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Cyberhamming Comes of Age

Philip Cala-Lazar (K9PL) on August 22, 2000
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Cyberhamming Comes of Age

by K9PL

Just this morning from the communications headquarters I call my shack, I was able to check propagation, read real-world reviews of a piece of gear I'm interested in, inform a fellow ham that I had received a misdirected QSL that was due him and send a signal report to the operator of a 10-meter beacon -- and that's just for starters. Seems like the Internet's much vaunted threat to amateur radio has become, in reality, a boon. The 'Net has, through the mostly individual efforts of thousands of hams worldwide, matured into an almost inexhaustible resource.

I have a pretty extensive ham radio reference library with books on antennas, homebrewing, electronic theory, rules and regulations, DX'ing; you name it, I've probably a tome on the topic. But amateur radio is too big for anyone's personal book collection to cover comprehensively. And what about time sensitive activities like contests, regulatory announcements, hamfests, club meetings and conventions? Where else can you find, at your fingertips, the schematic diagram for a 60-year-old Hallicrafters receiver, or the QSL manager for that ZL8 you just worked? Shopping for a new, or used, piece of gear? It's all just a dial-up away on your favorite ISP.

In addition to the multitude of valuable services and site listings offered by, there are hundreds of "jump" sites catering to your personal ham radio interests. Having a problem with your rig? Housing covenants and antenna restrictions got you down? Can't find that octal socket for your "hollow-state" construction project? There's a myriad of mailing lists providing forums (and answers) on radio interests from the pedestrian to the arcane.

In the five years I've had Internet access, I've been hamming more, joined more special interest groups and clubs, and contributed more to the hobby than I have in my previous 20 years as a ham. Who knows, the Internet may prove to be just the "kick start" ham radio's needed (and we've been endlessly debating) for years.

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Where's The Spark?  
by K3AN on August 22, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, the Internet is a fantastic resource for Amateur Radio, just as it is for every other established group activity. But in the Sky and Telescope magazine I just got, which now has a monthly column on software and Internet resources, there is a lamentation about how the median age of S&T's readership keeps going up, while the median age of the population as a whole has barely changed. Sound familiar?

What is it about ham radio that will attract kids and teenagers who can send instant messages, download MP3 and Napster music files (and now DVD movies as well), play interactive games, get information on making bombs and illegal drugs, visit porn sites, and send and receive videocam files to/from their friends via the Internet? All this with no hassles over antennas and RFI, no license required, relatively cheap equipment, and even the access is free if you're willing to put up with the ads.

How do we create the spark? What can Amateur Radio offer that the Internet can't?
RE: Where's The Spark?  
by VE6KJM on August 22, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Well, It is funny that I read this as I just did a week long workshop on Ham radio for a Youth Group here in Canada. I did 2 & 4 hours sessions for 5 days where I introduce the hobby to about 100 youth and 15 adults.. And that question was asked of me in each session and my reply was that I can do this without 120 Volts, I don't need a Telephone line of Cable other than for my power from a battery and antenna and I can take it in my car with me.....Lets see them do this with the Internet.


Kevin \
Calgary, Alberta

RE: Where's The Spark?  
by K9PL on August 22, 2000 Mail this to a friend!

Thank you for your thoughtful, and thought-provoking, comments. I don't know if the Internet can provide the primary incentive to investigate amateur radio, but for those already licensed or bitten by the ham radio bug, but unlicensed, it can augment and enhance the hobby.

Many of the traditional pathways to ham radio, e.g., shortwave listening, electronic experimentation and scouting no longer attract young people as they once did. These young people are, as you so correctly and succinctly put it, entranced by the Internet, its end-user simplicity and its manifold charms.

Our new licensees will come from the same cohort of the innately curious it always has. These are the individuals who want to speak one-on-one with someone on the other side of the globe via a length of wire cast between two trees. And these are the same people ham radio has always drawn its strength and numbers from; iconoclasts who don't, or won't, depend on a telecommunications giant to make and maintain friendships.

Visibility, availability and self-promotion that educates and informs the public about ham radio, IMO, is the most effective way to recruit new operators to the hobby. Educational activities by the ARRL, other national associations and local clubs in primary and high schools puts the momentum just where it should be. That said, I don't think we will ever attract people to ham radio who aren't already "interested" or have a desire to participate in the activities only ham radio can uniquely provide.


RE: Where's The Spark?  
by AC5UP on August 23, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
As an FYI:

Stroud, Oklahoma is going to be one of the first 'wireless' towns with communications and internet available at 1.5 Mbit/sec almost anywhere in the area. I don't have the technical details, but the same data feed that allows mobile connectivity will also do digitized 2-Way for Police, Fire and Municipal communications. Add in the ability to call up maps or mug shots to a terminal in a city vehicle and the 'wireless' becomes a remarkable field resource.

Instead of thinking of radio and the internet as two separate realms, I'm starting to consider digital modulation as the next stage in the evolution of RF.

73' de AC5UP
Good Piece of work  
by KB9NZU on August 23, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I really enjoyed what you wrote on this subject. It seems that I started in this hobby at the beginning of the computer and ham radio marriage. One of the reasons that I got into this hobby was the fact that I am a closet computer geek as well as interested in electronics. Since I have been a ham, the division between computers and amateur radio has gotten smaller and smaller. All of the things that you mentioned and more can be found. Recently, I used the internet to study for my upgrade to General, and passed the test with flying colors. Easier, cheaper, and faster than if I bought the books and studied that way.

