Amateur Radio Participation Levels?

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ToneBurst

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Over the past year or so, I have noticed that the amateur bands have been eerily quiet. No one on HF except the regulars who just complain about everything they can find to complain about, and my local repeaters are not so active either. I live in a large metro area and it seems as if everyone has vanished except for a couple of weekly nets on 2 meters and a Saturday night net on 220.

Taking into account the economy and the need for people to survive, I am assuming that is a major contributing factor. Anyone else have any idea why Chicago and HF in general are so quiet?
 

w2xq

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Let's take a quick stab at this. On both HF and VHF/UHF, smartphones and the Internet (social networks, e.g., Twitter, Facebook, IRC) are the delivery systems of the day. Youngsters have distractions: TV, computers, gaming and more. On HF, DXers and multi-op contesters/stations now use DX spotting networks rather than troll the bands with the receivers. You have some network activities (County Hunters on 14336, Maritime Mobile 14300); the ARRL used to maintain a list of nets, perhaps they still do. Now retired, I also note that repeaters are quiet during the day; activity peaks at drivetime. HF activity also depends upon propagation conditions. If the LUF/MUF isn't cooperating and the A/K indicies are high, things will be quieter. (I have some propagation links on my Web site.) In a nutshell, HTH.
 

mmckenna

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I'd agree. Back many moons ago there was always stuff on the local 2 meter and 70cm band, now it's mostly dead. There are still a lot of repeaters out there, though you won't hear much traffic on them, at least not around me. When I do, it's a few older guys or so. Up in one of the valleys where I work usage is a bit more heavy, but not much. When I used to use APRS, up until about a year ago, there were a lot of users around, but they usually we not on the radio.

Times have changed, and as the older hams tire or die off, they are not being replaced. I know more than a couple of people that have ham tickets, yet are rarely or ever on the air. Several members of my family have their licenses, but we usually only use them while traveling or out on our ATV's.

Amateur radio is suffering and really needs to change. We are hanging on to some nice pieces of RF real estate, and we are not using them. I'm willing to bet that in the not too distant future we are going to have to fight for what we have. 70cm is at big risk, FCC is already putting more secondary users in there, and I'll bet there is more to come. Sitting on 30MHz or so of spectrum in the UHF band is going to look awful tasty to someone, and I'm not confident that the FCC won't sell out.

I know that's blasphemy to most hams, but I think it's true. We are not using what we have and we are going to risk loosing it. Personally I don't see a real valid argument for keeping it.

Amateur radio used to be about innovation, and while there still is some of that going on, we've fallen way behind. Sure, PSK31 is slick, but what does it really do in a real world application. Sure, there are uses for HF low power slow speed stuff, but when there are satellite phones and most of us have a small computer/cell phone on our hip, it sort of pales in comparison.

I don't see much changing, and I think we will likely see some big changes soon.
 

zz0468

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My observation is, it's the general interest ham clubs that are stagnating and becoming inactive. I'm involved in several technically oriented ham clubs and both are going strong after 40 or 50 years of existence. People are building things, people are experimenting, bands are being utilized from 160 meters to 120 GHz. Granted, some of the microwave bands are only populated during contests, but there IS activity out there.

I would suggest that anyone lamenting the lack of activity become active in building things. If repeaters are your bag, expand it... build a remote base, and use it on the air. People will hear it and see how much fun it is.

Get into VHF/UHF/Microwave contesting. There is a VERY enthusiastic core group across the country that communicates with each other, holds conferences, shares ideas, and actually get on the air.

Can't put up an HF antenna at your apartment? Go HF mobile. DX stations seem to enjoy working mobile stations and will pluck you out of a pile up.

Like digital? There's a ton of really neat software programs that are free, and just use a sound card. Like digital and VHF? You can do moonbounce with 100 watts and a six element beam using WSJT.

So, don't lament that ham radio is dying. DO SOMETHING, and tell the world about it.
 

