Author Topic: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?  (Read 152582 times)

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Online Richard Crowley

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #575 on: August 10, 2018, 12:22:44 pm »
I found that to be freakishly hard, far more difficult than it seems like it would be when you think about it. I mean sure, just drive on the opposite side, whatever, except the devil is in the details. It's hard to override years or decades of experience turning left into the left-hand lane, or turning right after just glancing to the left. I only tried driving there for a short while but I was sweating, having to completely focus on what I was doing. I hadn't felt like that since I was a kid in drivers ed and got on the road for the first time.

Yes, and I had my passenger constantly reminding me at every turn: "Turn into the LEFT side of the road." Even that was unreliable when I encountered narrow streets where on the left side of the street were solid with cars parked half up on the sidewalk (BrEnglish: "pavement"), and parked the "wrong way".

But then I started noticing the second-order effects like position-in-lane where you have to remember which side of the vehicle you are driving from.  I kept driving up onto the curb (BrEnglish: "kerb").

I remember my first trip to London and seeing big white letters painted on the kerb: "Look Right! --->".  I asked a policeman (BrEnglish: "bobby") why the warning when everyone had grown up with traffic approaching on the right all their lives.  He said: "Oh, it's not for us.  It's for you Yanks. You don't know how many of you we loose every year because you always look the wrong way."
« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 12:36:35 pm by Richard Crowley »
 

Online james_s

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #576 on: August 10, 2018, 02:50:25 pm »
A friend of mine had a similar story from when he went to Australia on business. He stepped off the curb to cross the street and one of his colleagues grabbed his arm and yanked him back so he wouldn't be run down by a car that was coming. So many simple things are almost hardwired after years of practice.
 

Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #577 on: August 10, 2018, 07:19:41 pm »
I found that to be freakishly hard, far more difficult than it seems like it would be when you think about it. I mean sure, just drive on the opposite side, whatever, except the devil is in the details. It's hard to override years or decades of experience turning left into the left-hand lane, or turning right after just glancing to the left. I only tried driving there for a short while but I was sweating, having to completely focus on what I was doing. I hadn't felt like that since I was a kid in drivers ed and got on the road for the first time.

Yes, and I had my passenger constantly reminding me at every turn: "Turn into the LEFT side of the road." Even that was unreliable when I encountered narrow streets where on the left side of the street were solid with cars parked half up on the sidewalk (BrEnglish: "pavement"), and parked the "wrong way".

But then I started noticing the second-order effects like position-in-lane where you have to remember which side of the vehicle you are driving from.  I kept driving up onto the curb (BrEnglish: "kerb").

I remember my first trip to London and seeing big white letters painted on the kerb: "Look Right! --->".  I asked a policeman (BrEnglish: "bobby") why the warning when everyone had grown up with traffic approaching on the right all their lives.  He said: "Oh, it's not for us.  It's for you Yanks. You don't know how many of you we loose every year because you always look the wrong way."

Back in the day, Brits going for a trip on "the Continent" could buy stickers to place on the top inside of their Windscreen, which read
 "Today I will drive on the right!"

People from Oz are frequently caught by the habit of Brits pulling across the road & parking facing oncoming traffic.("the wrong way round")
This is forbidden in Oz.

In turn, they have trouble with the way we tuck our car's nose into a parking space, instead of pulling up & "Parallel parking".

I have noticed a habit among migrants from various other countries of always backing into spaces at a car park, instead of, again, "nose first" Oz style.
I think it is something they are taught for their licence test.

Back on topic, I am very inactive with Ham Radio, as the room I use is currently being used for storage.

 

Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #578 on: August 10, 2018, 09:46:51 pm »
Wow, I started this thread more than five years ago.  :D

Since then I did get back into the hobby. I completed three WAS awards (JT65, JT9, and FT8). Also I got my DXCC and am currently up to 178 confirmed on LoTW.

My current HF equipment consists of an FT-450 and recently I got an IC-7300 SDR transceiver. I built all of my own HF antennas using the fan dipole design. So I'm back into the hobby big time. If you are thinking about getting into ham radio do it - it's a great hobby!
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Offline bd139

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #579 on: August 10, 2018, 11:14:46 pm »
Couldn't agree more. Arguably it's probably the best time ever, bar the current solar minimum. Decent transceivers cost very little, parts are at an all time low price, parts are at the highest availability ever, the reading material out there is much better than it ever has been and there's a surplus of quite excellent stuff floating around.

