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Three Letters to a Magazine

Three Letters to a Magazine
by Chris G7DDN

Today was “Porn Magazine” day!

Before you jump to rash conclusions, this is my wife’s description of the day in each month when the Radio Society of Great Britain’s monthly journal ‘RadCom’ hits our doormat.

She knows I will be perusing and purring over the articles and adverts, looking to see what is new in the world of Amateur Radio.

If only there were a glossy glamour photo of the new Icom 7610… …oh there is, yay!

The Last Word

Today though, it was not a new piece of radio equipment or a particularly inspiring piece of writing that caught my attention. Today I was particularly struck by a thread of letters to the editor, in what is known as the “Last Word” column.

There has been a particularly interesting set of opinions expressed about new technology and its impact on our hobby. And if I am honest, I hope I am not the only one somewhat concerned about what I am reading.


Correspondent number one was recounting the magic of amateur radio and how it is our joint responsibility as Hams to reach out to others to increase our numbers – all good stuff.

But he then went on to say and I quote “…of course the young will have their iPods, iPads iPhones and the like, but there is no ‘magic’ with those devices”

I am sure the writer is not trying to wind anyone up when he writes this – it just betrays how difficult it is for us older hams to see the world through the eyes of people younger than us.

But let’s be brutally honest, surely this represents a huge misunderstanding of where 21st Century people are.

Try telling 99% of today’s population that there is no “magic” in their mobile devices!

A device that is a touchscreen pocket computer; a device more powerful than a desktop PC from only a few years ago; a device that allows instant communication world-wide with HD live video in addition to audio and instant messaging; a device capable of storing your complete music library on it…

Seriously? That is not magic? It looks like magic to me! A small slab of glass which does almost anything in the communication sphere that you can imagine? Wow!

Remember Windows 3.1?

A reality check for us oldies!

Most under 30s do not remember a time before a “Start” button in Windows! (Just let that sink in!)

Most under 30s have no concept of what a “tuning knob” on a radio is for.

Most under 30s have no concept of what Ham Radio actually is, does or understand how it works (and they show little interest in wanting to know either, from my experience!)

However, most under 30s own at least one smartphone, tablet or computer and probably know how do some level of coding on it too.

This shows the scale of the task we are up against in getting new people interested in our hobby. Sadly, we are perceived, if we are perceived at all, as being old fashioned, out-of-date and out-of-touch.

Electronic Scrap

But these were not the only comments that struck me in a less than impressive way.

A second writer noted that “…amateur radio communications are point to point with no enormous infrastructure in between, other than dear old Mother Nature! Take that infrastructure away and all those much-hyped wonderful devices would be so much electronic scrap!”

OK, I would argue the assertion that all Ham Comms are point-to-point, but I can see what the writer is saying.

But when I actually think about it, in the 25 or so years that I have owned a mobile device, I cannot recall one time it didn’t have a connection to the network.

Millions are spent improving the Internet and particularly the mobile access to it, both in terms of speed and coverage. Yes it can be turned off, yes it is vulnerable to malicious intent, but for 99.9999 recurring percent of the time, it works!

I would posit that there is precious little chance of these devices becoming “electronic scrap”, except in an apocalyptic scenario…

It’s the End of the World…

which brings me to the third correspondent.

He predicted that, in an Armageddon event, “cellular phone networks, social media, cash machines, local authorities, food supplies, power stations, water supplies, gas and electricity and fuel producers, the military, police, fire and ambulance services.” would all close down.

He concludes that “Amateur Radio and RAYNET could then become part of the few remaining communicating methods left in the country.”

Again you can’t disagree on the surface and I do get the point.

But really, if all these devices and organisations have gone down in an apocalyptic event and it’s every man for himself, I don’t think my first thought will be to spend time erecting a 40m dipole and using my EMP-protected (you had thought of that, hadn’t you?) FT-817 to see if I can make contact with some other poor starving members of the human race, who are also trying to survive the aftermath…

I do hope the letter authors will forgive me, as I do “get” where they are coming from, but I really feel they are missing the most important point.

