have to go along to some degree. I still build from scratch. I started with tubes. My first test gear was a VTVM. There are still many hams with a lot of expertise who design and build. Doesn’t quite balance out the ones who have no interest beyond a $9 asian 2-meter handheld but it’s a lot better than spending my time playing games.

          1. Bob,

            I get the paper copy of QST and digital access to On The Air, QEX, and the contesting magazine (true, there are a ton of ads). I think that started this last summer. Also having access to the digitized back issues is really helpful when I am looking for a new project.

            I really don’t have much input on the good ol days, because I have only been licensed 2.5 years. But what I can say is that being a tech-savvy, 30-something person, I am more than happy to break out a soldering iron and experiment with adding an arduino or raspberry pi to my station. In my ARES group, I seem to be a pretty good source of information in setting up stations for digital modes. So I do bring that to my group (whose average age is in the 70-80s) because I am not afraid to dive in to the hacker mindset and solve problems that way.


      2. Sadly, your apparent dislike for the ARRL has led to this post, filled with misinformation about the availability of QEX to members, and misrepresentation of QST content. Contest info is extremely limited and articles about hams, new and vintage equipment, building projects, etc. abound. Perhaps you’re confused: CQ magazine has quite a bit of contest info.

      3. I agree, it’s more about the lack of engaging dialogue than which corner of ham radio someone prefers. I was licensed near Silicon Valley and have joined two radio clubs associated with engineering focused academic institutions, joined both a MakerSpace and a HackerSpace with licensed members and equipment on site, and now live in a rural area with multiple active clubs. Finding a frequency with good dialogue is difficult and it has taken significant effort to find welcoming hams.

        Emergency communication is a valuable part of the hobby and the attitude of local practitioners can make the difference between a closed group of ideological preppers versus a diverse network of community oriented volunteers committed to disaster response (my experience with local emcomm groups in Florida hurricane respone and California earthquake preparedness has been too notch).

        It’s totally worth the cost of admission, to study for a $15 test and play with a crappy $35 radio, in order to find out which parts of amateur radio might add another layer to your projects.

      4. Carlos Torres. KP4HU
        Thumbs up , I build my antennas and power supply as I did when I was a General .All that has changed .QSO’s are
        not like it use to be .I recall the round tables where we use to help each other
        that was Ham Radio .

    2. Cellphones are only “talking on the radio” in a pedantic technical sense. It’s not really the same experience and doesn’t really fill the same roll at all.

      Consider this, when you transmit on a ham radio you don’t know who might answer. And you don’t know who might be listening. Unless you set up a schedule in advance it’s really just fishing for a convesation. You don’t know who it will be with or what it will be about in advance. And if you do set up a schedule in adcance it’s easy to have a roundtable of any number of people.

      So ham radio is a good way to talk to strangers or to bring together a group of friends.

      Cellphones, like landlines are much more intentional. You have to know who you want to talk to in advance and you dial their specific number. When you do their phone is probably going to ring wether it is a good time for it or not so you probably don’t do this often without a specific reason to call in mind.

      So cellphones are good for very intentional communications with a specific person at a specific time.

      1. Chatroulette.

        There’s a reason people don’t do that anymore. Whenever you have a channel where random people can join in, it gets full of crazies who have been kicked out of everywhere else for being a nuisance.

        1. And the probability of having crazies around increases the more esoteric the subject gets. E.g. things like fringe interest image boards are almost always run over by some few autistic individuals who prevent any meaningful operation.

          For the same reason, AM radio is full of conspiracy theorists and religious nuts. The fact that you have “entry requirements” that require dedication to the subject has the opposite effect: it attracts obsessive individuals who have nothing else to do and a compulsion to air their brains out to the world any way they can.

          1. Because of this mentality, and many others like yours the hobby will die sooner than later. This is the reason I refused to renew my license 20+ years ago. CB radio communication is sadly much better than anything Ham has to offer anymore. Soon the FCC will sell all 2m and 70cm frequencies, and shortly after that you will see everyone fall off. So sad that people like you think that this hobby leads you to believe that you are some kinda member of an elite society !!!

          1. Yeah, but it gets old after a while and then you just drop off, and so does everyone else, except the crazies and conspiracy theorists who keep shouting their nonsense at each other.

            And the suggestion above to just “move on” doesn’t ultimately work because every place goes the same way. First you tolerate a bit of nuttery, then you ignore it, and soon enough there’s nobody sane enough to talk to.

        2. Actually people do it all the time. I’ve been hamming for over 25 years. There are repeaters and occasionally I throw out my call on 20 or 40 meters. I don’t recall ever meeting one of these “crazies” you talk about.

          Part of the problem is antenna restrictions but I have never failed to find a way around them. From wire antennas in the attic to wire antennas hidden in the trees, I have no excuse. I don’t need a 200 ft. tower to talk to Europe from Missouri.

          And then we have the death of Radio Shack. Unless you live in a major city with a decent electronics parts store, you’ll have to order your soldering iron, resistors, PCBs, etc. online. Thank God for the internet.

          1. Depends on what you do. If you’re in it to actually communicate with people, there’s not a lot to talk about, as opposed to just endlessly tweaking and testing out different radio gear.

            And it’s as they say, if you can’t find any, then…

        1. Yes but I don’t think that’s usually what people mean. Most times I have had this conversation someone talks about “just calling someone up” on the phone which tells me they just don’t get it.

          There is still a small argument to be made for a group of friends who meet on a local repeater vs meeting on an internet chatroom. If the goal is to see which of your friends is available to do something IRL you aren’t going to reach the ones that are currently out of range of the repeater (and so probably out of range for meeting too). That’s a pretty small thing I must admit.

          And although smartphones which can do this have been around for a while until this year I didn’t really know anyone who used them that way. Sure, they used the internet to communicate via smartphone but it was mostly one-way social media “look at me” posts or one-on-one messaging. The idea of having a group of real world friends who pop in to some common internet chatroom like hams do on a repeater or CBers did in the 70s just wasn’t a thing, at least in any social circles I have any connection to.

          In 2020… well, I have a group of friends who use the Houseparty app that way. Maybe this will continue to be a thing post Covid? I don’t know.

          Ultimately the thing I really value about ham radio is that it is open to DIY and so long as the airwaves don’t totally get taken over by proprietary voice codecs it will remain so.

          Cellular service is about as open to DIY as hardened cement is to swimming.

          1. Yes, there are group texts but if you select all your friends at some random time and throw them into a group text just to say “what’s up” you are liable to lose some friends! Another nice thing about a repeater (or chatroom) is that anyone who doesn’t want to be available right now just doesn’t turn on their radio or enter the room. There is no expectation of 24×7 availability and no mailbox filling up.

          2. >just wasn’t a thing, at least in any social circles I have any connection to

            We used to have IRC channels for that. Any time you’re in town, you log on. It went away after it became too inconvenient to have a screen server running all the time, but then mobile platforms like whatsapp or even Teams happened and now it’s effectively the same thing, except, better.

    3. NT8G . I became a novice in 1959 at age 13 because it was a challenge and allowed me to get on the air. I hauled many a TV from the dump down the road to salvage parts to build my own equipment. A novice could only use CW, which I did after learning it with a buddy K8AVD, if he is still alive. We built 9 volt QRP transmitter and tested it. We tried various antennas. My first 6 mtr rig was a homebuilt “SIXER” made following the commercial kit without the kit. Homebrew recvr, DX20 XMTR. But I learned theory, and always had no money for equipment. My Ham days prepared me for a tour in the NAVY as a radioman, where we did still use CW. Radio school was a chinch and I taught CW there. I have had few fancy rigs and right now am still using a TEMPO 2020 from 1975. It was exciting to make a contact on equipment you built yourself.

      Now I look at Ham radio operators and find they did not have to learn much. CW is out. Traffic handling is reduced a lot. Everyone wants a $2500 radio and purchased antenna. No wonder folks no longer relate to Amateur radio. Chatting via a radio you built is still something great. Ok, you may not have all the bells and whistles, but you built it. Model Railroads are fun to build but I don’t think much about the running it, just building it. Same with radio If you just want to chat with friends, Radio is fun. I cant stand FaceBook but a lot of folks spend hours talking on it.

      Like anything. You get out what you put in. You buy equipment instead of modify and repurpose or build, you only have money in it you are likely to get little out. If you are interested in the technology and have interest in how everything works or accomplishing something, it becomes enjoyable. The reason we have such an interest in emergency work is that it gives us a goal and purpose for our hobby. When a Hurricane, Louisiana for example wipes out the communication grid happens, we do step up and provide communications. Don’t think so, I’ve been there and done that. If anyone ever developed a EMP bomb, it will be ham radio that steps up.

      So, experiment. Develop new technologies . All the radio, TV, electronic wonders, we enjoy today were developed by someone. Likely a HAM radio operator. He may have been working for a commercial project, but his interest in pushing the limits were the same interest hams have had for years. Yes, I am still more comfortable with tubes and the ruddy glow of finals. And yes, I still thrill at tuning across the spectrum and hearing all the strange sounds. And as a boy, listening to the all band radio my dad listened to the ball game on, and hearing those beeps and whistles was exciting.. It still is. 60 plus years later.

      1. “Chatting via a radio you built is still something great. Ok, you may not have all the bells and whistles, but you built it.”

        What bells and whistles? It depends what you mean by building it.

        It would be hard to find the parts you need in a modern TV but all those parts you used to scrounge are on Ebay. One can build those same radios today though the transformers are a bit expensive.

        There are plenty of designs online for transistor based radios of varying levels of complexity that are equally “from scratch” as your old rigs. Or you can go further than that. I’ve even seen plenty of information online about how to build the variable capacitor from hardware store copper flashing. How’s that for a DIY VFO?

        At these levels of DIY I would expect a few bells and whistles to be missing.

        But then there are DDS chips, Arduinos and touch screens. Add a few digital pots to control things like gain, volume and squelch and I don’t know what bells and whistles are out of reach, at least in comparison to a sub $1,000 radio.

        Then there are those super duper priced like a car commercially built rigs. All I see there is an SDR, a power amplifier an embedded computer and a custom UI that includes a whole lot of physical buttons, rotary encoders, LEDs and other displays. I can’t imagine what they provide that someone with a basic SDR, a power amplifier and a good knowledge of both Python and Arduino couldn’t hack together themselves.

    4. You are EXACTLY CORRECT. 99% of new hams, even those who attain the highest class license don’t know ANYTHING about electronics.

      Morons at the FCC approve of a volunteer testing program where the actual test questions ANDanswers are given out!t

      Applicants just memorize answers without understanding any of it.
      I have been licensed for 60 years. The ARRL and FCC have ruined a great hobby.

      Mike W4RN

      1. Right on the “…lack of knowlege of electronics…”. Reflecting back on my lab notes, I noticed that I said to myself “85% don’t know….”, still a large number of licensed ’18 Wheeler’s’ out there…

        Larry K7JQL

    5. With a tech license in the US you get microwave frequencies. That is all hacking. So much more than 2M. Also you get CW on some HF bands. CW transceivers are classic circuits you can learn a lot from studying.

      I agree, even as a ho code ham, the tech license is already a low barrier to entry.

    6. You know I have been into ham radio for 42 years and kept up with all the change and nothing is hard like crystal radio to valve radio to SDR radio I recommend yaesu as that is the only equipment for all ham use like a ft991 for example or x band repeater ftm350 and if you know what your preference then go for it.

  3. One of the reason ham radio diyng is state regulations and licensing. For example, now, when nearly all civil and military AM bands are empty, there could be a paradise for building worldwide ham digital networks, but governments don’t want to leave that bands to hams and there are still restrictions on digital (especially encrypted) transmissions even in old ham bands.

    1. Absolutely. Having to identify myself constantly and not being allowed to transmit music, “bad” words, or encrypted data makes ham radio absolutely unappealing. Remove the regulations and it could be more interesting than the internet ever was. As it stands, it’s essentially *designed* to be an old man hobby, so it’s no surprise that the community is mostly boring old men.

      1. How does playing music make the hobby more technical? It would just bring in people who buy off the shelf equipment and then play DJ. Ham radio is not broadcasting.

