Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The death of VHF

Olga and I have returned from a long weekend in London. I took my VX-8GR along, hoping to see some APRS activity or even make some contacts. But I heard absolutely nothing, nada, zilch, not a braap on the APRS frequency nor any signs of life on the simplex or repeater frequencies.

Twenty years ago I lived in London, in Charlton SE7 and I seem to recall that in those days there were four London repeaters on 2m and plenty of activity. I also seem to recall that some of the repeaters were plagued with abuse. Last weeked even a kerchunker or a pirate playing music would have been a welcome sign that someone was using the amateur frequencies.

I took a laptop with me - the small Eee PC running Ubuntu Linux, with APRSIS32 under wine - to monitor activity and see if my RF beacons were heard. I received a greeting from G5YC via the APRS-IS internet network and that was that. What a contrast to Prague, where I was a month ago, where the APRS activity just didn't stop.

Tim, G4VXE, posted yesterday about creating APRS objects for repeaters using OpenAPRS.net. I commented that it was all very well, but these internet created objects are never transmitted on RF so they never fulfil the intended purpose of the mode which is to inform visiting mobiles of the local repeater frequencies. Unfortunately with the lack of radio activity here in the UK one cannot deny that APRS works much better as an internet application than it does over RF. Anyone who has a computer can call up aprs.fi and see the local picture - if anyone has taken the trouble to create the objects. If they were transmitted on RF, would anyone hear them?

I could say much the same about 2m FM. If I'd had an iPhone I could have made some contacts using the newly released Echolink app, which again is more than I was able to do using my Yaesu. What has happened to ham radio that one can't find any activity even in the UK's biggest city? It seems to me that we have all decided that cellphones are a much better tool for contacting our ham buddies. If we lost the use of the VHF and UHF bands would anyone actually notice?
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