In the future all I see is the 2 coming even closer. We will see Ham Radios that can surf the internet for us, looking for propagation reports, checking where that rare DX station is calling CQ, and putting out a message about your local net on packet as well.

This is the place to be, and the thing to be doing. Ham Radio and Computers, what a combination.
Internet and Hamming  
by KC7COI on August 23, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
The internet has rekinkled my interest in amateur radio. I had let my skills and operating completely lapse for the past few years until I started working in computers. I started hunting around the internet for ham info. and found an absolute motherlode of information. I have since begun operating again, purchased a HF rig through the internet, found study guides to upgrade, taken sample tests, found information about my local club, testing sessions, hamfests etc. etc. I see the internet as also increasing the ranks of amateurs worldwide. All the kids out there could find our community and get interested all thanks to the internet.

RE: Where's The Spark?  
by N7XNX on August 25, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
My first Internet connection came in the days when a 2400 baud modem was fast. Gopher was the hot item, there were no web sites, and if you couldnít do it in a 80x24 text window you just flat didnít do it. Iíve been heavily involved in the commercial aspects of the Internet since, and have watched it grow from a university and government tool to a commodity. Today my paycheck comes from a company whose entire future is banking on that kind of growth continuing for the Internet and the industries it has spawned.

As tied to the Internet as I have become over the years, I made a point of building my station in a different room from my computer. I spend too much time on the Internet already, as I use it extensively for work and find myself glued to it after hours. I like to consider my radio time separate from computer time, and this forces me to look at it that way.

I can say that Iíve yet to have a co-worker or industry acquaintance over to the house whose eyes havenít lit up at the sight of my radio table. These are technical minded folks who have become as attached to the Internet as I have, but radio still holds its own mystique with them. None have had a negative thing to say about the hobby, and many have expressed interest in pursuing it.

The bottom line is that radio is a form of communications, just as the Internet is. Neither can do exactly what the other can, but the end goal is the same: to communicate. People that are interested in communicating on the Internet are likely to be interested in radio, whether they know it or not.

Back when I got my first Internet connection on that UNIX box, the Internet wasnít popular yet because people werenít aware of what it was and what it could do. It had to be promoted to grow. Look what we have today.

I donít think we can expect this kind of growth in radio, but I certainly think we can maintain the growth we have today and improve on it. If nobody knows about radio, nobody will be interested in radio, and we only have ourselves to blame.

cyberhamming comes of age  
by KD5FUL on August 25, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I was 'netting before I went to hamming, here's how it went...

I had been CBing it for awhile, and asked a long time friend and ham about antennas. I wanted a killer CB antenna for the house, and wanted to build it myself.
I knew about ham radio, but thought I still had to know lots of code and stuff. He handed me a study guide and told me that this was all I needed.
After a few pages and an introduction, I was hooked.
The internet yielded, as the other man said, a wealth of info, and still does!
I see no dividing line here, the internet, for me, is a tool and presents no challenge to talk to say, Austrailia. The challenge and the chance is what makes ham radio what it is to me, a means of communication and an endless source of fascination...I'm a kid again when I turn the radio on.
That's what makes it worthwhile to me. I can give back to the community,
and get pleasure doing it.
73 to all!
kd5ful Jim Nokes
RE: cyberhamming comes of age  
by KC0FNS on August 26, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I've been a ham for a year and a half. I had been a SWL for years and the internet newsgroups really helped me learn more about my hobby. I got my ham license because the material was accessable to me via internet and GASP, Radio Shack's Gordon West books. The ARRL material was not accessable to me, but the Radio Shack material was. Most book stores don't carry any ham books any more.

I was at Borders bookstore last week buying the latest "Monitoring Times", and the 20 year old clerk at the counter, with a stud in his nose and a spiky hair do said, "Is that the last one?!!" He was a SWL and hoped to get his ham ticket! I thought a young person had to be spoonfed a demonstration of ham radio, but not this fella. He was ready to go.

The lure of hamradio is different for lots of folks, but the Internet is not the enemy, of hamradio, it's the biggest advertiser of what it's about and how more folks can get into it.

Access to information enables more folks to make a decision. If people know that hams are generally a friendly and helpful bunch, then there is not a informational or social barrier to the hobby.

Mark, KC0FNS
RE: Internet and Hamming  
by WB8YYY on August 29, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
One area of ham radio that the internet has really impacted is QRP and homebrewing. A lot of national and regional clubs are thriving in exchanging ideas, offering kits and promoting operating events. Being able to get the word out instantaneously through such forums as the QRP-L mailing list has really revolutionized the hobby.
RE: Internet and Ham Radio  
by KD5KEI on September 14, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I keep my radio equipment right next to the computer, in fact I built the computer around the radios. I tend to use one or the other though, unless we're having a skywarn net, then I use the computer for radar feeds, etc.

I also use the internet to gather massive amounts of information, mostly antenna design, for the hobby. One of
my friends lives in Virginia and we use Internet Phone to talk over the internet to each other. There is a private chat room that is used mainly to link the internet to various repeaters around the world. So you could be on your computer with a microphone and talk on a 2m machine in england or somewhere. These folks have taken it one step further and combined the two.

I think it takes the joy and accomplishment out of making a good DX contact. We had a band opening here the other night
and I talked from Jefferson, TX to Benton, AR on nothing but
my 40 ft. j-pole and 50 watts.
Cyberhamming Comes of Age  
by KD5LWU on January 10, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I completely agree and welcome all to also come visit for a ham and igital experience.
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