        Ham radio is an end in itself. It’s about building radios and playing with them on the air. It can’t be about commerce, if that happened commerce wouod take advantage of the easy entry.

        We need better networks? Fifty years ago the technically inclined were deep into building repeayers, infrastructure that makes portable rigs useful. But for a lot of hams, repeaters were abkut using them. Amateur packet radio came along in 1978, at least in Canada rules changed almost immediately to embrace digital. But again most were users, and few got that code free digital license ( “too hard”). And packet was designed to ride on existing FM radios, which severely limited speed. Going to higher speed meant for many expensive equipment, so it never happened. Packet was a phase, it faded once the novelty passed, since it was about the technology, not tye use.

        People come and tell us what needs changing, but that turned already happened, easier testing and a move away from technical. Change isn’t about making the hobby easier to use, it’s about getting people who are interested in technical matters into the hobby.

        1. There are other regulations against broadcasting on the ham bands.

          What’s absurd is the total prohibition on music. If there’s even a chance some background music might bleed through, you can’t key up. There is an exception that allows for incidental music–but only for the ISS?!

        2. > It’s about building radios and playing with them on the air.

          > Packet was a phase, it faded once the novelty passed, since it was about the technology, not tye use.

          > Change isn’t about making the hobby easier to use, it’s about getting people who are interested in technical matters into the hobby.

          looks contradictory to each other.

          Digital transmission is all about technical matters. Nowdays we have a lot of new stuff to play with.
          And we have absolutely empty long wave and medium wave AM bands. Medium waves is 1MHz wide.
          You could have a lot of fun, creating simple DPSS tranciever with 1Mchips in that dead band. You could experiment with different modulations and encodings in long wave band to get reasonable data speed. But you can’t. It is prohibited for no reason.

          1. Amateur radio is the least restrictive radio service there is. People don’t see that, they see they can’t do what they personally want, and they dismiss it as “too many rules”.

            There has been innovation over the decades, but what if the technical benefit is giving people a foundation in radio fundamentals? Building any transmitter is going to provide some knowledge that most people don’t have.

            But every time the hobby gets mentioned here, people want it to be something else. They want digital networks, but it’s not about experimenting or learning, it’s about doing everything they do on the internet. There is lots of leeway for experimenting, and one can always try for special authorization if there’s no rule for it. But what are you going to do with a high bandwidth network? There are restrictions because it’s not for commerce. You don’t sound like you want to try new things, just use something else on the ham bands (or bands that aren’t even ham bands). Once you start talking about a network, then you’ve lost diversity, because someone using some other mode will get in the way. And like I said, infrastructure means a relative few building so ithers can talk.

          2. > But every time the hobby gets mentioned here, people want it to be something else.

            It is very simple thing.

            The main ham magic was to speak with random stranger thousands miles away, may be from another country, through noise and distance. And that QSL exchange! Now there are no any magic in that. It’s everyday boring commonness – to talk with strangers thousands miles away. I’m doing it right now.

            So, there must be something, where you can find magic again. For example, send some data to random stranger thousands miles away, BUT without any barriers, like authorities, providers, services, rules, censorship, DMCA, etc. Directly, from point to point. THAT would be real magic nowdays.

            > There are restrictions because it’s not for commerce.

            You can’t make profit sending data with funny 100kbps. There can’t be commerce because you don’t know who will receive your data. There can’t be any desire other than to feel that magic again.

            > Once you start talking about a network, then you’ve lost diversity, because someone using some other mode will get in the way.

            Is it somehow different from typical ham conversation?

          3. >You can’t make profit sending data with funny 100kbps.

            There are a lot of “funny” IoT companies that are currently doing exactly that, only they’re using the already crowded ISM frequencies where they can have it encrypted and sent securely.

        3. I don’t care about your “hobby” at all. If I have a radio I want to have free speech when I use it, and that includes playing music, encrypting my communications, or really whatever else I want. If you want the government to constantly step in and tell people what they can and cannot say, that’s up to you, but I doubt that will encourage people to be interested in using radios, particularly the rule-averse “hacker” type that this article is directed to. How do you expect people to find new and interesting things to do with radio communications if they have the FCC looking over their shoulder the whole time? Ham radio will continue to just be a pastime for geriatrics until this gets resolved.

          1. If you’re going to be broadcasting music continuously, then it’s blocking the channel for other people. It don’t take a government to tell you to stop doing that.

          2. DMR was one of these new frontiers for ham radio. There was a bit of excitement what it could bring….We see people with this attitude (“anonymous”)… they do stay anon while jamming voice repeaters, transmitting obscenties and the likes. The jamming got so bad (due to one or two bad apples) that the local sponsor of a DMR repeater with excellent coverage simply shut it down and packed it up. I guess if I can’t have it, you can’t either.

          3. do we really think there are “too many rules”? When I got licensed, the rules were of four broad classes:
            1) know where and how to play
            2) don’t hurt yourself or others
            3) recognize that as a shared medium, you cannot monopolize it relative others’ use
            4) recognize that granting this spectrum for your free (as in $ 0) use relative to granting it to commercial interests (which pay $ MM), that you cannot compete with those commercial interests, including such things as playing music, performing for-profit activities, etc. That is simply a concession to which we agree in order to be granted the free license.

            If you don’t like the implications of #4, there are commercial options for you. They generally require a subscription from the commercial entity that license to that spectrum. E.g. cellular or other wireless technologies. There the world is your oyster, but a non-free oyster.


        1. Saying the rules “teach you self discipline” is a massive cope. By following the rules, you are quite literally being disciplined by someone else. It’s the old tale of the fox and the grapes: “I can’t do that? Well I didn’t want to do that anyways”. Also, it’s ironic to see this coming from someone without the self-discipline to check their own capslock key before posting.

          1. In the early days of radio, there were no licenses, and no rules. That didn’t last long. Equipment was crude, and the spectrum was very tiny. when actual serious use came along, there were problems with interference, so in came the rules. Amateur radio has always been there, in effect staking territory from those early days.

            It’s ridiculous to see people whining about too many rules. Amateur radio has the least rules of any radio service. You can build a transmitter, and run up to a kilowatt (depending on your country). You can use a variety of modes. There are ham bands all the way from LF to microwave. You can operate anywhere on those bands (with some restrictions based on your license class). You don’t have to have a purpose. You can do endless things with your license, or invent new things. (Ham radio proved the value of shortwave, hobby remote control came out of ham radio, as did the concept of broadcast radio, the first non-government satellite in orbit was a ham satellite).

            Don’t whine about ham radio, every other radio service is way more restrictive. Well, you can always bootleg, but that has the problem of getting caught.

            But it’s not meant to be the other radio services.

            And clearly it’s not for you.

          2. @Michael Black

            ” there were problems with interference, so in came the rules”

            This is a non-sequitur. Interference does not create rules, an overreaching government creates rules. It was by no means necessary or inevitable, and we could easily return to the pre-license days (and we should).

            The idea that we shouldn’t complain about unnecessary restrictions because other types of radio have *more* restrictions is just cowardice. There shouldn’t be any at all. Radio licensing and regulation originated as a mechanism to stifle free speech and that is still what it does today.

            As the internet becomes increasingly censored by big tech and banking cartels, people need to start pushing back against the regulations that stop people from creating their own alternatives.

          3. >Interference does not create rules

            Yes it does. Any way you do it, there will be a partitioning of the spectrum somehow because otherwise people cannot use radio for anything. Doing it by elbow tactics (no central authority) is one way of establishing who gets to use what and where, but it’s not what you actually want to do, it takes a really long time to settle out (if ever), and it is the least conductive way for a public hobby like amateur radio where most of the participants don’t have the resources to make their own elbow room.

            For example, the early radio stations would often employ a tactic where they would transmit on the same frequency as another far-away station, but at different times. Then they started gradually changing the hours to overlap, so they would try to elbow each other out, and then battle it over in court. Back in 1926 a judge actually overruled the previous 1912 law and freed the spectrum for a moment, which meant that radio stations could transmit anything they want however they want, no licenses required, which resulted in absolute chaos. This is the reason the FRC was formed in 1927 to put the rogue stations back in line.

          4. >By following the rules, you are quite literally being disciplined by someone else.

            That’s a curious way of thinking. The only way to be free is to disobey the rules? But that’s just being bound to the negation of the rules, which is still following the rules.

            You’re always free to do whatever you choose to do in any given situation, and in fact you have no other option than to choose freely. The only difference is in how you justify it to yourself. The difference between self-discipline and obedience is therefore only whether you choose to follow the rule because it’s sensible, or because you shift the responsibility of the choice to someone else.

      3. You can transmit music on shortwaves, no problem. Just get a broadcast license and you get a dedicated frequency, too. It’s a different class of service. Amateur radio is a shared
        communications service, not broadcast. You’ve never lived until the contact you made a continent away gets blasted into interference oblivion because some lid is playing muleskinner blues on single sideband.
        By the way, if you do want to broadcast music, let me introduce you to my friends, ASCAP, SESAC and BMI. They will want to know where to send the bill.
        Bad words? Come on. Nobody wants to hear that stuff. Kids are hams, too. We should keep that in mind if we expect to expand the hobby.

        1. Can you people think about anything without referencing rules and regulations? What makes someone end up like this? Were you a lawyer or something before you (obviously) retired? Why do you think copyright law is a good thing, and why do you think people should respect it? It’s just so weird.

          Also nobody cares about obscenity anymore; it’s 2020, we left all those weird obsolete language rules in the 20th century. Kids probably know more “””bad””” words than you do. Words are words, grow up and stop looking for excuses to report people for having fun.

          1. Everybody has different ideas of what amateur radio is about. If we didn’t have rules, then we would simply be giving up the choice to people like you. Then it would be your rules, fiat of anarchy, which serves some people better than others.

            You don’t get out of the responsibility of choice by saying “let everyone choose for themselves”, because you know perfectly well how that’s going to end. It is after all, just a process for making rules by different means.

          2. Internet is appliance operations
            As an ee and software engineer i do know what happens when you type on the keyboard then press enter. It is sad that many do not know what happens when signals are sent and received over wireless and wired mediums. You buy a pc or laptop and you have access to everything.

            I work projects time to time to learn something new to me. Ham radio, ee and software engineer work prepared me for industry work. Having this background has helped me get work over the years. I continue to experiment in ham radio as well to maintain and upgraded my skill levels.


      4. Transmitting over air or even playing music in public without permission of copyright holders or without paying royalties is illegal worldwide. In some places you can’t even use those low power FM transmitters for connecting your smartphone/MP3 player (‘member when these were a thing?) to your FM radio because of copyright infringement. There is no way music piracy would be permitted over ham bands. Besides, it won’t make ham radio attractive to anyone…

        As for encryption there is a problem of illegal use. Criminals used ham, CB and PMR for the criminal purposes before. Do you really want to turn ham into another Tor net for drug lords, illegal arms dealers, human traffickers, etc? Would you like your ham bands to be filled with heavily encrypted child pornography?

        1. You forgot that there exists music that is not copyrighted or with a license that allows free sharing. It’s also possible for people to make their own music.

          If they really want to boost sales of music, they should make a law that stealing a device (a smartphone, a laptop, a car, etc.) that contains legally obtained music (or other copyrighted content) on it would make the thief guilty of copyright infringement as well as theft. So many would buy music if it also worked as a theft deterrent.

        2. Yes, obviously only criminals use encryption. Like that (s) after the http protocol. In the website your presently viewing.

          In conclusion, by the logic that the only use of encryption is illegal activity, you’re obviously an encryption using criminal?

          1. The HTTPS encryption protects clients from man-in-the-middle attacks, fake sites trying to grab the login/password combos, etc. Since when radio amateurs need to encrypt their QSL calls? If you want an ebcrypted long-distance communication, then use VoIP system, cellphone or satellite phone…

          2. @Moryc

            What if two people want to communicate directly and privately without any infrastructure in-between? Is there an option for them? If not, why not open up ham radio to this kind of activity?

          3. No one keeps you from talking with someone over ham radio. If you want private or encrypted conversation, there are other places, like Internet, telephone systems, satellite phones, letters (private and protected by law in all free countries) or even homing pigeons carrying encrypted microSD cards.

