Saturday, May 01, 2004

Ham radio operators are a cheap bunch! 

Ham radio operators, as a group, are some of the biggest cheap skates that I have ever known. I have often said that if you hand a ham a buffalo nickel that when he gets it between his fingers the buffalo will fart! Now, before you get your knickers in a twist let me say that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Hams have a history of building their own equipment, modifying older existing equipment to give it new life and generally making due with whatever is on hand at the time to get something working. This is a heritage to be proud of I might add.

Hams as a group tend to be older in age. I have never broken down the statistics but I’m sure if someone did you would find that the majority of hams are either from the World War II generation or the “baby boomers” that followed. We have our share of young people, and I am thankful for that, but at this point in time I feel they are in a minority.

Ham radio has also changed a lot in the thirty-eight odd years that I have been involved with it. I don’t think that anyone, with the possible exception of Alvin Toffler, could have for seen where amateur radio, electronics and society in general would be in the year 2004 when I was first licensed.

Ham radio operators have made many contributions to the state of the art in electronics and communications. Part of that proud heritage that I mentioned. We no longer sit and strip old television chassis of parts so that we can “bread board” our next transmitter. Well some of us do but it is done more for the pleasure and enjoyment these days than of necessity. Now days we work with digital modes and computers. We have radios that don’t have any knobs or dials but rather a serial port connecting them to a computer that gives those radio capabilities that were unheard of only a few short years ago.

When I started this ‘blog’ I said it was for ham radio, scanners and Linux. So far all I have written about is radios. So this is my way to sneak Linux in the back door. What you ask does Linux have to do with ham radio? Plenty!

Linux is an operating system that will work on most modern day computers. In addition Linux is an “open source” operating system. What this means is that if you are one of those people that likes to get under the hood and tinker you are free to do so. You see, the source code, the text of the programs that combined make up Linux, are available and if there is some aspect of the software that you don’t like you are free to change it.

Coming back to my original premises for this musing, Linux is FREE. That’s right, zero cost to the end user. Thus is should appeal to hams in a big way. In addition it provides a way to bring new technical innovation to the hobby. It is also my hope it will attract a lot more of those young people that I spoke of. Heaven knows we need them! I will write more about Linux at another time and provide some links where you can gain additional information if you are interested. To get the basics start with this site, LINUX.ORG, and see where it takes you. Also feel free to bring up the topic on the scanner net or even better the Elmer Net. Ask and you shall receive.

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