Howdy_All

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I would have to agree wholeheartedly with MMckenna.

I have noticed a new wolf on my doorstep since I became a ham.
Those people are called Wolf's because most of them has been a ham for 5 years or less and now they are talking over the local amateur radio clubs.
Most clubs in my area - unless they have some type of income - only has around 20 members and maybe $500.00 in their bank account.
So why do these people want to take over these clubs?
For their repeaters!

Another reason is because all of the Amateur Radio community is getting old and is going to die one day. That much is a fact! The thing about belonging to a club and being the president of a club and shaking a lot of hands and kissing a lot of babies is - some day your ARRL section manager is going to die and their goal is to get that persons job.

Once you become section manager, it is just a hop / skip / and jump to getting in the front door of the ARRL. Remember - the average age of a ham radio operator in my neighborhood is 68 years old.
They did not have any VE test sessions here for 20 years - hence they did not recruit any new members into the ham radio community and they did not bring any new blood into the ham radio clubs.

Now these people are at and beyond retirement age, has lot's of money in their pockets, refuses to buy anything , refuses to sell anything that isn't broke, refuses to work at hamfests, refuses to talk on the radio and refuses to help most new hams.

Their opinion is - they grew up with the CB radio and Yaesu 101 radios and amplifiers and they put up their own beam antenna's and already had the stuff and only got their license because they were looking for a more quiet place to talk.

Young people today runs the house, not the parents.
Young people tends not to have any sort of feelings towards tradition.
Tradition is taught, you are not born with it.
What ever is popular is what the kids of today is going to use.
When their friends all have cell phones - they are not going to be interested or interested for long in amateur radio. Even the BBC stopped beaming their signal into the USA because why would someone want to buy a radio and put up an antenna when they can get the same thing right now off the internet.

The other problem is hording - where people has this stuff, yet they refuse to sell it for less then top dollar. Most new hams today only has a limited budget to spend and they refuse to spend more then $200.00 to get into the hobby. Because they have no knowledge of communications or electronics - and the only thing they do know about is cell phones - they buy cheap walkie talkies and they call themselves hams - because they have a license - not because they actually have radios or knows how to use them.

They don't even read the ARRL or Gordon West Technician License Manual because they want everything right now and easy. So they study the questions and the answers and they memorize the answers long enough to take the test and then they quickly forget all that they had learned - which wasn't much in order to get their license. They are not of any use to the real amateur radio community because they do not know how to operate a ham radio. They do not know how to handle traffic. They do not know how to do a round table. All they know is breaker breaker 10-4 good buddy from the CB radio and the old hams are so afraid that they will leave if they correct them that they refuse to correct them in fear of offending them. So where are the Elmers? Probably in the cemetery - just like mine.
 

mmckenna

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That's good you have a local club that is so active. I'm not so fortunate in this area.

I'm not lamenting the fact that there isn't much going on, just making an observation from my point of view.
One big issue I see is that a group of very vocal hams have held back amateur radio when the rest of the world was progressing. There are hams that love to lament the loss of the code requirements and how when "no code" came along ham radio went to heck. What really happened was that the old outdated requirements held back the hobby while the rest of the world was moving on. CW should have been dropped back in the late 70's, maybe even earlier. Requirements like understanding packet, APRS, digital modes and the like should be required now. Back in the late 80's I remember the Novice test I took still had questions in the pool about vacuum tubes when the rest of the world had long since moved on to transistors and IC's. Requiring CW proficiency was good back in the 40's, it shouldn't have been a requirement as long as it was for entry into amateur radio.

So many non-Hams have this image of ham radio operators as a bunch of old guys with old equipment talking to a bunch of similar people in other countries. What needs to happen is the image needs to change. That is being held back by old timers that like to lament the old days. Sure, it's a vocal minority and obviously doesn't represent guys like us, but that is what the general public sees.

