“Ham radio is too regulated, so doesn’t apply to X use case.”

That’s like saying:
“I learned all this painting in college. Schools are regulated. It’s too bad, as it makes painting useless outside of school.”

The institutional knowledge in ham radio, whether in physics, electronics, or operational training, is absolutely vital right now. I don’t see how people can’t grok this. If a regime “shuts down the internet”, you can bet messages will still be flying on HF via CW. *IF* you know how.

@Shufei This reminds me of a fun story.

Once upon a time it was illegal for US amateur stations to make contact with their Cuban counterparts.

One day a US station hears a Cuban station down on HF (I forget what band). US station says to his buddy "It's a real shame we're not allowed to talk to Cuba because I'm hearing <callsign> 59 here."

Cuban station then says to nobody in particular "It's a shame we cannot talk to the US because I hear <callsign> 59 here."

No regs were broken that day.

@nivex Hahaha, that’s lovely, and about the way it goes. Along with things like, “It’s a shame people sometimes call without callsign on 6666khz using a short path beam directed 310°“, no doubt.

Case in point: I know folks who did this during the Arab Spring.

@pettter That’s fab! I didn’t know that, but should have.

@Shufei Fuckin' A. My ham hobby has taught me so much I'd never otherwise know and I'd recommend it to anyone.

@roadriverrail People get turned off, understandably, by some of the fluff. The regs. The old engineer curmudgeons. Ham radio has never been “cool”, really. It preserves a lot of weird old tech traditions long forgotten elsewhere. It’s the redheaded stepchild of tech geekery.

But like you, it’s irreplaceable as an institution. There’s *so much* to discover and experiment with, especially weird hybrid or new resilient modes.

They will only take my radios from my cold, dead claws.

@Shufei Definitely the best *and* worst part of ham radio are other hams. I ran my own workplace club for a while and learned the hard way to vet the guest speakers because of that. I've never met anyone who told me it was the regulations that turned them off, though. Tell me more?

BTW, I see you're SDF. Are you part of its ARC? What's it like?

@roadriverrail That’s a great summation. I’ve learnt heaps from amazing elmers. But also the 75m crew makes it hard to pitch ham, haha.

A lot of radio geeks in hack circles are put off by the requirements to not do encryption, as well as the privacy implications of call signs. I grok that, and share the trepidation. But the alternatives have downsides too, natch: freebanding or Part 15 are hardly decent options for any serious radio experimentation and fun. Many hackers don’t get that.

@roadriverrail I’ve not had opportunity to do the SDF ARC much, but it’s definitely a nice crew. The nets are echolink on a repeater in Seattle, and netcast via anonradio. So there’s a lot of computer folk and engineers on it. There’s an active listserv. I daresay give them a whirl.

@Shufei Absolutely no argument on the latter part re: Part 15. I mean, sure, you can do some things with Part 15, but I also love to brag about my right to make a focused 1500W microwave beam. Ultimately, though, I find the question moot, because while you can do plenty of small experiments, real infrastructure takes a large, coordinated, and dedicated community to create the coverage of that infra. I do not believe hackers are up to the task 1/

@Shufei Hams are barely up to the task themselves, but their connections to public service and their relatively focused community at least keep repeaters up and links alive. Networks like CARLA are alive...for now.

I think ultimately the frustration with encryption and questions of privacy show that, fundamentally, such hackers don't understand that ham radio is for the public and not for the individual. It's a public service one participates in. It's not the same value space as hacking. 2/2

@roadriverrail Awesome points, thank you. I’d love to read some serious sociology and anthropology of techies. No doubt the cyberpunk ethic is a response to late capitalism, a sense of abandon by public institutions. It makes sense how the norms of ham radio (as a subset of the old radio geek corps) which expect building of public institutions, would be viewed as either naive or complicit.

Problem is, radio is a commons. And ceding such commons to enclosure helps no one.

@Shufei Yeah, you hit several nails on the head here. It's worth keeping in mind that the term "American Radio Relay League" comes from a time when message routers were people and when the town ham was a way to get a telegram to a distant town without the cost of, say, Western Union. ARRL's primary job used to be publishing lists of routing tables, from what I hear. This is literally about being in a public service. 1/

@Shufei And the entire concept of cyberpunk has always been about the individual vs the encroachment of Kafkaesque Capitalism, so no shock that the first questions a hacker asks are "What do I get out of this? How does this protect me and My Worthy?"

