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Do You Still Find Amateur Radio Interesting?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the ham-cb-and-that-annoying-cell-phone-chirp dept.


Marcos Eliziario asks: "Soon, I'll be taking the exams for a Brazilian, Class-D, Ham Radio license (Equivalent to an American Technician License) and, as I was reading about the subject, I wondered what today's geek thinks about amateur radio. In the past, Ham Radio was very popular among nerds, however with the Internet boom it seems that interest on radio, among the younger generations, is becoming dimmer each day. A lot of cool things can be done with radio, like building your own equipment, digital modes (btw, few people know that Packet Radio was born on the amateur's rank), and long distance contacts. The gear is cool, there's a lot of things to be learned about propagation, and today's Hams even use satellites to talk. Do you think that we could see a renaissance of Ham Radio among 21st century techies?"

cancel ×


No. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398802)

Really, no.

Yes. (3, Interesting)

lothos (10657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398803)

I'm studying for my amateur licence. It still has its uses in this day and age of the internet.

Re:Yes. (1)

Pandora's Vox (231969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399118)

when you get it, head on over to [] . where all the cool hams hang out :)

73s de VE3HYP

Re:Yes. (2, Funny)

harmgsn (612057) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399322)

LOL. Sure... the "cool" people ;) 73 N0RSE

Nope, my license lapsed (2, Funny)

Soong (7225) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398808)

Once upon a time I learned morse and passed the novice, tech and tech plus tests. Then I got into computers and the internet and a zillion other things. It probably would have been easy for me to renew my license to as good or better status given the easing of the tests, but I never got around to it. I still have my radios but the batteries are dead and probably won't even hold a charge anymore. Radio is still a curiosity, but not something I've chosen to spend time on.

Depends... (3, Funny)

Opusnbill7 (442087) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398810)

Depends.... Some of us might find that stuff interesting, but don't know who to turn to to "try it out". That, and the cost of entry is so high (equipment, putting up an antenna [which you can't even do if you have an apt. probably]) that it really is hard to "get started". As unfortunate as it may be, Ham radio may be in a bit of a downward spiral unless it can figure out a way to make it accessible and seem relevant to the younger generation.

Re:Depends... (5, Informative)

nincehelser (935936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398920)

It's neither hard nor expensive to get started. Just get your license and go on the air with a handy-talky. I bought my first one for less than $200. No big antennas or investmens are necessary.

This assumes you live close enough to a population center with folks to talk to, but that isn't a big deal in most areas. From there you can decide if you want to branch out into longer-distance communications.

Re:Depends... (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399365)

t's neither hard nor expensive to get started. Just get your license and go on the air with a handy-talky. I bought my first one for less than $200. No big antennas or investmens are necessary.

I see licensing requirements have radically changed since 1990, esp. in Canada. Before it was such a pain in the ass. Learn to send & receive morse code (which isn't trivial, but not super hard either), study like hell for the tests, pay the test fee and hope you pass the first time, then get to spend your first year restricted to CW bands and having your logs checked by an accredited official (for what reason I have no idea!!). Now it's just a single test, thank goodness.

But I see there's still a big study test and paying $200 for great that amounts to a walkie-talkie. What is the draw anymore when people these days have cell phones and the internet?

Radio? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398832)

Afraid the only radio I deal with these days is wireless internet access. I managed a "Tech Plus" license at one point (it was my first license, and I passed the written exam for the next class up, but wasn't able to copy down Morse code quickly enough).

Unfortunately, I never got a rig, so... let's just say that my callsign won't appear in too many logbooks, sorry :) That said, I did learn quite a bit about electronics, so it's not like I'm sorry I did it. I managed to do quite a bit of soldering/desoldering, too, although I never really got anything very useful working.

Re:Radio? (4, Funny)

heptapod (243146) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399091)

Wow, that sounds a lot like everyone's experience with Linux.

Re:Radio? (4, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399621)

Of course, with an amateur licence, you can use an unholy EIRP on 2.4GHz - technically 2.4GHz wifi is in the ISM band *but* since that is slap bang in the middle of the UK 2.4GHz band, it's ok. You can use AO-40 antennas to seriously improve your wifi. That's a good thing, 'cos you sure as hell can't hear Oscar over the noise of all the cordless phones, baby alarms and misconfigured wifi networks any more...

the listening's the issue (0)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398835)

Unlike the internet, you need specialized equipment in order to even listen to ham radio. You can't just turn to the station on the dial in the car, which is where most people listen to the radio. And despite the complexity, it's much easier to get into using a computer compared to taking a leap into ham radio, especially since figuring out what exactly you're going to listen to is such an issue.

It seems that if you have something worthwhile to spread, a podcast that allows people to listen when they want is both more efficient and easier to set up, and even if it's unpopular you're likely to get more listeners. While there have been some important aspects to ham radio, including some of the first responders for Katrina, the Sri Lankan tsunami, and "9/11", the fact that they were so limited in who could listen in seems to be the most drastic problem. Most people don't even know they still exist.

Re:the listening's the issue (2, Insightful)

shawngarringer (906569) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398960)

Do you even realize what Ham radio is? Its not a one-way broadcast... its two way. To compare ham radio to a podcast is. Perhaps IRC would be much clearer.

That being said, I'm a licensed (Tech +) ham, and I havn't touched anything ham related in a few years. Yes, HF is cool, talking to people around the world, morse code, using 5W to talk to Russia... but the fact of the matter is those things take a) time b) money and c) space. It used to be kids who got interested in things like that and then grew up involved with it at the local level. Except, now, kids have ohther things to do and community things are non existant.

Ham raido is dying for a number of reasons. Weaker feelings of community. Quicker easier alternate forms of communication. Less and less people can mount antennas on their homes/condos/apartments, etc...

Re:the listening's the issue (2, Informative)

Mike_ya (911105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399460)

Specialized equipment in order to listen? Just because Wal-Mart doesn't carry radio scanners (Radio Shack does, maybe Wal-Mart does I don't know) doesn't mean the equipment is specialized. One could listen to hams and also police, fire, EMT, businesses, and cell/cordless phones if you have the right models. You also don't need any sort of license to purchase one of these scanners.
You won't pick up all the frequencies that hams broadcast on, but you will hear plenty of local traffic. One can't just turn to an Internet station dial in the car either to listen to a podcast. Sure it's easier to use a computer than getting into ham. You don't need a license to legally use a computer or pass a test (which sometimes I think should be required) and the reasons for using each are much different. The typical person uses the computer to email familiars and to look up information plus entertainment. While people get into ham radio for the science of it. To use radio technology to talk with people basically around the world independent of phone lines or networks except for maybe a repeater.