The Internet is the Medium

That point is that, in the 21st Century, we have a new means of propagation that pretty much everyone can, and does, already access (without exams and a special licence) – the Internet.

And it would be remiss of us to ignore that or worse still, belittle it, just because it is new, man-made and not the ionosphere that we all love so much!

The ionosphere is a fantastic natural resource, though with S9 of noise in most urban settings these days, it is sadly becoming increasingly difficult to make meaningful contacts in the way we used to. Like it or not, the Internet is the 21st century propagation medium of choice.

What’s this to do with Network Radios?

Here we have devices that, in one way, are not radios in the normal sense, but that still use RF to communicate. Radios that do not use the ionosphere, but use this newer means of propagation, the Internet.

I think the majority of people these days can relate to these devices – they are familiar enough to be comprehensible, but different enough to introduce them to the delights of 2-way communication.

In other words, it’s a potential practical route in to our form of radio communications in general, and Ham Radio in particular.

Yes, some may not progress all the way to a Ham License, but some might and that has got to be a good thing – we need to start where people are and with the technology they use every day.

Surely we cannot offer them what seems, on the surface, to be an “inferior” form of communication, coupled with an exam, as the sole means of entry to what is, in the end, a hobby?

I fear the current state of affairs in Ham Radio could well lead to our extinction as a hobby (well before the end-of-the-world event predicated by the writer of the third letter to RadCom.)

Honey, I Shrunk the World!

Years ago, communicating long distance was only possible by expensive operator-placed telephone calls or by Ham Radio. Not so now – the mobile internet has shrunk the world and Ham Radio needs to redefine itself to remain relevant in the 21st Century. I really don’t think we will achieve that by suggesting there is no “magic” in mobile devices!

In fact, we cannot assume anything anymore – people do not have any “context” that allows them to understand what Ham Radio actually is, so we have to find other ways to relate to them. Starting with devices they already own and have in their pocket with them is surely one relevant way to do that. Network Radios are exactly the kind of device that can build on that interest.

Using Android OS, using a touch screen, able to use apps they already use, able to be a phone, an internet device, but setup for amateur-style communications, they just might be the perfect hybrid device, or at least the start of development towards such a device.

I would urge all Hams to keep an open mind about this subject and not dismiss the Network Radio phenomenon out of hand.

Where it will all lead, who knows? But it could be to a much brighter future than many fear…

© Chris Rolinson G7DDN

March 2018

N.B. Chris is giving a presentation on Network Radios at the Wythall Hamfest near Birmingham UK on Sunday 25th March 2018 at 11.00am. All are welcome.

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“It’s not real Ham Radio!” by Chris G7DDN

in the picture – Inrico TM-8

A Pioneering Background

I was musing recently on the wonderful history of Amateur Radio, from the early pioneers with spark transmitters and the race to get the first signals across the Atlantic, up to the Microwave enthusiasts who developed the way forward for space communications and satellite technology (and, whisper this, mobile phone technology!)

The history of Ham Radio and RF technology is inextricably linked – there was even a time here in the UK where it was believed, anecdotally, that a Ham Radio callsign would help you to get a job with the BBC!

However change came very quickly, relatively speaking, in the early history of radio. From Marconi’s experiments to the first Public Broadcast Stations was only 25 or so years. TV was only another 15 years or so behind that, and so on…

Resistance (or not feeling at “Ohm”)

Yet the history of Ham Radio is also one of resistance to change – not from the pioneers, they were often instigators of it, but from the “everyday” Hams.

Let me see if I can give you some examples, with my tongue planted very firmly in my cheek…

“That’s not Real Ham Radio!”

The early Hams used CW pretty much exclusively. So when AM arrived as one of the first of the voice modes, there was a bit of an uproar…“It’s not real Ham Radio! Real Ham Radio involves using a Morse Key! What in world is the hobby coming to, using voice to communicate over the airwaves? It’s sacrilege!”

