Why did I start DPCN? It’s simple. And complicated.
Here’s the thing about amateur radio. It’s full of old farts (OFs). I don’t mean that as an insult. I think the old farts in ham radio would be the first to admit they’re old farts. They’re proud of it. They’ve been around forever, done it all, and seen it all. They don’t have any time left for BS.
Last night at the annual BCARES meeting, we reviewed a survey from last year. The survey asked about various things like license class, radio capabilities, and direction for the organization. I won’t divulge the details but suffice it to say that the demographics of the organization will be quite different in a couple of decades. That’s just a fact of nature.
I think if you take a look at the rosters of most ham radio clubs today, you will find them filled with OFs. It makes sense: they now have the time to really play with the hobby since most of them are retired from full-time work.
The thing is, many OFs grew up before transistors were even a thing, let alone modern digital trunked radio systems. And while many have kept up with the times, it becomes harder to stay flexible as your body ages. If ease of familiarity with any given technology is related to the ratio:
time spent with the technology / time spent on Earth, it’s mathematically impossible to become as familiar and therefore comfortable with new technologies as you age.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
So new tech is for the young and we should just write off all the OFs as they fade into the sunset?
Well, no. You see, these OFs have a lot of time on their hands. They can make a lot of good happen. They can use new tech – especially if the tech’s just a little bit easier to use.
The thing with amateur radio, though, is that it likes to adopt complicated commercial specifications. The prime example is DMR. It’s a commercial spec designed to be centrally managed as a fleet of radios connected to a single repeater system. It was never designed for ham use. But we have adapted, innovated, and mangled DMR into shape for amateur radio.
But at a cost.
It’s difficult to use. Many OFs (and non-OFs alike) have trouble with progamming DMR radios. I don’t, but I understand these kinds of systems. It’s in my nature. It’s not in the nature of many hams to be able to program a DMR radio. But should that preclude them from participating?
So how about this: we take a commercial radio system, DMR, and simply place it – whole and unaltered – into the amateur bands. We don’t try to make it into some global, dynamically-linking, übernetwork. We don’t let every cheap, crappy DMR radio spew noise all over the spectrum when it transmits. We simply take a complete commercial radio system and use it as intended on the amateur bands.
I contend that not every ham system needs to be open and accessible by every manufacturer’s radios. Sometimes standards can’t cover everything. When you go with a closed system you get a lot of cool capabilities, some that I think hams would really appreciate.
And that’s what I’m trying to build.
Now I am a huge proponent of open source: systems, software, what-have-you. I believe it is the future of technology. But not every technological system needs to be an open platform for every player. Sometimes other things take priority: capability, reliability, simplicity.
So if you’re an OF or not, if you have your license or not1, if you just want to buy a radio and have it friggin’ work, join DPCN.
DPCN is not:
- for people who need control over every aspect of their radio’s programming
- for people who want to buy cheap radios
- for people who want to bring their current radio to the system (unless it’s already compatible)
- for hams fed up with the complexity of DMR
- for hams who still want to use DMR, because, let’s face it, it rocks
- for hams who want reliable communications
- for hams who want simple to use, rock solid, top quality radios
- for people whose life doesn’t revolve around ham radio, but still want to talk to the folks they care about
So maybe all this isn’t for you. I’m glad I was able to help you come to that conclusion.
Maybe you don’t care about using a kick-ass digital radio mode. Maybe analog is perfectly fine for your needs. I commend you for knowing what you want.
Me? I’m not satisfied with the current state of amateur radio. It has the potential to be so much more. I want to use commercial DMR systems to show how that’s possible. Here’s what I want:
- I want to be able to leave my radio on all the time without listening to OFs talk about the weather or their doctor visits or whatever.
- I want to be able to talk with one specific radio on the system.
- I don’t want to waste all my time fiddling with codeplugs and radio settings. I just want it to work.
Amateur radio is great for experimenting with new modes and inventing new technologies and delving into technical minutae. But there is a whole other mass of folks out there who just want to talk to their buddies. That’s what DPCN is for: for those who want to either, a.) learn how to design and maintain a real commercial radio system or, b.) just friggin’ talk. The former are welcome to join DPCN’s team. The latter are welcome to use DPCN.
So what are you waiting for? Just friggin’ talk already.
📻 💬 😄
But you will need your license eventually. ↩︎
Author Philip Rosenberg-Watt
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0