The Revenge of Radio: Why Radio Still Matters

When throwing trash away one week, I noticed a cast-away turntable and stereo in the trash room, heaped atop broken office chairs, unwanted furniture, and someone’s torn bathroom door. I had an innate urge to make this trash my treasure, with zero consideration of whether or not it’s broken, or if it was accidentally thrown away (lol) or for the very fact that I own zero vinyl records. Why the heck would I need a turntable?!

Why did I take this?

So it’s been sitting on that table for about 2 months now, and I haven’t done a thing with it. Until today, when I took a photo of it.

I wouldn’t have taken this photo and written this blog post if it wasn’t for listening to the Art of Manliness podcast titled “#289: The Revenge of Analog.” It was an interview with David Sax, author of the book The Revenge of Analog.

David writes about how people in the age where it’s weird if you don’t own a smartphone, really fast data and wifi is cheap and available, and everyone thinks that books, writing notes, listening to music on physical media, and face-to-face contact will disappear.

It hasn’t. In fact vinyl records is becoming a billion dollar industry. Moleskine and Field Notes notebooks and fountain pen companies are realizing a huge boom after the idea of bullet journaling took off. People scoff at hipsters writing on typewriters, but actually it’s really catching on. Everyone’s scratching their heads, wondering why Surface tablets, kindles, Spotify, Evernote and Siri hasn’t completely taken over the archaic, menial tasks of writing, reading, and listening to music.

It’s actually surprising why they haven’t – the digital life is complicated. To take a note with Microsoft Onenote, you have to

  1. Have Onenote installed (that takes money)
  2. Open Onenote
  3. Learn how OneNote saves notes, where they’re stored, what tabs and pages are, where the drawing tools are….etc
  4. Take a note.

To take a note on paper, you have to…

  1. Get paper
  2. Get pen
  3. Write note

It’s simpler. Plus, writing improves your memory retention on whatever you write about. With books and music it’s a little different though. Media could not be easier to consume nowadays. Ask Alexa to play Come on Eileen, and she will. Read any book on your screen, anywhere. No fumbling with a CD and it skipping, no scratching of records, and most of all, no junk cluttering every bit of your living space.

Actually those inconveniences and annoyances are making a comeback. People naturally steer towards real books, records, and notes – they’re a real object. You can give a book to someone as a gift, and that reminds the giftee about the gifter…an Amazon giftcard doesn’t have the same affect. It’s also a physical “billboard” of the personality of it’s owner; a bookshelf full of electrical engineering texts, along with a bunch of books on Van Gogh, or a box of records containing everything from Elvis to The Chipmunks Christmas Special….these things tell you about a person that have been leaving peoples’ homes. Plus, it’s really awkward to ask someone on the bus “what are you reading?” when they’re on their phone; if they’re reading a physical book, it’s much easier to start a conversation and share a common interest without having to probe.

So it’s not because of nostalgia and hipsterdom…it’s because of necessity. I now realize why I got the turntable from the trash room. Because vinyl brings the fun back in music that Spotify took away.

What’s this got to do with ham radio?

It’s got everything to do with ham radio. Nearly every person has a cell phone; and that cell phone came from a long history of advancements in radio technology.

What I really heard when listening to the podcast was that the same group of people buying vinyl might be interested in de-technologizing their cell phone too.

For example, right now there are eleven chat apps on my iPhone. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Groupme, Telegram, IRCCloud, Zello, Skype, Whatsapp, Slack, Hangouts, and Snapchat. Yesterday I deleted Signal and Allo since I never used them, but overall I’m really annoyed at keeping up with all of these, but I have to to maintain contact with everyone close to me.

This lead me to a random thought – I have 2 good friends who have their ham radio license in my building…what if we all just had ham radio’s on in each of our apartments? Sure, it’s more annoying to deal with a radio – frequencies, antennas, battery, power, CTCSS, interference, etc. – but it’s the most fundamental and efficient method of talking to each other at a distance.

Does this mean CB radio will start to creep back in lieu of Google Maps and Waze? Will ham radio experience a boon of licensee’s who are in the hobby just to practice practical communications? Will FRS/GMRS/MURS also become more popular?  I really think so, and it’s something our leadership (ARRL) needs to look at and address in the next few years.

I for one think vinyl is pretty awesome. Radio too.

 

Collegiate Amateur Radio Survey

I’m doing an independent survey on college ham radio clubs to help generate a list of active clubs, clubs in need, and colleges with no club but students with interest. Please take a minute to add your college club to the survey. Don’t worry if you think someone’s done it already – that shows me your club is even more active!

