Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fraternity?

Over the last few days a North American ham has been operating a beacon at the top end of the 30m band on the frequency that has been used for many years for HF APRS. At times this has made HF APRS operation impossible. After some difficulty, due to the fact that the beacon operator's contact information was incorrect, someone managed to get in touch with him to point out the problems he was causing and ask politely if he would move the beacon. This is part of the reply that was received, copied verbatim from an APRS mailing list:

"Last week I  moved the beacon when  some other hams we're bitching at me  about 'their'  all important!!!   ham activity......   PSK,  RTTY   what ever!!! . 

I move AGAIN then another cry baby bunch CRIES about 'THEIR'  ALL IMPORTANT    activities  like weak signal CW QRRS CW  whatever!

We have to SHARE the frequencies   I will think about the  QSY  .....  if I get Bitching from so other ham 'group' like the DX cluster folks who are  'DXing'  fish in a BARREL for some  ALL IMPORTANT  'certificate'     What am I to do???  I am an experimenter /builder  when do I get to use a frequency????????

WHY is 'APRS'  more important than MY activity?  I look in the regs and I  see NOTHING about one  ham activity has  priority over another!"

I have left out the individual's details as I don't want to start a personal attack that could be counterproductive by leading him to entrench his position. But whatever happened to good manners, politeness and consideration for one's fellow amateur? When, as a young teenager, I first began listening on the amateur bands, I used to be impressed by the politeness and courtesy of the conversations I heard. No longer is amateur radio a gentleman's hobby.

This OM is quite correct that we have to share the frequencies. It is a common courtesy that if a frequency is in use then you don't use it, even if you have a net that has been meeting on that frequency every day since Marconi invented the spark transmitter.

But in the digital parts of the bands which can be used for more than conversations between two or more people, checking whether a frequency is in use may involve more than just sending "QRL?" or listening for a couple of minutes. Activities like APRS, packet radio, Winlink and so on are effectively nets that operate 24/7. If you don't hear anything for a while that may just be because propagation isn't sending anything your way at the moment.

This is how Chris, G4HYG prepared to select the frequency to use for APRS over PSK. He recently wrote: "Before I released the HF version of APRS Messenger I spent some time checking  various frequencies on the 30m band. I found that the section from the 300 bd APRS frequency to the band edge appeared to be clear. I then started a period of monitoring the band from 10.1494 to 10.150 on a receiver with a digital mode program running with a very slow waterfall to catch anything I heard. This ran for a month from mid January to mid February." It's a pity the developer of the ROS digital mode that has caused so much disruption to other established activities could not have been as thorough and considerate in selecting operational frequencies.

To those who will trot out the response that activities like APRS have no more right to use a particular frequency than anything else I would say first of all that some types of activity need a specific frequency where other users can find it. It isn't a matter of one activity being more important than another. If you had to hunt to find what frequency everyone is using today, some types of worldwide net operation would not be possible. In any case, a frequency that was clear in, say, North America might well be occupied in Europe. Allowing legitimate activities sole use of an established frequency by gentleman's agreement is the only option. There is still plenty of room for other activities including ad-hoc beacons.

In activities like APRS, many dozens of stations all use the same frequency, making this a very efficient use of bandwidth. If users are driven off these frequencies or prevented from using these modes the result would be even less space left for other activities.

What people who object to this argument really mean is "I don't have any interest in that mode and I don't give a fig about those who do." Is ham radio a fraternity? Yes, we are like a family of brothers who are forever breaking each other's toys and beating the shit out of one another.
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