But life went on, AM found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then transistor technology arrived in the late 1940s and early 1950s, provoking quite a response. “Hang on! That’s not real Ham Radio. Real Ham Radios glow in the dark – we can’t be having this miniature technology – they’ll never last as long as valves or be as reliable”

But life went on, solid state devices found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then SSB arrived and there was more discontent… “That’s not real Ham Radio. Real Ham Radios don’t sound like Donald Duck! It’s a fad, it will soon fall away once people get fed up of hearing those silly voices”

But life went on, SSB found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then FM and repeaters arrived and there was polarisation within the hobby (and it wasn’t horizontal or vertical either!) “That’s not real Ham Radio. Real Ham Radio doesn’t need to use that thing on top of the hill to help your signal get somewhere! Real Ham Radio is point to point!”

But life went on, FM & repeaters found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then Packet Radio arrived and there was real trouble… “That’s not real Ham Radio. Real Ham Radio doesn’t need one of those new-fangled computer thingies in order to work. Get your key or your mic out and start working other Hams properly!”

But life went on, Packet Radio found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then Digimodes arrived and there was yet more strife… “That’s not real Ham Radio. Real Ham Radio doesn’t involve typing messages to other Hams – and those perishing computers again! What on Earth are they doing in the hobby?”

But life went on, Digimodes found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then Digital Voice modes arrived and there were some very serious disagreements… “That’s not real Ham Radio. Real Ham Radios don’t sound like R2D2! Real radios don’t use the Internet to help them get round the world, they ABSOLUTELY HAVE to use atmospheric propagation. What is happening to this hobby???”

But life went on, D-STAR and other Digital Voice modes found acceptance and all was well in Hamland once again.

Then we arrive at today and Network Radios come onto the scene and all hell breaks loose! “That’s not real Ham Radio. This is playing at Ham Radio – there’s no Amateur RF so it is simply not Ham Radio. What is more, I worked hard for my license, everyone else should have to too! How dare people enjoy communications in an incorrect manner!” 

So will life go on and will all ever be well in Hamland again?

The 21st Century Challenge

This is why the advent of Network Radios represents such a challenge to us as Hams – it is causing us to completely rethink what it means to be a Radio Amateur in 2018 and beyond.

And we will have to start facing up to questions similar to these…

  • What exactly defines a Radio Amateur?
  • What do we mean by “Amateur RF”?
  • Is it RF generated by someone who is an Amateur?
  • Or is it RF generated on a particular band allocated to us by the government?
  • If so, does it absolutely HAVE to be that?
  • Can it be nothing else?
  • Does any of this really matter?

What about our bands?

As Hams we are very “attached” to our bands. Whether it be 160m or 2m, we almost have a psychological sense of “ownership” of them.

We have “favourite” bands, we have bands we never frequent.

We even have “our” spot frequencies and some Hams will get somewhat “assertive” if a fellow amateur who is not in their “group” dares to use “their” frequency!

And yet in the 21st Century, I believe that the whole concept of bands & frequencies is becoming ever more fluid. Why would this be?

An example from Broadcast Radio

Not that long ago, we could tune into broadcast stations on Long Wave (LF), Medium Wave (MF), Short Wave (HF) and FM (VHF Band II). Stations frequently referred to themselves by frequency: “247 metres Radio 1” or “1152 AM” for example. It was seen part of the station’s identity – many had the frequency in their station names!

But today, we increasingly hear less of this. When you listen to broadcast stations these days, they seem to be eschewing giving out frequencies, instead they just announce that they are on “FM, DAB and Digital” or something similar to that.

Why? Because radio is something you probably increasingly consume in one of two ways – either digitally (via DAB or Satellite or similar means) or by streaming via the Internet. Frequencies and by extension, bands, are not as relevant as they once were.

Moving Out!

The large broadcasters are also increasingly moving away from “traditional” radio.

On Short Wave – only a few countries & various religious groups seem to operate there now. The big guys are moving out of Long and Medium Wave too. If commercial broadcasters are moving away, we need to ask why.

Do Bands matter?

I have a suspicion that this is, in part at least, because bands and frequencies don’t matter so much these days. Domestic radio appliances are more about push buttons and screens that get you to your station instantly, rather than tuning dials with frequencies. It’s the end product that is important, not necessarily the manner in which it gets to you.

