Era Of The Communicator

I enjoyed AB9RF and KE9Vs recent postings concerning the ending of the “era of the communicator” – I am a big fan of both blogs. Kelly (AB9RF) argues that to continue to attract new hams, we need to focus the image of ham radio not as a means to talk to far away place (as this can be accomplished with any cell phone) but as a means to explore the latest computer technology. I understand her point but disagree with her premise. The best refute is Dave Bushong’s blog 99 hobbies (although not updated recently). As the title of his blog indicates, ham radio is a multifaceted hobby… DX QSOs is just one element. Kelly further argues that the ham community is in danger of loosing some of its spectrum privileges if the community is mired in the past by an aging population of hams who have failed to contribute any innovation to the radio art in recent memory. D*Star, Echolink, WinLink2000, APRS, PSK31, and Olivia immediately come to mind. Look at usage of 2M repeaters in your area – chances are if you wanted to set a repeater up yourself, you couldn’t because all the bandwidth is already filled. As hams, we are communicators, we are innovators and ham radio is what we make of it. Unfortunately, I’d say the key argument to maintaining our amateur spectrum is not in innovation but in disaster and emergency communications support. Now I am not an orange-vest wearing, special badge and whoopy-lights on the top of my truck guy… but from my perspective, emcomm has earned us respect from the general public in the past (… just look at Katrina). I for one am glad there is a devoted following of hams who support emcomm, although I do not fall in that category. I do believe that all hams must maintain a basic capability to use their equipment to provide support in an emergency…. nothing fancy, just the basic ability to pass traffic or relay a message. But I truly believe that the hobby will continue to survive due to the vast variety that is available to we hams, the practitioners of the radio arts. The ionosphere’s the limit… oh, no wait – now you can reach out to the Sun as well.