Last time I saw a field day it wasn't something that I felt inspired people. It was a bunch of people using old technology to do something that anyone with a cell phone could have done, faster and cheaper. Yes, the amateur can do it without cell towers, big deal. Packet is an extremely slow speed out of date technology, again something that anyone with a computer/internet connection or cell phone can do faster and cheaper.

The attitude of some hams as well as the ARRL is that ham radio will save the day. Not true in most cases. Public Safety systems have long since bypassed the average 2 meter repeaters in reliability, capability and coverage. Public safety has access to a lot of simplex frequencies that can be put into use when those repeaters can't function. Satellite phones have replaced amateur HF nets for emergency response, again, cheaper and more capability that what us hams have, and most states have their own HF systems for handling emergency traffic.
Sure, Hams get involved in disasters, but more often than not, they are handling routine, non-life safety traffic to offload the important public safety networks.
The ARRL, ARES, RACES and the like have clung onto the idea that they are the only ones that can utilize this equipment and technology in an emergency, and like some superhero are going to swoop in with their minivans covered with magnet mount antennas to save the day. What this does is paints this hobby as a bunch of whackers, pure and simple.

A few years back a couple of major fiber cables were cut around here and my county was completely isolated from the rest of the world. No phone service outside the county, Cell phones didn't work because all the MSO's were on the other side of the cut No internet. Public Safety ran just fine. The VHF,UHF and other systems ran without interruption. The PSAP's were all talking together using simplex frequencies that were designed for this. A few hams were helping out at the hospital, but even the local hospital had their own radio systems linking them to the other hospital in the county, as well as others outside the area. We all got news via broadcast radio and TV. I used a satellite phone to contact the phone company to get an update. Life continued on.
Ham radio didn't save the day in that case. Amateurs provide a useful service, but we need to get off this attitude that the world depends on us. They don't. We need to change the image of amateur radio into something relevant. Sticking to CW and a handful of old guys in their wives minivans pretending to save the day isn't cutting it.

I know some will take offense to this, and I understand, but this is what I see, and this is what the dispatchers, police and fire guys I work with see. None of them see amateur radio as a valid option in an emergency. Sure, it is there as an option, but it isn't at the top of the list. A bunch of guys that get together ever Tuesday night and took a couple of FEMA IC-100 and related courses doesn't change that. All of their systems have been built up to be far more tolerant to interruptions, and systems and procedures have been put into place to work around failures. Often what causes problems in public safety communications is training or procedural issues, not equipment or or system faults.

Amateur radio needs to change its image pure and simple if it wants to survive and be taken seriously.
 
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ToneBurst

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Recently, I was in a cab with a family member and I noticed the driver was using a company Kenwood rig. I commented on how much I enjoy that Kenwood sound and the quality of their equipment. He said, "how do you know?" I said "I'm a licensed amateur op" and he says "man, that's still around? I thought that went out with the internet and cell phones...I mean, ham radio is technologically incorrect and backwards with all the other technologies out here"

I told him..."really? We use new technologies for radio applications and we use them in conjunction with what we do. We have IRLP, Echolink, D-Star, Mototrbo, P25, and anything else you can name."

He said, "yeah, but you only have short range communications of a few blocks with CB" I laughed and said, oh, you think ham radio is CB, you have the wrong radio service in mind!" LOL

He commented that he thought they were the same and I said noooo, you should go look at the ARRL website.

One other problem I definitely have noticed is this:too many people getting licenses and then deciding that they are too shy to make contacts. They are either mic shy or too scared to get into digital modes that allow use of a keyboard because these folks don't even know how to use a computer.

Then, a BIG problem is this whole "I don't talk to strangers" thing....no, but you probably have a Facebook account with 400 people on it whom you've never met and you likely tell them each place you visit and every darned detail of your life. I have noticed over my years in amateur radio that there are those who only use it as a private service to talk to their wife, husband, GF, BF, BFF, etc. We have GMRS, CB, FRS,MURS, cellphones and e-mail and the like for things like that. Not to mention that those types of contacts violate part 97 since it is something you can use the phone for and since it is not related to any real communications.

