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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] ham/amateur getting started

From: Daniel Pocock
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] ham/amateur getting started
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 15:55:22 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Icedove/31.8.0

On 27/12/15 09:40, Marcus Müller wrote:
> Hi Kevin,
> beautiful email!
> On 12/27/2015 01:16 AM, Kevin McQuiggin wrote:
>> Amateur radio has also historically been a source of innovation and new 
>> technologies.  This has been fairly constant throughout the 100+ years of 
>> amateur activity.  In many cases, while a specific new technology may not 
>> have arisen directly from amateur radio activity, the innovative spirit that 
>> arises from amateur "tinkering" activity has inspired many "hams" to 
>> innovate commercially, generating new products and technologies.
>> The fact that amateur radio is, by definition, "amateur", and that the "ham" 
>> population is diverse educationally and socially is in itself a form of 
>> technological advantage.
> And that's why it's so exciting to have amateur operators to talk to --
> I don't come from a ham background myself, and so I'm learning new stuff
> every day. It's often the practical things that stop you if you're a
> "theory and lab person".

It is not just about innovation and communication, amateur radio is also
a great opportunity for education.

I first came across amateur radio when I was about 15 living in rural
Australia.  There were several of us of a similar age who got through
the advanced theory exam.  Local schools didn't offer anything at all
like this outside the normal curriculum, we got into it through a local
amateur radio club.  Five years later and every one of those people was
at one of the world's top 50 universities.

I feel that people are generally being a ham when they are using their
brain and doing just about anything that is not already written down for
them.  People with this mindset have a lot of other options today thanks
to the Internet - the script kiddies raining havoc on Talk Talk
recently[1] may have been hams if they were born 20 years earlier, then
they wouldn't be facing juvenile detention right now.

> Now, if an amateur radio enthusiast gets in touch with GNU Radio, I
> always hope we don't lose her/his interest in the first 15 minutes; we
> just throw so much at someone who hasn't had exactly the same education
> as we had. The point is that GNU Radio really must be
> tinkering-friendly, and that means that it should be possible for people
> to start with something working, if possible even with something that
> means something to them, and work as deep as they need, learning stuff
> along the way.

People do need to see some kind of results - like little rewards - early on.

Another issue for people not in a lab is that they have to purchase
equipment with their own money.  For those who don't have deep pockets
and lots of motivation, it is useful to show examples of complete
projects for different budgets.  e.g. what can somebody do with less
than $200, less than $500, less than $1000, less than $2000 perhaps.
Vendors may want to look at ways to get their equipment into clubs like
the one I joined many years ago.

> The guided tutorials we wrote are a step in that direction, but they are
> definitely not ham-friendly or -centric; they are very hands-on (if
> followed through actively), but they don't attempt to cooperative well
> with people that have a lot of radio comm knowledge, just not on the DSP
> side. Essentially, a computer science student with a few hours of
> digital modulation basics will probably have a better chance getting
> through them than someone who actually has sent digital symbols to the
> moon and back. That is not fair, let alone a good thing.

The ham radio wiki page probably needs to consider a few permutations as
hams have so many different backgrounds:

- computing/programming experience, e.g.
    those who just know how to write a shell script,
    self-taught Python programmer or high school student,
    professional computer science graduate
- people who have an engineering or physics degree vs those who don't
- some people have thorough experience with RF or electronics (possibly
without any theoretical degree) while others only have basic experience

Each group has slightly different strengths and requirements and
slightly different things to offer back to the community too.




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