Go to https://goo.gl/forms/nKqFawhfS3krBWCA2 or take the survey right here:

 

 

Hamcation Recap

Hamcation is a great hamfest. It’s huge, spread out, and located in the one place where the weather is actually amazing – Orlando. It’s sunny, 75 degrees, and I’m pretty sure I’m sunburnt. I forgot that this kind of weather exists.

With rewards points, I was able to attend Hamcation basically free, and got to bring a student from the Missouri S&T Amateur Radio Club too. Aaron, AA0RN, is a W0EEE officer. He likes contesting and working with hospital radio organizations in Kansas City, MO (like KCHEART), and this was his first time to a big hamfest. I hope the trip is inspiring him to do great things with W0EEE – which they already are with their mega-successful  technician license class. It’s so popular that it’s putting stress on the local VE’s – a good thing!

I went to Hamcation because of one forum on Collegiate Amateur Radio. I went so the rest of you all could see it in my livestream. I got so much more out of it than I was expecting.

One of those moments was meeting The Backyard Scientist. He is a YouTube sensation with almost 2.5 MILLION subscribers.  He does stuff on YouTube that’s every kid’s dream – melting, shooting, blowing up, and slicing through stuff in slow motion.

The Backyard Scientist at Hamcation. what. KD8YVJ is just as flabbergasted.
Here’s my recap:

Youth Forum

Hamvention must be an ideal Hamfest for young people since Disney world is basically just nextdoor. Carole Perry WB2MGP had a number of young people present a dry-run of their talks, so they can refine their presentations before the big show in Dayton (now Xenia). I periscoped and tweeted a few presentations – check out periscope.tv/n0ssc for those.

I was excited to finally meet the Lee family in person – see hamradio.world for the awesomeness the Lee’s bring to this hobby.

College Forum

This was the best forum ever. College ham radio is making a huge movement with the advent of low-cost SDR making ham radio more interesting to computer science and engineering majors, and not just electrical engineers.

The college forum was livestreamed successfully, but the quality suffered due to slow wifi. It’s available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t_TO5vU-Ws, and soon Tony KD8RTT will have a high-quality version on his channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/12milluz

Ham radio in College is about to get a whole bunch more fun. Photo credit: ARRL
One of the biggest take-aways of the meeting was the amount of ARRL support. They brought mugs, banners, and at least 10 boxes of ARRL Handbooks to give away. Plus, the ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher NY2RF and Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen NQ1R, made a point to attend the entirety of the forum. It’s really cool to see the huge support from the League. It was also great to get the one-on-one time with Tom, as well as our post-forum social.

Collegiate Ham Radio Social at the K4UCF Hamshack
There will be an article in QST soon.

About 1,000,000 RVs

What makes Dayton Hamvention great is it’s 3 acres of flea market. What makes Orlando Hamcation great is literally hundreds of RVs that take up all the fairground space. I’ve never seen so many…it’s totally bonkers.

Drama, lol.

I’m constantly reminded that ham radio still has it’s fair share of drama. In this case, it was the Florida Repeater Council. They had a meeting during Hamcation where they decided to remove all of it’s members. That’s the account of W9CR, who is spearheading a reform campaign.

A lot of repeater coordination committees run very un-democratically and shroud things like repeater locations in secrecy (understandably to avoid situations where repeaters are granted access to a tower or building under the table, and once word gets out that a ham radio antenna is installed on some major real estate, either the building/tower owners or other agencies start to get fussy and end up kicking them off)

My advice is to take this campaign elsewhere, perhaps into spearheading  a grassroots repeater coordination paradigm. Repeater councils are not governed by the FCC, and repeaters need not be coordinated on a basis of regulation, and these committees quickly devolve into debates and drama because of differences in opinion. Instead, repeater owners should understand the RF environment and work together to avoid harmful interference, and use croudsourced repeater directories like Repeaterbook to make a record of that repeater’s existence.

I understand coordination committees came out of necessity since there was no central body to govern all the repeaters popping up in the 70s (and the subsequent interference), but in this age of technology and crowdsourcing, repeater coordination can be decentralized, and the drama left behind. That and the fact that there aren’t as many active repeaters today than in the past.

This reddit thread is following the drama. And here’s another.

No new products?

There wasn’t much of a WOW factor at this hamfest. All the standard vendors were there, but with a fraction of the gear they bring out for Hamvention. Nothing really new and/or groundbreaking. Did I miss anything?

Update: I did one forget thing: Hytera has a both at Hamcation, which is apparently a new thing! It’s a good thing that the DMR industry is giving ham radio a fair amount of attention. 

~~~

So that was tons of fun. I’m not going to Dayton this year, but I will be looking to see if I can fit others like Seapac, Pacificon and Hamcom, and Hamcon in my schedule. I love hamfests!