Continuing with the problems I have noticed that also cause amateur radio to stagnate and become irrelevant is this whole "amateur radio is only for listening" mentality and then there are always a bunch of hypersensitive people who never even get on any band, but they sit there and they listen and they call up the repeater trustees / owners to tell them that so and so said this and that and it offended me....and they do this to alot of people. Then the repeater trustee calls up the repeater user or sends out a nasty gram or whatever and it causes a whole boat load of trouble for everyone.

These are the same people also monitoring simplex and Hf, and who send out nasty letters to other ops about how they should or shouldn't operate or what they can and can't talk about, etc. I mean, you can talk about the weather or your favorite radio and some old politically correct fart is offended. This bullshart is running people away. If you think potential new hams aren't listening, or that potential new hams don't get wind of this sort of thing, think again!

In regards to Chicago, I have yet to hear any activity on simplex, on the repeaters, on digital modes, or anywhere else in 2012 so far.
 
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gewecke

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We are living in a new age where there are so many flavors of technology that the current generation want to "sample" the product, but to commit to the overall science of that innovation is of no interest to them. Now if it's scamming the consumers, the elderly or making happy people miserable then we seem to be "game on".

Hot; xboxes, skype,fakebook,myface, voip, youtube videos,gaming and streaming among other questionable time wasters...

Not so hot; camping, fishing,photography,biking, physical fitness, healthy living and loving the life you have and the air you breathe...

So many flavors,good and bad.


73,
n9zas
 

mmckenna

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I told him..."really? We use new technologies for radio applications and we use them in conjunction with what we do. We have IRLP, Echolink, D-Star, Mototrbo, P25, and anything else you can name."
True, "we" do, but what bothers me about that is that none of it is really cutting edge. Sure, MotoTrbo, P25 and even D-Star are modern, but MotoTrbo and P25 are commercial/public safety things, and while it's cool, it ain't new. Used to be amateurs were on the cutting edge, now we are trailing everyone else, hooking onto existing technology rather than being innovators.
I'm not sure why Hams have this fascination with MotoTrbo and P25? It's high priced compared to FM gear, not many people can afford it or gain access to it. Sure, it's neat if you have commercial or public safety frequencies you are authorized to use that you can share the radio, but as a stand alone amateur mode? Seems like hams are being -wannabees- when they do that, or that they are trying to lock out other hams from participating. If Trbo or P25 were new, cutting edge technologies, I could sort of understand, but they aren't.

I'd guess I'd feel better about the future of amateur radio if there was more innovation, development, experimentation, etc. But other than a very few dedicated groups, I don't see that. I see amateur has turned into high power CB with a bit more discipline. I know I'm going to get flamed for that, but that is exactly what I see from where I am.
 

zz0468

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...Used to be amateurs were on the cutting edge, now we are trailing everyone else, hooking onto existing technology rather than being innovators.
There are still amateurs on the cutting edge. The thing is, it's NEVER been 100% of amateurs doing the innovating, it's always been the 0.1%. And that really hasn't changed.

I'm not sure why Hams have this fascination with MotoTrbo and P25? It's high priced compared to FM gear, not many people can afford it or gain access to it.
It may be hams playing with P25 that are able to document any deficiencies, or advantages over NBFM. The point of playing with it is to push it to the limit to see what can be done with it. That sort of experimentation won't happen on the public safety systems.


...Seems like hams are being -wannabees- when they do that, or that they are trying to lock out other hams from participating.
Or maybe it's just a new mode to play with. A lot of the guys palying with P25 are the same ones that work with it. But in working with it, it's usually someone else telling you what you can and can't do.

Locking others out? The very few P25 repeaters that I know of are all open, without exception.

