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Re: On leaving AMSAT

* John Hansen <john@hansen.net> [2003-07-06 23:08]:
> To be honest, the thing about AMSAT (and most other ham organizations that 
> I join) that attracts me is the "Gee-Whiz" factor.  I like to be involved 
> in things that are new, capture my imagination, and allow hands on 
> participation in things that have a flavor of new technology about them. 
> OK, I'm a technology junkie, and I view ham radio as an opportunity to 
> continue my self-education.   I loved AO-10 and 13 because it was a 
> significant challenge to get on them.  I learned a lot about power budgets, 
> feedline loss, polarization, preamps, and a lot of other things I'd never 
> before thought about.   I think my interest in AMSAT peaked during the 
> period of the Microsats and especially the UoSat and KitSat digital 
> satellites.  There was a very interested community of people who were on 
> those satellites, many of whom were also developing ground station software 
> at the same time.  We all used to go to the AMSAT meetings, hang out in 
> bars together and talk about what to do next with these satellites.  None 
> of the people who did this were actually involved in the design or launch 
> of the satellites; we were just its heaviest users.   When someone 
> developed some interesting new software, it would be uploaded to the 
> satellites and we'd all have it running within hours or days.  Now in the 
> current Internet environment this may not seem all that impressive, but 
> then it was, and it created a sense of camaraderie that was truly 
> remarkable at the time.  Frankly, I've never been much interested in 
> operating the FM satellites, the ARISS "telephone-assisted" operations, or 
> even LEO SSB transponders.  It's not that there is anything wrong with 
> these satellites, they just don't have a big enough "Gee-Whiz" factor to 
> interest me.


Your message echoed my own sentiments so well that it was difficult to
SNIP anything as not relevant. I'm fairly certain that you operated a
SatGate back in the early 90s and appeared in that satellite video
produced by CQ? I guess that must be a decade old or more by now...

Remember when they used to wheel a television into your school room to
watch the launch of a rocket into space? Now THAT was fun.

Remember that fellow who was setup to do some work in Antarctica and he
relayed messages and pictures via KO-25 (or was it KO-23?) during his
stay? Now THAT was fun and held my interest. 

Remember when we all (well, most of us) moved from PB/PG to WiSP and
drove Roy Welch nuts with too many questions about how to make it work
(OK maybe that was just me)? Now THAT was fun.

Remember how cool it was to see your callsign in the queue on KO-25
while you wondered how on earth all this "stuff" works? Now THAT was

Remember when James Miller would post a technical dissertation on
some particularly difficult to grasp concept and after a few beers we'd
experience an epiphany and say "OH, SO THATS HOW IT WORKS"? 

Now THAT was fun.

I remember one time not long after I automated my station for PacSat ops
I was mowing the lawn and suddenly saw my antennas on the az-el rotor
begin tracking and I knew that while I was outside working, my station
was inside downloading messages from KO-25. Now THAT was fun. 

Perhaps we are just getting older but I tend to think that this
technology-laden world in which we live has simply jaded us to the
things we used to be amazed by. 

I'm writing this message on my laptop with an SSH connection to my Linux
box in the next room via a wireless network. When I send this message it
will be read a few minutes later by some chap in VK-land. That is pretty
tough to beat. 

With the near ubiquity of the Internet, the digital communications that
we used to be amazed by is really obsolete. And that isn't a bad thing.
I WANT to be connected to the world when I carry my laptop into
Starbucks, but it makes it a bit tougher to get that "Gee-Whiz" feeling
with PacSat technology.

Lots of things happened in the last decade that brought us to this
point. While technology was rapidly changing the satellite world was
firmly into the "lost decade" of P3D. Everyone was so focused on raising 
funds, building the spacecraft, and obtaining a launch that we missed
many opportunities and now we must play "catch-up" with the technological
world. Perhaps the cost of P3D was far more than just the money and time 

But this much we know--the digital PacSats (as we know them now) can't 
really "compete" with the Internet, and with VoIP growing daily, 
the LEO FM Sats aren't nearly the draw they used to be. A UO-14
demonstration is easily upstaged by an IRLP contact that has become

The SIZZLE is missing and without it, this facet of the hobby is tough
to sell.

It's good to know that you are still alive and well John!

Jeff Davis, KE9V

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