Who tunes a modern broadcast radio in these days with a manual tuning dial? Anyone? It was the main knob on all radios not that many years ago! I can even remember tuning old VHF TV in with a dial in my early days on this planet – that really seems odd now!

Going one step further, many broadcast stations are not even using direct RF at all these days! We still refer to them as “radio stations” (or occasionally “Internet radio stations”)

Is there any reason to think Ham Radio as a hobby will not invariably move in a similar kind of direction? One of our strengths historically as Hams has been that we are good at embracing new technologies and adapting them for our own uses.

The point I am leading up to is this – I suspect “bands” and “frequencies” are not really as big an issue in the digital age as we might like them to be.

In essence, bands only exist because of propagation.

Propagation again

160, 40m, 20m,10m, 2m etc. are all, in reality, “line-of-sight” bands. To over-simplify the subject, it is the ionospheric or tropospheric layers that enhance this line-of-sight propagation and turn it into something else.

Each band has differing propagation qualities as a result, giving each band its “character” and for some, the study of propagation in itself is a fascinating part of the hobby.

Man-made propagation is just different

When we think of (and use) the Internet as a man-made propagating medium (which is what it is – it propagates signals around the world) then the concept of bands becomes redundant.

The Internet is like one, almost infinitely wide, worldwide “band”, constantly open S9+40 to all countries 24/7 with few vagaries – and not just for voice, but for vision and other digital modes as well.

Put like that, who wouldn’t want to use it? Would it actually matter what “band” you were (or were not) on, if there even were one?

So the concept of “bands”, by which so many of us define our activities, may be crumbling in front of us in this digital age and we may not even realise it yet!  That is not to say our bands don’t still exist, by the way – clearly they do. It is just that, to many people these days, bands are a foreign concept.

And then what?

As the hobby starts to come to terms with some of the implications of this, other issues then start to arise, such as…

  • Do we need an exam any more to get a licence?
  • Do we even need a licence?
  • What form or forms should it take, if so?
  • Might we see an influx of new people coming into the hobby because the entry to it is more straightforward?
  • How would we cope with that?
  • Do we even want new people coming in, especially if their views differ from ours?
  • What will the hobby even look like in 20 years time?
  • What happens to our “traditional” bands?

I expect to see a lot of discussion in the future about this – it’s actually quite exciting!

Out of the Comfort Zone…

However it will make many of us feel extremely uncomfortable – the ground is shifting beneath our feet and the traditional raison d’être of Ham Radio is waiting to be challenged to change and adapt…

I don’t see this as a bad thing – intelligent honest debate is to be welcomed. The most important thing is to keep our minds and our thinking wide open. We shouldn’t reject something just because it is new or because it challenges our preconceived ideas of where radio is going in general.

Equally, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and reject traditional Ham Radio as it has been for years. The Ionosphere and the Internet are complementary, not in competition.

My own opinion?

If you have read this far and you really want my personal thoughts…

Why can we not have the best of both worlds? Surely we can.

Network radios (at this stage in their development at least) are not contest radios for example, and the Internet is not yet a contest-friendly mode of propagation. (That might change of course!) so contesting is still best on the traditional Ham bands. I’ll see you on 80 metres – 59 001 OM…

However, regular reliable high-quality contacts around the world are but one thing Network Radios excel at, so why not just use that when you want to (or when the HF bands are full of noise or are otherwise dead)? I do! I don’t see the expansion of choice in the hobby as a bad thing.

Enjoyment is the key

Does the fact that I am transmitting on cellular frequencies at 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz or on Wi-Fi on 2.4GHz or 5GHz matter? Is there something intrinsically evil about that? Is there more virtue in using 21 MHz or 432MHz, for example? They are just “frequencies” after all.

I prefer to see myself following the motto of my local radio club, “Having fun with RF”. Whether I choose to use a Network Radio or a Yaecomwood super-duper base station is not as relevant to me. Enjoyment of the hobby is everything, otherwise why have a hobby?