If you have 'something worthwhile to spread' then ham isn't the technology to use. Ham shouldn't be looked on as like setting up a radio station. Its about 2 way communication, I believe broadcasting just to broadcast isn't allowed. Ham radio isn't about broadcasting to the public things to do in a disaster situation, it's about providing coordination thru communications for whoever is in charge of managing the disaster when traditional communication technologies fail.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398840)


HAM? nah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398841)

I don't like HAM radio
I like SAUSAGE radio

but BACON radio is the bestest.

OH 8th post!!!!!!!!11111!!one!!!!!!

Amateur radio interesting (5, Interesting)

ve3id (601924) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398842)

Yes I certainly do! It is still a sandbox for trying things out that will become either part of the common practice or a failed experiment to add to your experience! Right now hams are experimenting wioth new ways to communicate, satellites, digital modes, rig control, repeater stations and VoIP. there is lots of room for experimentation and in the upper levels of qualification you don;t have to buy type-approved equipment. You can experiment on the air without going through a commercial approval process, which can cost tens of thousands for a commefcial piece opf equipment. Amateur radio is the original open-source community, with a tradition of sharing techniques and technology dating back a century. With wireless becoming more important to the computer community, there is lots of room for people whpo pass the exams to do real and beneficial experimentation on the air, and maybe even invent something worthwile for humanity without a million-dollafr lab! Right now in Toronto we are working on a new generation of VHF/UHF repeater controller (search for TorontoRepeaterController on yahoo groups) which will be all open-source, hardware and software. It not only will congtrol repeaters, but link into VoIP nets, remote control rigs, and provide a gateway for analog radio users into the new digital voice modes. Even buying commercial off-the-shelf mobiles help the cause, because what is the use of developing stuff without intelligent users to test it! The next few years will see an multifold improvement in progagation as we reahc the peak of the sunspot cycle for those who just like to communicate. Two cycles ago I had no problem working Europe with ten watts from the mobile on 30MHz! Amateur radio is alive and well - but don;t tell too many people. We like to keep its wonders to ourselves! 73, Nigel, VE3ID and G4AJQ

Do You Still Find Amateur Radio Interesting? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398843)

"Do You Still Find Amateur Radio Interesting?"

No. Most Slashdotters are under fifty, I think.

Next week's topic: Are Star Wars references still cool?

Re: Do You Still Find Amateur Radio Interesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399609)

>>"No. Most Slashdotters are under fifty, I think."

Possibly, but at 51, I'll chime in, and I've been here since /. was black 'n white, how about you (or were you born yet?).



Re: Do You Still Find Amateur Radio Interesting? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399776)

No. Most Slashdotters are under fifty, I think.

LoL But not all of us. Personally I think most technology is cool. EM theory is fun, and the buzzword coefficient is pretty high (how many of you know what a directional discontinuity ring radiator is? How many of you know it's too big to be a sex toy?) and antenna theory is monstorously cool. But I thought that the Intel 4004 was cool too, because you could express a hex digit all at once. Spacecraft are cool. Varactors are cool. Longwires are definitely cool. Learned it all from one of the original LGP-30 drum computer programmers. He's no longer with us, but some of you might remember W6QBN for the uber nerd he was.

Oh yes, I think mini-ATX format computers are cool, and any flavour of Linux, or VMS, or Windows, or ...dang it I'm bonding with inanimate objects again ... sorry, I'm better now.

Off to Norrath then to cool off...

daditdada di ditditdit (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398858)

ditdit / dida dada / ditdadadit dadada ditditdit da ditdit dadit dadadit / da ditditditdit ditdit ditditdit / ditdada ditdit da ditditditdit / dada dadada ditdadit ditditdit dit / daditdadit dadada daditdit dit / ditditdadaditdit / NO CARRIER

Re:daditdada di ditditdit (1)

acxr is wasted (653126) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399113)

I am posting this with morse code? NO CARRIER

Re:daditdada di ditditdit (1)

darkrowan (976992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399142)

Bonus points for having been all ditdahs

Amateur Radio and satellites (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398859)

Yes, amateur radio is still relevant. Where else do you get to play with satellites? Amateur radio is one of the few places (outside of NASA) where you can experiment with radio links through real satellites in orbit around the Earth. That's not something you can do over the Internet. The upcoming Phase 5A (P5A) launch will be a mission to Mars. You can't do *THAT* over the Internet. See [] (It's German. Use the fish!). More info on amateur radio and satellites is available at AMSAT's web site at []

Re:Amateur Radio and satellites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399281)

Thanks to amateur radio I can use my rig to sent signals to satellites in orbit. I can communicate with people ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET, you can't do *THAT* over the Internet, can you?

When all else fails... (5, Informative)

wildzontor (976984) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398861)

My friends and I use ham radio because our cell phones drop all the time. As long as we're a hundred miles or so from our local repeater we're good. The entry price wasn't too much for me. $180 for a 2-meter mobile and $170 for a dual-band ht.

One of these days, Cell Phones will be hacked. (0)

NRAdude (166969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399612)

The old analog Cell Phones were able to be hacked to use as a low-power two-way duplex tranceiver that didn't use the cell tower. Near the band (at that time) was the Amateur Radio jockeys.

The modern Cell Phones are all digitall and encrypted, so perhaps we'll see a revival of two-way line of sight communication that also features some encryption of a sort. All the news today is about some people getting pre-paid phone service, and then discovering that the pre-paid metre is logged locally on the Cell Phone with proven success to demurr that count.

YES (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398863)

How else will we communicate after civilisation collapses back to the level of 1905?

Re:YES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399269)

I will ride my pony.

Re:YES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399508)

OMG! Ponies!!11

Re:YES (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399286)

The same way they did in 1905.

No. (2, Insightful)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398878)

There are far more geeky things to do. Wny bother talikning to someone on the other side of the world via ham when I can just use my cellphone? Is it the random encounters with people you don't know?

It's more fun to frag someone in Quake then drop some smack in context.

My uncle had all his ham licenses when I was a kid. I was 9 and didn't see why it was fun then either. Looking back, it kind of seems like lame social networking for geeks.

Your *non-lame* suggestion is...? (1)

Doug Merritt (3550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399247)

My uncle had all his ham licenses when I was a kid. I was 9 and didn't see why it was fun then either. Looking back, it kind of seems like lame social networking for geeks.

Keywords: "geeks", "lame social networking"...there's another kind? Something non-lame like myspace or IRC or texting or FPS taunting post-frag or masquerading as a female in a chat room or...?


Re:Your *non-lame* suggestion is...? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399423)

Something non-lame like myspace or IRC or texting

Since when is myspace or texting geeky? It's more OMGPONIES!!!11111-ish.

Re:No. (2, Insightful)

NateTech (50881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399830)

Nah, like any good hobby, it's about the people you meet.

