Three magic wishes...

Jeff Francis™ jfrancis at
Wed Apr 29 09:24:56 PDT 2015

1.  Can't scale, can it?  Assume for the moment that 1% of hams do APRS,
and further assume that 10% of that 1% are on the air at any given time
(obviously, I don't know that these are accurate, but even if they're off
by an order of magnitude, it still can't work).  You're looking at a
potential of 1000x the current APRS activity at certain times of the day
(granted, it'll never be quite that high, but we're talking order of
magnitude numbers).  In the programming world (as well as the networking
world), we call it an N^2 problem.  Resource usage goes up as the square of
the number of participants.  Doubling the hams requires four times the
spectrum (assuming you want them all to communicate and not be segregated
by frequency).  Gatewaying the data from each frequency to each other
frequency is it's own N^2 problem.  It would take up most of the 2M/70CM
bands just to send all of the traffic, and that's assuming you don't
gateway the data from one frequency to another (ie, most of the hams
couldn't communicate with most of the others without know which freq they
were on and switching first).  Which still wouldn't work, because everybody
would try to switch to the frequency most likely to contain other people
and overwhelm it.  I'm not seeing value here, unless part of the magic is
for everybody to keep their stations turned off until they magically sense
the need you have to communicate with them and turn it on just in time to
get your message, then off again.

2.  What would doing this get us that we don't have already?  We have
automated stations, we have a nearly infinite supply of modes that work
under all sorts of different conditions, we have more than enough spectrum
for current usage and needs.  About the only thing we can't do that some
people would like to try (at least the only thing I can think of) is the
very wide digital modes, but those disperse the energy so broadly that you
have to have a 1kw amp to use them effectively (not to mention are subject
to huge interference problems).  Even in places where they're legal,
there's not much use of them (like Pactor 4, for example).

3.  What would this give people that FRS/GMRS doesn't already give them in
practical terms?  Sure, there's things you can't do on FRS frequencies
(like SSB), but what percentage of the people who would pay for this
license will care about things like that?  Those are precisely the people
who would make the tiny effort to get a license.  Sure, there are people
doing illegal things on FRS (like packet radio), but nobody is enforcing
the laws, and they're not really hurting anyone, so what's their incentive
to try ham?  Two or three evenings of practicing the free online quizzes
will get you a high enough score to pass the existing ham test (with zero
knowledge required - just some rote memorization).  The only exception I
can think of to this is a pretty limited use case.  I know a number of
people into large scale model rocketry who get a ham license for the sole
purpose of running APRS on their rockets.  Mostly so they can find them
when they come down.

I'm not being contrary on purpose, just hoping to understand.  Now if you
wanted the whole Internet to run NOS, that I would understand (though maybe
not agree with). :D

Jeff N0GQ

On Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 3:56 AM, Bill Vodall <wa7nwp at> wrote:

> > If you found an old radio (tubes of course) in a pile of junk, rescued
> > it and in the act of polishing it up a magic genie appeared and
> > offered you any three wishes related to Amateur Radio - what would
> > they be?
> >
> > Hold the ideas for a few hours and let's see if anybody agrees...
> > (Hams agreeing - I did say this involved magic....)
> Three days already - those "few hours" go fast.
> My wishes:
> 1.  Every ham has at least one full function RF APRS station on the
> air..   APRS is pretty incredible and the future potential (Packet
> Plan 9, HamBox, etc) is even more awesome.
> 2. Sane HF digital.   Separate the computers and the human operators,
> double (at least - it's a good start) the spectrum for the computers.
> Remove all 'rules' on the computers.  If it fits in the bandwidth (30
> KHz?) than it's allowed.
> 3. I had to think about this for a bit but I finally came up with a
> third wish.   That's a new license class.  Add a little annual charge.
> No CW required - as cool as that would be.   No test either.   Fill
> out the form, sign your name, send in the money - you're a ham.
> Limited privileges of course - I'm thinking that 2 meter band only
> would be good.
> Ok - back to work on Plan 9...
> 73
> Bill, WA7NWP
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