I think HAM radio has a limited future.

See there’s this thing we’ve got nowadays called the Internet, and it lets people type or talk to each other from around the world!

I know that HAM radio as it exists today will be gone in 30 years. You know how I know? Because if you do a Google Image Search for ham radio operators you’ll either find really old pictures of people, or pictures of really old people.

HAM radio today is dominated by nice old white guys with facial hair. I cannot explain this phenomenon. I merely report the facts based on observation. There are a handful of younger nerds who do it too though…

Amateur radio gear is insanely expensive. The transceivers, the cabling, the antennas, ugh. Computers with internet connections are cheaper!

They do look nice though… I barely know what the hell this thing does but I WANT IT BADLY:

It’s got all kinds of buttons and knobs and holy cow that is one nice shiny display.

They even sell radios that’ll let you download images from weather satellites in real time. REAL TIME! I guess that’s cool, but we’ve got accuweather.com and countless other weather sites nowadays.

Every now and then I’ll listen to HAMs on my scanner shooting the shit (or ‘chewing the rag’) as they say. They all sound like a nice enough bunch of guys, but there are real benefits to communicating over the Internet. For example “/kick SomeGuy You are being a jerk.” or “deny from SomeGuy’s.hostname.com”

I was listening to the Insomniac Net last night (‘nets’ are big chat rooms) and some random guy was jamming it, blasting country music and periodically jumping in to go “Ooooooh yeah baby. Feel it. Feel it. OOOOOH YEAH!”

It was funny at first, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the senior citizens trying to conduct their trivia game because they couldn’t be heard over the music.

Do you think the jammer walks up to old people in real life and steals their canes too? I doubt it. But I bet he’s thought about it at least once.

They were running ‘the net’ on the WinSystem, a huge and expensive-to-run network of repeaters that links people up and down California. They were able to just turn off one of the repeaters to block the guy, but doing so effectively severed their connection to a big part of their network and delayed everything for like 15 minutes.

Thousands and thousands of dollars of radio hardware sitting on unattended mountaintops across California were rendered unusable because of just one mean guy with a radio.

Old guy #1 was all “This guy’s coming in off of Sunset Peak. We should lock that one down. Are you looking into that, Joe?” A few seconds later an irritated-sounding Joe shot back “I’m working on it.” Then some more music would play. Then more OOOOH YEAH. Then more admins talking. This went on for a while while they tried to track down the perp! It was all very exciting and very sad at the same time.

I can understand the allure of drawing in remote signals through a complex process of tuning and adjusting expensive, high-tech, specialized hardware. In that respect it is a neat hobby, especially if you like talking to strangers.

But at the end of the day it sure seems like a lot of work to talk to people on the other side of the world.

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