Night Flyer wrote:
There is a slippery slope to greater development of digital radios with application specific integrated circuitry ... ASIC. Think of all the hams that are still able to find old boatanchors, and fix them up and put them back into service ... because parts can be found ... or fabricated / substituted. Then think about the radios that are less than 15 years old that already can not be serviced due to a lack of ASIC's ... or even some esoteric part - like a miniaturized rotary encoder.
I highly recommend Clinton B. DeSoto's "200 Meters and Down," originally published in 1936, but still in print and sold by ARRL. Among other observations, DeSoto noted -- only a little more than two decades after he and Maxim founded ARRL -- that amateur radio had crossed a threshold. It was no longer the sole preserve of technical types; they had given way to operators, who used the technology without necessarily understanding it. This, more than 75 years ago!
People who fix up and perhaps use boatanchors (I see lots of photos of basements full of the things, sitting unused on miles of industrial shelving) are nostalgic, sentimental romantics. For casual ragchewing, a Drake 2B and a Ranger II will work fine. I had that setup on the air in the 90s. When I heard a DX station working split, however, it was back to the Icom. Ham radio has come a looong way since 1962. Sure, boat anchors will get you on the air, and a bicycle will get you down the street. If that's the limit of your interest, okay. But new techies are avoiding ham radio like the plague. There are about 600,000 hams in the U.S. According to Wikipedia, quoting ARRL in 2011, there are 2 million hams in the whole world. That number could be two orders of magnitude greater and still not compare with the 900 million Facebook users. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio#Licensing
To use Facebook, you need some computer-operating ability. When I built my first computer in 1977, there were far more hams than people using computers. What's happened since? We have to face the turning tide. Rf technology is commonplace, and so are affordable, fast and efficient computers. Every one of the millions of cell phones and tablets is carrying radio and computer technology far more sophisticated than any ham rig.
The big deal in mobile communications now is Apps; software, not hardware. To survive, ham radio has to present communications modes that excite people, the way CW excited me 50 years ago. (CW would have excited me just as much if the equipment had been as easy to use as my KX1. A famous quote from Marshall McLuhan: "The medium is the message." Ie, not the hardware or even the content. Think about that when you're operating your ham station, or DXing with a homemade radio: 99% of the time it's not what you and the other ham say, or what the distant station is broadcasting, or even the equipment you're using; it's the medium itself that enthralls. In that exciting moment the hardware becomes transparent. Yes, you might not enjoy the communication as much with a modern radio, but that's more a criticism of the content than the hardware.)
Hardware today has to be simple to operate, so users can concentrate on using it. Plate Tuning, Loading and Drive Level controls won't cut it anymore. We didn't have all those controls on vintage rigs because they were cool, but only because we didn't yet know a better way. Using old radios brings back the thrill of the early discovery of the medium, the hardware acting as a mental aid to an emotional connection. But when that connection clicks in, you transcend the hardware and lock in to the medium. Newcomers to radio can never experience that thrill, when they can listen to foreign radio stations streamed on their iPads. They've already transcended hardware. Radio isn't exciting in and of itself anymore.
There always will be anachronists interested in regen receivers, steam engines and Renaissance fairs. But these are leisure activities that do little to drive progress. Yeah, a few young folks will go on from them to high tech, but remember, when we started playing with regens and crystal sets we were not that many years removed from when they
were high tech. To stay within the moving scale of time, we all ought to be at least building up-converting, dual-conversion superhets.
The new keyboard modes don't interest me that much from an operating standpoint, but my late father had no use for cell phones and barely tolerated the VCR, though he took to using
a PC with alacrity (fortunately I had an 800 number at work, so he could call me every time he invoked the BSOD
It's 1936 all over again, the new age of the user of technology, and anything that pushes usability is good, even if the hardware is built for obsolesence. The difference is, radio is now only one medium among many for communications, and software development. As with cell-phone apps, if there isn't a user base, no one is going to develop for it. Just my devalued 2 cents.