If it weren't for Amateur Radio, I would have never met Bdale Garbee, prior to his becoming the Debian Project Leader, or any of the other great folks who are Hams.

no (4, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398899)

I hate to say it, but no. When I got my license as a teenager around 1979, it was a cool way to talk for free to my father, who was divorced from my mother. In that era, long-distance phone calls were really expensive, and e-mail and the internet didn't exist. I could talk to people in other countries, like Japan, ... and Japan, and ... Japan. But seriously, that was very cool in an era when a long-distance call to Japan would have been an obscene amount of money.

Things are totally different now. Not only is the internet a free way to communicate (free as in zero dollars per minute), but you can actually communicate with people on the internet about -- get this -- anything you like! In other words, you're not just having these stilted, stylized conversations about what your rig is.


Re:no (1)

NateTech (50881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399845)

Conversations on Ham Radio are only what you make of them. If all you did was talk about your rigs, then that's all the imagination you had. Tough to admit, but true.

Conversations around here run the gamut from Politics, to computers, to spaceflight, to yeah... rigs.

You're right, many hams do only talk about boring things -- just like in a crowded Christmas party, you're bound to find some people talking about boring things, and if you're like me -- you'll gravitate away to a more interesting discussion.

Yes! (2, Funny)

SaDan (81097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398904)

I still find amatuer... Oh, wait. RADIO. Not pr0n.

Probably not (4, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398908)

One thing to keep in mind about geeks is that you can't pigeonhole them. Some like games and never bathe. Others like to program and stay up days consuming only Taco Bell and Mountain Dew. Others like to plug computers together and twiddle their fingers waiting for their kernels to finish compiling. Even others like to jack off to Sailor Moon and other Japanese cartoons.

On the outskirts of geekdom, you have people like yourself who are interested in ham radios or model trains or paper airplanes. These will pretty much always be niche geek markets because they just don't have the glamour that and visibility that the mainstream geek lifestyle provides.

Which is not to say that there aren't merits to these peripheral geek lifestyles. Ham radios, in particular, are very useful in times of crisis and crises rely on people with a sense of responsibility and social acuity. Typical geeks, if that is who you are trying to interest, are the exact opposite type of people to bring into the ham radio flock.

But be sure that what you are interested in is non-mainstream geekery. Just because something requires technical ability, it does not follow that it requires a geek to manage it. Somethings are just technically difficult and not geeky at all.

Ham radio is definitely geeky, though.

Re:Probably not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399182)

According to esr, the majority of 'hackers' enjoy amateur radio.

Re:Probably not (1)

CycleMan (638982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399565)

Mainstream geekery? Is this some insider's club of outsiders that I wasn't informed of? I reject the supposition that geekery is some well-defined essence with outskirts and mainstreams, or that ham radio is on the outskirts. Hams are contributing daily to our safety and security, in a semi-obscure technical way which creates great rewards for those who thrive on hard work, long hours, and being often misunderstood. I say that's completely mainstream geekiness.

Not strictly Ham, but I sue CBs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398922)

The great thing is that since everybody else has abandoned them for cellular telephones, CB radios are ultra inexpensive and you have the air to yourself, like owning 40 private channels. My wife and I have been using them between our house and my private observatory (at 6,200') and in that time we've only heard other users once.

Not long ago I was required to 'rescue' a technician at a nearby cellular site (on the same range as my observatory). He'd gone up late to repair a fault with the repeater and his vehicle became stuck in deep snow. The fun thing was that the local S&R, fire and police departments had no common radio links, and their cellphones were out due to the repeater fault. If it weren't for the CB radios they'd previously mocked we'd have had no comms.

ob mst3k reference (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15398923)

Mike: Hi, folks. Mike Nelson here. Crow and Servo are about to help me with the annual Satellite of Love safety check. You guys ready?
Crow: Roger.
Servo: Ramjet.
Mike: All right, fire extinguishers?
Servo: Empty.
Crow: Shot them off in your face. Next.
Mike: Okay. Flare gun?
Servo: Ibid.
Crow: Shot them off in your face. Next.
Mike: Right. First aid kit?
Servo: Used it to treat your flare burns.
Mike: Right. Parachute?
Crow: Gym class.
Mike: Okay, life vest?
Servo: Falsies.
Mike: HAM radio?
Crow: Mistook it for an actual ham.
Mike: There. The Satellite of Love is completely unsafe. Hey, does anything work at all?
Servo: Yeah, the toaster oven. We used it to bake the HAM radio.
Crow: Mmm.
Mike: Okay, well then, we're dead. We'll be right dead.
Crow: C'mon, Mike. We're gonna go stick our heads in the towel dispenser!
Servo: Whee!

Hell yes! (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398925)

I've been a ham for 35 years now. (Damn, I'm an old fart.) I'm still active, and am looking seriously at the Icom D-Star networked digital radio technology as the next big thing.

Get the ticket. There's a lot out there. K5ZC

Can you comment on the FCC ussurpations? (-1, Offtopic)

NRAdude (166969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399627)

I've been a ham for 35 years now. (Damn, I'm an old fart.) I'm still active, and am looking seriously at the Icom D-Star networked digital radio technology as the next big thing.

Get the ticket. There's a lot out there. K5ZC

Greetings holder of Jay Maynard.

What say you on the FCC using threat and duress and coercion to compel the people into a contract for their copyright SIGN and private patent of Codified Regulations?

Channel 21, until you fatass pig-eating hams get your corporate thighs back into District of Columbia where you all belong. /s/ MUNDT

Re:Hell yes! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399901)

Wow... you're also the guy who cusses at women [] in Texas VHF-FM Society meetings. The person that posted that also posted this page about you [] .

Looks to me like it is all about a voted on measure to allow voting in the Society by paper mail, that was later disemboweled by the Board against the rules of the organization.

At least that is what this link says: A link to one of the people brave enough to tell the truth. []

Quite the show of professionalism you Texas Hams have there - and Minnesota elected you to their Repeater Coordination group?

And then the NFCC. Truly amazing. Or is that disgusting?

Neat what you can find on that there IntarWeb thingy. Your friends really like you. That web page above was fourth or fifth down the list on Google for "Texas-VHF-FM Society".

I think I'll post Anonymously so you don't shoot me - Mr. "Benefactor Life Member of the National Rifle Association" according to your web page [] .

Hopefully prospective Hams can learn something about how NOT to behave as an Amateur by your example.

Someday... (3, Insightful)

slack-fu (940017) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398947)

I wish i had the bankroll to get into HAM. I live in the woods and another way to communicate would be nice. Plus I predict that after the US government is done raping and pillaging the internet, IP over HAM might take off among those who know how, and want to keep a free internet.

Re:Someday... (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399411)

HAM might take off among those who know how, and want to keep a free internet.

lol man, people will rather use PGP encryption with 2048 bit keys for everything they do rather than use ham radio. ham radio users are like Atari 2600 players, there will always be some but there will never be more.

My Story (3, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398953)

I have a Technician's license. My call sign is KC0QBP. I have a HT that I've used on and off to listen to the local repeater and such. I kind of lost interest in that part. After all, 2m and such mostly lets you talk to local hams.