            Tor was supposed to be this Freedom of Speech channel for the people under state surveillance in countries where human rights are merely wishful thinking for the naive. Most of it is used by criminals, drug dealers, pedophiles, etc. Tor effectively protects their right to free speech, free commerce and freedom in general. It’s great, right?

            Also my comment to your comment to Foldi-Ones’ comment from below ended up at the bottom of the comment section…

          4. @Moryc

            You didn’t read my post. All of the alternatives you offered (excluding the pigeons, of course) require infrastructure.

            And yes, freedom *is* great. I don’t care if it’s used by bad people. The problem with Tor is that I’d be required to route those people’s traffic, which is something I’m unwilling to do. Unrestricted radio is point-to-point, so it wouldn’t have this problem.

          5. Notice that if having encrypted ham radio conversation does become an issue of free speech for you, there are no laws that can actually stop you from doing it. If the situation demands it, you are perfectly justified to civil disobedience and the question becomes that of not to getting caught.

            In such situations, even if you did have a “right to encryption” of some sorts, it would not be respected any more than the police respects your rights to peaceful assembly and instead will gas you and drag you to jail.

            So the whole point of not having a rule because you might need to break the rule later is moot. Just have the rule, and then break the rule later when it becomes necessary. After all, the rules don’t justify themselves, so you’re not ultimately bound by any.

        3. Imagine defending copyright law on a website for hackers. Why are you here? Also, are you really claiming that independently broadcast music wouldn’t be popular? Think that one over for a bit.

          I honestly don’t care what people use radios for. Free speech is more valuable than stopping crime, and I’d rather not have everyone on earth listening to my private conversations if I can help it.

          1. But you would care if somebody was broadcasting and blocking you from using the band that isn’t supposed to be for continuous transmission. While some of the rules are clearly stupid not allowing broadcast music on the normal HAM bands and license just makes sense – there is only so much space for HAMS to use, and anybody wanting to use HAM bands doesn’t want to listen to somebody else’s idea of music, they wanted to communicate not just listen.

            And personally I do care about music piracy – the artist(s) may not get as much as they really deserve, but they created something, working on it potentially for years to really nail the album and deserve to get paid for that effort.

          2. @Foldi-One

            Why not just let radio evolve naturally? People will eventually figure out how to deal with interference if the government doesn’t step in and shut everything down.

            Also, intellectual property isn’t real.

          3. The way people tend to deal with interference is to either leave entirely, or increase their transmitting power. In other words, they don’t deal with it, they just shout on top of one another because ultimately that’s all you can do in the lack of a common authority. It ultimately devolves to elbow tactics.

          4. Foldi-One:

            The IP problem is that it’s going about the business the wrong way: first shovel out the product and then expect to get paid for it. It’s like getting a beggar cleaning your window at stop lights; you’re being demanded to pay all sorts of permits and licenses for stuff you didn’t even ask for. The fact that none of that actually goes to the artist is the smaller part of the problem.

            Copyright and royalties aren’t essential and typically not even conductive for artists to get paid. They are essential for publishers and media corporations to take a cut in the middle.

      5. > Having to identify myself constantly and not being allowed to transmit music, “bad” words, or encrypted data makes ham radio absolutely unappealing.

        Aw gee. So ham radio regulations prohibit trolling, abuse, unregulated users and commercial/criminal uses… I’m gutted.

    2. You can do the digital network thing just fine on the existing ham bands. Packet Radio (AX.25) was the predominant mode back in the day, and it runs well over a VHF connection. On shortwave, speed drops dramatically so mostly people worked on VHF and routed their connection via multiple nodes.
      But since internet started working well, the old packet radio BBS’s have disappeared.
      I’d like to revive the idea of ham radio based regional and national network connections with more modern modes, but there are too few people who want something like that too.

      Don’t overestimate the usefulness of the MW broadcast band for amateur use. We already have allocations around 475khz and on 1850khz, and those bands still offer enough space for experiments because not too many people can deal with the antenna size needed to transmit on those bands.

      For those who want to transmit music, more and more countries are opening up to that. The USA has the 300mW part 15 laws, the Netherands offer a 1w license for about 300 euro per year, and a 100w license for about 500 euro per year.
      In the Netherlands, there have never been more AM broadcasters, ever. There are now about 40 legal music stations on the frequencies allocated to the Netherlands. Undoubtedly there would be more if we had more allocations, but fact of the matter is that the medium wave band is still very full. Check it out at 00:00 UTC on this webSDR: http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/ – it’s absolutely packed.
      If you want to broadcast on shortwave, there are several European professional transmitters you can rent by the hour, from a €15 per hour transmitter that covers part of germany, luxemburg, belgium and the netherlands – to the former German national shortwave broadcasters, that will run about €150 per hour but offer literal world wide coverage.

      Anyway, regulation is not the problem. There are – at least in the Netherlands – plenty options to do your own thing, and plenty of space outside of contest hours too. You don’t want more space than needed cause then it’s nearly impossible to find another person to talk to. It gets hard to bump into someone at random.

  4. A lot of Ham Radio operators have become appliance users, and while that is fun, I think the “Ham” part is being left behind. But to each their own as they have interest.
    My interest is in mixing old sets with new technology to give them new life.
    Currently, I’m working on a number of old crystal locked sets, making use of Arduinos, (and ESP32 boards) driving Si5351 VFOs to give multi channel tuning. So far, these include an FT75B HF, Trio VHF, a couple FM828 sets, A Philips FM1680, Hawk HF, and some Codans.
    The latest one is to use the wonderful VFO by JF3HZB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkfQFdTcnG8 and adapting that to various radios. One of the best bit of code I’ve seen. Thank you!!!
    I’ve already modified a number of transceivers with an Arduino Nano based version,
    The first was to “rescue” the old Hawk HF radio that cost me $30, and that is my everyday set now.
    More include…
    but tJF3HZB’s very nice Adaptive VFO above looks really great.
    I do hope to make a complete HF transceiver, but that may take a while.
    There are a few old CBs in the pipeline too.
    Don’t just toss these old sets in the bin, but get them up and running and pass then on to new Hams.
    There are a couple of hams now using sets I’ve given them, and a couple more here who are building a version of the VFOs to get their old sets working.

  5. Look at what the RSGB in the UK has done. Online exams starting with Foundation, then Intermediate finally Full/Advanced. This has eliminated the difficulty in arranging assessment by clubs and difficulty in attending examination centres. This has resulted in a massive influx in new licenced amateurs. This is facilitated by the kind participation of Full amateurs giving up their time to invigilate the exams online, making sure that the process is understood and watching the exam candidates online during the exam. The Foundation licence allows access to most HF and above bands with a limit of 10W. I have already passed Foundation and Intermediate, Full examination in January. This means that I can put my electronics hobby knowledge previously used to design/build receivers to now build transmitters. I am also learning a lot more from reading around the exam syllabus. Perfect situation for people wanting to just communicate with amateurs with commercial equipment costing £££ or hackers wanting to do QRP with pennies. I plan to do both.

    1. That’s how things should be really. Bring more people into the hobby to enjoy themselves. Here in New Zealand, we still have archaic requirements that might have worked when everyone *needed* to build their radio because nothing was available off the shelf, but they simply deter people today. I guess on the plus side, there is only once license, but on the down side, if you aren’t an electronics whiz, you aren’t getting licensed.

  6. Sure. Let’s sharpen up this old saw.

    Emergency preparedness? Please. My family has survived 3 catastrophic wild fires (serious string of bad luck) via the method of “neighbors banging on the door” and cell phone worked too. Local media and the CA forestry website were not quite adequate, but in this age of solid local emergency preparedness, everyone is still breathing.

    As much as every ham wants to believe they are the one that will save the day with a timely call, no one is listening. No one. If you think a HT will save you, or inform others, you’re mistaken. Sorry. My parents and in-laws are alive because of good neighbors and professional emergency responders that practice and are… professionals.

    It is a hobby. I fenced in college- sword fighting is NOT a thing in 2020. But it is fun. I fly gliders (unpowered airplanes) simply for fun. Not practical. I bought, worked on and modified a 1966 Mustang. By every objective criteria a Ford Taurus can outperform it. Does that matter? No.

    Can we just be honest with ourselves and admit amateur radio is a fun hobby that serves no practical purpose? The personal thrill of discovery and experimentation is not going to change the world. Whatever you want amateur radio to be for you, that’s what it is. For me, satellite communications is thrilling. Is it “important,” or “unique?” Nope. Many, many people do it all the time. But does that make it less fun? Nope! Fun for me!

    I guess arguing to the local or federal administration for the right to practice our hobby is important, but don’t make it something it is not. And it is not critical for infrastructure. It is not critical for emergency communications. It isn’t “critical’ for anything. But it is fun, it is important for the right to experiment, build equipment, and share that joy with others. It is a hobby. Harmless, fun, and personally important.

    — (licensed ham for .. many years).

    1. Wildfires are but one type of natural disaster though, and I’m not sure that they’re the type that easily take out communications infrastructure. Sidebar: I would actually be interested to know more about how mountaintop radio and microwave sites fare in such a circumstance

      Another point though about the ham radio Emcomm function is that it may not really be about the ham radio infrastructure, but rather a volunteer team of trained communicators. I think that’s really the resource that ham radio provides in a disaster, the fact that they’re communicating on ham radio repeaters may be secondary. Allowing those communicators their own infrastructure is an amenity that helps recruitment.

      Another point I’ll make about ham radio is that sometimes it supports other hobbies! We are involved in rally racing, and these races require the closing of public roads, which means they’re held in places that are semi-remote, and that more often than not don’t have reliable cell service. Rally racing absolutely depends on ham radio to be done in a safe fashion, and it’s a win-win relationship as hams get to practice their communication skills in an environment that’s also a lot of fun to be around.

      Which brings up another point actually. I imagine if a disaster like a tornado happens in a rural area, those folks might be just as dependent on the ham radio repeaters as a rally race is. For sure the local municipalities have their own radio systems but I’m guessing the ham radio infrastructure is a welcome addition when there isn’t cell service. And that infrastructure is provided by volunteers, for ‘free’ (if you don’t count the radio spectrum allocation, which isn’t actually that desirable to cell operators due to its lower frequency and the ol’ Nyquist limit).

      So yeah, I think ham radio is still pretty defensible as an emergency service. But it’s a great hobby too!

      1. Tornadoes are very localized events. They rarely take out power infrastructure for more than a few customers. The chances of them hitting a repeater site are so slim that it’s not worth considering. We have more problems with ice storms taking out communications and electricity, but that only happens every few years. So far no ham activations for me. I did provide parking assistance at an air show once.
        Ham Emcomm is a joke. Leave the professionals alone.

        1. While uncommon, I can attest to a situation here in Kansas where the local ARES ham radio group was critical to saving lives after a storm disabled the P25 radios for first responders and created a large dead zone of cell coverage.
          The EMComm aspect of ham radio is much like the spare tire and jack for your car, you may never need it but do you want to take it out to save space?

    2. It’s a big world we live in. I can’t speak for every county and state but I can speak for Liberty county, Florida. When hurricane Michael blasted through and knocked out cell service, internet, land-line telephone and public safety communications, an enterprising Emergency Manager dug out an old ham radio and hooked it up to an antenna which survived the storm and eventually found a working repeater . They used that system for 3 days to get resources and basic necessities into their county until some of the ” professional” systems were partially restored. Ham radio has a place in disasters and always will.

      1. You guys are precisely on frequency. Ham radio as depicted in these comments Is a diverse, technically sophisticated “hobby “whose practitioners have also participated in or originated major scientific advances these past 125 years as well saved countless lives. The sheer diversity of comments in this forum , about the structure and function of amateur radio, tells you how vital and important ham radio is to a free Society. Yes, there are codgers like me ( a ham for 60+ yrs ) and neophytes entering the hobby as kids. Sure, there are those obsessed with contests,
        simple and complex technical projects, propagation theory, HOA silliness, Emergency Communications. etc. This is the glory and place of ham radio in a Free Society. The rancor, diversity , fun and sense of purpose is a great thing –not our enemy but our Grail.

