I recently asked a simple question about amateur radio on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter a few weeks ago.
What is the biggest strength, weakness, opportunity or threat in ham radio now?
Here are some of the answers, and it is great food for thought.
- The license itself. It is a gateway to careers in Internet technology, engineering, and scientific experimentation.
- The ability to communicate totally ad-hoc.
- The great people in this hobby.
- Lack of protocols, equipment, and applications to transmit data. Digital is encumbered by onerous, ancient rules regarding data modulation, as well as a complete inability to support any form of practical experimentation other than the art of antenna patterns. Add to it, the difficulty to petition the FCC for rules changes.
- We need to overcome the attitude that ham radio is a post-apocalyptic means of off-the-grid communication, and get back to taking an interest in furthering the state of the art. With SDR (Software Defined Radios), Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, you can still build a low-cost radio in ways that were not available just a handful of years ago.
- Not providing new people with a step-by-step way (into the hobby). CB was wildly popular, but the ham community turned its back on them. If you want to grow, you have to accept the masses.
- Most ham equipment is rather expensive compared to consumer electronics. A mid-range laptop costs around $500. The mid-range HF radio is at least double that amount. You can buy the best console game system for less than the cost of a new HF radio station.
- The biggest opportunity is youth. I don’t buy the attitude that young people are not interested in our hobby. The technology employed in various aspects of the hobby are state of the art. The bright young minds of today are eager for a challenge and the communication fields offer it.
- The biggest opportunity is advancing the state of the art with the resurgence of kits. The SoftRock ensemble is a great example. It is about $100 and will work with a roadkill computer as its brain.
- The number of new applications who enter the hobby to experiment with data communication.
- Resistance (of current licensed operators) to adopt anything new. A new SSB radio that really only has slightly better filters? They are all over it. DMR? They don’t understand it, so it must be no good or illegal.
- Cell phones which can do more than most radios except for HF communication.
- We shouldn’t concentrate on “When your cell phone goes down,” but rather how cool it is to build your own voice or data network.
- EmComm (Emergency Communication) trying to take over the hobby.
What do you think?