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Re: Going Digital... Ham Radio?




> > Packet Radio Affectionados,
> >
> >    We have had packet radio for 22 years and yet we are
> > seeing a decline
> > of digital operations on HAM radio (with some exceptions) at
> > the same time
> > that we are seeing an Explosion of Wireless digital
> > applications in the
> > consumer market.
>

A big reason:  $$$$$$ and capacity issues.  If there was enough spectrum
capacity for all users with an analog system, then there wouldn't be any
digital stuff going on.

> It is the same story here.  Terrestrial packet radio has declined down
here.
> Most likely causes are due to performance (lack of) and the proliferation
of
> the Internet.

Well, probably because the average price of a high speed TNC is something
the average ham can't afford, let alone the quality of radio needed to use
it.  Even at 9600 baud, we are still way behind the speed curve in
comparison to terrestrial wire-line based speeds.

BUT WHO CARES!

Ham radio is about communication.  WHO CARES if it is digital, analog or
both.  It really makes no difference.  Analog is still alive and well in the
commercial/consumer arena.  Did you make a phone call today?  Well, unless
your home or company uses a digital PBX, ISDN or DSL line you used an ANALOG
system.  And an analog system based on old, old, old standards.  Shame on
the phone company for using such outdated technology.  Why, they aren't on
the cuttting edge of things.  How can normal telephone service survive if it
doesn't go digital?

These are the same shames that are forced on ham radio operators.  So if
analog won't work for us, how will it ever work for the phone companies?

Additionally, the complexity and cost of modern digital systems is enormous.
Sure, your cell phone is cheap, but the infrastructure equipment used to
talk to it isn't.  The amount of software is truly mindblowing.  In your
major RF communications companies today you probably have 5 software
engineers to every hardware engineer.  Are we as hams prepared to build
radios that have 12 MB of code in them just so we can "be on the cutting
edge" and "have the latest digital technology"?  Plus, the amount of error
correction, handshaking, etc. that goes on in most of the systems is quite
sophisticated and does not really match up well to ham radio.  For example,
most SMR (even analog) sytems these days use trunking technology.  Ham radio
doesn't.  Why?  Well, because it doesn't fit the rules given to us by the
FCC for frequency use, etc.  Additionally, it's too complex and to difficult
to set up to allow anyone to use at any time.

High speed digital modulation techniques require very linear transmitters
(in most cases).  A 50 watt mobile with a class A amplifier just so that you
can use the latest whiz-bang digital modulation isn't practical!

Modern digital communications is tremendously more than AX.25 packets.

If people want to explore digital technology then that's fine.  More power
to you.  Develop the latest and greatest modulation scheme.  Go after it,
experiment, innovate.  If that's what you want to do, fine.

Digital communications hasn't caught on with ham radio because it isn't
needed.  The technology we have in place now works fine for the majority of
folks.  They don't need anything else to communicate with people world wide.
Ham radio is fun.  It's a hobby.  We have a hard enough time teach appliance
operators in our hobby how to solder wires and build antennas.  It would be
even more difficult to get them to develop digital stuff.

Again, digital has its place, but it never will be the end all and be all of
ham radio.  I am interested in it.  I am active on APRS for one thing.  It's
great.  It has a good purpose.  I am interested in PanSAT if it ever gets
turned over to us.  I think have a spread spectrum satellite would be very
interesting and I would probably buy or build the equipment to use it.

Let's not just think in the box of "purely analog" nor in the box of "purely
digital", but let's use whatever communication mode is best suited to the
purpose we want to use.  After all, newer is not necessarily better.  Gun
powder has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years (the most
technologically advanced space craft in the world uses rockets based on
ancient solid powder technology - and so does the Ariane V that will launch
P3D!); the light bulb is over 100 years old; penecillin is old, yet it still
is used to treat diseases.  Just because technology is old doesn't make it
bad and just cause it's new doesn't make it good.

OK, back to satellites.

73,

Jon
NA9D

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