That said, I've been learning morse code since Christmas and I intend to take the code test next month (the next time my local club offers the test). I'm going to order an Elecraft K2 and I'm quite excited. CW is so much more interesting than FM Voice. It takes skill, it has a challenge, and you I can hear letters and words in the series of beeps. Plus you can use it to talk to people all over the world. I'm especially excited because the K2 is a big electronics kit. The fact is once you get past a few blinking LED kits and such there are just no electronic kits to build that take any skill.

I find it kind of interesting, but I can see why some people don't think it's terribly interesting. Many of the things that used to make ham radio so interesting (being able to talk to people across the country or the world for free) are no longer unique (thanks to the internet and basically free long-distance calling).

It's too bad eHam has been down for 2 days (at least). I've wanted to post on their message board but I can't (since... it's down). I don't suppose anyone knows why?

Re:My Story (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398970)

I should note... I just thought of an experience that kind of shows why I'm excited.

If you look up last Sunday's Fox Trot comic strip, you'll see Jason tap dancing. In the last panel he is telling his friend Marcus that he didn't get into the talent show because one of the judges knew morse code. It was so cool for me to be able to figure out what the message was ("Some day I will rule you all") without having to go to a translator program on the internet.

Lots of people know Spanish, or French, or other such things. Morse code is a true geek language.

Re:My Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399022)

Morse code isn't a language, it's an encoding, and a simplistic one at that.

Lisp is a true geek language, while QAM256 is a true geek encoding. :P


Re:My Story (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399075)

Have you ever used morse code? It is it's own language. There are so many abbreviations and prosigns that you can communicate through it if you don't share a common language with the guy on the other end.

Re:My Story (1)

eflanery (210795) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399146)

What is a language if not an encoding of concepts? Just where would you draw the line?

Morse code isn't a simple 1 to 1 encoding of the latin alphabet; it is considerably more complex than that, largely designed for efficency.

I'll agree on the Lisp and QAM bits, though. One does need to be a true geek to understand either.

Re:My Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399173)

"It's too bad eHam has been down for 2 days (at least). I've wanted to post on their message board but I can't (since... it's down). I don't suppose anyone knows why?"

Database trouble. Lost a drive in the RAID, a replacement is on the way.

hams are more important now than ever before (2, Interesting)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398963)

I got my license this year and I think there is quite a lot in amateur radio to hold interest.

I've learned more in the last 6 months about RF theory than I did in my previous 33 years of life combined. And looking ahead I see I still have quite a lot to learn.

Once I've broken in my soldering iron learning to make a few different kinds of antennas for my radio, I'm looking forward to buidling a couple of APRS rigs. One for my car, the other for my All Terrain Vehicle. I might even put one in my backpack for when I'm out backpacking in the mountains and my family is worried about me being alone in the wilderness. They will be able to follow my progress.

I find out about severe weather conditions before the mass media can report it. Indeed, it is radio amateurs that provide the weather service with early warnings of approaching dangerous weather patterns. Living in the hurricane belt, and an area not unknown for springtime tornadoes, this is valuable to me.

Of course when the storms hit, and the public infrastructure goes down (including internet, cell phones, land lines) I can still communicate with people in and out of my immediate area.

As our world becomes more and more dependent on technological infrastructure, I think it is that much more important to preserve and grow the amateur radio service to be there as a fallback for when all of those other communications mediums fail (and they do, frighteningly often). During 9/11 attacks it was radio amateurs providing communications capabilities to the first responders in Manhatten. During the major power blackout in the northeastern US a few years back, it was radio amateurs that passed emergency communications reliably. During the rescue efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it was radio amateurs coordinating emergency communications between all of the different rescue groups involved. Despite all of this newfangled technology we enjoy today, it only works when things are going well. When things aren't going well, we still need radio.

The Intial Obvious First Draw is Gone (1)

nincehelser (935936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398976)

With the internet and cell phones, it is no longer a big deal to communicate around the world.

However, there's a lot of other interesting stuff to do. For example, building a wireless LAN that works over extreme distances is just an offshoot of the Ham just doesn't require a license.

There's a lot of cool Ham stuff you might do, but unlike the internet, you can't use it for commercial gain. This does put a damper on innovation.

The biggest draw for me is weather related...storm tracking, emergency communications, and stuff like that. The internet and cell phones just don't work well in those situations.


it still gets some use (1)

bonezed (187343) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398984)

people in remote areas, land and water, still use HF

Remote antenna use via the net? (1)

Slashdot Junky (265039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398990)


Not being able to put up an apartment was referred to above. This got me thinking. Does equipment and services exist that would allow a HAM to use a remotely located antenna over the internet? For example, they would have all the typical gear at home and just not have the antenna. A bridge-like device would packetize the signal and transmit it to the antenna location where a like device would convert it back for broadcast.

-Slashdot Junky

Re:Remote antenna use via the net? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399030)

Not quite. IRLP [] allows a ham radio operators to talk to a repeater which talks to another repeater over the internet which in turn talks to another ham operator, but you can't tap into the internet side directly (not allowed by regulation, there is no technical problem with doing so).

Re:Remote antenna use via the net? (1)

Slashdot Junky (265039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399061)

Regulation or not... It seems like a DIY hack waiting to happen. I could see a friend with an antenna allowing his neighbor across the street or friend on the other side of town to use it. It would be open to the public, of course.

-Slashdot Junky

Re:Remote antenna use via the net? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399251)

Hidden antennas for apartment complexes has a long and treasured history in ham radio. The most obvious is the "patriotic ham" that has a flag pole. There have been a few "rain gutter" radiators. Then there is the obvious invisible "small guage wire" antenna that might run accross the roof line. If it was me I would (if someone hasn't done it already) pursue a "dish network" modification. There have been many articles and some books written about apartment antennas.

You will want to run a low powered rig to prevent RFI. But don't let the fact that you are in an apartment stop you from enjoying ham radio.

Not particularly. (2, Informative)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398997)

KC5UVV. I have no idea when it lapses. It's just not useful for anything anymore and I don't even have equipment.

Re:Not particularly. (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399039)

(address removed by me for privacy reasons)
Issue Date: Jun 05, 1996
Expire Date: Jun 05, 2006
Date of last Change: Jun 05, 1996

Nothing like the fun of public databases! Looks like you have less than 2 weeks before your license runs out.

Re:Not particularly. (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399347)

Do not take a short view on things. Download the form and renew [] your license. It will only take a moment.

You spent the effort to take the tests and get the license. You should respect the work you did in the past. While you may have found that your interest in ham radio has waned, there is no telling what the future may bring where it might be useful or interesting to you again.

I have been a ham for 25 years. The technical knowledge I have gleaned has stayed with me and opened a few unexpected doors for me. I too lost interest (and don't have a working station) esp. with the internet, but I recently wanted to remote control a distant observatory I want to build and even though there is wireless internet, ham radio still gives me better flexibility/performance/cost options to implement a solution.

