Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Great Technology Debate

Yes, I know ham radio operators will debate about anything. It's just our nature, I suppose. Besides, we have to say something into that microphone or tap out something on the key or else we become permanent "lurkers!" If you visit the various websites (especially eHam and QRZ), you see a great deal of discourse--some heated, some not, but very little of it logically thought out and presented--about the state of amateur radio technology. Many claim the presence of surface-mount gear and digital modes are the death knell of the hobby. They are convinced that if you can't take your station apart, down to the chassis, and put it back together again, then you are somehow less of a "real ham."

I suspect many of these folks are simply resistant to or afraid of c-h-a-n-g-e. That's an old bugbaboo. For many of us, change represents the unknown, and the unknown is something to fear. It is human nature to gravitate toward our comfort zones and fight stubbornly to remain there.

We are not the only ones, of course. Automobile enthusiasts rue the day that the first computer was installed into a car. Audiophiles are certain that the day the vinyl LP virtually disappeared and recordings went digital was really the day the music died.

Again, I state the obvious: change is inevitable. Our goal should be to not only embrace it but to do what we can to:

1) Make that change a positive thing, and

2) Remember and honor past technologies.

I am actually heartened to see the number of relatively new hams who never built and tuned up a DX-100 or aligned a Hammarlund receiver are vitally interested in the boat anchors. I think CW is another example of ancient technology that is being preserved and used...partly because it is fun and partly because it is still a darn fine mode for communication.

Hey, I am not naive enough to believe that anything as sweeping as technological change is not going to upset some people. Wait until everyone has to have a digital TV/digital signal source in February 2009. Despite the long ramp up, all the publicity, and the government efforts...with our tax money :-( ...trying to take the sting out of such a major change, there will still be many who will be shocked when the soaps and game shows suddenly disappear from their cyclops.

That is still my idea of hell--living in this day and time of unprecedented change and not being able to adapt to it.

Don N4KC


va3stl said...


You make an interesting point. There is, it appears, a resistance to change amongst some amateurs. I am not sure why that is but compare that to the computer enthusiasts, especially gamers, who are always updating their equipment. Why is there a difference?

Perhaps it is the amount of time someone has invested into the hobby? If one has used CW with treasured equipment for many years, then does that cause a resentment (subconscious or otherwise) in some when new modes and equipment comes along? Is it similar to the way some openly deride the aspects of the hobby they are not interested in; contesting or non-contesting, kW amp use on 80m or QRP, 'code' or no 'code'. We have all seen the debates on the websites you mention. Perhaps it is simply a self-centered thing, "my way is the only way"?

I am not sure, but one can see the strong feelings in the eham article threads, for example. Interestingly, I find myself not reading eham as frequently as I did. The reviews and forums I like, but some of the 'flame wars' in the articles get tiresome. Indeed, I wonder how many people who were considering taking up amateur radio see the arguing on the threads in and and are then put off the hobby?

Finally, I should say I like my vinyl collection which I still listen to and run a pentium III in the shack! I do use the digimodes and DSTAR though, so have no problem with change. Hi hi.

Alan, VA3STL

Anonymous said...


I'm afraid resistance to change is a basic human condition...from Luddites to the Una-bomber! I doubt if we hams are any more likely to have such a mindset than the general population. We are just able to focus on a narrower bandwidth of change...especially on sites like eHam.

Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Talk about resistance to change ...

I am still trying to fathom the changes that have occurred at the place where my wife and I first met.

You see, we are graduates of

Northern Illinois University ...

Wayne, K9YNF

Anonymous said...

Hi Don!

The beauty of ham radio is that it is a hobby filled to the brim with sub-hobbies or niches.

My dictionary defines "niche" as:
"a place or position PARTICULARLY SUITABLE to the person or thing in it." (Emphasis mine!)

My niche is enjoying DXing in all its many nuances. To do so, I require, yes, even NEED, a certain level of technologically-superior gear and antennas to achieve the kind of payback I seek.

Could I have worked Ducie Island (again) yesterday with my old Knight-Kit T-50 transmitter and R-100 receiver into a Hy-Gain Thunderbird triband beam at 50 feet?