Whichever way this debate goes and whichever direction this great hobby takes, my line would be to keep all the richness of every aspect of the hobby.

In other words, to go back to the title of this piece and change but one word, “It’s ALL ‘real’ Ham Radio”

© March 2018 – Chris Rolinson G7DDN

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Adjusting Talkpod N58 Audio from the service menu by G7LEU

I finally have a good configuration for the media volume, I.e. the one that matters most of the time. In the engineering menu audio section -> loudspeaker mode -> media I’ve set level 0 to 160, then added 6 per step so that level 1 is 166, level 2 is 172, etc.. That gives an almost off level for the lowest volume and an almost loudest level for the highest volume.

It was a very awkward adjustment. Starting slightly higher than 160 caused all levels to be way too loud, and much lower than 160 meant that all volume levels were way too quiet. That setting is definitely not linear across the whole range!

Note: To enter service menu, dial the following code:  *#*#3646633#*#*

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Network Radios – a route into Amateur Radio?

By Chris Rolinson G7DDN

For some years now, the hobby of Amateur Radio has faced a looming existential crisis.

A little history

In the early days of radio technology, Amateur Radio was a hobby very much for experimenters, people on the cutting edge of technical RF technology. They broke new ground and paved the way for commercial operators and broadcasters to make the most of the RF spectrum. Unsurprisingly, many early Hams were involved in the founding of such organisations as the BBC.

Following the pivotal roles played by radio communicators from 1939-1945, the hobby saw a post-war bulge in numbers, augmented by many ex-servicemen from various signals regiments. 

In that era, one of the great attractions of Ham Radio was building and testing one’s own equipment plus the ability to communicate with people on the other side of the world. Most who joined had had experience in electronic construction and in using Morse Code, so the entry requirements to the hobby were not perhaps as insurmountable as they later came to be viewed.

The late 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of Japanese HF Radios, which in themselves began to give birth to the rise of the so-called “appliance operator”, though home construction still flourished. 

The rise of Pirate Radio stimulated many to get into the hobby too, some through dubious means – it was not uncommon for local Medium Wave Pirate stations to appear on air playing pop music and inadvertently wander into the Amateur Top Band allocation, where they were met with a mixture of bewilderment and encouragement to “get a proper licence!” Many did.

In the late 1970s and early 1980’s the CB craze contributed to a further bulge of interest, probably the largest in the hobby’s history, yet not welcomed by many established amateurs to be absolutely honest, but that’s dissipated now too.  

Since the 1990’s Amateur Radio has been struggling to find its new identity, especially in the multi-connected 21st Century. It has dropped the Morse requirement, made the exam entry route into the hobby more “palatable”, but still, social media is more accessible, addictive and the internet takes up a lot of people’s spare time.

Who is coming into the hobby?

A lack of younger people (and by that, we can probably count the under 40s!) coming into the hobby, coupled with the perceived “threat” of the Internet being able to accomplish a lot of what Radio used to, have together conspired to reduce the numbers of people interested in Ham Radio. 

The newcomers to our hobby are frequently the so-called “empty-nesters” – people who are in their 50s or older. They have the time (and the money!), now the kids have left the nest, to revisit that “radio hobby” which they remember but never got around to playing with in their younger years.

There are a few youngsters as well, but my observation is that they mainly have a family member who is already licensed, so they have support, encouragement and often equipment, at home.

Problems, problems…

There are a lot of issues related to getting new blood into Ham Radio. 

Probably the biggest issue today is that people have not experienced the “magic” of radio as those of us who are older have done. I can remember vividly slowly tuning across the 31m broadcast band as a 7-year-old and hearing the strange interval signals and fading voices from far-away lands. That inspired me with a love of radio which I have never lost. Most of you reading this will probably relate to something similar to that and will have an experience of your own which sparked off your first interest.

However in 2018, there is no longer any “magic” in these kind of signals – especially when you can instantaneously send and receive colour video from the other side of the world on a hand-portable device! 

“What’s the knob for?” 

