Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taking the radio out of ham radio

Paul, PC4T has just posted in his blog about CQ100 VOIP Ham Radio. He asks: "Is this still ham radio?" What surprised me is that what provoked his post was an article called "I've got my hobby back", subtitled "CQ100 is an option for hams that can't get on the bands" published by none other than the ARRL. Pardon me, but I thought the first "R" in ARRL stood for "Radio."

I've already made a couple of comments on this to Paul's blog post, but I'm starting to wonder if the ARRL is losing the plot. I do read QST, and it seems to me that many of the editorial staff live in situations where they have limited opportunities to get on the air. This is reflected in the increasing number of articles on things like D-Star and FM operating. And now this. I used to look forward to receiving QST every month but I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth the money.

It's a fallacy to say that just because you can't have antennas you can't do ham radio, as I and other bloggers such as Paul, and John, N8ZYA are trying to prove. Even if you don't have a tiny attic like I do, you can make a simple magnetic loop and make QRP contacts with it on the desk beside you, or you can load up the curtain rail and see how far you can get using WSPR. Surely any of these real radio activities are more interesting and rewarding than pretending to operate ham radio while not actually using radio at all?

By encouraging the idea that unless you can put up outside antennas you'd be better off playing fake ham radio on the internet the ARRL is doing the entire hobby a disservice. Let's hope the government agencies don't get wind of this or someone may start to wonder why we need all that valuable spectrum space at all.
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