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

From: Tom Rondeau
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] ham/amateur getting started
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 2015 10:14:30 -0500

On Sat, Dec 26, 2015 at 7:16 PM, Kevin McQuiggin <address@hidden> 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.

An "amateur" experimenter does not know what "won't work" according to the experts, and may very well try something unusual that results in a new discovery.  This characteristic tinkering has served as a source of innovation.

Propagation theory, slow scan television, cheap satellites, and some aspects of packet radio are just some examples of ideas or technologies that were first developed, or extended and explored, within amateur radio.

All that said, I think that the current licensing standards and characteristics of amateur radio are much different than from the hobby's early days through say 10-20 years ago.

The percentage of technically-motivated people within the hobby - those whose primary inclination is to build and experiment, and who have a keen interest in the development new technologies is, in my ~40 year experience in the activity, much lower than it once was.

This interest in technology and radio communication in the scientific sense was my primary motivation for licensing back in the 1970s.

>From a technological perspective, this general shift in motivation is unfortunate.  The hobby still serves society through a new focus on community service and utilitarian communication in support of public events, emergency preparedness, etc, but this represents a significant shift away from the technological foundation that originally defined it.  Technological experimentation and development is no longer central to the broader base of the activity.

In my opinion SDR and things like gnuradio are "where it's at" in terms of leading-edge communications technology development.  All "hams" should be experimenting with these new techniques.  However, this hope is unrealistic, given the changed amateur radio focus and its now primarily non-technical demographic.

Here on the list, I think that we'll see that remaining small percentage of amateurs who are technically inclined, and willing to invest time in a steep learning curve in order to figure this really interesting SDR stuff out!



> On Dec 26, 2015, at 3:14 PM, Markus Heller <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hi Tom,
> that's right, I don't operate that much myself. I do from time to time,
> and sometimes I also take great pleasure in worldwide CW contests, out
> in the German wilderness, in a tent :-) But just twice a year. The rest
> of the time I rather focus software development, APRS & Raspberry, SDR
> development and understanding how you compare traditional AC signal
> processing with maths, as most people on this list.
> Our hobby is so diverse and it has so many interesting sides, and it is
> a real pitty that in the public perception many people reduce it to
> sitting in front of a box chatting with others. That is one important
> aspect, but it is not the core of amateur radio.
> If you look at the laws that define amateur radio: It is a legal
> framework for people who want to do private experiments with radio
> devices whatsoever. It is not defined as a free alternative to
> cellphones.
> best73
> markus
> dl8rds

Kevin, Markus,

Excellent points and great emails. Thanks very much for your thoughts on this!


> Am Samstag, den 26.12.2015, 15:34 -0500 schrieb Tom Rondeau:
>> On Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 7:06 PM, Markus Heller <address@hidden>
>> wrote:
>>        Hi there,
>>        I'm very sorry that I cannot join this FOSDEM. I'd love to,
>>        but I must
>>        travel to see an old friend of our family who is seriously ill
>>        - I
>>        promised to visit him end of January.
>>        I'd like to contradict to Martin's observation. Last year's
>>        FOSDEM
>>        clearly showed that around 80% of the GNURadio audience holds
>>        an Amateur
>>        Radio callsign.
>>        There are many more HAMs than it seems around here. Keep in
>>        mind that we
>>        had a guest list at the UBA / DARC booth and we got around 90
>>        signatures...
>>        I am also pretty sure that it will just be the same for the
>>        next
>>        FOSDEM.
>>        vy73
>>        markus
>>        dl8rds
>> Markus,
>> First, really too bad you can't make it this year, and we appreciate
>> the hams that are building cool stuff with GNU Radio. However, I
>> wanted to point out that while many of us /have/ an amateur license
>> and call sign, there's a different question of how many really operate
>> at hams? I think that second number in our project is significantly
>> lower.
>> This isn't meant to discourage anyone here. I just thought that should
>> be more clear.
>> Tom
>>        Am Donnerstag, den 24.12.2015, 15:05 -0800 schrieb Martin
>>        Braun:
>>> Hey Daniel,
>>> thanks for this discussion. We don't get a whole lot of
>>        hardcore hams
>>> here, despite the radio, and it'll be nice to make it easier
>>        for them to
>>> join the community. I look forward to your wiki
>>        contributions!
>>> On 12/24/2015 01:57 PM, Daniel Pocock wrote:
>>>> [...]
>>>> OK, I'll probably get into making some contributions like
>>        that as I
>>>> start playing around with it.  I'm still at a very early
>>        stage just
>>>> working out which hardware I need and how to get it.
>>>> Will you or anybody else with an interest in this for
>>        amateur purposes
>>>> be over at FOSDEM?  There is an SDR dev-room[1] again and
>>        there was also
>>>> talk on the main FOSDEM list about an amateur radio
>>        presence[2] of some
>>>> sort.
>>> We weren't able to find someone to speak on behalf of the
>>        hams at next
>>> year's FOSDEM, but there'll be a booth. I do hope to find
>>        some hams in
>>> the audience, though.
>>> Cheers,
>>> Martin
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Discuss-gnuradio mailing list
>>> address@hidden
>>> https://lists.gnu.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss-gnuradio
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