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RE: Going Digital... Ham Radio?



> Let's not lose sight of what we have learned: users want 
> real-time, person
> to person communication, and voice modes are preferred. So 
> lets get on with
> digital voice technologies.

I agree.  Digital voice is an application I see that will interest a lot of
hams.  In the early days, it could be a hybrid system, with FM repeaters
linked to a digital backbone, which would allow hams with current gear to
sample the fun.

I've also been impressed with early attempts of digital voice over HF.
There is a demo on the Net somewhere of a digital HF system.  nd 40 metres
never sounded so good!

> PSK31 seems to be the heir apparent to RTTY not so much because of its
> narrow efficiency (which is amazing) but because users get to 
> "chat" in real

That would seem to be its strength, but even that can be done over the
Internet, and is pretty passe these days.  A little experience from 10 years
ago might be instructive here.  Back then, hams used to be given some
transponder bandwidth on the then Aussat series of commercial satellites for
use as repeater links between major cities in VK, as well as the ZL UHF
repeater backbone, which is an impressive linked repeater network covering
much of New Zealand.

One morning, the VK3RGL repeater near Geelong was linked to the ZL backbone,
and as usual, I was travelling by train.  The funny thing is that as soon as
I popped up on the frequency, just about every ham in New Zealand wanted to
talk to me!  That was something that wasn't done every day, and provided a
little more interest than the run of the mill activity.  The next time I
used a satellite was last year when I worked SO-35 from both a tram and a
train.  That story also founbd its way around the news bulletins.

These days, my public transport mobile activities are now routing here in
Melbourne (actually, there's a number of regulars who ride and talk on the
rails :) ), but it does still generate some interest in other cities (last
year while I was in Sydney, one station up there asked for a QSL after I
worked him from a train!  And a ZL worked me via the 10m repeater here -
first time he's ever chatted to someone on a train).  

The point of this is that one area where ham radio has the edge is with
highly mobile, ad hoc and _cheap_ communications.  Even the mobile phone
network doesn't approach the flexibility of a handheld radio and a repeater
when you want to just "see who's there".  APRS offers a similar level of
flexibility and utility in the digital world at a similar low cost.

Flexibility, cost, robustness and the ability to overcome obstacles has been
the ham tradition for many years, and is likely where our future lies.

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