Probably not. No split VFOs. No DSP. No autotuner. And on and on.

Instead, I chose my current rig (Yaesu FT-1000MP Mark V)a couple of years back for its state-of-the-art technology. Yet, even THAT is becoming obsolete!

I now have my eye on a software-defined transceiver that has more computing power inside than IBM's first mainframe, for heaven's sake! Why?

Because that's what works for ME and that NICHE that I chose those many years ago when radios were supposedly "real."

And my DXing antenna of choice? A state-of-the-art wide-spaced 20/17 meter 4-square with a DX take-off angle lower than a dachshund's belly!

Technological change?

Bring it on!

73, Wayne, K9YNF
(four more ... oops, now with Kosovo ... five more to go for DXCC Honor Roll!)

Anonymous said...

Wayne, you are absolutely right. See, I could be perfectly satisfied with the nice Sony Wega ANALOG, non-HD TV that sits in my living room. It works perfectly and the picture--with nothing else nearby with which to compare it--is fine. But tonight, I went to Best Buy and narrowed my choice down to a new 52-inch Sony XBR HDTV. That's because I want an even more realistic TV picture during those few moments each week that I get to watch it. I want a better "experience," as the glib-tongued sales rep at Best Buy so eloquently put it.

Of course, using vintage ham gear and achieving something notable with it can be a satisfying experience as well. The difference is that the satisfaction we get from nailing VP6DX using a Ranger II/HQ-180 setup would be for its own sake...taking old gear and accomplishing something we can be proud of. I'd also enjoy firing up your FT-1000 and that nice antenna and getting him in the log, too. Which gives the most satisfaction? Depends on how you are wired, I guess, but I'd enjoy the heck out of either one! Or both.

By the way, I got him on three bands/three modes with my TS-2000 at 100 watts and my big-but-not-very-elevated loop. I got a thrill from that, too!


Don N4KC

Anonymous said...

Don, you will absolutely LOVE that Sony HDTV! I've been a Sony man since forever and I bit the technological bullet last year and bought a 40 inch Bravia. I'm also a photographer and an audiophile too. Let me tell you--the image quality on Discovery HD is breathtaking and the sound quality trumps my component stereo.

Oh, today you may kiss my ring ... not only did I receive my new
TO5FJ St. Barts card but ALSO (drumroll)my looooong-awaited Montenegro card from an August 2006QSO with YU6AO. It took 5 attempts and finally I enlisted the personal help of Dr. Hrane Milosevic of Serbia to walk it through.

Now, if we could only apply a technological fix to the world's QSL system (not eQSL), I could probably pay for that new SDR with the savings in IRCs and lost "dead presidents!"

BTW, that TS-2000 is one super rig for remote-control. A friend up here does all his DXing from 100 miles away in a condo with CC&Rs to his "other" house up in Door County where he has stacked monster log-periodics and an Alpha for good measure. Hi!

Wayne, K9YNF

Anonymous said...

Always enjoy your writing, Wayne.

I remind myself sometimes that the unknown is actually a blank slate, and I have the chalk (at least as far as my own life goes).

I, too, am becoming tired of the trolls and arguments on after years of contributing (to the good parts, at least, that was always my intent). I will still read it, but may contribute less. Partly that will also be because I have started publishing some of my own writings/ideas on the web. I'm trying to find positive views of the future more than two decades ahead, and discuss means of getting there and related matters, at I also am fulfilling a decades-long ambition and starting to write about effective management at And, to try to overload myself further, I am publishing some humorous business management advice (generally pretty bad advice, but tongue-in-cheek) at, and contributing to a fan website for the jazz-rock band I was in until it broke up in 1976, at - a real hoot, straight from the hippie era. A period piece, too, but, hey, I resemble that remark!

In any case, keep up the great work, and I look forward to reading more of your writing.
Tnx agn - Tim, KT8K

Anonymous said...

Tim, I wish I was as prolific as you. Congrats on putting all those thoughts into words. But when do you find time to get on the air? I've really got to give up all this wasted time sleeping!

Come back often and post. I really enjoyed your comments.

Don N4KC