So renew, you'll be glad that you did in the future.

Yes it is (1)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 8 years ago | (#15398998)

I think that it is still relevant but the interest has dwindled a little. The value and importance of it is larger now than I think ever before because of many different new areas that are developing. Specifically the data possibilities. And having been involved in emergency work their value there is beyond anything I can describe. They have so much capabilities and the resources.

The challenge is that people dont have the time or interest for the learning curve necessary.

Well... (0)

Flimzy (657419) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399103)

I think it's cool that I own a 2400 baud hamm radio modem for a commodore 64. I've never used it--don't have a license. And never will (can't imagine I'll bother plugging in the C64 again). But it's cool I have one! :)

Do you want to talk or learn about electronics? (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399106)

My experience, and I've had a technician's license for about 15 years, is that nowdays most amateur radio operators just want to talk. There's very little interest in electronics, building your own rigs and antennas and any sort of technical stuff. Most amateurs either want to talk or contest, things which aren't particularly interesting to most hardcore geeks.

Re:Do you want to talk or learn about electronics? (1)

John Miles (108215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399326)

My experience, and I've had a technician's license for about 15 years, is that nowdays most amateur radio operators just want to talk. There's very little interest in electronics, building your own rigs and antennas and any sort of technical stuff.

Not necessarily true. There's a lot of interest, but it's widely-dispersed. You may not hear people talking about designing a homemade spectrum analyzer on your local 2M repeater, but that doesn't mean they're not out there [] .

And somebody must be building all those K2 [] s you hear on HF, right?

Look past the repeaters and the contests. That's not where the fun stuff is happening.

gnuradio (4, Interesting)

thule (9041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399115)

I hoping that gnuradio [] gets some more momentum. Think of all the possibilities! I think things could get very interesting with experimental digital modulation. I haven't played around much with gnuradio since I don't have a USRP. It seems to me that the software is a little hard to use. I keep my eye on the project hoping that things will continue to move along and get easier to use.

Once things move along it would be nice to have a portable gnuradio hardware that could interface to a PDA for HT uses.

The Short Answer (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399127)

Mu []

Yes, but for different reasons than most hams (3, Interesting)

finkployd (12902) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399128)

As far as a serious hobby with real applicability? Probably not unless you are into emergency communication type stuff. I used to command a sheriff's office search and rescue team and got into ham radio then. Since I don't do that anymore (since moving, I'm probably going to get into it again some day), I do not really use ham radio for anything real other than just messing around. The Internet is a much better day to day long distance communication medium.

Having said that, what keeps me involved is building my own gear. While you can spend thousands of dollars on stuff to get on the air, it is much more fun for me to grab the old soldering iron and make my own low power transmitters and receivers. Great way to keep up with electronics, radio theory, and all that fun stuff. There is even some neat work going on with software defined radios (mixing DIY radio building with Linux and programming :)

I find your average slashdotter tends to dislike ham radio as too old school and REALLY does not like the thought that ham radio is holding back BPL (along with a lot less vocal but more influential opponents like police, coast guard, FAA, etc). But hey, they also bought hook line and sinker into the hype that BPL is actually a viable broadband contender and not a snake-oil product.

Really though, if you get into it, and avoid (1) the elitist pricks who got their license back in the day and hate everyone newer then themselves, (2) the mindless cliques that form on most local repeaters (Pittsburgh being a nice exception), and (3) the losers who live on eham and qrz and attack basically everyone, you will enjoy it. I tend to stick with the build it yourself qrp stuff and the more interesting microwave band projects out there. There is a ton of non-obvious and not all that publicized things you can get into with ham radio that does not involve just trying to work all 50 states or 100 countries for no particular reason.

HAM (1)

mikers (137971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399141)

I am a Ham, but I've been out of hamming for a few years.

Let me answer some questions that weren't specifically in the title article, but that I went through in the same process (as I was getting ready to get rid of radio gear I hadn't used in years).

Practical use?
- Commmunications when commercial options are non-existent, suck or unavailable, such as major storms, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, the boonies. These darn radios will work fine during nasty storms, over hundreds of miles no problem. You'd be pretty shocked at the distance you can get even from a basic hand-held fraction-of-a-watt power transceiver. And at VHF frequencies, you don't even need line of site, it goes around hills somewhat.
- Stand-by option at best in more civilized and populated areas.

- Low to none. Study, write exam, get license ($50-60), buy transceiver (used for $100, new and fancy $200 up to thousands). Here in Canada they did away with needing to renew your basic ham license in 2002 (? +/- a year or two) -- used to be it cost $20/year to have one. If you want to use a repeater, you should become a member with the group that runs the repeaters, but they won't mind if you try it out for a while as a beginner.

Why use ham, learn ham?
- Talk to friends
- Hobby, satillite comms, radio interest, general knowledge
- Backup reliable communication method

- Cannot discuss personal, business or non-public info over ham. Everything has to be clean. This, to me, limits its usefulness majorly. Everything can be heard by anyone (completely legal in these frequencies), and there is no expectation of privacy. Cannot encrypt any data traffic while using HAM frequencies.
- Can be kindof boring unless you have friends on HAM as well
- Personally, I don't care for 'chewing the rag', or BSing because you can. Talking for hours about nothing with people on the radio just because, and you aren't even allowed to gosip or swear. Better alternatives are IM, email or VOIP now-a-days.
- Not many women using it, just guys (same as early internet)

- Cheap
- If you like to talk and BS, you will find lots friends

Re:HAM (1)

Tragek (772040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399351)

Question from a non-hammer: - Is the no encryption of data over HAM just polite, or legally mandated? - The data, I assume is something like packet radio. Can you possibly tell me; is there some sort of adressing, along the lines of IP, or is it a free for all? (I sort of intend to say can more than one data stream travel at any one time)

Re:HAM (1)

kg4czo (516374) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399598)

It's FCC mandated illegal to encrypt data over HAM operations. There are ways to connect vi TCP/IP over HAM, but I never got into it. I might look into it some day, but not today.

In a word, no. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399153)

The "you can talk to random people far away" thing isn't as exciting as it used to be. You have to be a really good electronic engineer to build anything half as good as off-the-shelf gear.

There are a small number of hams doing interesting stuff, like working on optimal modulation strategies for data over HF, but there aren't many. And the ones that do that typically are designing cell phones as their day job.

I'd say "yes," conditionally... (4, Interesting)

John Miles (108215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399165)

As a lot of people have mentioned (some more politely than others), ham radio's appeal as a general-purpose communications service is pretty limited these days due to the sheer number of alternatives. It's still unbeatable in emergencies, but if emergency support isn't your thing, you may be left wondering what the point is.

