A Discord for Young Hams

A friend in /r/amateurradio posted a discord inviting young hams in New York Long Island. A few commenters (including myself) asked why not all young hams? So here you go!


Credit to /u/NewHamWhoDis KD2OAH

What is Discord?

Discord is a free voice and text chatting app well suited for gamers. Anyone can set up any server and have your squad voice chatting within minutes. Before, TeamSpeak and Mumble (and Ventrilo….and more) were the standard, but required paying for servers or setting up your own. Discord takes the work out of that.

It’s also become hugely popular with the rest of the internet – YouTube channels, subreddits, and many special interest groups (like ham radio) have started using it as a replacement to IRC and VoIP chat programs which are hard to use for both the users, moderators, and admins, and lack adequate mobile device support.

Rant on Chat Apps

Sometimes it’s hard to decide what chat program to use. Slack, Facebook Messenger, IRC, Skype, GroupMe, WhatsApp, Telegram, Discord, Zello, Slack…the list is ever growing, but currently here’s my favorites (because this is a blog after all!)

For groups of collegiate and like-aged (20-somethings) friends casually chatting: GroupMe

  Check out the Collegiate Amateur radio Initative GroupMe here!

For one-to-one chatting: Facebook Messenger, SMS, iMessage.

For IRC-like text and voice chatting about a certain topic: Discord

For linux help or nostalgia: IRC

Although there are a lot of very helpful and active communities on IRC, it’s mobile app support is awful since a cloud instance has to be always-on to receive messages when your device isn’t connected, then to push them to your phone when it’s back on, which costs more money than what’s worth to the casual, intermittent user…i.e. me.

For Working on a Project with a remote team: Slack

Mattermost is a good up-and-coming Open Source alternative to Slack.

For all things international: Whatsapp for 1-1 chats, Telegram for groups

YOTA uses Telegram for mass-group texting. I think they’re up to 500 members now.

For pretending your phone is a walkie talkie for a minute than forgetting about it: Zello

For video chatting: Skype.

I pretty much always organize skype chats via Facebook Messenger. Kinda funny.

For video chatting with cool features and/or using a browser only: Google Hangouts

For everything else: Ham radio. Lol.

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!