I'd guess I'd feel better about the future of amateur radio if there was more innovation, development, experimentation, etc. But other than a very few dedicated groups, I don't see that.
So, what's changed? You need to subscribe to QEX. You need to subscribe to the various microwave reflectors, and AMSAT, and TAPR, and all the other specialized groups that are doing the innovating, and have always done the innovating. You won't find it in QST, and you sure as hell won't find it here.

I see amateur has turned into high power CB with a bit more discipline. I know I'm going to get flamed for that, but that is exactly what I see from where I am.
I'm not exactly flaming you, but I would suggest that if you're not seeing innovation, you're probably not looking in the right places.
 

Zagadka

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The problem is marketing. Granted I've only been lurking the boards for a couple years and only been licenced a couple weeks now but just in this short time it's become obvious that the ham community is a pretty insular group. Lots of mystery about "services" and equipment directed at the uninitiated, backslapping "welcome to the club" notes if and when you past the tech exam but after that you're an idiot if you don't know what the old timers know about the way it used to (and ought to) be. This leads to the very common perception of hams as a bunch of old guys with patches on their jackets playing with radios - not a terribly dynamic or saleable picture to paint.

Much of this perception seems to lay at the feet of the trade orgs AND the manufacturers too. I just received a magazine from the ARRL and in it is a dozen or so full page color glossy ads of the latest and greatest equipment. It's all very cool to be sure but how about giving me eleven product ads and one ad showing a woman in her Honda Oddesy pleased that help is on the way because she's got no cell service but was smart enough to have a 2 meter HT. Cobra could expand the user base with simple ads highlighting the fact that frs/gmrs is "technically" ham radio. Apostacy perhaps but a campaign of "CB is ham radio for the rest of us" might do a lot to make the hobby more accessible to a broader group of folks.

Finally, there is a rise in the whole "prepper" movement that is a natural audience for ham radio and its products. Why kenwood or others don't buy spots on Doomsday Preppers or create turnkey comms packages for places like Cheaper than Dirt is beyond me. With the right co-ordination, we could easily double the number of hams in this country (to only 1.4 million, right?). In a culture where 50 million people know details of the dress Paris Hilton wore to the Grammys, surely that's possible.

My $0.02, YMMV, flame if you must - I'll still love my radios. :)
 

zz0468

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...Cobra could expand the user base with simple ads highlighting the fact that frs/gmrs is "technically" ham radio. Apostacy perhaps but a campaign of "CB is ham radio for the rest of us" might do a lot to make the hobby more accessible to a broader group of folks.
"Technically", it's NOT ham radio, and we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we try to convey that message.

Most of your post made very little sense to me, except the message where you mention that ham radio is an insular community, and there you're absolutely correct.

The problem is not entirely ham's fault, however. In pop culture, it has become cool to be stupid, and hams are generally thought of as geeky eggheads. Society in general has to fix that. But amongst the geeky eggheads themselves, we need to convey that ham radio can add a whole new dimension to what they're already doing, and that is playing with technology. And that's were hams come up short.
 

Zagadka

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to help me learn more. I will "pick a nit" with you however on this one point:

But amongst the geeky eggheads themselves, we need to convey that ham radio can add a whole new dimension to what they're already doing, and that is playing with technology.
Seems to me that appealing soley to the geeky eggheads is what breeds the insularity that's damaging the hobby. And geeky eggheads love to demonstrate their geeky eggheadedness with more than a whiff of superiority - that doesn't help matters.

I mean no disrespect but it's like the fella above who chats to the cabbie about radio "services". The moment that conversation starts, eyes glaze over and the cabbie shuts off. As a group, we hams (I charitably number myself amongst you based on what I will do not what I have yet done) sell features, not benefits - that gets you into the weeds and out of a "sale" pretty quick. As you so rightly say, "add(ing) a whole new dimension to what they're already doing" is a superior approach if the goal is to bring in new users. Doing that for folks with a 30 second attention span and have no shame in being stupid is the tough part. My "technically" comments were an attempt to suggest ways to accomplish that, however inartful they were.