That's a shame, because there is still some really-interesting stuff happening on the fringes. For the technically inclined, eBay has made it possible to obtain equipment and components for Amateur "homebrewing" that major military/commercial labs were damned lucky to have in the 70s and 80s. It is hard to overemphasize how cool that is. Even most hams don't realize that they can own better RF equipment and components than NASA had when they launched Voyager and Pioneer.

Ham radio gives you a great framework for engagement with every technology from software-defined radio to microwave communications to precision timekeeping. Build that DC-to-daylight receiver you've always wanted... the one the Feds won't let you buy off the shelf. Run your own "Amateur Deep Space Network" receiver site [] , or communicate with other people all over the world by bouncing your signal off the Moon. There is still more cool stuff to learn and do in Amateur Radio than you will ever have time to tackle... if you don't fall into the trap of thinking it's all a bunch of old farts carrying walkie-talkies around for no good reason. Like lawyers, 98% of hams give the rest a bad name.

There are a few links on my site (in the comment header) to various homebrew/experimental projects, but most of them are broken at the moment due to a hosting move that's taking way longer than it was supposed to. Anyone interested in the technical side of things is welcome to email me for advice and indoctrination. :-P

In short: some parts of ham radio have benefitted tremendously from the advent of the Internet; but yeah, it's also true that many of the other aspects are less relevant than ever. You get out of the hobby what you're willing to put into it.

Re:I'd say "yes," conditionally... (2, Interesting)

adolf (21054) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399502)

Warning: I work with hams on a daily basis as part of my job, and have for some time. I am, therefore, rather biased.

Ham radio is dead. It is not cutting-edge. It is not exciting. It is not a viable or useful communications medium except in a state of emergency, where despite everyone's best efforts, government communication falls on its face during a disaster.

And the ONLY reason that the government systems still fall on their face is that, even with expensive plug-boards like the JPS ACU-1000, they're STILL reliant on a commercial vendor (whom they can't reach, because Things Are Fucked) to program the bloody Motorola radios and make sense of the frequencies, PL tones, and integration issues between sites and formats.

So, government employees don't know how to program a radio. What a loser of a reason for hams to exist.

Most of the times, I see hams talking on their radios more about being hams than about anything useful. Such-and-such repeater is acting up, So-and-so's ratty homebuilt antenna took damage in yesterday's wind, would you please show up early and make the coffee for the weekly radio club meeting this Thursday, I'm standing in the park in $towntwentymilesaway talking into an HT HOW DO I SOUND?

These conversations are point-to-point in subject, and also pointedly boring. But they are (unfortunately) shared with everyone.

IM, or even SMS would be better for this sort of banter, but of course, since the IM systems typically Actually Work, then there'd not be so much to talk about, much less any need for a club (often with real property, even) to exist to talk about just how cool Jabber is to use.

See, these days, I don't need to build a high-power low-frequency Yagi to talk to Europe from Ohio. I just pick up my Vonage phone and dial. It's free, as in I don't pay anything extra to do so, so why not? Give it a year or two, and the same thing will happen for cell phones, making the whole game completely wireless, and far lighter than a 5-Watt portable.

Satellite? I just sent a file to Germany that was over 100 megabytes, and it only took a few minutes on my residential broadband. Isn't "satellite" just another term for "fickle, expensive, and slow"?

And Pioneer? Voyager? Dude: I carry more technology than that in my fucking wristwatch. I should -hope- that amateur radio has advanced similarly...but that doesn't make it fun, or exciting. It just makes it more advanced than it used to be. (Duh.)

Ham radio was, I thought, supposed to be about communicating in ways which otherwise weren't possible with people who otherwise were unreachable. It used to be high-tech. It used to be cutting-edge.

That time is past.

Re:I'd say "yes," conditionally... (1)

John Miles (108215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399668)

And Pioneer? Voyager? Dude: I carry more technology than that in my fucking wristwatch. I should -hope- that amateur radio has advanced similarly...but that doesn't make it fun, or exciting. It just makes it more advanced than it used to be. (Duh.) Ham radio was, I thought, supposed to be about communicating in ways which otherwise weren't possible with people who otherwise were unreachable. It used to be high-tech. It used to be cutting-edge. That time is past.

Definitely some valid points; I won't defend the hobby against most of the criticisms you posted. We were originally charged with the advancement of the radio art. Now that radio is a solved problem, there's only the public-service mission, and the related one of maintaining a reserve corps of skilled operators, to fall back on. Instead, like you're saying, the average ham acts like the local repeater is his own personal cell site. That's not a sustainable situation when the VHF/UHF spectrum he's using is so valuable to commercial and government interests.

Still: do you really want to delegate the maintenance of all of your monitoring and communications options to third-party interests? The day may come when the FCC strikes Part 97 from its rulebook and orders all Amateur equipment turned in at the nearest Verizon reseller.... and my skills and experience, along with whatever gear I can squirrel away, will only become more valuable to me if that happens.

Amateur Radio interesting (1)

PiratePTG (608376) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399218)

Is Amateur Radio still interesting?

Good question. As someone who is a HAM radio operator, and has been around computers for longer than I have held a HAM license, I would have to say YES. In many ways HAM radio is more interesting to me than computers are.

I am not a gamer, or a programmer. I use computers as a tool in my profession, but am not so enamored over them as to let them consume my free time. I used to do a lot of hardware hacking, on older mainframes and then minis (DECs, Data General Novas, Honeywells, etc), but really found it limiting. As far as games, other than an occasional game of Majongg or Freecell, one of the last games I played ON the computer was probably StarTrek (from Creative Computing). My days of hacking my old BBS system are long gone, so I would have to take a serious C refresher course.

HAM radio, on the other hand, provides SO many variations of intellectual stimulation. I can design and build antennas from scratch one day, build up a transmitter in an Altoids box the next day. I can use any number of frequency bands to interact with people all over the world. I can work satellites, moonbounce, meteor showers... I can, and have, talked to the International Space Station! Oh, and I have talked with MIR and 4 of the shuttle flights, too.

There are so many modes of operation for Amateur Radio... CW, voice, a dozen or more digital modes... I can use equipment that I build myself, or as modern as my wallet would allow...

It's actually hard to sit down and describe the myriad of activities one can enjoy with Amateur Radio. Yes, there are a lot of fun things to do with a computer, too, and I don't put that down to those who enjoy computers, but for my buck, Amateur Radio wins out.

Just my nickle's worth!

73 de Paul, KC4YDY

Amateur radio still has its uses (1)

hausmaus (684529) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399254)

As a licensed amateur radio operator myself (my callsign is KD5COL - I've been licensed since 1997), I can honestly say that amateur radio still has its place in this world. Besides what people think of hams (i.e. ragchewing, emergency communications), not all hams are geeks. My wife just recently became a ham herself and both of my parents (both near their sixties) are, as well as my biological father. Amateur radio presents unique opportunities that computers alone cannot offer.