What I think the turning point for a lot of people recently is was when they dropped the CW (morse) requirements in most countries in the last few years. This is a biggie. A lot of operators these days don't want to whack keys and want to go and play with DMR, FT8 and things. To take the CW tests on top of the weight of the knowledge that is required in this day and age is quite difficult for a lot of people so no one bothered. In fact when I did my license courses recently (I'm relatively new at this), most people only did them because CW wasn't a requirement any more. Personally, I'm a big fan of CW now even though I wasn't historically. It cuts through everything else like a knife and it's actually fun BUT I very much couldn't handle it until I'd got my head around the technicalities because I didn't have the time or the energy for it. I've made a couple of contacts at a miserable 2W of power out now and I'm hooked on it like crack.

One barrier for entry for me has been some of the older hams. I spent a good few months approaching local amateur radio clubs and found that they were mostly populated by elitist, racist, sexist old wankers who couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery. Typically it took 6 months of fannying around to try and get my foundation license done initially.

 

Offline N9ZN-Extra

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #580 on: August 11, 2018, 01:08:08 am »
Advancement in communications and electronics both have given rise to the downturn of Amature Radio. I refer to it as the dumbing down of a not too distant soon to be an obsolete area of interest to our governments. Government is the only thing that allows us the privilege of this hobby and Government will take it away when our frequencies are needed for cash-generating purposes or national security.

That may not be your opinion and I AM GOOD WITH THAT. You still have to admit the hobby is not close to what it once was. FCC testing has been reduced to literally NOTHING which requires learning anything. 2 reads of a small book with test questions and answers, if you kept attention, and you will pass the exam. Even when I took my exams the test was a joke.

The dumbing down of testing, dropping requirements that licensees learn morse code and for that matter, anything about electronics or radio theory has allowed the Citizens Band crowd into the hobby. My guess is that was the only way to sustain any number of hobbyist as others went silent or lost interest without friends who actually knew something about radio. Today we see the trucking industry increasing the numbers of drivers who communicate with each other using ham bands for communication instead of Citizens band. Why not the range and quality of communications are certainly better using nationwide VHF or UHF repeaters.

For the real hams, those interested in electronics and understanding radio theory and understanding the complexities of transmission no one is really left for them to relate to. It truly is time to HAMMER DOWN ON EVERY HAM RADIO IN EXISTENCE for many. The hobby is near death and the most exciting thing it offers is a swap meet or contact with another ham via the ISS.

I suspect the final blow to ham radio will be when the equipment begins showing a sign of inability to hold any monetary value. Then many will drop out because they will not want to lose any investment in gear later when they decide to sell off.

It was a good ride for a while for a few old timers who are left!
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #581 on: August 11, 2018, 01:38:28 am »
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gatekeeping

My experience is entirely the opposite to yours, even as a former CB pest :box:

 
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Online james_s

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #582 on: August 11, 2018, 02:13:36 am »
My interest in the hobby comes and goes. There's something almost magical about picking up distant signals out of thin air, and lots of room for interesting experiments with antennas and filters and whatnot. I can't help thinking it all must have been a lot more exciting decades ago, before I could just pull a mobile phone out of my pocket and call, text or email someone anywhere in the world instantly.

I had a similar experience when I went to take my test a few years ago, the club was mostly grumpy old geezers with elitist attitudes who seemed more interested in talking about what I "needed" to do next to advance in the hobby rather than talking to me about what I was interested in doing.
 

Offline Wolfgang

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #583 on: August 11, 2018, 03:42:05 am »
Hi,

in my view being a radio amateur is an opportunity to legally play with all kinds of electronics that emit radio waves. In the ages of IOT, all kinds of far and near communication devices, protocols,  ... there are huge fields of research on an awful lot of topics from hardware to signal processing, classic IT like protocol stacks, application layers, ... you name it.

If find this fast-evolving and very interesting, and I learn something new every day.

I must admit, however, that my fields of interest are not shared with a lot of radio amateurs. Of course, there are these cliques of old men telling hi-flies without any background, measurebaters, endless ragchews which equipment is better, completely uninteresting stuff to me.

Thank god not all are like this, and over time and found some very interesting guys on the web which made my hobby even more fun !

So, I think that amateur radio is not at all dead. Its only like the rest of life - there are a lot of average people who never did anything extraordinary in there whole life, and some jewels that changed the world. Ham radio is no difference.


 
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Online xaxaxa

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #584 on: August 11, 2018, 04:19:33 am »
I'm mainly interested in data communications and just stick to the ISM bands. I don't see much use for ham radio - you have to constantly transmit your call sign, no encryption, and no unattended transmission? what can you even use it for other than as a walkie talkie?

