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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] Transmit legit, become a ham

From: John Gilmore
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] Transmit legit, become a ham
Date: Fri, 05 Mar 2010 03:22:37 -0800

> Nothing forces you to interact with other ham radio operators. You can
> happily work in isolation communicating among your own stations if you
> wish.

Unless you need to do frequency coordination, which you usually do.
Then you have to deal with the oldest, gnarliest hams around, the ones
who 50 years ago got access to mountaintop towers and have been squatting
on them ever since, like trolls under bridges.

> However, ham-land contains a ready pool of technically inclined
> people, most of whom are interested in but not well informed about
> subjects like software defined radio and Free Software.

I got a ham Tech license in the 1970-80's and it was one of the more
disappointing experiences in my life.  What a culture clash!  The ham
fraternity was filled with people who spent all their time
chit-chatting on their handheld radios about their personal lives, but
who knew and cared very little about radio technology or computers.
(Nowadays everyone has cellphones, but in those days they were the
only ones who could communicate mobile.)  They fought uselessly over
stupid little status things like how short or long your callsign was.
I soldered together a 1200 bps packet radio interface board, ran
BBS's, evolved protocol software, and taught classes on digital radio
communication protocols to the interested part of the local Bay Area
ham community (led by Hank Magnuski, KA6M).  The almost universal
attitude among the hams who I met was "We got here first, we own these
frequencies, don't you put any funny computer stuff on 'em because
that will just attract more of the public to horn in on our monopoly."
They actively threatened to turn me in to the FCC for any real or
imagined violation of the incredibly picky rules, like letting someone
else log in over my radio modem ("carrying third party traffic").
Really friendly folks.

I decided to retire my ham license until a large number of the
existing hams died off (many were middle aged or older).  Perhaps now
the worst jerks have cleared the ranks, and some more welcoming people
are hams; I don't know.  I moved my digital radio experiments to the
unlicensed bands, ignored the hams, and have been much happier ever
since.  I think the hams are still doing 1200 bps FSK, while the
unlicensed folks have evolved to 108,000,000 bps WiFi.  There must be
tens of thousands of hams nationwide.  There are tens of thousands of
WiFi nodes in San Francisco alone -- and no crazy restrictions about
not using encryption, not letting other people use your radio, etc.


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