But you're right that this is our commons and we must do what we can to keep it. It's meant to be the citizen's auxiliary to other public services, something we keep and maintain so that it's there when we need it. Sometimes, we do. 2/2

@roadriverrail I didn’t know this about routing tables! I knew MARS has to have such things, and certainly there are tables for the NTS. But sadly the NTS was allowed to stagnate under ARRL aegis for so many years... Why do you think they did so? It’s fab to see the recent renewal of interest in traffic handling under other auspices. But I wish the NTS could get a proper, clean reboot under official push. I’m far more interested in traffic nets than contests.

@Shufei As someone who's probably a 100W station for life, contests except for Field Day are not super interesting to me, either, and I'd love to do more traffic handling instead. Honestly, I don't check into nets for the same reason I don't loiter on Discord like so many people-- sitting around shooting the shit isn't interesting to me. But I'd do lots of nets if I had traffic of interest. Hell...I *lament* the death of VHF packet and thing APRS is painfully underrated 1/

@Shufei I feel like the NTS didn't fall apart because of the ARRL doing something wrong but because there just stopped being traffic. The "amateur radiogram" stopped being amusing once cheap long distance, email, SMS, etc came along. Ham radio rode on "the global free alternative to corporate telecom" for years and now it's got to think new. This is one reason I'm glad to see the ARRL really empracing POTA, IOTA, and other location-based "year-long festivals" 2/

@Shufei If we want to bring back traffic handling, we should maybe consider doing it the way NPOTA turned into a smash hit-- make an event/game out of it. The ARRL announces plans to release "game messages" and hams try to compete to route them effectively to an ARRL-designated receiving station. 3/3

@roadriverrail That is a lovely proposal, and one which might do the trick. Have you ever suggested it to ARRL?

I’ve long wanted to do the opposite tack for us homey types: set up booths at fairs and local events to send old times radiograms to loved ones for happy birthday, etc. Make them crafty and cute. Then when people ask about it, go into the resiliency talk and human skills...

@roadriverrail Radiograms are still amusing to me at least! I think if they were more transparent about showing hops and routing, geeks might love getting them. I send paper radiograms for all non-time sensitive routine HX. Retro goodness! Hopefully someone gets a kick out of that.

@roadriverrail Traffic has seen a big bounce. It usually does after disasters like hurricanes. But it seems to be more serious this time, and it started before Covid even. I think people are catching on to this being an “ultimate resilience” skill worth having around...

APRS, ugh. I love it and never grok why it is underdeveloped. It could be fediverse enabled, bbs groups, search queries... People are surprised when I even CQ on it, haha.

@Shufei I wish it was more? regulated. Like why isn't there just an operator license, like boating. I don't want to know how to build an amp or antenna, just talk on it.

@robjloranger Yea, the regs in most countries are antiquated but no moreso than in USA where things like spread spectrum are verboten. They need to open up the tech / class to some lower bands I think, and make the grades technical / safety based, not spectrum incentivized.

Tech class is pretty easy to get now, though. Can do heaps with it.

@Shufei I've looked at the Canadian material, it doesn't look too hard/bad. I think I'm just lazy, or bad at managing time.. probably both

@Shufei Just another reason why I need /want to learn Ham radio. I'll get to it eventually.

@RadioAngel Yea, there’s some really strange tech stuff here and there on the bands... 73!

@Shufei are you worried a regime is going to shut down communication?
@Moon @Shufei yeah, but then, shouldn't you worry they find you out? There has to be ways

@Shufei Not sure I follow? I thought Ham radio had regulations like only unencoded voice transmission allowed, no broadcasting on 99% of the spectrum, and no talking over others. That does limit use cases. Radio licensing is about the very first thing that regime would remove, long before shutting down the Internet. Said regime could pretty easily triangulate any Ham radio transmitter, I think? Your best bet there is sneakernet and flash drives, and a high latency protocol.

Only real advantages of Ham I know are latency and simplicity, so it’s easier to stay in contact with simple(r) equipment in disaster areas. I never saw much reason to get into it other than that.


For example, near real time text messaging is possible over #shortwave with JS8CALL. It's networked with a store-and-forward scheme allowing nodes to communicate efficiently even without line of site.

Datacasing via Satellite is also a thing with an Othernet Lantern

There is also long range #LoRaWAN but I don't know much about it.

Lastly, anything that can send text can send a binary file, albeit probably slowly. See zbase32 and uuencode.

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