I haven't gotten into ham radio mainly because (1) the no encryption rule makes it pretty useless for me (2) you are required to let the inspector enter your home and check out your setup without any probable cause.
 

Online james_s

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #585 on: August 11, 2018, 04:55:23 am »
The constantly transmitting a callsign rule has always seemed a bit antiquated to me. Surely in these modern times we could have the callsign embedded in a subcarrier or something? That said, I'm not sure if anyone is actually policing that aspect, I occasionally hear guys chatting on the local repeater but most of the time most of the band is dead air.

I'd be cuious to know the average age of hams too, I've met some young guys who are into it, there was even a 20-something girl in the group I tested with, but the club that hosted the test appeared to be entirely populated by guys over 70. I think the hobby got very popular after WWII when so much neat surplus gear was available, and remained strong through the Heathkit/Eico/Knight/Dynaco/etc kit days in the 1970s but it seems popularity of the traditional ham stuff sank throughout the 80s and 90s until the dirt cheap Chinese radios came along.

One of my related hobbies is scanner listening, I used to spend many hours finding all kinds of cool stuff to listen to. The channels have steadily gone silent though as more and more stuff moves to digital/encrypted communications. I used to listen frequently to the metro bus drivers, taxi services, local fire, police, medics, etc and now the emergency services I can hear on the trunked repeater but the bus services all went digital. The business band is still fairly active, that and FRS radios. I hear lots of employee to employee communications in local stores.
 

Online james_s

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #586 on: August 11, 2018, 05:17:13 am »
It annoys me when they start encrypting anything. I think being able to listen in on the police for example is not only interesting, but keeps me up to date on what's going on around me and fosters a respect for law enforcement, hearing all the crazy stuff they deal with every day. A scanner is how my grandmother heard that Mt. St Helens had erupted, and all sorts of other interesting news. The airwaves used to be full of cool stuff to listen to.
 

Offline PhilipPeake

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #587 on: August 11, 2018, 06:00:37 am »
I have been licensed since 1972. Took the test at the end of 1971 - the test paper is attached for anyone interested in what the exam was like in the UK in those days. Just one test. Pass this plus morse and you were good to go. No morse, and you were restricted to 70MHz and above.

I got 98%. I often wondered where that other 2% went :-)
Call issued was G8FVM (I still have it).

Since then I have had a French call (had to be interviewed by the DSG, equivalent of the CIA or MI5, as a no French citizen), and my US call when I moved to America (K7UF - Extra).

What I have seen be a big problem is the gap between the "technician" class and those licensed for HF.
Many of the VHF only licensees have really less technical interest. They want a better CB. I actually don't have too much of a problem with that. They go out and buy a hand-held transceiver and discover the range between this, and a similar one a friend bought who passed the test at the same time is 1/4 mile at best. They have to use repeaters. Then they find that the repeaters are either empty, of occupied by a bunch of old men who either ignore calls from newcomers, or pretty much tell them to get lost.

They become quickly disillusioned and the hand-held transceiver ends up stuffed in a drawer and forgotten.

They would have had a much better experience if they has spent a tiny bit more money and bought something not a hand-held or mobile FM unit, but capable of SSB. That combined with a decent (horizontally polarized) antenna would suddenly extend their range out to 50 or 60 miles, and way beyond when conditions are good.

Horizontal polarization is actually much better for VHF propagation over any sort of distance, but vertical became the defacto standard because of simpler mobile antennas and hand-held rubber ducks.

The other killer was that cell phone usage used to be expensive, so ham radio (VHF + repeater) was a good alternative to long chats. These days, cell phone airtime is pretty much "free" (once you have paid the humongous monthly fee).

I started with a home made 1W FM transmitter and a down-converter to HF for the receiver. Transmitters were crystal controlled. VHF operating was quite different. The best I did was about 160 miles direct contact (using horizontal polarization).

HF operating is quite different. You really can't skimp on the antenna, because HF repeaters really are not a thing. But wire antennas are not hard to make. You just need a bit of space.
 

Offline blackfin76

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #588 on: August 11, 2018, 06:45:59 am »
Wow, I started this thread more than five years ago.  :D

Since then I did get back into the hobby. I completed three WAS awards (JT65, JT9, and FT8). Also I got my DXCC and am currently up to 178 confirmed on LoTW.