        Ned Rubin. W4NED

    3. I see all this emergency comms stuff as politics to make a hobby more accepted by the common public.
      I am a ham radio operator for more than 35 years and only occasionally used the license to make contacts with other hams. Never used it for any emergency call.
      I am using my license mostly for scientific research, you have a large range of frequencies with the possibility to generate high power if needed and it cost almost nothing.
      The few rules we have are necessary to keep everybody happy, its shared frequency space.
      Fortunately most of the non technical box buyers and packet guys moved the internet.

      1. It’s the “organized militia excuse”. In other words, if you were all organized and well trained for the purpose, then in the case of an emergency you could, should you be requested, but you aren’t and you won’t, and they won’t ask you because there are already other means to deal with the issue.

    4. Yup. Well said. I don’t know why HaD and other feel the need to keep poking the bear on this one. There are ‘those’ HAM guys that are white knights of their own empires. Hams like you and me just smile and nod when they talk, then we walk away and go do what we want to do with the hobby.

    5. Ham is a hobby with a purpose. A few months ago I was monitor on 20 meters on a frequency typically set aside for maritime users. One particular user in a sailboat lost his engine in a no wind situation. He was drifting into a shallow reef area. He was unable to reach anyone except on his ham radio. The coast guard was dispatched but could not help him, he had already entered shallow water but stayed near in case of impact. He was in constant contact with the land based station, this gave him comfort. A wind came up and he was able to maneuver out without incident.
      There is also the case if a major ice storm in Memphis TN a while back. 90% of powe was knocked out for 2 weeks or more. During this time radio operators were able to get reports to emergency crews until power was restored.
      Ham experimentation has led to numerous commercial products for the world. I am one of those old men who loves the hobby and hope we don’t lose it.
      Peace and be safe

  7. A lot of the magic of ham radio (for me anyway) was the novelty of speaking to people far away and hearing radio broadcasts from far away. It was very cool to listen to BBC on a good night and hear the weather in London, or to hear the Skyking messages go out, or any of a number of other things you could hear. It was all magical, really, since I lived in a relatively small town. 2M provided a way to communicate with my friends and a couple of family members way before cell phones were a thing. But learning how to build antennas and match up transmission line and all of the nuts and bolts wasn’t particularly fun for me. It was a means to an end. I enjoyed the result far more than the journey.

    Now of course it’s trivial to live stream picture and sound bidirectionally from just about anywhere in the world, and suffering through varying atmospheric conditions just to have a voice conversation for a few minutes seems pretty antiquated. Using a local 2M repeater in the cell phone age is also just quaint.

    I think HAM radio is going to have a difficult time going forward because of the above. When you take away the novelty and the “kick” why would someone spend time learning everything you need to learn to get a ham ticket where there is so much other stuff out there to learn? If you’re technically inclined there’s the whole ESP32/8266/IOT world. You have the really fascinating TensorFlow/Machine Learning world. LoRAWan. 3d printing even. All sorts of things far more interesting than learning morse code.

    1. to provide another view, for me ham radio is about the building and experimenting, i couldnt care less how many contacts i make at the end, the journey is what matters to me. its counter your point, but not in a bad way, we are all human. One of my other hobbies is drag racing, I love driving, I love beating the guy in the other lane, but the ultimate reward, for me, is in the fabrication, tuning, wiring of the car. when you become so compitent at the former, the latter is a fore gone conclusion. so I always enjoy the journey, the result, should you be competent, is a no brainer. different strokes for different folks.

  8. This may seem self serving, but it’s not. My site https://miscdotgeek.com/ focuses on this a lot. There’s no “prepper” content and I focus on homebrew projects as much as I can- building QRP radio stuff, making it approachable to anyone with a soldering iron and a ham radio license: Or not. My first scratch build was a receiver, not a transmitter. I’ll get to that soon.

    Whatever little revenue I get from ads goes right back into making more projects. I could use the support, so if anyone wants to subscribe to it I’d be obliged.

  9. Ham Radio is a hobby with many niche communities. There are those who build big stations with bigger antenna farms with the goal of getting high scores in HF contests, those who hike to summits carrying small Morse code transceivers, those who operate primarily in the multi-GHz bands, and yes, those who just have a 2m HT stashed in a drawer somewhere.

    Some people love to build and repair, others only want to operate factory-built radios with factory-built antennas.

    There are a few curmudgeons who speak with disdain about those who enjoy an aspect of the hobby that doesn’t meet with the curmudgeon’s approval. But in my experience, most hams have respect for most aspects of the hobby, even if they may lack the motivation or skills to explore them all.

    Building and experimenting are widely admired in Ham circles, and are part of the foundation of the hobby. Hackers are definitely welcome in the hobby, even though there are many hams who aren’t hackers. You may have to search a bit before finding those who share your particular passion, but please keep looking.

    I’ve taught the electronics theory portion of several licensing classes. The first level exam doesn’t get much beyond Ohm’s law, along with schematic symbols for resistors, capacitors, and inductors, but some students wonder why they need to learn even that. I always remind them that their first Ham license is all the governmental authorization required to take apart a microwave oven and turn it into a transmitter which can beam a kilowatt of RF energy to the moon and back, to communicate with someone on another continent.

    Hackers, get your Ham licenses, play, and share your work with others! Perhaps not all hams will be appreciative, but many will.

  10. Two things need to change, in my opinion:

    1) Allow encryption. Internet protocols are moving towards making encryption mandatory (e.g., HTTP2, QUIC, etc.) and with perfect forward secrecy (so you can’t pre-share a key). We already lost part of AMPRnet ( because it wasn’t being used. If we want to maintain compatibility with the Internet, encryption *must* be allowed. Otherwise, the Internet will just leave amateur radio behind.

    2) Allow identification with any sufficiently-documented modulation/protocol. Part 97 is fairly strict about ways you can ID, and it is woefully out of date. For example, you can visually identify with NTSC, but not ATSC or DVB-T. What’s even more ridiculous is that you’re allowed to ID by phone emissions, even if they use a patent-encumbered audio codec to decode, but you can’t embed your ID as ASCII data sent using an international standard.

    1. In my opinion, encryption is nonsense. Amateur radio must stay ‘open’ or we won’t be any longer allowed to manage ourselves, which in turn takes away all of our freedom and competences.
      We will loose the ability to use homebrew transceivers etc or to do experiments. If we start using encryption, we will be threaded like spys. Or seen as something comparable to dark net users. Just think of the Federation in Star Trek universe. There, Federation worlds don’t use cloaked star ships in order preserve peace. It’s about the same principle. Also, there’s internet and the freebands. Use this if you feel the need for fishy undertakings no one should notice. You won’t even have to use a call sign there, because your amateur call has no meaning there, anyway. ;)

      1. > In my opinion, encryption is nonsense.

        Encryption is fairly standard way to enshure message integrity and fairly standard way to definitely prove that this is your message. You publish your open key, and use your private key to encrypt messages. Anyone, who receive your message will know that it is your message, and nobody could falsify your identity.

        Now anybody with bad intent could just use your ham ID.

        > If we start using encryption, we will be threaded like spys.

        Wow. I could not imagine that using encryption become something bad now.

        > Or seen as something comparable to dark net users.

        Or, may be like users of HAD site who receive encrypted data from server and send encrypted data?

        That’s strange and frightening. May be I just woke in some bad, ugly, dictatorship alternate realty?

        1. You are confusing message signing with encryption. Message signing is completely legal. Encryption is not because it obscures the content. Signing does not obscure the content but it allows you to verify that the message wasn’t altered and it is from the correct source.

          If encryption was allowed on the ham bands, there would no longer be any room left for amateur operators because it would be come a place for businesses to send their data. Since it is encrypted there is no way to enforce the rules.

          People that want encryption on ham bands want to revert them to commercial use.

          1. > People that want encryption on ham bands want to revert them to commercial use.

            Really? What could be the profit from the low speed, low reliability and high complexity way of communication? And you need to build custom transceiver with encryption. What commercial use you are talking about?

            If you want to talk about commercial use, let’s talk about overpriced factory made transceivers. I always wondered, why are they allowed in hams bands. Amateurs should build their own radios, not use commercial ones. They are amateurs, arn’t they?

          2. > What could be the profit from the low speed, low reliability and high complexity way of communication?

            Basic IoT stuff, like delivery tracking, where you have a transmitter attached to a thing and you want to know where it is. It doesn’t need to be very reliable, or transmit a lot of information.

            Here we have the same basic problem as with the LoRa network, which operates on a “free-for-all” ISM frequency, which is already full of commercial stuff like weather stations or wireless mics/headphones, which is why there’s all sorts of rules like listen before talk, transmission time limits based on device EIRP, having to use certified modules instead of building your own radio, etc. because otherwise it would be an absolute mess. You trade one freedom for a restriction elsewhere because you just can’t have your cake and eat it as well.

        2. I can almost hear the “Hello, comrade, we’ve noticed you’ve encrypted your speech. We’ll need to see your papers now.”

          The argument that you can’t have privacy because you may be doing something untoward doesn’t sound Orwellian at all. Not a bit.

          1. It’s not that you might be doing something untoward, but that you can’t tell the difference between legal and illegal use, so it will be used as a convenient cover for illegal operations and that will ruin it for the rest of us.

          2. @Dude

            “that will ruin it for the rest of us”

            The regulators are the bad guys here, just FYI. There is no obligation to restrict free speech to combat criminal activity. Don’t blame the people who want to communicate privately over radio, blame the people who are taking your rights away.

          3. “The regulators are the bad guys here”

            It’s just sensible rules, regardless of who enforces them, or whether they’re enforced at all. You also have a moral imperative not to do just whatever the heck you want, anytime and anywhere you want, because everyone will suffer because of it. It’s the tragedy of the commons situation here, which is only solved if you think ahead a little bit and take other people rather than your personal gain into consideration.

            If you let amateur radio become an RF wild west, then it is quickly shut down by authorities or becomes unusable in any other way, or you become associated with the criminals that use the spectrum for covert operations.

          4. Or think of it this way:

            What happens to an imageboard/chan without moderation? First it becomes filled with trolls, then it becomes filled with crazy people who take the trolls seriously, then just the crazy people who start to argue each other, and meanwhile bots start spamming it with illegal stuff. If you can’t kick people out for misbehaving, and you don’t enforce any rules, all the genuine users leave instead and you’re left with only the miscreants. The result is always the same, no matter the medium. If you want to destroy a perfectly good hobby, the best way to do it is to strip all authority from the community to regulate behavior.

            The difficulty is that there are no good rules and no good rulers. They’re always compromises, and yet you can always get around them somehow, which then supposedly negates the rule – but that’s not really an argument. That’s just admitting that you can’t have everything at once.

        3. You seem to miss the point, I’m afraid.
          Amateur radio is an open “service” rather than a private thing. It is public and of experimental nature. That’s why we have and need many bands. The outcome of this experiments (radio wave propagation analysis, new speech codecs etc) can also be useful to any radio users in the end sometimes. For encrypted transmissions, other radio services can be used already. Why do you insist on encryption on the ham bands? :)

          1. Because cryptography was one of my favorite classes in college and it would be fun to experiment with?

            Learning how to build hardware encryption devices – and be able to test them in real world conditions with interference and such – sounds like a blast!

            But the community has already rolled over and given up on the idea of innocent until proven guilty, we are all going to be spies!

        4. Encryption for the purpose of guaranteeing message integrity is allowed under the current regulations, if the message is in clear text. Encryption is only prohibited if it is for the purpose of obscuring the meaning of communications. See FCC rules, 97.113(4).

          1. Well you can’t do much anything about them, can you?

            Why? Well, if someone crosses the street where there’s no pedestrian crossing, why can’t you? Because it’s just stupid behavior.

    2. Think of it this way: if HAMs start encrypting communications then drug runners and criminals can blend in – after all, nobody knows what anyone else is talking about.

      As long as everyone is supposed to be open about it, you can always check in and see who’s misbehaving. That keeps the system open. If you start to do cloak and dagger stuff, then the actual bad guys will join you.

      1. > if HAMs start encrypting communications then drug runners and criminals can blend in

        Why do you think that current rules somehow make this impossible? Right now drug runners and criminals could easily use typical ham conversations to communicate. They just need to negotiate “language”, and that’s all.

