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Re: On leaving AMSAT

Excellent post John.  I remember you as quite a contributor to BB in the 
past and even the Journal.  I also enjoyed your column.   Well, every 
diligent reader here knows how I feel about things, so there is no sense in 
beating a dead horse,(or a dead Eagle.)   I'd only like to add that, while 
I may disagree with the decisions of our leadership and volunteers at 
times, my hat is off to them.  It takes a great person to be able to give 
themselves and time to an organization.  I look at my self, how busy I am 
and I don't even have time to operate as much as I would like.  So, I'd 
just like to say thank you to all past & future Amsat officers, volunteers 
and nominees.
   As far as the GEE-WHIZ things go, I have this feeling that we *will* be 
seeing more of that in future satellites.  I also believe that if AO-40 
were in a better orbit and properly functioning, we'd be saying Gee-Whiz 
right now.  I know when I demonstrated satellites to hams at club meetings 
and field days,  the phase 3 birds got the Gee-Whiz comments; Mir, RS-10 
and AO-21 got them moving to satellite.  I think the best thing we can do 
to increase our numbers is to be an active Amsat coordinator/Elmer in your 
area, and have plenty of Amsat info to pass out after satellite 
demonstrations.   We won't be able to get everyone but it's that Gee-whiz 
thing that gets most.  I would bet most of us are the Gee-whiz types.

73 de KB7ADL

At 11:32 PM 7/6/03 -0400, John Hansen <john@hansen.net> wrote:
>Hi Folks:
>First of all, I apologize for the length of this post.  In my own defence, 
>let me say that I very rarely post to this group.
>I think Joe raised a very interesting question concerning the membership 
>drop in AMSAT.  As I read Gunther's response (which was also quite 
>thoughtful) it dawned on me that I was one of those who had left.  Well... 
>not really, since I still pay my annual membership, but for all practical 
>purposes I have indeed left the organization.  It's been a long long time 
>since I turned on my 736 and this summer I've given some thought to 
>selling it (along with the antennas and rotors).  I'm not sure whether 
>I've left AMSAT or AMSAT 's left me.... I don't suppose it makes a lot of 
>difference.    And that's not a criticism, just an observation.  For those 
>of you who are relatively new to AMSAT, I used to have a fairly heavy time 
>commitment to the organization, including being editor of the AMSAT 
>Journal for a number of years in the 80s.
>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.
>As AMSAT became less technologically interesting, I found myself attending 
>more TAPR meetings and fewer AMSAT meetings.  Sometime after that I got 
>awfully heavily involved in working with PIC microcontrollers... again the 
>reason was that there was an extremely high "Gee-Whiz" factor.   It almost 
>seemed that if you could imagine it, you could implement it with a 
>PIC.  Over the past few years, however, TAPR has become dominated by the 
>APRS and emergency communications folks and I've found myself attending 
>the annual meetings somewhat less frequently.    Now it's true that the 
>"Gee Whiz" factor in TAPR may well be revived in the context of digital 
>voice, software defined radios, and continuing work on HF digital modes, 
>but it's not clear at this point what direction this will take.
>Frankly, it seems to me that the folks that are doing the most interesting 
>work (from the standpoint of a "Gee-Whiz" junkie) are in the HF QRP 
>community.   These days QRP Quarterly is the most interesting periodical 
>that I'm reading and I detect the same excitement there as I did in AMSAT 
>in the late 80s or TAPR in the 90s.  I've yet to attend their "Four Days 
>in May" event, but I hope to do so next year.
>I'm not sure what the significance of all of this is to AMSAT.... but I do 
>know that Joe is asking one of the right questions.  Yes, AMSAT membership 
>fell by 4000 since AO-13.   In fact, the decline is more serious than that 
>because AMSAT has signed up a lot of new members in the intervening 
>years.  An even more interesting question might be, "Of the 8000 members 
>that AMSAT once had, how many of those individuals are still 
>members."  The answer is undoubtedly significantly less than 4000.  OK, 
>some of those 8000 died.  But I'm pretty sure that of the bunch of digital 
>ops that used to meet at the AMSAT meetings, there aren't more than 2 or 3 
>left who are still members.   They didn't leave because of a de-emphasis 
>on digital operations (though that's an interesting question too), they 
>mostly left because the "Gee-Whiz" factor had gone.
>The bottom line is that in order to retain these members, AMSAT must once 
>again become a place where people are routinely engaged in "Gee-Whiz" 
>kinds of things and (this is important) they must look for opportunities 
>for hams to contribute (and I don't mean money!) without building spacecraft.

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