KK4HBK de Frank
 

zz0468

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to help me learn more. I will "pick a nit" with you however on this one point:

Seems to me that appealing soley to the geeky eggheads is what breeds the insularity that's damaging the hobby. And geeky eggheads love to demonstrate their geeky eggheadedness with more than a whiff of superiority - that doesn't help matters.
A good point, but in my observations, we as a group aren't going to be able to interest anyone who isn't already predisposed to be interested in any sort of technology. Being a 'geeky egghead' isn't limited to people involved in science or technology. I know a couple of bankers that are hams, for example. But they're all intelligent inquisitive people, and geeks in their own right.

I mean no disrespect but it's like the fella above who chats to the cabbie about radio "services". The moment that conversation starts, eyes glaze over and the cabbie shuts off. As a group, we hams (I charitably number myself amongst you based on what I will do not what I have yet done) sell features, not benefits - that gets you into the weeds and out of a "sale" pretty quick.
The problem with trying to sell it as a benefit is, there's little about ham radio that can't be accomplished some other way. Not everyone is going to look at it as a doomsday savior when the "cloud" fails to function, although that benefit exists.

What we need to sell is it's most predominant feature - it's FUN. But not everyone will see it as fun, and that's ok. Those people aren't our target audience. We really don't want the entire world to get into ham radio. We just want to keep it healthy and vibrant, and that means bringing young people into it. Then, let it evolve the way THEY make it evolve.

As you so rightly say, "add(ing) a whole new dimension to what they're already doing" is a superior approach if the goal is to bring in new users.
Those are the people we want. They're already motivated, they're already experimenting, they're already building things. Where we hams make a mistake is saying things like "That's not real ham radio... (grumble grumble)"

It turns those bright people off to a hobby that could be a perfect fit with everything else they're doing.

Doing that for folks with a 30 second attention span and have no shame in being stupid is the tough part.
Those people are already lost. We need to save the ones that haven't made that choice yet.
 
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Zagadka

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Good points all. Our small differences lie in how we define the potential market. Those discussions are best left to a couple of beverages or a lenghtly HF rag chew that I have some time before I can accomplish. Until then, I'll follow your advice from earlier in the thread:

So, don't lament that ham radio is dying. DO SOMETHING, and tell the world about it.
Mom says I have to put on my PJ's, brush my teeth and get into bed. :lol:

Thanks again & 73
 

mmckenna

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Actually, ALL the radio techs I know are hams. They just tend to do more on the commercial side than the Ham side. Most, if not all, of us are using commercial radios on Ham. When we work on radio gear all day, we don't very often want to come home and do it as a hobby. Tends to be an occupational hazard.
What I think needs to happen is there needs to be some changes in the hobby. Things are stagnant right now. The number of licensed hams seems to be going up, yet the local repeaters tend to be pretty quiet. If something doesn't change soon, we are at risk for loosing what we have. Having 4MHz in the VHF band, 30 in UHF, a nice slice at 222, etc. is going to look awful tasty to some commercial users. There needs to be some more innovation, and some loosening up of the traditions. The current band plans are all designed for standard 25Khz wide channels, with a few obvious exceptions. Running any really wide band/high speed stuff risks stepping on a repeater, a calling frequency, etc. You've got to go WAY up in frequency to get any space to do much. Of course we can get a 1.2GHz D-Star radio and get ISDN speeds off of that. How about flushing some of these dead repeaters out of the system and making room for some more experimentation or other uses? How about trunking on Ham? More high speed data links? Why are we stuck on slow speed packet? Sure it works in less than ideal conditions, and there is a place for it, but why aren't we running some faster modes in the VHF and UHF spectrums? LTE ham radio, anyone?
I'm concerned that the old band plans are stifling things, just as much as those old hams that don't want to see anything other than CW or SSB, because everything else "isn't real radio".
When most of the younger non-Ham experimenters are are playing with faster stuff, why would they want to get into HAM where they are restricted by a bunch of out of date rules and band plans? How many of them really want to be restricted to 9.6Kb packet when they can run much faster on the non-ham bands? We need to change things so we can get back into innovation, rather than holding things back because that was the way they used to do it.
I dunno, just gets frustrating sometimes. I don't like to see the hobby get marginalized. I guess I need to get more active and start doing rather than just talking about it.
 