It's the fascination of learning and enjoying something you built yourself ... it's the camradarie of your friends and people you've never met sharing a similar hobby ... it's the uniqueness of having a call sign that identifies you amongst everyone else in the world ... it's the knowledge that your hobby is also a public service.

Something else very cool also. In the state of Tennessee where I live, amateur radio operators have the privildge of obtaining emergency license plates for their automobiles. This allows the ham to be on the same level as police, fire, EMS, et al. You work with public officials in times of emergency to provide communications where nothing else is possible.

I enjoy the public service aspect of the hobby - I am frequently at public events providing communications for race officials, EMT, et cetera. People are always asking me questions, looking at my car's setup, checking out my HT (handie-talkie) and they seem to be genuinely interested.

Unfortunately, many of you don't have enough exposure to amateur radio to understand its usefulness and how we hams have advanced technology by experimentation.

A very good site to look at is [] Hello World - it explains a lot about amateur radio and how it's used.

As for the original author: get your license and enjoy it. Maybe we'll meet on 20 meters sometime!


Amateur radio interesting? (1)

blindseer (891256) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399278)

The most interesting thing to me right now is reading all the old guys lament the FCC dropping the last of the Morse code tests to get a ham license on

I don't have a license yet but will once the FCC proposal to end Morse code testing becomes law. I don't think I'll do much talking at first. Right now I'm more interested in shortwave listening, digital communication, and weather spotting. None of those interests require a ham radio license but it would be reqired to transmit if I wish.

Old form no/new form yes (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399293)

The true missionof Amateur Radio has naver was always supposed to be a service that would provide communications during a disaster. Ths disaster focus is more the focus today more then ever. With meager resources, I can setup a communications station that will work on a minimum of power and is capable of worldwide communications. The old focus used to be on the rag in point, in the 50's through the 70's how cool was it to talk to someone in Germany, Japan or Australia?? That's almost commonplace now, but the need for communicators still exists. Innovation still happens in Amateur Radio too. Digital Voice Modes (VoIP like protocols) are just now being deployed. Because there's always a need for straight analog FM transcievers, the digital modes are not taking off as fast but that's mostly because analog FM WORKS! IN any case, June 20th is Bring your HT to work day and I am going to try to get a new HT for it.....a Yaesu VX-2R. This radio is about the size of a recent cell phone and is very capable rig. Sure, it's not a high powered station but how cool is having a complete ham station that fits in your pocket??? HF rigs ain't going to get people interested....micro transcievers and digital modes will.

Slightly off topic, But... (1)

The Slashdolt (518657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399340)

I think I'm kinda weird but I love listening to the air traffic control channel when flying on planes. I am not really interested in getting into amateur radio but I'd love to be able to listen in from my home. Every time I have looked into doing this it seems to require a lot of knowledge of radio. Can a radio expert explain a bit about listening in on air traffic control or some links about it? In particular I'd just like to listen into air traffic control stations.

Re:Slightly off topic, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399372)

Assuming you're in the US, just find a Radio Shack store and ask them about a scanner with aircraft-band coverage. It's not a particularly-exotic or expensive piece of gear.

Nope (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399341)

I used to, but not anymore:

1) No practical use.
2) Redundant in emergencies
3) Taking up valuable bandwidth
4) User complains slowing down adoption of actual useful technologies like BPL
5) For hobby, there are tons of free internet solutions. Skype anyone?

Now, I'll admit that I'm taking a wild stab at #2. I assume that in actual emergencies, emergency personnel rely on other radio equipment than HAM, but I'm just taking a guess. But I think the other ones are pretty solid (save number one if number two is false).

Re:Nope (1)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 8 years ago | (#15400013)

4) User complains slowing down adoption of actual useful technologies like BPL

You mis-spelled "fucking retarded and useless technology which will never work properly no matter how much money is pissed away on it".

Hope this helps, have a nice day.

Maybe a new amateur mode is needed? (2, Interesting)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399385)

The idea of simply communicating with people without wires is so banal I doubt you could get anyone under the age of 30 to think it cool. And talking to people in far away places? Internet. But I notice some talk in the comments about what could bring people back.

IP over radio. I mean, sure, we have wi-fi repeaters, etc., but there are so many other cool things to do with IP over radio. And considering the fun (and interest) people have in hacking wi-fi, it reminds me of the fun ham operators had. Maybe it's time to create a pure digital license? Create a low-cost digital packet radio that some one could build at home for a $100 worth of parts or less.

When the corporations start locking down the Internet, IP-Ham could become the next big thing for geeks. Heh, makes the idea of getting SPAM over an IP-Ham connection sound even funnier. :-)

Sure do! (1)

Vskye (9079) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399396)

I received my tech license back in 2001. (kc9aae) My friend and I both took the test together and passed, it was alot of fun. We studied for the test using online resources like: []
I enjoy all the different things you can do, like building antennas, aprs, weather stations, etc. Fun hobby, but it can get expensive.

Interesting, but of questionable relevance (1)

wahmuk (163299) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399404)

I've been a licensed Ham since 1977, currently a General Class (finally upgraded from Tech+ last year). My wife has been licensed for almost three years, and my Dad (who got me into it in the first place) has only had two callsigns in the fifty-odd years he's been playing with radios.

The three of us use rigs in our cars for local communications, and that's about it. For me, it's a gas-powered radio that I can use to talk to certain friends without running down the battery in my cellphone. I'm sure that my dad still has some HF gear that has been gathering dust for many years, but he's planning to retire soon and may find himself getting back into it.

So I guess Ham Radio is still interesting, to people who like electronics and just want to do something different. But with so many alternatives available, particularly the internet, most kids and teenagers with an interest in technology get into computers and such because it's easier and cheaper and because so many of their friends already play with the stuff. It's much easier to find someone to teach you the basics and get you started with some used parts. And although the hobby has always encouraged experimentation, someone has already pointed out that you can buy gear off the shelf that's cheaper, smaller and easier to use.

Sadly, for most people Ham Radio only becomes relevant when there's a storm or a power outage and they can't use the communications methods that they're used to. Even police departments ask Hams for help in these situations. Our local club operates a station from inside the county's 911 center during emergencies.

Packet got me going! (2, Interesting)

jbarr (2233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399417)

I got my Technician license (N9ONL) back in the early 90's in the Chicago area, and and was immediately enamored with packet radio. Interestingly, I actually hated TALKING over the radio--conversing via packet really did it for me. Hopping from nodes to node locally and around the world through "wormholes" and such was very cool stuff at 1200 baud, especially considering that 2400 baud modems were about as good as it got at the time. Connecting to BBS's was obviously the hot topic in the early 90's, but the idea of being able to connect simultaneously to multiple nodes on the same channel was just mind-blowing.