        1. It doesn’t. It just makes it manageable.

          Sure, you can use covert code but when you have people listening in all the time, talking about “bringing aunt Rosy roses” all the time becomes pretty transparent. It’s the same point as not using encryption: when the normal communications happen in the open, people can detect when you’re trying to hide something, so they can pay more attention and investigate. If everybody’s hiding stuff by default, you can’t even suspect because criminal activities look exactly like normal activities without any hints or oddities.

          1. > Sure, you can use covert code but when you have people listening in all the time, talking about “bringing aunt Rosy roses” all the time becomes pretty transparent

            No, that’s just dumb. No clever criminal will use that kind of “encryption”. You could encode data in anything – pauses between words, time of converstions, words order, etc. So, there are no way to detect encryption. Meanwhile, this is one of main hints of good encryption.

            Secondly, why criminals will use that unreliable and relatively complex way to communicate? It is much easier for them just to use public services. So they do.

            You are talking about openness of communications. That’s OK. But why at the same time you are not demanding disabling HTTPS on hackaday.com in that case? Right now you encrypting your conversations with hackaday.com. You have something to hide, or doing some criminal activities? Looks like hypocrisy.

          2. That wasn’t the point. The “no clever criminal” argument is just a nirvana fallacy. Sure, some clever criminal mastermind can get around it and hide in plain sight, but it’s very low bandwidth and more effort than its worth. In fact you admit as much. The point here is not to make it too easy for any petty criminal to blend in – for those who really really want to break the rules you can’t do much anyhow.

            Why not disabling HTTPS? Because I have to exchange actual important information online. I wouldn’t broadcast my credit card number on amateur radio – that’s just not what it’s for.

      1. Huh, that is a new thought to me. Thanks for the enlightenment.

        I feel radio encryption + animosity can be a slippery slope. You can argue two very different sides. One could be freedom of speech and freedom from government oppression. Imagine another situation: lots of anonymous and encrypted comm in a city near a presidential visit. The latter would make me nervous of a bad actor.

        That said, I feel encryption should be a right, but regulated, to prevent bad actors from abusing it.

        1. Crime and spying are minor threats. The threat of commercial exploitation has always been the biggest reason to keep banning encryption on the ham bands. It would be impossible to tell the good guys from the bad, and even the good guys go bad when it suits them. Example: Cruisers at sea want to exchange private emails on HF. They can do so legally on Marine SSB, but getting a ham SSB radio is easier and cheaper, so they use a proprietary encryption system on the amateur bands. Many are sloppy operators, with no checking before transmitting. They are the thin edge of the encryption wedge.


    3. The rules do desperately need to be updated. I’m a crypto nerd, so I feel you there, but encrypted data channel is probably a non-starter. That being said, I would like some more explicit wording around acceptable uses of encryption, such as for authentication, authorization and integrity, the use of which I do not think is against the spirit of HAM.

      I would further like there to be some permissible use of encrypted data in some cases, even; perhaps with some restriction on power level, directionality, duty cycle, data rate, etc. That may be more of a pipe dream, though.

      I do agree with your second point as well. It seems an impediment to the spirit of experimentation to have such restrictions. OTOH, e.g. Joe Taylor & friends recently came up with a host of novel digital modes, and they didn’t run up against any rules violations to wit. So is it an actual problem? If it still is, I can imagine it would be beneficial for there to be a ‘registry’ of experimental protocols that map to an identifier that could be used to satisfy the rules. Fat chance on FCC providing such registry, lol, but maybe ARRL. (I guess fat chance on that, too.)

      1. If you’re transmitting at low enough power, nobody is the wiser anyhow and you can disregard any regulations. It’s like building a potato gun in your garage – it might technically be illegal in places, but as long as you don’t whip it out in public, you’re good.

  11. I’m an amateur extra class.
    I learned tubes and transistors from mentors in an amateur radio club in rural Kansas as a kid. I’m still doing link budgets and circuit board layouts and it’s been a lifetime career. Amateur radio got me a start in a town where the other options were farming.
    It does beg credibility to say the “emergency communications” is the primary reason for amateur radio in an environment of global emergency communications with satphones. I *do* see radio clubs volunteering to work at food banks and disaster recovery in impacted areas. It’s clear that amateur radio and amateur radio operators greatly benefit the public.

    OTOH I find it nearly impossible to hire an engineer who really knows practical RF, no matter how much you pay or what degrees are required… Just saying.

    Of course it’s a hobby, as is the Civil Air Patrol. A lot of pilots come from CAP.
    I agree amateur radio probably needs to be reformed and re-branded.
    Maybe a youth training and RF scholarship initiative could be a good start to help develop future hams.
    Local clubs could make amateur radio “makerspaces” with spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, voltmeter, wattmeter, drill press, soldering station, etc., available, maybe with training seminars, mentoring, seminars, etc. They could reach out to continuing education groups.
    It’s really hard for a newbie to get into RF electronics because of the cost of the equipment and the scarcity of hands-on ad-hoc mentorship.
    Needs to be a national initiative. ARRL?
    If it doesn’t happen, I agree that amateur radio may go into a steep decline without replenishment of the attrition of aging hams.
    Ham radio isn’t just about middle aged guys and their crazy politics and conspiracy ragchews on 80 and 40. It can be a lot more.
    In today’s world of $50 network analyzers and SDR it could be a perfect platform for a resurgence. Otherwise it is Ghost of a Christmas Future including a reference to Radio Shack.

  12. Sure the communication infrastructure is always there until it isn’t. I’ve lived it. My special forces buddies still use HF and CW, encrypted of course. Why? Because the infrastructure is always there until it isn’t. Besides, digimodes and other emerging technologies enhance Emergency Response preparedness. Bring ’em on! And I don’t feel less of a “true” ham because I don’t have a solder station.

  13. What’s “killing” Ham Radio in the U.S. is the inability to put up an outdoor antenna, especially below the 2 meter (146 MHz) band. If you rent, or in most cases even own your home, in the vast majority of cases these days there will be some kind of regulation, covenant or homeowner association restriction that prevents you from putting an antenna up outside, even an almost impossible to see thin piece of wire. At best you will be allowed to do so, but not without jumping through hoops of fire and suffering some crippling limitations. And from then on, anyone who has a problem with their cable TV or Internet blames YOU for it. There has been a small bit of improvement lately for putting up antennas for the higher frequency bands (2 meters wavelength and above) because the antennas are fairly small, and you might get away with claiming the antenna is for HDTV reception, which is protected by Federal law now after the roll-out of digital free-to-air TV stations. The dysfunctional American Radio Relay League (ARRL) was once goaded into trying to push legislation through Congress that would protect amateur radio licensees from these outdoor antenna restrictions, but they really screwed the whole thing up and ended up making the problem worse.

    1. One can always use a helium balloon on a string with thin wire to make as big antenna as one wants. I think 2+ years ago there was discussion about this here and someone had an idea to hide the antenna inside a flagpole…

  14. In my opinion, amateur radio needs more relaxed people with humor. Currently, there are too many stiff hams that are into contests instead of social activities. Even young people (from my experience mainly students or ongoing engineers), which act like they are very old. Mentally. These fellow hams focus on getting the higher licenses for prestige, instead of living the ham spirit. Or building anything. To my surprise, many CBers have ham spirit inherent and are into DIY and recently enjoy repeater building. So in my opinion, hackers/makers and CBers can help to bring ham radio back on track. It doesn’t have to be an archaic hobby. We have satellites, SSTV from ISS or the sports of high-altitude ballooning. And that’s not all. It can be so much more than FT8 or telegraphie on the noisy shortwave bands. Some day, hams may stay in contact with humany colonies on moon or mars, even.

    1. It’s more than this, still. I’m my best proof myself. :D
      But there’s some truth within the elitist thing..
      Too much contesters and too few normal QSOs (“ragchew”).
      Also, there’s a huge telegraphy craze going on.
      Amateur radio as a whole is being degraded to CW and shortwave and 2M repeater operations.
      Or worse, FT4/8, which needs no operator at all.
      Kind of makes me sad. We’ve accomplished so much since the 1970s. Satellites, SSTV, digital modes, open speech codecs, protocols etc. But now we’re acting like consumers, constantly buying the latest Kenwood, Yaesus and Icoms. If it wasn’t for the advent of SDR technology, ham radio would be technologically dead. It’s too much stuck in the old super-het/CW world, anyway. Society sees us as old, rich and grumpy people that do totally weird stuff. A ham radio operator is nolonger seen as the young, vivid tinkerer that develops new technology or is being kind or helpful enough to fix household appliances once in a while in his neighborhood. Rather, the picture is some nostalgic, anti-social fool sitting in a darkened room with a straight-key on his desk and creepy antenna monsters. We must change that, I think.

  15. In many countries of this world ham radio was and still is governed by laws that date back to the cold war or even earlier. In Austria, this was fixed just two years ago; before that, you were severely limited on expressing your opinions. It was even worse before AT joined the EU, because amateur radio was also seen as a competitor to the state telecommunications monopoly and their overpriced services.

    1. Any country that is bordering Russia still has to deal with that ****. You can’t have 4G cellular access near the eastern front because Russia uses the frequencies for military radar and routinely interferes with the transmissions. Same goes for amateur radio frequencies. Anything that is not strictly forbidden by international treaties, they will do just out of spite.

  16. Here in the UK a group named Essex Ham has been doing much to encourage ‘making’ protocols. There is also a sub group of Men In Sheds.

    Of course Amateur Radio is elitist. It is one of only two hobbies that require passing an examination before one can participate fully. (The other is aviation).

    1. You forgot gun stuff (even in the US the background check process at every dealer purchase is a sort of exam), operating a motor vehicle on public roads, and probably a few others I don’t pay attention too. I wouldn’t call that elitist in and of itself, it’s necessary for public safety/order. In the case of radio keeping the military, aviation, emergency, and commercial bands free of interference. At least so far as sitting for the exam in the US it seems (I’ve not yet bothered) as straightforward as possible, at least pre plague, study material is freely available online, it’s like $10 to show up and you can take all 3 exams in one sitting if you want.

      I find the barrier to entry isn’t the license, it’s what the hell would I do with it. Most of what interests me is long distance old school all analog HF band type stuff with homebrew gear and I don’t really have acess to the space required to hang a proper 40M dipole or whatever.

  17. While working on a non-amateur radio related project I have frequently gotten callsign checked, no problem in itself. While I am licensed I almost never transmit except rarely to final test radios, antennas, and other gear I have designed and built.
    When I refuse to give a callsign to an annon with an unverifiable callsign(could be anyone using that number string) which doxes me to my home address I have been called a bad ham.
    We need to get rid of the toxic bad cop self policing fetishists in our community, I do not participate anymore and was actually sorry to have tried to build a RACES team when I was running county fire and EMS in the 2000s, too many toxic big shot self policers bunnyhunting new teen hams with cheap radios and scaring parents who suppressed the cool hams. WHat a mess, and these tools are the ones who will eventually forfeit our precious and hard defended bands to commercial auctions.
    As for online self doxing via callsign I wish there was a FCC 1-shot callsign hash portal so we could give a verifiable callsign substitute while not passing around our home address. Some of us have someone in our lives who has been subject to domestic violence, stalking, or other serious reasons to stay private.

    1. What’s to stop someone just using someone else’s callsign to phish for more callsigns? I think there needs to be a signature system in place to allow verification that the message was in fact sent by the legitimate party.

    2. You seem to be a bit of the same ilk I am. I sort of like amateur radio, but I really don’t like the ARRL and think it is not good that the FCC has essentially given the ham bands to them.

      Cell service has taken most of the utility out of VHF. It used to be cool to be able to touch tone in a phone number and say hi mom on the radio back when no one else could do that. Times have changed. Almost everybody not only has personal communication but the ability to record and stream video sitting in their pocket now. And the internet has taken thrill out of HF for a lot of people. I can hop on and chat at friends all around the globe.

      Ham radio to a large extent has decayed to old people buying stuff to play with so they can chat with other old people who have bought stuff to play with.

      I think three things would go a long way as far as re-energizing the hobby, though they would be unpopular with a lot of hams and commercial enterprises..