zz0468

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Actually, ALL the radio techs I know are hams. They just tend to do more on the commercial side than the Ham side.
And the radio techs who are hams tend to be better radio techs. They're doing it because they like it, not because they fell into it by accident.

Most, if not all, of us are using commercial radios on Ham. When we work on radio gear all day, we don't very often want to come home and do it as a hobby. Tends to be an occupational hazard.
That can be true,but as a general rule, I have to disagree. It really depends on how much fun one has while working at it.

What I think needs to happen is there needs to be some changes in the hobby. Things are stagnant right now. The number of licensed hams seems to be going up, yet the local repeaters tend to be pretty quiet.
If things are stagnant, it's because there is no new blood bringing in new ideas. There are also clearly too many repeaters for the available population of hams. Look at how many posts there are here by some new ham saying "I want to build a repeater". Yeah, they're fun to play with, but with every new repeater that comes along, there is a bit more dilution of the activity on the ones that are already there.

If something doesn't change soon, we are at risk for loosing what we have. Having 4MHz in the VHF band, 30 in UHF, a nice slice at 222, etc. is going to look awful tasty to some commercial users.
Some of our bands are at risk regardless of activity levels, and that's nothing new.

There needs to be some more innovation, and some loosening up of the traditions. The current band plans are all designed for standard 25Khz wide channels, with a few obvious exceptions.
Yes, more innovation needs to be done, but people also need to pay attention to the innovation that's already being done. Like I said in an earlier post, if you're not seeing any, you're not looking in the right place. Put down your 2 meter HT and look higher in frequency... MUCH higher.

Running any really wide band/high speed stuff risks stepping on a repeater, a calling frequency, etc. You've got to go WAY up in frequency to get any space to do much.
Yep. And don't expect that to change. The lower frequencies simply don't have the room to do a whole lot more. You could, maybe, slice one or two wideband data channels out of a chunk of 2 meters but that would be detrimental to the vast bulk of existing traffic, and politically, that's not going to fly. Why not just go to the bands where the room already exists?

Of course we can get a 1.2GHz D-Star radio and get ISDN speeds off of that. How about flushing some of these dead repeaters out of the system and making room for some more experimentation or other uses?
A great deal of that can already be done on existing band plans. 900 MHz is severely under used. So is 1200. 440 is severely over used in many areas, and that might be ripe for some narrow banding. But narrow banding itself is not really innovative. Maybe making narrow banded radios sound good would be innovative.

How about trunking on Ham?
Not a good idea. It would be impossible to administer, and it would destroy the ad hoc nature of amateur communications that makes it the valuable and unique resource that it is.

More high speed data links? Why are we stuck on slow speed packet? Sure it works in less than ideal conditions, and there is a place for it, but why aren't we running some faster modes in the VHF and UHF spectrums?
Good questions. Maybe it's already being done. Check and see what TAPR is doing.

LTE ham radio, anyone?
We have microwave spectrum that would be ideal to experiment with that. Have at it!

I'm concerned that the old band plans are stifling things, just as much as those old hams that don't want to see anything other than CW or SSB, because everything else "isn't real radio".
This is a real problem. Start visiting your local frequency coordinators who do the local bandplans and start letting them know you want a place to try something different.