I was alerted to this sea-change in an unusual way many years ago, when my stepson’s 17-year-old girlfriend came into my radio room and asked what I was up to. I explained I was using radio to communicate around the world and I tried to enthuse her about what I was doing. 

She asked what the big round thing on the large radio was – it took me a while to realise she was referring to the radio’s main tuning dial! 

I explained further and then she asked “What do you need that for? Don’t you just press a button then?”  

It was then I realised that most people these days have grown up thinking that radio is either something you “get on your phone” or something that has preset buttons that simply program themselves. Even the concept of “tuning a signal in” is now lost to most of the current generation!

How do we get people in then?

Be more relevant perhaps? Most under 50s (and plenty of over 50s too!) are these days besotted with their mobile devices and internet connectivity, social media and the like. Am I alone in thinking this is something we could and should harness to interest people in our hobby more?

Network Radios can help…

So where do Network Radios come into this? 

  • They represent new technology crossing into our hobby
  • They plug into people’s existing interests (phones/tablets etc.)
  • They are a hybrid connected device – part phone, part computer, part PTT device
  • They make it much easier to use some of the PTT based software that is already available
  • They are SDRs in every sense of the acronym
  • They are 21st century technology that people would arguably not mind being “seen” with (this latter point does seem important to today’s generation!)

…especially coupled with useful apps

Zello is a great starting point. 

Part social media, part PTT Radio, it has garnered a following around the world. With the ability to PTT one-to-one or one-to-many, it is especially of interest to folk wanting to set up groups or communities of like-minded people.

In Germany, for example, the “Zello Funk” (translates as “Radio Zello”) community operates like a mini-Ham-Radio parallel universe! 

You can join (for free of course – no “exams” to take) you can request a callsign (e.g. ZF839) which you are encouraged to use on the network (though it is not mandatory) and away you go. 

There are nearly 5000 “PTT enthusiasts”, for want of a better phrase, who have joined the Zello Funk community alone and there are 8 Zello Funk groups to talk in. 

These folk are a mixture of Hams, CB-ers, 446-ers, Truckers, Housewives, Workers, in other words, pretty much ordinary people of all ages, background and gender – however they share an enjoyment of PTT communications.

All the groups are kept on track by a large committed group of moderators who keep a close eye on how the groups are policed; members can be blocked from tx-ing, kicked off altogether, but, and let this sink in…  …they even have their own under-16’s channel! 

Imagine that in Ham Radio at the moment? I fear that most radio clubs would not know what to do if even one youngster turned up to a meeting, or even on air…

And there’s more…

Zello has plenty of English-speaking groups that Hams could get involved with (perhaps not as organised as Germany’s Zello Funk yet) which would mean we could interface with non-Hams using PTT comms straightaway. 

Or maybe someone could set up an English version of Zello Funk and see what happens?

Why not radio then?

Clearly there is an interest in PTT style of communications but this is not yet translating to new entrants to our hobby. Why?

Well it’s early days to see if there will be any effect, but the need to take a technical course and exam is one barrier, for sure. If you can enjoy PTT comms without taking a course and study and an exam, why wouldn’t you?

Swapping high quality VoIP or RoIP comms for scratchy weak radio signals may be seen as another; local noise on the Ham Bands may even be another, and that’s not even going into the issue of large amounts of metal or wire in the sky and the issues that brings…

Dare I even proffer that a preponderance of elderly men may also sadly (speaking as an elderly man myself!) not be a great attraction to new entrants to the hobby?

Reasons to be cheerful!

However I remain positive and upbeat about this. 

If people are really having so much fun with PTT comms, they have, in truth, unwittingly take their first steps towards our hobby. I would argue we could do more to reach out back to them.

Perhaps we as Hams should be re-branding ourselves as a social media community that can exist WITHOUT the Internet, as well as WITH it? There may be other ways we could improve our “look”. Perhaps you could suggest some in the comments section?

Either way, Network Radios, existing in this hybrid world, can, and I believe will, play a very useful role in allowing people to “play radio” in a safe environment and see if it piques their interest. 