      First, a no test license for any mode but with a power limit of say 10 watts. There are some young folks doing cool things with SDR and little QRP rigs. Make it easy for them to get on the air and dabble. I doubt they make much more RF noise than the old brushed AC/DC motor on my skill saw.

      Second, fight down NPR and open part of the commercial FM band to local community broadcast radio. They would be held accountable to the same program licensing as any other broadcaster, so if they want music they wither need patron’s, old music that is no longer encumbered, or new music from bands that allow such use. Again limit the power and make applications easy. If an area gets a lot of applications try to get them to combine. Community broadcast radio was a big idea a while back but NPR was very against it. Something to consider when they are begging for donations.

      And Third, give a piece of the band for any traffic, encrypted or not. Encourage new codecs and digital options. And again, with a simple no test license for low power use.

      Leave the rest of it to the ARRL and their safety patrol hall monitors.

      1. But it doesn’t work that way. The license is to get some sense that hams know what they are doing. Entry level is way easier than fifty years ago. Those interested in the hobby as a technical playground won’t be deterred by the license.

        And once entry requires no.license, then everyone who wants to yack on the radio can do it. It won’t raise technical levels. There won’t be enforcement, from authorities or self policing (look at the comments here), so anyone can use the ham bands for anything.

        There is CB and FRS ( and a couple of other services that require a license but no testing) intended for peoole who want to talk on the radio. But people weren ‘t willing to live with the limits of CB, and unwilling to get a ham license where it wasdall legal.

        How does adding a broadcast band have anything to do with ham radio?I

        People keep talking about the need for encryption, but nobody is talking about what they need it for. How does encryption bring more technical hobbyists? It all seems more about people yacking on the radio, than technical experimentation.

  18. Back when I was active one of my favorite things was experimenting with clandestine or stealth HF antenna designs, it really gave a WW-II resistance partisan feel. I even built a rough DIY redesign tube paraset radio for QRPing to complete that line of thought.
    You would be surprised what you can do with near ground dipoles of gray wire or indoor wall loops.
    It is in no way as good as a mast mounted HF yaggi but still fun.

  19. Besides the electronics hobby aspect, ham radio used to be one of the the only ways to economically communicate while mobile or to talk around the world. Now, cell phones and the Internet provide those functions. So, to attract new blood, we need to concentrate on the few things that ham radio can still provide that cell phones and the Internet can’t and the initial path to those capabilities need to be as inexpensive as possible.

    I suggest an absolutely cheap as possible, community designed, RX-only SDR radio with provisions for the easy addition of multiple, cheap as possible single band QRP TX modules. QRP DX, like all DX work, has the same attraction as the sport of fishing with the additional challenge of catching contacts on the other side of the world with only a few watts of power. Another thing unique to ham radio is hamsat communication or just the reception and decoding of live hamsat telemetry.

    1. RTL-SDR is about as good as it gets. With the “ham-it-up” or hfspy upconverter it really is a great receiver. The bitx40 and ubitx are great transceivers. They are a little expensive but not terribly so. A 40m dipole 15ft off the ground has served me well on CW and SSB.

  20. I have been a ham since 1965. I have enjoyed several different facets of ham radio. I have embraced some and stayed away from others. I use CW Morse code most of the time. I use some SDR radios and like satellite communications. Weak signal work and moon bounce are in my future. I presently build projects that make radio fun. QRP low power radios. It is up to the individual to find their nitch in ham radio and pursue it. No club near you then find some like minded people and start a club. It really is that simple. Finding like minded people is all about you networking in your interest area. Reach out. Start a long distance club via Zoom or one of the other video programs. Make ham radio work for you.

  21. The spectrum hams have access too is golden! But most modern uses require a high data throughput, which usually means expensive. There is LORA, but that is having a commercial angle these days as an alternate telemetry network at 915MHz ISM band. Hams can do LORA at 440, and are not limited to 1W like an unlicensed user. Want to have private WiFi.? If your WiFi equipment will allow it, you can go below 2.4GHz channel 1 since the HAM band goes down a bit lower. So there are a few angles like this. Ubiquiti had radios and an older firmware that allowed a “lab mode” to accomplish.

    Working in the RF industry, repurposing commercial gear for repeater building and other purposes was a major motivator. An old paging or repeater station… no problem. But now, an obsolete CDMA base station, that may have cost 6 figures has perhaps only the GPS trained clock that can be repurposed. Even at the end of AMPS, we saw 800 MHz frequency agile auto-tuned combiners… fascinating technology… being scrapped…. and there was nothing there that could be retuned to 900 MHz for ham radio.

    There has always been a motivation to modernize APRS from it’s simple, but unreliable ALOHA. But I haven’t seen these projects gain traction. With IoT over cellular, the practical angle is lost.

    I guess that leaves rag chewing…. my wife once asked me: “Why do you talk to strangers, when you could talk to me?” I never really recovered from that.

  22. What’s killing ham radio?
    Preppers abusing the bands and $30 Baofeng HT’s
    $49 annual QST / ARRL memberships required by ARRL to take on a leadership role in Emergency Communications where you are already dedicating your time and money to help your community.
    Lots of surplus VHF / UHF repeater gear being repurposed for ham, putting up repeaters not because they are needed but because somebody likes to play with repeaters, resulting in all repeater frequencies allocated in many areas but rarely used.
    LIDS on the HF bands.
    Overpriced plug and play ham radio gear, like $50 for a mounting bracket that cost less than $5 to manufacture.
    Overdependentcy on a commercial backbone by networks like WInlink (they use AWS) that are supposed to be in operation “when all else fails”.
    Airwaves being used by right wing paramilitary organizations hiding under the guise of on the air bible reading groups.
    Not everyone can handle crafting their own gear using surface mount tech.
    Government groups that embrace ham radio for em-comm but are discouraged by volunteers that act like idiots.
    EmmComm use of ham bands is the excuse used to prevent ham bands being sold off to the highest bidder by the FCC.
    I could go on and on and on…

  23. Amateur Radio is a service first and a hobby second. The word “HACKER” carries a rather negative connotation. Perhaps that is the reason some Hams shy away from it.

    I’m have fun and I enjoy the challenges. I’ll give Hacker a try, but if I find that it isn’t fun and challenging for me, fahgedaboutit.

    Al K3ZE

    1. When I was licensed in 1972, it was still the “amateur experimental service” in Canada. My certificate of proficiency says so.

      It’s a hobby, always has been. The rules make that clear, it’s all about doing things where the doing is the end goal.

      “Service” comes not from what you are doing, but legalese used by regulatory bodies. “Citizens radio service”, “Family Radio Service”, “Multi Use Radio Service”, “General Mobile Radio Service”.

  24. A few of the issues with amateur bands. First (in the United States at least) is the “symbol rate rule” that won’t allow higher than 56 Kbps bandwidth data below 900 MHz. This is having a serious impact on the usefulness of amateur radio and is keeping people out of the hobby who might be interested in experimenting with wide area networking but don’t have good LOS to other hams (who might be interested in experimenting with mesh and other WAN topologies). In fact the whole spectrum above 50MHz really needs a serious rethink when it comes what we do with it. Coordinated repeaters made sense when high towers were accessible and hams were… well maybe not welcomed, but at least tolerated at some commercial sites. These days with Crown and AT owning pretty much all the sites any chance for more radios up high isn’t likely. The hotspot digital voice operators are a sign of things to come, but it will take a long time to break out of the old “big sticks for rag chewing” thinking. I’d like to see lots of low power repeaters that will hand-off, similar to cellular networks, but that takes coordination and planning beyond the traditional coordinators are going to understand.

    A close second is the ban on ARQ in the HF bands because of some very narrow minded but extremely vocal hams who think that ARQ is only good for getting email on your yacht without having to pay for a satellite link. See also: the comments from the ARRL symbol rate petition.

    Third is that NONE of the experimental SDR products are part 97 certified, meaning they are sold as test equipment. Granted it is a little difficult to get certification for a DAC, but without that transmitters are going to be stuck at under one Watt. Sure we all know that QRP guy who worked Botswana on a tenth of a watt into an old magnet wire antenna, but how many decades did it take? For anything with a decent PA you need to filter out harmonics, and that’s not something that is easily available, nor are good quality UHF+ linear amps. And once you have your ticket and gear you turn on the radio and hear noise from switching power supplies and other “tech,” so the only signals getting through are the big stick nets who are some of the worst lids out there.

    Finally, the old saw about first responders is pretty much going away with FirstNet and hardened cellular sites, along with COTS ISM band network gear. Used to be that the incident commander wanted all hands on the hose, but these days they’re willing to get someone up on the hillside to set up the network AP because they see that ATAK is letting them coordinate crews and know where they are without having a lot of voice traffic. And on the amateur side, the FEMA requirements for classes and background checks are a real turn-off, especially if you don’t live and breathe EMCOM.

    I’m sure much of this is a chicken and egg problem, but right now there’s no chicken and no egg. Just a bunch of roosters crowing.

    1. For over a hundred years, hams have built transmitters. That’s one thing people can gain by getting a ham license, the right to play with transmitters.

      Build your SDR, and you can do whatever you want with it (within the broad set of rules that apply to ham radio).

      If you want to use modules, then how is that different from buying off the shelf ham equioment?l

      The maker movement has dumbed things down.

  25. Well, this has struck quite a chord with the readers, given the number of responses so for. Jenny, great job of writing about this topic!

    I think hackers and RF go hand in hand:
    Captain crunch and 2600,
    Max headroom and the WTTW hijack,
    Pheaking in general…,
    Highjacking emergency alert radio comm,

    At the end of the day, it’s people geeking out about technology and getting good at using it. You’ll always have rule followers and rule breakers, no matter the subject. The amateur radio community needs to wholeheartedly embrace the hacker community. It also helps harden the security of our emergency communications from bad actors. At the end of the day, we are all geeks, and in my opinion, the more the merrier, and the stronger the community!

  26. There is plenty of opportunity to break rules, broadcast music, insult others and wreak general havoc on the HF spectrum. If you so choose. It’s called the 11m CB band. It’s the regulations, protocol and respect for the hobby that separates amateur radio from CB. Radio is about relationships, no matter how short the QSO. I don’t see bad operators using others’ call signs, any more than I see people making up fake names for themselves when interacting face to face. It makes no sense. The bad operators are often brazen and use their own call sign anyway, or in fact, often no call sign at all. 73, W5NED.

  27. Strongly disagree that ham radio needs to “move away” from emergency communications. Why? It’s not a zero sum game. There are many hams who do EMCOM, many who do hacking and homebrew, others who chase DX, some who contest, etc. And you know what? There are even hams engaged two, three, or more aspects of the hobby. That’s right. The vas majority of hams, including the seniors, really are capable of simultaneously chewing gum and walking.

  28. I’ve seen amateur radio advertised as a commodity for emergency communications. I live smack-dab in Silicon Valley, there is a local ham group that is heavy into emergency communications, running classes throughout the year for interested volunteers. I’ve never seen such “intensity” (read: anal-ness) in the people running the organization. They make it significantly less fun and more like a chore. In fact, I can’t stand a lot of the leadership. When we started going to Zoom meetings, this group couldn’t hang with the times and implemented draconian measures to make sure people were still paying attention in the Zoom calls, like giving quizzes every 20 minutes. If anyone from the SCC-ARES group is reading this, tell your leadership they are morons. This is a volunteer organization. Stop taking things so seriously!

    I’ve also lived through the wildfire scares of 2020, when the giant SCU Complex and Santa Cruz fires were forcing and threatening evacuations for millions of people in the Valley. The ham bands, especially the emergency repeaters for which all this have been set up…dead. No traffic whatsoever. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Empty. Quiet. It was so sad it was lame. I had to get my news and instructions on what to do through Facebook groups. It was at this moment that I knew I had been sold a lie about amateur radio.

    So yes, amateur radio as an asset in emergency communications might have been true some 20 years ago, but it is no longer true these days. The Internet infrastructure is so well built that it never truly goes down. It might for a local area but with the support infrastructure in place, it comes back rather fast. And the way I look at it, if I can’t get Internet, power, or cell reception then I’m probably screwed anyway. What the hell is a ham radio going to do for me when it’s likely that everyone of the ham operators are going to be in the dark just as much as I am? A radio tuned to the local news would be more utility.

