iPhone vs Ham Radio: The Battle for Nerdvana

iPhone vs Ham

iPHone vs Ham Radio: Let Mortal Kombat Begin!

A few years ago another blog writer wrote that “ham radio will never have the sex appeal of the iPhone”.  The writer was using that statement as a base to opine that despite this (airquotes) fact (end airquotes) there are more new ham radio operators now than ever before.  It’s true, there are more new ham radio operators now than ever.  However, I don’t accept the premise that it’s in spite of anything.   I don’t think the resurgence in amateur radio is despite its lack of sex appeal.  It’s because of it’s sex appeal.  If you are a ham radio operator, and you run into someone who thinks that an iPhone is sexier, then don’t be shy, call the guy out and challenge him to a sex appeal contest between your rig and his little toy.

Seriously.  You tell your friend you’re going to put your nerdy forty-year-old amateur radio gear up against his sleek iPhone in a raw sex appeal contest, and that his own little hipster minions can be the judges.  And then when they finish guffawing, the encounter goes something like this:

Call me!!

Call me!

“Take your phone out”, you say, patiently waiting for him to stop posturing.

When he finally does you say, “Ok, now call the International Space Station”


That right there, that’s sex appeal baby.  By any definition.

So now your frienemy has put away his phone with a roll of his eyes and his little hipster minions are all saying nothing but looking at him with a look that says “that’s nerdy as hell but he’s actually got something there”. So now you say “Ok, ok, that wasn’t really fair.  Let’s try this again.  Take out your phone again.  No… really.”
Now, he may or may not do it again, but regardless, you say “Let’s see who of us can be the first to talk to someone in Japan.”
Then you wait for the clue train to hit him… if he thinks about it (or if one of his sharper minions points it out to him)  he’ll think he can actually win this one.  So when S-M-R-Ty pants starts doing a google search for the phone number to a taxi company in Tokyo, that’s  when you say…
“Oh…ummmm….but do it directly, no infrastructure.”
He’ll probably look at you quizically.
“You know,  like, without using a cell tower, and thousands of kilometers of land line, no undersea transoceanic cables or satellite uplinks to help you… talk to someone in Japan directly.  You know, your phone transmitting right to his phone.”



Splash one metrosexual granola iPhone-wielding hipster wannabe.

Ham Radio - Game, Set, Match!

Ham Radio – Game, Set, Match!

Ok, so maybe that’s not sexy at all.  Maybe that one is just incredibly nerdy.  Or maybe it really is sexy after all, because you know, I had someone inform me that nerdy is the new sexy.

This all formulated in my brain as I was working on getting my different ham radio projects organized and documented.  It was taking too long getting up on the air with my station.  I had been floundering due to lack of time and an overabundance of “life happens” and decided to apply real project management principles to help focus my efforts.  In a eureka moment I decided to divide up the tasks into a project hierarchy and from the top down gave them all mission statements.  Reading back over it my top level “this is what I want to accomplish as a ham radio operator” project mission statement a while after I wrote it, I had realized that  it was a little nerdly (nerdish?  nerdific?).  Ok, it’s a lot nerdly.  So that you don’t have to scroll around looking for it, here it is, my amateur radio mission:

Explore the science and technology of radio and communications with special regard to those technologies offering the widest range and scope of communications with the lowest requirement for intermediate infrustructure.

I was pretty proud of myself when I came up with that little gem.  And if tied down I’d have to admit I actually still am.  It’s compact.  Concise.  It perfectly describes the kind of technolgies that interest me and even speaks toward why.  But as I was writing up documentation for my HF sub-project, I realized my overall mission statement was missing something.    Something rather big.  I realized my amateur radio basic mission statement, the fundamental statement of purpose for my future amateur radio career, is basically a complete dedication to technology for technology’s sake.  A total Nerdvana.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that (ha ha).    If that’s really what someone wants for a hobby, that’s great.  There are many amateur radio operators that I’m sure would look at that mission statement and nod and say “yes, that’s what I’m in ham radio for”.  But I’m not really that person.  I left my project management career behind for a reason.  And that reason is… I’m a Pinnochio Nerd.  That’s right.  I’m not a real boy.  Sure, I feel the call of the nerd – I feel the allure of technology, and I understand those that love it for its own sake, but I always get excited about what I can do with it, not with having it.  In the military it’s called it operations, versus support.  When I joined, I had no interest in the technical side of things.  I wanted to do, not play with the toys that other people did things with.  Sure it’s easy to be blinded by the sheer sex appeal of  having tech that can talk to the international space station blinded me to the operational side of things when I wrote my mission statement, it’s the what I can do with it that excites me.  Talk to people all over the world.  Learn what’s going on internationally from the people it’s going on to.

So… here’s what I’m thinking.  I love what I have now.  I think I want to just add to it a little:

Explore the science and technology of radio and communications with special regard to those technologies offering the widest range and scope of communications with the lowest requirement for intermediate infrastructure with the intention to use this technology to:

  • Enhance my and others’ ability to communicate with friends and family,
  • Create and foster friendships,
  • Learn about world events,
  • Assist with emergency preparedness and response, and
  • Advance the state of the art
  • Work to train and mentor others

The FCC would take issue with some of the above.  Americans are restricted in international communications to topics that are “personal” and “unimportant”.  Just last night I listened to the conversation of a few hams in Massachusetts where they talked about how sad it was that as a child they could pee far enough for someone to roll lengthwise under the arch, but now they can barely hit the back of a toilet.  I kid you not (by the way, if any of you in on that conversation are reading, kids can pee further because of the venturi effect, and if you can’t any more it means that good things have happened).  The American prohibitions on meaningful ham radio conversations date back to the days when telephone companies were worried about losing business to ham operators sending messages for people.  I don’t think Canada has such restrictions, so I think I’ll be adopting this little change in mission.  I love technology, I love it for its own sake, but where the real sex appeal of ham radio occurs, it’s not in having the technology, is in all the amazing things you can do with it.  That’s my Nerdvana.

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