IRN would then represent a logical “next step”, where newcomers could interact with real RF links.

It’s about reaching out…

Dare I suggest then, that the more we amateurs get on board with Network Radios, the more we might be taking a step toward the growing groups of “PTT enthusiasts”, and the more we might actually have to offer them?

Is this where the next “wave” of Radio Hams is to be found, I wonder? 

One thing is for sure, they will not come to us, as the CB-ers did in the 1980s – we will have to go out, find them and befriend them, if we are to help them into our great hobby!

© March 2018 – Chris Rolinson G7DDN

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It’s all about Propagation by Chris G7DDN

While preparing a talk about Network Radios for my local club here in the UK, it struck me that the underlying issue about Network Radios and “traditional” Ham Radio is really one of propagation.

Let me explain.

Those of us who are hams or who have dabbled in Shortwave Radio for many years know the theory of long distance propagation. Radio waves reflect from the Ionosphere (or duct through the Troposphere in the case of VHF/UHF) and end up a long distance from their starting point. (There are other modes of propagation too, of course, but I’ll use these as a generalisation)

Natural v Man-made

The atmosphere is, of course, a natural phenomenon and we depend on it “behaving” in order to get our long distance contacts. For Network Radios, it is the Internet that is the propagating medium, at least at their end of the contact.

I can see certain similarities between the atmosphere and the Internet. The web is, in effect, a man-made propagating medium for signals – as opposed to a natural one.

Parallels in other hobbies

This got me thinking about parallels in other hobbies.

In rock climbing for example, enthusiasts climb on natural rock formations in the great outdoors – very scary – you won’t catch me doing that! But there are also many rock climbing “walls” indoors too and there are photos of these all over the web.

What strikes me from looking at these photos, is that the people climbing indoors seem to be having just as much fun as those climbing outdoors. The two experiences are different and yet peculiarly similar.

The outdoor rock (like the ionosphere) is natural – the indoor rock (like the Internet) is man-made. Neither stops the climbers having fun actually doing their climbing! Interestingly too, there seems to be a lot of youngsters doing the “man-made” climbing…

“Real” Ham Radio?

It is easy to dismiss the whole Network Radio phenomenon as “not real Ham Radio” but listening around, it seems there are plenty of folk enjoying radio (or radio-like experiences) without the “necessity” of transmitting on certain specific reserved bands.

As we go further into the 21st Century, I think we will see the lines between “naturally propagated” signals and “artificially propagated” signals blurring further.

As someone who enjoys CW, HF, VHF, UHF as well as D-STAR and Network Radios, I don’t see why that should be an issue, unless we as amateurs make it one.

Let’s keep what is great about the past of Ham Radio, without dismissing the newer technologies borne of the fantastic innovations that keep coming our way in the 21st Century.

Questions, questions, questions…

So, is the Internet any LESS valid as a mode of propagation for amateur signals, simply because it is man-made, rather than a force of nature?

Is all this a threat to Ham Radio as a hobby, or is it an opportunity?

Challenging questions and ones we can probably only answer for ourselves.

Perhaps the only question that matters is, are you enjoying your radio hobby, in whatever form it takes?

© February 2018 – Chris Rolinson G7DDN

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5 Things you can do with an Inrico TM-7 Transceiver

There are so many things you can do with an Inrico TM-7. All you need is a GSM or WiFi connection.

DMR Hotspot Control
You can install BlueDV and use your Inrico TM-7 to control a DVMega hotspot.

APRS Operation
Adding full APRS capability is piece of cake. Just install APRSDroid to your TM-7 and share your location in realtime.

Echolink Operation
Using Echolink with this network radio opens the world to you. Choose any link or available conferences. Have QSOs whenever you want. 24/7!

IRN Operation
One of the most popular modes with the TM-7. The IRN is an exciting hub that connects hams to many networks, like Allstar, Echolink and DMR. 

Scanning Operation
Install the free app Broadcastify and transform your TM-7 into a worldwide scanner receiver of police, fire department, ATC and other public service communications.

Order your Inrico TM-7 today!