    I also want to say that a lot of the hobby are occupied by grouchy, old guys. They want to keep the hobby as elitist as possible, which scares away a lot of new people. In fact, I was stumped at the supreme arrogance of some of the older hams when I was going through my ham cram. They were making fun of the Baofeng radios, calling them junk, without realizing just how ignorant that statement is. It’s because of Baofeng radios that you fools have more people to talk to on the air. Yet, most of the old hams are unpleasant at best. There are repeater groups who do not like and welcome new people. Instead, they are mean and nasty to them so that they can have the system all to themselves.

    Beyond that, on-air conversations generally fall into weather and antennas. There’s not much chance for deep dives or getting to really know a person. Most conversations are superficial at best. I just realized in listening to the Winsystem the other day that most old people simply don’t have any people skills.

    There are many reasons why this is a dying hobby, many of which have to do with the old fools that currently occupy the airwaves.

  29. I’m disappointed to see so many recommendations for SDR. I suggest (implore) that people start with the basics by building their own equipment. A simple DC receiver can be made with a dozen of so common parts and you’ll LEARN from it better than simply adopting a plug-in box that ‘does everything from the off’.
    As an older operator (G4-ticket) I’m reverting to tube technology by building a simple CW 40m receiver using 6U8 tubes and a 15W transmitter using a pair of readily-available tubes that is INDESTRUCTIBLE (try a bad SWR on a solid-state set….) and uses around 30 components in total.
    Check out any QRP site (QRP=low power) as a source of simple projects that will ENTHUSE you to delve deeper into this fascinating and educational hobby.

    1. SDRs are neat, though. And about the only true innovation in the last few years.

      Sure, direct conversation receivers are neat.
      In fact, they are the basis for SDRs, too.

      Built myself one with an EF95 tube and a crystal.
      To listen to RTL Radio on 3995 in DRM using Dream software and a soundcard.

      When I was little, I built crystal radios and lead a long wire antenna out of the window down into the garden.

      The problem is, AM broadcast on medium-wave is almost gone. At least here, in Europe.

      A regenerative receiver is also interesting to build, of course.
      So you can hear SSB/CW. And grumpy hams talking about their health or telegraphists doing their contesting.
      Fun to them, but for an SWL that’s boring.
      But that’s about all.

      An SDR provides so much more.
      You can do FM, QAM etc. And frequencies up to 2GHz.
      You can literally doing anything with an SDR.
      It’s a spectrum analyzer, essentially.
      You can even used is a panaroma monitor on your rig by using the IF out . Except if you’re using a somewhat limit FT-817/818. ;)

      That being said, I hope the best for amateur radio. And I always try my best to “make it great again” (sorry, but I couldn’t resist).

      Problem is, it’s hard to fight against windmills.
      Some old hams and some young, snobby hams make it very hard to present ham radio as a society of vivid, kind people with technical qualification and personal skills. “Humor they need”, Yoda would say. :D

      To my surprise, I’ve seen more ham spirits recently from CBers than I’ve seen (heard) from hams.
      Of course, that’s not representative.
      Perhaps the situation is different in the USA or UK, not sure. But it made me think..

  30. If I could make a device that in effect was echolink for texting, it would breathe new life into ham radio. I’d get rid of my cellphone and send a text out via packet radio which would be received by my home station and then shuttled from there where ever I wanted to. I could forward it to a cellphone and then when a reply was received my computer could send it out over packet to my portable texting device. I know interfacing to a commercial network is a big NO and the lack of being able to encrypt the text is a big NO – but rules aside, imagine how cool it would be. I’m aware of APRS, but I’m talking about something completely different or at least something that would interface well with APRS. Unfortunately, the peculiarities of digital formats doesn’t lend itself well to multiple formats without lots of confusion, and some kind of universally acknowledged format would maybe be the solution – yet it’s still a pipe dream because nobody can agree on anything. It’s kind of the like the CDMA/GSM difference with cellphones. That’s why I don’t see ham radio going much further than it is now. I see a lot of fighting and disagreements over digital formats and it’s why I like just simple analog talking both on HF and VHF/UHF. It doesn’t make me right by any means, but it’s how I view it. Back to my original thought – a texting via echolink would be great! It would actually serve a useful purpose versus just calling CQDX or CQ Contest and exchanging signal reports. Before widespread internet use and cellphones, it *DID* serve a useful purpose – I know because I had my ticket then, but now all the old reasons that encouraged people to get into the hobby – namely “FREE” long distance communications to the outside world – are largely gone. The high levels of organization behind the commercial communication ventures (cell companies) and the standardization of communication formats is what makes it work well.

    1. Again its about free thinking not wanting any fame or acknowledgement and sharing the Idea, being open for new discussion or shared idea and extension, thats what amateur is about for me. Share knowledge with someone who knows how to do it, who wants to assit and not wanting anything in return, and being patient

  31. The problem is not about the hobby, but about the commercial aspect and the person behind it. Technology is not killing initiative but the person who use it.
    I actually like to tinker with Electronics and all things technical but my days is getting numbered. I just live e.g. the raspberry pi, building networks of of the grid (mains power) systems from scrappy ideas, trying new Ideas to do old stuff, generally I like fooling around with radio, electronics and open source IT, but my funds is very limited. In a way its a good thing, as it means I cannot walk into a store and buy the best and most expensive commercial Multiband radio and antennas, I have to do with what I have available, so my thought is that world economics and the pace of everything is killing the hobby and initiative in general. Nobody have patience and general skills and initiative anymore. Look what Our forefathers made, most of the time while a military prisoner of some sorts somewhere. The only things he had was his mind, what was laying around and time (lots of it and he was in no hurry and if its not completed so what. The most beautiful handmade items big and small, from everything from scrap wood to metal. You just have to apply your mind (and not leave it to rot in a rat race world to noware) and use what is around you. I hardly throw anything away (to the frustration of my wife) because tomorrow I must just need something similar or even something to start the grey matter working or something I might not find anyware. Who would ever thought that something as simple as a valve (pentode etc) or a russian doorknob cap or a air core adjustable cap would be in such high demand nowadays, and it is just impossible to find so you have to use initiative and build something similar. You see, everything nowadays is about money and time. Break away from it tinkering with something trying to make something useful with out of the box thinking and being patient, plus not wanting any recognition, or money or fame from it, thats being amateur.

  32. The ham radio community isn’t interested in the maker community. I’ve had more success getting makers to embrace ham radio. To makers, ham radio is another arrow in their quiver to solve a problem.

  33. @Anonymous

    I just love this hippie argument that intellectual property isn’t real. And by people dependent on their parents. Well, you are staring at that unreal intellectual property, you are using it to write stupid comments, on a website full of intellectual properties. Your computer is made of intellectual properties of smart people who wasted their time, effort and resources to develop it. You are using a web browser who was created by people out of their ideas and work, and probably given out for free, but still they needed tools to do it, place to live, food, clothes, electricity, etc.

    So if everyone steals software, music, e-books, movies and tv shows, who will pay content creators to make that content? And this covers all of the IP, This is the reality – deal with it in mature, responsible way, or go live in your fantasy world of thieves…

    My country used to be socialist republic, we had hams too. I even own a Radioamateur handbook from 1978. Hams back then didn’t protect free speech by speaking over aether, because all outgoing transmissions were tracked and recorded by state, but no one could track, who was listening to what. So the hams built radio receivers and sold them, so people could listen to western stations, and when the need arose for some free speech, few of them built radio transmitters to be used by the people fighting the system. If the encryption was permitted back then, ham radio would be probably completely illegal in all communist countries from East Germany to China…

    As for letting everyone do whatever they want over radio, just imagine living next to a neighbour, who just made a 10kW 2,4GHz transmitter and fried your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and all other RF-sensitive devices…

    1. My computer is made of plastic and silicon, not “intellectual property”. If we abolished copyright tomorrow, my computer would still be here, and people would still be writing software for it. Life goes on.

      Being against intellectual property isn’t just a hippie argument; there’s the capitalist argument for it as well: copyrights are state-enforced monopolies. Why should I be forbidden from building something that someone else invented? Why am I not allowed to compete with them? Copyright eliminates competition and slows down innovation. There is no good argument in favor of it, other than “I’m very rich and I want to use the government to make myself richer”.

      You can’t steal something that doesn’t physically exist.

        1. Surely that keystep clone has secondary or tertiary purposes behind other than just selling it to consumers – like maybe testing how far they legally can go before investing in a much more expensive direct clone. Others have suggested it has something to do with pressures from his supply chain. Who knows…but that they cloned it so closely without even bothering to make the slightest improvements…I feel is telling.

      1. @ Anonymous: You are not “forbidden from building something that someone else invented.” You’re just not allowed to sell a patented invention and pretend it’s your design. At least that’s the case in countries that are part of WIPO. Go forth and build stuff for fun:-)

  34. I hate this kind of whining… “X community doesn’t tailor itself to the experience I want to have! X community needs to remake itself to suit me!!!”

    No. You need to quit whining and start building a space in X community that reflects what you want.

    Ham radio needs to embrace hackers? You’ve no real experience in the ham community. Nearly every ham I know has experimented with building their own gear; modding gear to get better performance or tweaking it to do a function they want it to do; building things unrelated to communications that use ham bands and other activities. Ham radio (as well as model railroad culture) is where the hacking community was born.

    What REALLY needs to happen is hackers that are interested in RF communications or operations should get a Tech license and start exploring what they can do with the RF spectrum they suddenly have access to.

    Quit whining that hams aren’t out chasing new people and start evangelizing yourself. Build the community you want to see and quit whining that someone else hasn’t done it for you.

    1. Wait, so you are telling me that a bunch of old white guys in their Ham Shacks with thousands of dollars of gear aren’t going to read an article on a website and suddenly change their ways?! This is 2020! ALL MUST KNEEL TO THE INTERNET’S WHIMS!

  35. I have heard these complaints ad nauseam, for years. Frankly, I do see Amateur radio embracing all these activities, including the hacker community, for which there is considerable overlap with. Could it do more? Of, course. But enuf now. Back to my “hacking” projects, or whatever you want to label them. Two of which right now involve DSP.

  36. It has been quite interesting to read the various opinions expressed in this discussion. That just reflects the wide appeal that ham radio has.
    I for one do not have any interest in the HF contests but many others do. A couple of years ago we had one member give a talk at our Ham club meeting on the various contests he had been involved in. It was really hard for me to stay awake! But he would probably feel the same way about my interest in modding old gear to give it new life.
    And, sure, there are some “Know Iit Alls” that can be a real pain, but that too just reflects society at large.
    We are fortunate here with having a very active club. At the start of 2020, quite a number of us worked hard to set up access to the Radio Australia Shepparton antennas for a 48 hour blitz. That was very interesting. I only talked to a couple of folk, my main interest was making and installing the BALUNs.
    For those interested, here is a link with more info…
    http://www.sadarc.org/xenforo/upload/index.php?forums/vi3ra-radio-australia-weekend.9/ It may be that some of the readers here took part in that event from “the other end”.

    Members of our club are experimenting with a great range of equipment. Even to the extent on making a remote monitored and controlled power distribution system for the repeater site.
    I would encourage folk to join a radio club and learn electronics. It really never has been easier to get into the hobby that it is now.

  37. Wow, this article got me excited to look into becoming a licensed ham. Then the comments by most of the licensed hams killed that excitement. Most of these people I don’t want to talk to on here, I’m certainly not going to invest time and money to talk to them on the radio.

    Here’s what mostly killed it for me: tone-deaf comments by people not realizing what type of website this is, Alex Jones like regurgitation of “think of the children!” “encryption = criminal” etc, “rules, rules, rules, rules,” including “rules are good for you!”, all the disparaging “hippie” talk, and reporting by hams that I might want to talk to about the futility of trying to work with all the hams I wouldn’t want to talk to.

    I can’t believe that even in an article saying, “let’s embrace people for x,y,z,” the people who should be the target audience are saying, “get x,y,z off my lawn!” Like most things in life, people of an old mindset are ruining ham radio. I’m not young by most standards, but I’ll never be that old. Thanks but no thanks. I say let it die and auction off all the frequency to progress.