When most of the younger non-Ham experimenters are are playing with faster stuff, why would they want to get into HAM where they are restricted by a bunch of out of date rules and band plans?
There are already losts of people taking Part 15 microwave radios and enhancing the performance and doing some interesting things with them. Search the internet and see. You won't find that stuff on scanner hobbyist web sites.

I dunno, just gets frustrating sometimes. I don't like to see the hobby get marginalized. I guess I need to get more active and start doing rather than just talking about it.
So, you're talking about it. Are you actually doing anything about it? There's room on the bands for everything you've mentioned, and very few impediments to trying new things. Get started!
 

ToneBurst

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Zagadka and zz0468,

I doubt going to the frequency coordinators will do much good when it comes to talking about innovation because most of these are old guys who are part of the "old guard" that strictly opposes innovation. The problem of the closed and insular amateur community really needs to be addressed so that way people are not afraid to get on the air.

It's a real problem when you have people afraid to get on the air because the old politically correct, hyper-sensitive folks who never even operate want to pick up the phone and make phone calls to whomever about another operator or they start e-mail campaigns against an op or three, letter writing campaigns to scare off ops they don;t want around because they think they are the sole guardians of the amateur spectrum and the practice itself.

This situation with Mototrbo and P25 is a way of closing it up even more due to the high cost of the equipment and the need to get hold of the software/firmwear which is proprietary and not widely available. That problem leads to having to ask someone to program your rig for you since you likely will be laughed away when you try to buy the software/firmwear you need and told that it is highly restricted stuff that just can't be handed over to just anyone.

As far as technical innovation goes at the hand skills and knowledge that goes to component level stuff, I'm not advanced enough to even know what I'm talking about because in this day and age, participating in that kind of thing will likely have you see a visit from the FBI and JTTF (they recently distributed flyers to electronics stores that easily label licensed hams buying the needed materials and asking questions about the products to the store as potential terrorists)

Are you interested in police scanners and two-way radios? The FBI thinks you might be a terrorist | kdsanders.com

I'm more of a feedline, antenna, propagation, (sort of) power supply, frequency / bandwidth / audio minded person.

Even before this flyer distribution, hams and other nerdy eggheads as you referred to them got very suspicious eyes raised at them. When you talk about going higher in the frequency ranges, you are talking about spending LOTS of money on the needed pieces of equipment and then the possibility of those hams who live in certain areas where there are busybodies or overly concerned "citizens" getting in legal tangles over claims of health threats posed by high frequency equipment. "This guy or his equipment or radio signals might give us cancer", lol!

No one wants those headaches or the possibility of them.

I have actually spoken about the possibility of amateur radio for trunking use and gotten some pretty good feedback about it because we just might find a way to use it better, and in ways that "push the technical limits" that couldn't be done in the public safety service.

Nationwide remote HF / VHF / UHF / SHF / EHF base linking is something that some people are playing with. Just yesterday, I spoke with someone in the UK who was operating his HF station in the U.S. via his cellphone while he was in the UK for vacation. I also worked a station in Jamaica, and one in Mexico before I had to be done for the day. Just when I thought it was the same "gool ole boys" out here, I got three new contacts.

How about iDEN for amateur use? We also could use FCC support for speeding up some of the digital modes we currently use so we can do more with it. Bandwidth is a concern with that, but I think we could definitely work that out as a community apart from the FCC so we can go to them and say "look, we got this under control and here is our plan".

The Rain Report had a show about ESSB that sounds almost digital in its quality and clarity. How's that for innovation?
 

zz0468

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Zagadka and zz0468,

I doubt going to the frequency coordinators will do much good when it comes to talking about innovation because most of these are old guys who are part of the "old guard" that strictly opposes innovation...
Well, maybe you're right. The single most difficult person to overcome is the one that's so thoroughly pessimistic and throws up roadblock after roadblock after roadblock with excuses as to why one can't be innovative.

It's an impossible task trying to convince someone like that that the roadblocks are all quite artificial, and easily overcome just by doing it.

So, I guess you're right. :roll:
 
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