My current HF equipment consists of an FT-450 and recently I got an IC-7300 SDR transceiver. I built all of my own HF antennas using the fan dipole design. So I'm back into the hobby big time. If you are thinking about getting into ham radio do it - it's a great hobby!

Congratulations with your DXCC, I got my license years ago but don't get myself to spent some time setting a shack up. I just upgraded my IC-7300 to firmware version 1.30. I bought it just to take it apart, to see where the magic happens  ;D
 

Online Richard Crowley

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #589 on: August 11, 2018, 10:23:51 am »
Have we completely lost sight of the (IMHO) single most important contemporary benefit of ham radio?  Emergency communications.

Have we become completely accustomed (entitled) to the "internet" and cellular wireless voice/data?  In no way are these any kind of substitute or replacement for the mobile, independent, over-the-air, point-to-point communication provided by ham radio.

Essentially the entire internet on this planet flows through 10-12 central buildings. An attack (whether physical or digital) on several of them would essentially sever the world-wide connectivity. And at the other end of the line, while traditional telco central offices may have battery backup to last a few days or a week, the cell sites we rely on for voice and wireless data have no significant backup even if they survive any physical trauma.  Both wired and wireless commercial "last-mile" services are quite vulnerable to all manner of disasters.

And it troubles me that the utility power producers and distribution seem so vulnerable to online attack from both government-sponsored and free-lance hostilities.  Several insiders I have heard worry that online attacks on the power grid may be our most vulnerable spot.

But the sorry state of local ham organizations does little of benefit to promote or even maintain emergency communication preparedness that I can see.
 

Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #590 on: August 11, 2018, 10:47:09 am »
Congratulations with your DXCC, I got my license years ago but don't get myself to spent some time setting a shack up.

It's getting really hard to get more DX entities now, I got all the low-hanging fruit already and now mostly DXpeditions is what I need to keep going.

Quote
I just upgraded my IC-7300 to firmware version 1.30. I bought it just to take it apart, to see where the magic happens  ;D

Yes it's a true SDR and I love the waterfall. I mostly use digital modes such as JT65 and the newer mode FT8 -

https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html

They have added a special DXpedition mode to FT8 so that DXpeditions can handle many more calls and will start using it in addition to the classic modes SSB, RTTY, and CW. I've aleady got several DXpeditions using FT8.

And yes I do have the latest firmware loaded!  :-+
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Online james_s

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #591 on: August 11, 2018, 11:17:38 am »
Have we completely lost sight of the (IMHO) single most important contemporary benefit of ham radio?  Emergency communications.

Is that even such a big benefit anymore? It used to be very useful when everything was landlines and mostly only hams had 2-way radio gear, but these days it might accomplish more to bring in a mobile cell site or set up and adhoc wifi network. Even during major disasters there are so many other forms of communication that I'm not convinced there is a great value in having a few guys with radios. It would take a pretty major disaster to knock out all the cellular service in a whole region.
 

Offline Bud

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #592 on: August 11, 2018, 12:40:14 pm »
That happened in Toronto in 2000-ish, there was electricity blackout at US-Canada border. All cell phone service was dead within 3 hours. The Only source of information was a guy sitting on top of CN Tower (TV tower in Toronto) broadcasting informational updates using a Ham handheld transciever. Other Ham volunteers drove to downtown to supply him fresh batteries. I had an ICOM mobile in my car and a UHF antenna mounted on the trunk, i was able to listen to his updates, i still have vivid memories of that day.
 

Offline janoc

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #593 on: August 11, 2018, 08:36:29 pm »
Have we completely lost sight of the (IMHO) single most important contemporary benefit of ham radio?  Emergency communications.

Is that even such a big benefit anymore? It used to be very useful when everything was landlines and mostly only hams had 2-way radio gear, but these days it might accomplish more to bring in a mobile cell site or set up and adhoc wifi network. Even during major disasters there are so many other forms of communication that I'm not convinced there is a great value in having a few guys with radios. It would take a pretty major disaster to knock out all the cellular service in a whole region.

Tell that to the Portorico people after the last year's hurricane. Amateur radio was the only working link to the island for quite a while until the normal comms were re-established. The same when Katrina flooded New Orleans. And many other disasters.