    1. Why not become a ham and be part of the solution? If you think they need to be more friendly, why not be a friend yourself?
      Just remember that the ham radio world is full of people from the “Real” world, and that takes in all types. There are many folk I do not want to associate with there, and a few hams fall into that category too. That does not stop me from enjoying the hobby. Remember, you always have the ability to turn your radio off, or change to another frequency.

      1. Giving me another job to do, and this time it’s a “save the world” superham job? No thanks. If I were already invested, I might feel up to the challenge. I learned long ago that you can’t save other people. They can only save themselves. Here we see lots of examples of exactly who is killing ham radio, and it’s the ham operators themselves. This might be one of those cases when sorting through the debris might be more useful than preventing the disaster.

    2. John

      As a licensed amateur radio operator, I came eagerly to read the comments too – and I found pretty much the same moaning that I see in qrz.com. And this might be discouraging. Their tone is depressing nonetheless.

      ON THE OTHER HAND- I don’t do radio for or with them. Some of these lowlifes aren’t even active on the radio at all.

      THAT SAID;

      Over the course of these two years since my amateur radio comeback, I’m stunned – if not proud – with the knowledge that I was able to amass. I wetted my toes into designing my own RF circuits and found that’s pure black magic; making standard DC electronics look… vanilla.

      I don’t hold EE degree but reading a few books, blocking the usual despicable in QRZ and asking questions – I was able to obtain lots of knowledge. With the right filters (the clowns and the stupid), you can increase substantially your signal-to-noise rating and get to learn from very fine and knowledgeable people – and not only just ‘radio and antennas’ – it’s interesting the different walks of life you will find.

      It’s also noteworthy that most of the mainstream transceivers provides you with the full schematic – and it’s a great resource to learn – over there you get to learn how someone that designs RF stuff for a living solved some kind of problem. I leaned a LOT from reading schematics. That’s the exception for Flex Radio; shame on them.

      Get your license. Start where you can. Is it just a feng? Go for it. Can you get on more fancy equipment? Nice; start big is good too.

      Try. Expand the functionality. Tinker. Build. Write. Document. Share. Learn. Give back. Make memorable contacts; whatever wavelength or mode is that. Respect the band plan.

      Hope to cross antennas with you either on phone, ft8, rtty, sstv, or whatever else mode;


    3. If you judge any activity, hobby, sport, well, anything really based on existing members of that community, then you are going to end up in an empty room staring at a blank wall. Hell, some of the founders of this ‘hacker’ community turned out to be terrible people. I’ve seen literal n@zi’s discussing Arduino code before while googling an issue. Are you going to go uninstall the IDE and throw away all your Unos?

      If you want a perfect community where everyone is welcoming and it is all sunshine and rainbows, go pick up a Care Bear or My Little Pony book, because that is about the only place you are going to find it.

    4. I think you understand exactly the gist of [KJ7NZL]’s plea: the hobby needs to recruit folks with a newer mindset. So, instead of rejecting it for it’s present denizens, why not join it and help diversify the population? Radio as a hobby is not for everyone, but if it is, why not be part of the solution through participation?

      Also, nothing says you have to use it to do ‘phone’ — I certainly don’t. So you can avoid listening to the conspiracy theory folks simply by not tuning in. Much like I disagree with stuff on 4chan on the web, but its existence does not make me shun the Internet as a whole.

  38. I was all set to agree with the author, even with his abrasive comments toward those who enjoy the emcomm “fetish.”

    However, experimenters and hackers would not embrace the proprietary, licensed IP, crap world of System Fusion, etc.

    I hope a significant number of current and future members of the amateur radio community will pursue the experimentation and “art” of radio communication. Doing so with closed source and licensed IP “appliance” products is not conducive to the freedom to experiment. It also sends the wrong message.

    1. I very much agree — the existence of these proprietary products seems antithetical to the spirit of HAM.

      I do disagree with [KJ7NZL]’s suggestion of reducing the promotion of emcomm uses — this facility is part of the reason HAM gets spectrum at all. I think folks forget that the FCC is adversarial in the sense that their motivation is to allocate spectrum for the collective good, which practically means having a lot of consideration for commercial folks that pay $$$ for it. (E.g., we just lost 3.3-3.5 GHz) http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-orders-amateur-access-to-3-5-ghz-band-to-sunset. The ARRL is the HAM lobby in Washington for the continued allocation of spectrum to HAM. Part of that job is justification of allocation to HAM as opposed to commercial use, and part of that justification is emcomm activities. Please do /not/ reduce promotion of emcomm.

      1. I’m a hame, and here is my take, on the loss, of the 3.3-3.5 GHz spectrum. The FCC allocated if for us bty hams, hams in general didn’t utilze it, and the FCC reallocated it. RF spectrum is a limited resource, unreasonable, for hams to expect any portion of it to remain idle forever. Defund the FCC?? What operations of the FCC do expect them to eliminate, because of decreased operational funding?

  39. Find out how the TV, cell phone,. use of HF, UHF, VHF, ever came about. Ham radio is for innovation. For proving equipment. Designing new equipment. Providing a community that for the most part exchanges information on equipment.. Sure some groups just chat. But much of that chatting is comparing equipment, conditions, , whatever.

    What would you think if you designed and built a new super computer. New idea. Cost you everything you had to get it started. Next year after you start to earn something off it, you find someone who did not have to suffer without money, and all the struggles you did to develop it, put out an identical item but at far less cost because they did not have any development costs? They make a fortune but you make nothing.

    How about drug companies that spend millions developing something. Reverse engineer and a competitor could do it in a couple weeks. Would they do it again. No Neither would you..

    1. I noticed that. The Craig Horne all caps comment completely vanished with lots around it. I sort of understand why, since the article is trying to encourage new hams, but the old hams are turning everyone off. Way to set up the newbies for a harsh dose of reality when they sign on and they get crazy people screaming at them and their hippie ideals. If hams want to kill their hobby, I say let them. We’re going to need new spectrum for 8G I’m sure.

      1. I’m with you on disenfranchising the hams, but I’m not sure if handing the spectrum to megacorps is any better. I wish we could just defund the FCC so people could do whatever fun things they want with radios, but that’ll never happen.

        1. Defunding the FCC is unlikely to result in any positive progress. What it would do is allow those same megacorps to run all over the rest of us leaving nothing we can use without megawatts of broadcasting power. However, as Ajit Pai (may he die a thousand excruciating deaths) has shown, installing a puppet at the head of the FCC gives you everything you could ever want out of the airwaves.

          So, an anti-corporate, pro-encryption type head of the FCC is what we need. Sounds libertarian/green. Better than republican/democrat.

      2. I can totally see it with the ‘Ctrl-F’ and cut-pasting the name — if I view this thread on Hackaday. If I view it on WordPress, then I don’t see it. I suspect that this is probably due to something something pedestrian (synchronizing databases? who knows?) than anything nefarious such as censorship.

  40. So why do need to malign the hobby and especially those who just want the license as an insurance policy? How many people have a driver’s license and don’t drive? How many have a pilot’s license and don’t fly? They do not need to “embrace” anyone for Pete’s sake. Let them do what they want to do. If you’re a hacker and want to dabble in ham, get a license, and start a club of your own. The ARRL will let anyone start up a club. Quit trying to force people to adapt to you.

  41. The FCC regs are clear (and I believe this is true of all nations that license amateur radio) that encryption is not allowed on the ham bands, yet there are things that seem to have slipped by. One is D-Star, a digital voice encoding system by radio manufacturer Icom. I’m not sure of the current status, but it was originally only on Icom radios and used a proprieatary chip made by Icom. The fact that the encoding and decoding scheme wasn’t publically documented made it de facto encryption. Some people noticed this and complained, but the FCC seems to have ignored it and most hams seem happy enough to have D-Star. French regulators did notice, and made D-Star radios illegal on the ham bands in France (See D-Star on Wikipedia).

    Then there’s Winlink (basically, over-the-ham-band email). Somewhere I read where the original promise of this was to allow “secure” communications for amataur emcomm services, so that “sensitive information” doesn’t go out to the public (and media, as in commercial TV news). Some possible emergency messaging is strongly disccouraged from being transmitted over a “clear channel” as it might upset the public, such as “East Bumtucket Hospital needs 95 body bags”. That’s basically what Winlink (and some previous not-publically-documented digital ham communication formats) was designed for. There seems to be a specific definition of encryption in some areas of ham radio that I’d not heard before, that a format is only encryption if the INTENT is to keep those other than the recipient from decoding the message, but in this case the intent is something else, but I don’t know what that something else is.

    Despite this conundrum, I find amateur radio yet another good area for technical exploration. The “bad” part for a techie is almost all hams at any club are not techies, or at least attend clubs for social, non-techie reasons. Many club presentations are “technical” but are usually about making and using antennas, antenna cables, propagation, batteries and “go stations” (rigs mounted in a box for easy toting in emergency situations), demos of new digital modes such as FT4 and FT8, but nothing about designing radios. I went to college for electrical engineering, and joined ARRL a couple years ago mostly to get the QEX (very technical radio design) subscription because RF is a challenge I’ve not yet done in my career. If you want to play with transmitting and receiving RF, there are a few very limited and very low-power bands that you don’t need a license for, but otherwise you need an amateur license, probably an Extra license to access all the bands. Fortunately it’s not hard for a techie to learn the needed material (part technical and partly about regulations), especially with free info online, and pass all three tests.

    1. If people want magic again try psychedelic mushrooms,clown costumes,ventriloquist dummies,a mystical order or join the magic circle club.But even these things are becoming old world now.Only the space race is left to inspire that feeling of the unknown that is waiting to excite the next generation.That,at least ,will require homework and the love for new knowledge.There is always the eternal thrill of sex but the oldest in the tribe have no need for such high energy chases.Something is out there beckoning the minds of our children and all we can do is wait n see!

  42. Author seems to have used the post to promote someones Yaesu Fusion Reflector, while at the same time its another article on why ham radio is doing it all wrong which I don’t think is overly helpful.

    Outside of North America, theirs very little focus on the hobby being just for emergency communications and preppers, but at the same time i’m confused by the comment on promote SDR, the hobby is full of it, and has been for a number of years from cheap dongles, commercial SDRs to small groups building radios.

    While I agree with most people lots of clubs even in the UK are terrible and at times full of old people, it seems strange to just write someone off for their age, that person still could be building equipment at 80+, while the hobby has issues of elitism (the not real radio lot) and you get hams who take it upon themselves to bully people (been on the receiving end of it) theres plenty good, the hobby is growing, in the UK numbers of hams taking the exam are up and from what I can see people are getting on air and not just 59 and byes but having technical chats.

    It would be nice to see hackaday sharing some positives about the hobby.

  43. It’s obvious, for me as a radio amateur, that we have everything to do with makers and hackers. The essence of our hobby is the same as the one that created the hacker and maker communities. We are made of the same wood.
    That’s why I started the “HAM-3D project”. Its main objective is to gather around 3D printing, the communities of makers, hackers, radio amateurs and other radio amateurs. This project has just started and I hope it will succeed in bringing together these communities which are made to work together.
    You can find all useful information about the HAM-3D project here:

    de F4HTZ

  44. I’ve been a ham for nearly 50 years, and I guarantee these comments are exactly the same comments I was hearing 40 years ago… Ham radio is diverse in both types of people in it, and types of subjects within it. You don’t have to like DX or 2 meters, You might be interesting in more digital aspects or for that matter you might like building radios with tubes.

    Personally I have been to several hacker conventions and I have worked for a computer company with a fruity logo. I love doing low power CW and doing it from strange locations that I have to hike to. You may not like high speed CW or hiking, and we may never meet, but rather than thinking of ham radio as an end point, think of it as a means to an end. Once you are licensed, you might be taken a little more seriously— people know that you stuck it out and learned at least the basics that got you to your current license.

    Think of that ham radio license as a university diploma. You may never need to know Latin conjugation or differential calculus EVER again in your life, but that diploma is proof that you are an adult that can stick it out and spend the time to learn something. Personally I was always happy to hire someone that had a ham radio license because I could depend on them to have at least a basic understanding of electronics, and for that matter I knew they could stick it out and learn new things.

    just my 2 cents

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