I got really interested in KA9Q TCP/IP packet operation, including variants like JNOS, and it's what probably launched me in understanding TCP/IP networking--obviously very useful today. I always waited and waited for native Windows TCP/IP packet drivers. You know, install a driver, hook up a serial-connected TNC, configure the settings, and voila, packet-based networking. Problem is that it never happened--(at least I don't think it did. Does anyone know of native Windows drivers (XP, preferably) that would facilitate TCP/IP packet connectivity?)

Though TCP/IP was considered the "icing" on the preverbial cake, interestingly, setting up simple digipeaters, local nodes, and packet BBS's were so simple and very fun. It was just amazing to be able to wirelessly connect to other computers in the area.

Probably the most exciting event was actually hearing a packet station in space! I honestly can't remember if it was MIR or a shuttle mission, but I do remember getting an copying the ID text. Very exciting!

I always hoped that someone would market a multi-band handheld HT that incorporated a TNC with a keyboard that would let me have a truely portable packet radio system. I think Kenwood still has a model or two with an integrated TNC, but it's quite pricy, and I don't know how input works....

Anyway, Ham radio filled a technological niche for me at a time when I was ripe for wireless data communication. Unfortunatly, the Internet reared it's head, and my packet radio days eventually faded. I still have my 2m HT, TNC, and software. I've been thinking lately of setting it up again to see what it'll do.

Why didnt packet radio progress ? (1)

JohnnyCanuck (118426) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399526)

A more interesting question would be why packet radio dint progress? i realize that the bandwidth was limited (9600 baud max? but i remember seend 1200 and 2400 more commonly). My understandingwas that it was basically a wireless mesh that covered the USA even if it was speed limited. I never understood why the HAMS and other gEEk's never looked at remaking the network with something more like wifi? The telco's would certainly have to smarten up and rethink if there was "another" net out there.

It's still fun.... (1)

kg4czo (516374) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399622)

I'm a Technician, and the only reason why is because I have a really hard time learning morse (not sure why, I've tried several ways with no luck). For that reason I hope they go "no code" on all licenses soon (yeah yeah, I know all the arguements to keep it. Call me selfish ;).

Currently, I don't have an HT or rig because of money issues, but when I did, it was hella fun. I guess my interest got peeked when my friends and I got into CB radio in highschool. Funny, out of all of them, I was the only one who took it past the CB. Oh well, I enjoy it although the whole station id check and no slang is kind of annoying.

Net access in the middle of nowhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15399752)

With packet radio and a laptop, is it possible to get net access in the middle of nowhere? Or do "no encryption" etc rules of amateur bands seriously limit the usefullness?

Very much alive and well (1)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399872)

Theres plenty of deep geekery going on still in Ham radio. Software defined radio for a start []

Not to mention all the GHz experimental work, digital modes experimentation, Earth Moon Earth transmission and you can still do new fundamental research into ELF natural phenomenon, build your own radio telescope - all done with gear developed by and for radio amateurs.

Of course the mainstream is more like stamp collecting by cb radio - a competition to work two way communications with as many different countries as possible.

But make no mistake theres lots of cutting edge geekery still to be found in radio.

Sure! (1)

dawszy (977021) | more than 8 years ago | (#15399979)

Indeed! :)
I am an active QRP operator;)

VY 73 de SQ6EMM

Packet (1)

Dougthebug (625695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15400040)

Well I sort of got dragged into Ham Radio last year through school. I was working on a senior engineering design project and we were looking for an easy way to get data from a weather balloon to a ground station. It turns out there are some fancy amature radios available with 9600 baud modems built in, which made our life easier. So a few of my colleges and I got our Tech class licences one weekend and were totaly into the whole ham thing for about 2 months. Then we finished the project and I haven't touched my $200 radio since... -KG6YZK

I'll start learning ham radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15400049)

Only if I can send and download at leat 10Mbits per second reliably for 1000 miles. Other than that, what the hell for? sending a dot and a dah doesnt do much nowadays with a file somewhere between 2.5G and 4G bytes.

Which well-known geeks are/were hams? (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 8 years ago | (#15400137)

  I know I've heard a few famous geeks mention their early Amateur Radio
  interests and/or activities, eg, on some of the talks that are archived


  I don't remember them all, but one of Cliff Stoll's MP3's (on that site)
  goes into a bit of detail on his using Ham Radio skills to build a hand-
  held radar-based speed-gun (after speeding cars run down a little girl's
  cat or puppy, earlier in the story...)

  I think Kevin Mitnick had a license (but may have lost it - when it was
  needing to be renewed - as part of the consequences he got for releasing
  his Internet worm, some years ago.

  So, who ELSE is/was a ham, who also does/did more general geeky things?


  Radio Hams & Open Sourcerers have a lot in common - helpful natures,
  sharing ideas (src), exploring technologies of interest to themselves
  & building up extentions to some of it, that does what they want done


  My neighbor was a Ham as a kid; I could only see a 15m Dipole antenna
  on his house, but it was a home-built one. He did the usual things...
  converted ex-WW2 radios for Amateur bands (this is an old story...)

  He went on to become a Doctor, who was able to build medical gear that
  hadn't been invented when he needed it.


  Most of the kids I knew as fellow-hams have done pretty well in techie
  fields, so - even if it desn't top today's list of geeky hobbies, may-
  be it should, at least for those who are aiming for jobs in engineer'g
  and/or electronics.

Yes, Ham Radio is Fun and interesting (2, Informative)

speedlaw (878924) | more than 8 years ago | (#15400156)

I've been a ham for the last four years or so. I have the Technician class licence, which most slashdotters could pass with a little study. The internet does not replace ham radio..the net is infrastructure heavy, and everything must work. Ham radio needs an antenna and power source, which is why ham radio "reappears" after every major disaster. I have a ham radio in the car, which covers 1.8 mhz up to 470 mhz. Last night on the way home from work, I listened to Radio Austraila, the highway patrol, and truckers on channel 19. This radio (Icom 706) is my secret weapon traffic avoiding device. I chatted with some hams on 2 meters, too ! I've also found myself in the middle of a running road Rally, as a radio op for the Rally organizers, clearing stages for competition. Since this rally is over public roads, they must be closed prior to running-I'm a motorsport nut too, but ham radio literally got me on the course. Ham radio is a great vector to meet interesting people. Our secret geekdom comes from all over...had a good talk with my oil delivery guy, a fellow hammy. Eventually, morse code requirements will be dropped in the US, as they have been almost everywhere else in the world, and the technically inclined will be able to avoid the "hazing ritual" that is morse code. The amount of knowledge ham radio gives, from knowing how radio really works (WiFi is only a small part of radio...very small), to the people you meet, makes it a lot of fun. The cost is up to you...a used transceiver for HF, $400, a basic 2m rig and antenna for the car, new, $350, and it lasts forever. Ignore the flame wars on eham and, they don't represent real hamming. for a laugh, check out ! Casey K2FIX
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