The network radio rave continues and everyone will have, and will be perfectly entitled to their own views. Here’s mine.
I got into amateur radio after decades of not doing so but the interest began when I could pick up strange music and news from far away. This was in my childhood. I worked in electronics for some time and understand RF and all that jazz. I went through various SWL phases including getting heavily into RTTY, at one time having a couple of Creed 7E machines, a tape reader, a tape punch, and a TU connected to either my B40 or B41 receivers. Those are long gone but the number of radios I have is increasing. People ask me why bother with any of it when I can simply use the phone? But it still tickles me that electrons emitted from a bit of wet string in our loft can be picked up in the Falkland Islands. This is the essence of amateur radio to me.
Why bother? When asked why he wanted to climb Everest mallory famously and simply said “because it’s there”. Yet, I’ve seen photos of rock climbing vs climbing wall climbing used an an example of how network radio is the same as ‘real’ radio. I don’t see that. Climbing is climbing – a wall, a tree, a mountain. Yes, each is very different but all are still a physical exercise of getting oneself up a thing and defeating gravity. Extending this analogy, I would suggest that if climbing a wall were an analogy of radio, then taking a lift is an analogy of network radio.
Radio in the common sense differs, i.e. listening to local radio for example on a radio receiver vs streaming on a PC. But here, the listener wants to access whatever is playing regardless of the transmission medium. A colleague once stated the medium is not the message – when you need to access information, or music, or whatever it matters not what the medium is, only that you can access whatever you are after. But amateur radio is about RF. It’s about communicating for the sake of it rather than for the message. Here, the medium is the reason, regardless of the message.
True, lightwave radio is not RF, but it is cutting edge stuff and experimental and so still fits my idea of what the hobby is all about. Hotspots? These are just local repeaters – sort of anyway – and you still use an actual radio and RF to connect to it, as does the person the other end. And digimodes are kind of the inverse. A hotspot is RF – Internet – RF; digimodes are PC – RF – PC. Network radio is, well, Internet and nothing else. And remove the Internet, give me a decent battery and I can still talk to the world.
So I am solidly in the ‘if it does not use amateur frequencies it is not amateur radio’ camp. To me, network radio has more in common with a pair of tin cans and a string than with amateur radio. Skype, other VoIP, these are all a means to an end and not a means in themselves. You don’t Skype for a hobby, but you do ‘do’ radio. (that is not meant to belittle any hobby-Skypers out there!)