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Re: Vanishing Hams


Over the past 43 years as a ham and Electrical Engineer (and Computer Scientist) I have tried about everything I can think of to interest kids in ham radio.  My conclusion is that we need to direct ham radio toward the 40 to 70 year olds who are less interested in the tech end of it and more interested in the people end of it.  

 I can be counted as one of your "10% who have tried APRS".  

In the 10+ years i have been listening to you champion APRS, I have yet to find a single use for it.  
Lets see, here in SoCAL I can get the weather report from a dozen or so APRS stations in the LA basin.  I  can get a better WX report by either listening to NOAA on a radio or by logging on to the web.  
With APRS I can see the position of several dozen ham stations in the SoCAL  basin - so what?  Of what use is this information?
Finally I can use APRS to send text messages - again so what?
APRS, like ham radio, is a low tech solution looking for a problem.  Technology passed APRS and Packet radio by 10 years ago.  The cell phone did the same thing for FM and repeaters.  10 years ago you could not find a free repeater to talk on in SoCAL at drive time.  Now, you can not find anyone to talk to on a repeater at drive time.    Hams were among the first to realize that the cell phone was a heck of a lot faster and more reliable during a road side emergency verses trying to make an autopatch call .  Thus, the attraction to getting a license and using a repeater disappeared just as the reason for Packet radio disappeared.
Finally, APRS and its derivatives are fighting a basic problem - the bandwidth is too low to allow adequate data rates.  56k baud modems put an end to Packet radio 10 years ago.  Until you employ a scheme similar to ADSL, you are limited by the bandwidth of a single fm channel.  There are FM channels set aside for hi speed wide band comm.  However, your competition, the commercial carriers have you beat on price, availability, and reliability.  More over, they have the the cost economies brought about by a tremendous number of users.      

The kids you are trying to impress with ham radio in general and APRS in specific just roll their eyes and go back to their iPhones and PC's.   After all, ham radio is another name for AMATEUR radio.  The world is no longer impressed with amateur solutions to Telecommunications just as it is no longer impressed with using horses for basic transportation.

 Tim AA6DQ 

> From: bruninga@usna.edu
> To: K5GNA@aol.com; amsat-bb@amsat.org
> Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 15:03:21 -0400
> Subject: [amsat-bb] Re: Vanishing Hams
> > Today, with CB, Cell Phones, cordless phones, FRS, etc. -- 
> > everyone is a radio operator. Now, military communications 
> > is done with a keyboard or microphone -- pretty much 
> > universal  skills now.  
> Do not overlook how kids use key-pad text-messaging as the
> greatest revolution in communications of all time...  Even some
> old-fud adults are learning how to use it..
> Then consider that APRS has had global text-messaging (and
> email) via the keypad of the D7 and D700 radios for over 10
> years now, yet how many old-fuds ever even considered using it
> or introduced this exciting new capability to their kids? 
> You can even send text-messages or emails from your HT or Radio
> from anywhere on earth via any of the APRS satellites (ISS,
> GO-32, PCSAT-1, etc)...  We even suggested that everyone should
> learn how to do this and exercise it during
> Satellite-Simulated-Emergency-Tests.  You can even use any old
> TNC and any old radio to do this.  See:
> http://www.ew.usna.edu/~bruninga/sset.html
> > Although the Amateur Radio Community shines when 
> > there is loss  of communications during a disaster, 
> > with newer technology, even that could  change.
> What is hard in ham radio is "change".  We basically have to
> wait for some ops to die in order for some new things to be
> tried and to take hold...
> > Maybe the ARRL needs to sponsor an award for bringing 
> > new Hams into the community. Otherwise, someday, no 
> > one will remember what those letters even  stood for.
> A good start might be to sponsor an award for old fuds that try
> something new...
> And then show it to a kid... <wink>
> P.S.  Only about 2% of ham radio operators use APRS, and
> probably only 10% of them (0.2% of all hams) have tried this
> global text messaging (or email) feature.  Yet, even 10 years
> ago, and ahead of its time we had it in Ham Radio!
> >From an old fud..
> Bob, WB4APR
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