Of course you can set up a mobile cell site and wifi and what not. But that is missing the point entirely. The idea with HAM emergency communications is that the radio is in place, with its operator, ready to go from the start of the catastrophe. Not a week or two later when emergency services get there and manage to set up their generators and what not. Until that happens the HAMs are providing a critical service because they are often the only ones on the ground with any means to communicate with the outside world.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 08:47:12 pm by janoc »
 
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Offline janoc

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #594 on: August 11, 2018, 08:46:10 pm »
I'm mainly interested in data communications and just stick to the ISM bands. I don't see much use for ham radio - you have to constantly transmit your call sign, no encryption, and no unattended transmission? what can you even use it for other than as a walkie talkie?

I haven't gotten into ham radio mainly because (1) the no encryption rule makes it pretty useless for me (2) you are required to let the inspector enter your home and check out your setup without any probable cause.

If you need encryption then you don't need HAM radio. It is that simple. HAM radio is not meant to be a replacement for commercial bands/services (and, in fact, it is explicitly prohibited to use it for such purposes). If you need to transfer data, there are plenty of other bands and types of equipment that are designed for that.

Think of HAM radio as a research laboratory/sandbox, not a replacement for commercial services. What you can use it for has been debated here many times - there is much more to it than a "walkie-talkie". You are also wrong about the lack of unattended operation - that is obviously possible (how do you think the various beacons, repeaters, packet radio stations, HAM radio satellites, APRS trackers and what not operate?) but there are specific rules that have to be followed. 

Re inspectors - don't know the Canadian law but where I live, the inspectors show up and demand you to show the type approval/certification papers for your ISM gear as well. They can also demand that you let them perform any necessary measurements.  And heavens help you if they find that you have modified the ISM gear in any non-approved way (= very much in any way, modifying ISM stuff is illegal) or are using non-approved antennas (e.g. with higher gain) with it. The rules around the inspections are very much the same as for HAM stuff just in the HAM rules it is usually explicitly spelled out.

Under normal conditions the inspectors will turn up only if there is an interference complaint - and then it makes no difference at all whether you are operating under the HAM license or messing with ISM gear. You will be ordered to turn the equipment off and possibly get a fine either way if you are found to be at fault.

« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 08:50:45 pm by janoc »
 
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Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #595 on: August 11, 2018, 10:58:33 pm »
I'm mainly interested in data communications and just stick to the ISM bands. I don't see much use for ham radio - you have to constantly transmit your call sign, no encryption, and no unattended transmission? what can you even use it for other than as a walkie talkie?

I haven't gotten into ham radio mainly because (1) the no encryption rule makes it pretty useless for me (2) you are required to let the inspector enter your home and check out your setup without any probable cause.

Hmmm - methinks you are missing the main point of a hobby.

Ham radio can be many things - but it's mainly a hobby for the enjoyment of the person utilizing the license. For example, the awards such as WAS (Worked All States) or DXCC (DX Century Club contacting 100 countries + more). Of what use are such awards to anyone really. Why did I waste all the hundreds of hours doing what it took to get the awards when they serve no real purpose.

Well, it's like a painter painting a picture for him/her self. Why do it? What purpose does the picture serve to anyone else after the picture is painted and hanging on the wall or perhaps put in a closet? Why not go out and just buy a picture already painted? Would you go up to a painter and chastise them for wasting time painting?

It's really the enjoyment and challenge of painting the picture - it doesn't have to serve a purpose for the greater good of society.
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Offline janoc

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #596 on: August 12, 2018, 01:13:16 am »
Ham radio can be many things - but it's mainly a hobby for the enjoyment and education of the person utilizing the license.

Just thought to add an important part. One doesn't learn as much by using off-the-shelf "black box" commercial gear as by building, debugging and operating own equipment.

Also HAM radio is often about performing research and experiments - when it comes to radio, a lot of things are first tried by HAMs (even when working for a university, for ex) and then the results trickle down to the commercial gear.
 

Offline Kalvin

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #597 on: August 12, 2018, 01:16:46 am »
I had had getting the ham license in my to-do list for the past 30 years until I finally decided to take the test and go for the general class. My main motivation for getting the license was technical, like being able to use the new digimodes and experimenting with SDR and QRP techniques. Emergency communications was a secondary aspect of getting the license. I will probably buy a QRP SDR transceiver and start experimenting with Raspberry Pi.
 

Offline blackfin76

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #598 on: August 12, 2018, 04:12:06 am »
Have we completely lost sight of the (IMHO) single most important contemporary benefit of ham radio?  Emergency communications.


Of course not:
The USA has ARES https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_Radio_Emergency_Service

And even my super tiny country has DARES https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARES

The main reason I keep radio equipment in house is in case SHTF.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #599 on: August 12, 2018, 04:37:47 am »
The attached always makes me laugh about ARES.
 


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