When I compare the levels of creativity by Internet hackers (by which I mean folks - usually programmers - who create new on-line technologies) to those shown by some our local Ham Radio hackers, I sometimes wonder if these locals Hams are being short-changed.
I recently heard a local Ham (who is very active in promoting Amateur Radio as a secondary source of trained Emergency Service communications volunteers, etc.) -bemoan- the fact that he's found it -harder- to get several of our State's emergency services to recognize & (even formally) open the doors to participation by Hams from his civil emergency network, despite past participation by its members in helping to facilitate large community events (car-, bike- & foot-races, etc.)
Reflecting on what Radio Clubs & the larger Ham Radio peak body seem to ask / expect local Radio Amateurs to do, I'm starting to understand why, eg, Radio Hams are -not- always welcomed to work beside our [paid] emergency services, at least in South Australia.
After -each- regular Sunday morning WIA broadcast, upwards of 60 Radio Hams line-up, for chance to "thank the relay operators" for the broadcast. Oh, they can also say, eg, "Good morning to all," too, if they wish... but almost -no- thoughtful (or other) -conversation- goes on, during the 20 - 30 minutes of "call-backs" on the most -popular- repeater in the State of South Australia, after those morning broadcasts!
This week's WIA broadcast brought news that a local Ham Club was about to hold a -second- technical night on the construction of -one- particular VHF / UHF antenna. (I gather that the task -couldn't- be completed in the -first- of the two tech' nights...)
Making identical copies of a -single- antenna desigh is like being in a "Technical Arts" class & being asked to fold a given length of metal into a -specified- triangular shape, to serve as the base for a 3-candle holder, where each student fastens -identical- candle holders (with -identical- wax-catchers), onto -each- of those -identical- bases, using -identical- fasteners! Oy!
Each level of Ham organisation seems to be positioning a -diverse- group of individuals into a group of "factory workers" ...ie, rather than into a group of curious, experimental individuals, prepared to take [small] Risks, eg, making small changes to a design & comparing the results of all the variations produced in the group.
(So, even if a -single- antenna design is all that's on offer, for a Radio Club's technical night, why couldn't a range of rod -diameters- be available (eg, to see / show how rod diameter might affect the width of the resulting "low-SWR" band of frequencies, for that antenna design)? Why couldn't various metals be offered, or even some some mixed-material solutions (eg, fibre glass or carbon fiber, covered with, say, a layer of cheap aluminum foil, copper foil, etc.)
Why couldn't several groups work on as many different antenna designs? Perhaps, after creating antennas of each design, the groups could compare the performance, across the design types.
I suppose that -younger- members would be more likely to be -limited- in their habits of thinking than older ones, by such "single-idea-in-mind" regimentation.
Let's compare "the way we are" today with how we might become, in future, eg, by examining some recently published additions to the cost-free Khan Academy library of tutorial videos, eg - in the Science / Project catagories:
Consider the mind-expanding:
a. "Reverse Engineering" sequence (in which various household items - from a cheap wall-clock to a more costly digital camera - are take apart & their components examined for a better understood of each)
b. a follow-on Robotics sequence (which -uses- a selection of components - which were exposed & examined in "Reverse Engineering" along with a few purchased modules - to build an Arduino-based robot toy for kids... also encouraging / enabling an older child or parent to try to build one for a younger child).
Is Amateur Radio just a Fun Hobby -or- can we continue to embrace its Self-Educational tradition, as Internet hackers seem to have done?
I - for one - feel we need -both- & it would be good to -consciously- make efforts to insure that Radio Hams' be encouraged to think a bit outside the norm, oftener than Radio clubs seem to be doing now.
Why do we need clever engineering skills in Amateur Radio, etc.?
After Fukushima's nuclear power plant near melt downs, we - quite rightly - began to ask:
+ Is nuclear power really safe?
To answer this type of questions, we need minds with more "granularity" that can look "inside the box" and understand the implications of each -type- of design... and the implications of each feature of these designs.
So, before we answer the above safety question, let's ask a similar one:
+ Are cars safe?
In each case, it depends on the design; we need to be able to understand & "fiddle with" (ie, improve, at least on paper) some of the important designs we come into contact with, in media & Life.
(I'm happy to say that there's a growing "movement" of very bright & clever people re-thinking th safety of nuclear energy...
Calls to promote "Energy from Thorium" are replacing calls to "Shut Off all Nukes!" ...because such people are analyzing & comparing different kinds of designs... and embracing -safer- ones.
A young [re-]thinker on a possible -safe- nuclear powered future:
A middle-aged thinker / engineer's thoughts on similar topics:
A mature-aged scientist covers related topics, more fully:
. "Thorium as Nuclear Fuel in the Molten Salt Reactor"
. - Prof. Dr. Eduardo Greaves (from Venezuala)
(Want more details - from a wider range of sources?
So, search YouTube.com for "Thorium Remix 2011")