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Ham Radio Needs to Embrace the Hacker Community Now More Than Ever (kj7nzl.net)
46 points by parsecs 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments



That's a pretty silly title.

Ham enthusiasts WERE the original Hacker community. Go read any of the thousands of Ham magazines from the past and you'll find that the majority of the articles were about building your own gear, modifying ex military equipment, or learning about the fundamentals.

And who do you think developed all the SDR hardware and software which is available today? Outside of military R&D, most of today's SDR hardware and software was developed by engineers who were licensed hams.

And FWIW, it was only recently that the idiot mainstream media hijacked the term "Hacker" to refer to the antisocial uses of electronics.


I've been a ham since 1979, and I think this he is right on target. Software defined radio, and DSP in general, is revolutionizing what you can do in a small package. I've never been one to sit and talk for hours, though I do think it is neat on those occasions when you can talk around the world. I was always into the more technical things, like Fox hunting, and building gear.

We need people pushing the limits of technology who aren't just doing it for profit, and that's where the amateur really shines. Doing things just to see if they can be done has a rich and rewarding history, and I'd like to see it continue.

A few months ago, I used a $25 dongle, GNU Radio, and made a VOR receiver, for the heck of it. VOR transmitters are used in aircraft navigation, and I can now firmly establish that I live EastNorthEast of the nearest VOR station to me. ;-)


Went to a meeting of hams. All ancient guys. But they had awesome stories about being in Florida after a hurricane.

Basically a ham guy would stop in some small town, and for a week he was the ONLY way to communicate with the outside world.

One guy needed energy medication. He was talking to a guy in New Hampshire who could use the phone to call another Ham who could access others in Florida via ham radio. So guy got his medication, through a bizarre chain of hams all across the East coast.

There were a bunch of stories like that. Then the more technical stories of how to setup a minivan for extended trips without access to gas electric, etc.


After hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, they brought HAM radio to help coordinate around the island.


For a noob, what’s the best way to get into this hobby?

Likely taking some extended time off from work soon and am looking for a new hardware project to tinker around with.


In the US, at least, you can listen to almost anything without a license... I understand it's not always the case around the world. To transmit in the US, you need to study and pass an examination to get a license. There are volunteer examination organizations that will perform the test, there is an FCC fee involved. One such group is http://www.w5yi-vec.org/

Software defined radio makes it possible to receive 25-1300 Mhz for about $25, via a USB dongle, and open source software.


Join your local radio club, or attend their (online) meetings. There are lot of people who would like to help you get licensed, grow your skills, and get better licensed.

The Technician test is a few rules and Ohm's law, you learn what you need to pass that test in a few evenings of studying. The subsequent tests are more difficult, then way more difficult and will require some study. But Electronics and Radio are good skills to have, the learning to past the test has practical value if you really want to hack on electronics and particularly RF.


I highly recommend Ham Radio Crash Course on YouTube.

I recently got my foundation license (the UK version of Tech in the US) mostly motivated by watching Josh on that channel


and vice-versa. The hacker community can benefit from amateur radio, too.

I'm an electronics hacker, software developer, audio enthusiast, and ham radio nut. The lines between them are very, very blurry. Radio is just another nerd-toy to me.


Anyone trawling through this thread who sold their gear and feels nostalgic: there are a ton of SDR tuners open to the web, some hooked up to some big antennas. You can't transmit but you can tune around to your heart's content. Google websdr


Well it’s time consuming before you can even legally do it and it’s very fucking expensive.


One can learn for free, the syllabus for various National exams are available for free, and then exam fees are low ( USD 15 for each of the US levels which are easier than in other countries).

The hand held radios themselves start at USD 35 for the Baofeng units ( though these are considered electrically noisy).

You can also install the EchoLink software on your smartphone and connect to the global Radio-Internet bridge network. No Amateur radio needed!


Many hobbies are time consuming, but if you are interested in electronics, learning is part of the fun.

And it needn't be expensive, you can build a transmitter out of a dead TV or similar.

Traditionally Ham gear has focused on homebrew equipment.


Don't bother with technician class. It's pretty easy to get your general license. There are multiple websites that have flashcards for the exam questions. Amateur extra is actually a lot of work, but general class allows you to do most things. And you can get a used Yaesu handheld for a hundred dollars off eBay. Upgrade the antenna, and that'll allow you to do a lot of things.


It's not, though. There are literally "ham crams" where you study for and get the license in about 6 hours.


Ham radio seems to be infested with rule-lovers. Why should it require certification? Usage of public sidewalks involves the same principle of shared resources, but we don’t have sidewalk-walking licenses.


You are perhaps looking for a discord server, that anytime can join and talk in - but even those have rules, as do sidewalks - the law allows us to walk, but we mostly can’t set up a shop on the sidewalk or encroach on it.

While there indeed are various rules with respect to Amateur radio, these are related to which bands one is licensed to use ( since other adjacent bands are for other uses), communication conventions, the absence of encrypted communications, and the prevention of using an amateur band for commercial purposes.

Various countries may or may not mandate that one learn Morse code as well.

Amateur radio is also a technical hobby, with the expectation that participants learn to set up antennae, link to their radios, set up electrical safeguards from lightning for their own safety, and understand certain electronics of they wish to create or modify their equipment. Based on their understanding and competence, they are licensed to do various things ( eg a beginner is not allowed to mess about such that they interfere with the International Space Station from sheer ignorance).


For the same reason that driving requires a license ... so you know not to drive on the sidewalk and not to park in the road.


You walking on the sidewalk badly doesn't cause consequences for people also trying to walk on the sidewalk in a radius of many, potentially hundred, miles. It also makes legitimate use of ham bands a lot easier to distinguish from illegitimate use.




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