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Re: Vanishing hams and an after thought about young hamsand sats

Michael Tondee wrote:
> Just as an afterthought about the FM sats that always seem to draw so much 
> ire and drawing youth into the hobby.
>  Say you have a young person who shows interest in the hobby, specifically 
> satellites.Which way do you think you might have more success getting the 
> kid motivated to get his license, show them a comparetively inexpensive Dual 
> band HT and an Arrow antenna that is more than likely to be finacially 
> achievable for him/her and let them listen to grid square exchanges or maybe 
> witness the magic of APRS?
>  Or, show them your super duper decked out sat station complete with 
> switchable CP antennas and the latest an greatest DC to daylight rig plus 
> your sophisticated AZ/El tracking system that, while really impressive and 
> beautiful, is going to seem impossible to obtain for them? Then use the 
> station with all it's technical wizardry to let them listen to some fella 
> spend the entire pass of the SSB/CW satellite yakking about his impending 
> hernia operation....... Think about it.....
> Michael
Excellent point, and one that should be emphasized.  We've seen lots of 
people bitch about FM satellites, but they are very nearly ideal for 
trying to get new, young hams interested in amateur satellites.  

First of all, there is the cost factor.  A reasonable dual band HT is an 
item that lots of hams can afford.  You can probably get a suitable pair 
of single band HTs even cheaper, especially if you are shopping on the 
used market.   Add an Arrow or any of the many homebrew equivalents, and 
you've got yourself a station for operating the FM birds, not just in a 
slap/dash manner, but in a way that works pretty darned well.   Or, you 
could use any of a number of inexpensive FM mobile rigs, perhaps in 
combination with an HT.  What's also cool is that these rigs aren't 
"single taskers": people can use them to communicate with their local 
communities via simplex and/or repeaters, and even use them for 
emergencies.    Once they get their feet wet, they can move up to AO-51 
via some of K5GNA's downconverters, which are awesome and reasonably 

Someone can argue that using used equipment, one can equip an SSB/CW 
station as inexpensively.  First of all, there is FM equipment on the 
used market even more than there is used SSB/CW equipment for VHF/UHF, 
so if you are going to resort to that, you can also make your FM station 
cheaper, and probably proportionately more cheaply, since the market for 
FM gear is generally more competitive.    Second, people who are new to 
the hobby are unlikely to have the expertise and the networking that 
more experienced hams do, and will have difficulty in finding those 
terrific steals that you more experienced hams seem to find with such 
ease.  This means that the used market is relatively less useful for 
them, and can be frustrating for them if they end up buying overpriced 
or non-functional gear in an attempt to "save".

Secondly, young hams are often operate at the convenience of others.  
Erecting larger antennas and the like are even more difficult for them 
than it is for us who might just have a home owners association to deal 
with: they have to convince mom&dad to go to up against their home 
owners association.   So mobile operation from small antennas is more 
attractive to them anyway.   Mobile operation on most of the linear 
birds is difficult, often using 2 radios, and guided antennas and 
computer aided doppler tuning.   Yes, you can do without all that stuff, 
but it's far from easy, and very intimidating.   It's just too easy to 
make mistakes in one or more of the five things you have to do at once.

Thirdly, operating with QRP level signals is just safer.  It's really 
pretty difficult for kids to hurt themselves with an HT.   They aren't 
beaming several watts of microwave energy into directional antennas.

There are other good things: APRS messaging through the birds is fun.  
Monitoring downlinks from cubesats and from weather sats is fun, and can 
be done with a TH-F6A or the like.   I wrote my own satellite tracking 
code for fun.   My own satellite picture decoder for fun.  Built a small 
yagi for 2m for fun.  

Ham radio should be less of an investment of $$$ and more of an 
investment of one's own energy and enthusiasm.

Look at it this way: can you think of another hobby that spends as much 
time soul searching, trying to attract new members to its ranks.  If ham 
radio were really fun, we couldn't keep them from joining us.

Sent via AMSAT-BB@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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