EmComm – Have We Forgotten Our Roots?

Cold War Amateur Radio Operators,  EmComm, Appliance Operators and 9/11.  What is the linkage between these terms?


Cold War Amateurs is a term I recently ran into on another blog. As I understood it, the term relates to the older, more technically refined and highly respected generation of the Amateur Radio operators among us.  In my opinion, these are the guys who have the knowledge to create gear from a box full of parts and fix complex problems deep inside solid state radios.

At times you hear these guys on the HF bands with their quality audio conducting nets or having one on one discussions about equipment.  In the past, I was very fortunate to have met a number of these gentlemen while serving as an officer in the local Radio Clubs. What I learned from them and more importantly about them are wonderful memories which I will never forget.

EmComm is the new (digital sounding) acronym for a process which has always been the heartbeat of Amateur Radio. Traditional Amateur Operators made EmComm a part of their hobby mindset. There was no question about the loyalty of the Cold War Amateurs when this aspect of the hobby was put in motion.

If a true emergency occurred then, there was no direct EmComm chain of command to follow as there is today. Amateur Operators just knew it was their duty to participate in any way possible  and get through the problem at hand.

I volunteered to man Amateur Communications in a local high school during the Wildfires here on Long Island.  It was amazing to see the outpouring from local businesses. There were so many truckloads of food, water and clothing that they had to be turned away. Local repeaters were turned over to us and our local health and welfare traffic was handled smoothly and efficiently.

As I see it, Field Day is still the prime example of traditional EmComm. I know and knew many Cold War Amateurs who had long given up building equipment and working the bands but when field day rolled around, they would always show up to do their part.  Most did not stay but made damn sure that the operation was up and running satisfactorily before they went on with the rest of their day.

Back in the day, no Amateur operator I had met would have turned their back on this crucial aspect of the hobby. Why? Because we  knew that it was the underlying reason that the hobby existed in the first place. Hanging on to frequencies, like anything else has to be justified and EmComm was and is a big part of the reason that the Feds have not sold off our part of the spectrum… yet.

Appliance Operators, according to the post I read is the label that traditional Cold War Amateur Operators have given to some of the post Cold War Amateurs. These Amateurs do not possess the traditional knowledge and skill set held by the Cold War generation.

I suspect that dumbing down of the license requirement and removing code as a rite of passage has given rise to this label. I actually think there is some shred of truth to this but the label will fade as the torch is passed to the next generation of Amateur Radio Operators. Let’s see, what what the term that was used on the older Amateur Community as they were coming up through the ranks? Was it LID?

Both labels have been pasted on my forehead at one time or another during my 27 years with the hobby. I don’t possess that refined knowledge to create RF circuits from a box of parts. My knowledge would barely fill a thimble if I compared myself to some of the  Amateur Operators that I have and had known over the years.  Labels are not productive but are just an unfortunate component of  human nature.

9/11 has changed much in the world. I know, that goes without saying. Getting something close to a strip search occurs every time you fly. Spot checks, occurrences of  racial profiling and cameras exist  everywhere.

9/11 also has changed the face of EmComm.  EmComm Managers no longer hold the same view of the volunteer Amateur Radio Operator.  Strict guidelines have been implemented within government.  At the center of the controversy is the fact that volunteer Amateur Operators can no longer directly communicate with Emergency Managers.

In summary, human nature leads some to believe that there is an embedded “caste system” within the Amateur Radio community. It appears that Cold War Amateur Operators look down upon the newer generation as Appliance Operators. As I mentioned previously, there is an element of truth to this but at the end of day, it will be the post Cold War Amateur Radio Operators that will mold the future of Amateur Radio.

EmComm is more important today then ever. I don’t know how many threats the government receives each year but the facts that are revealed do speak for themselves.

Try not to let anyone’s thinking (or your own) stand in your way when it comes to getting involved with Amateur Radio or EmComm. We all have different skill sets. We can all apply the skills we have toward the common good. Isn’t that what Amateur Radio (and life in general) is all about?

Comment’s Please!

Why Linux/OSS for Amateur Radio?

Fight The Power! AA6E recently posted a very nice article about LINUX Open Source Software and Ham Radio on his blog.  I appreciate this more than others. Here’s why!

The Power of LINUX and OSS


During my long journey as an IT Engineer, there were many under-the-radar “Skunk Works style projects” where I implemented OSS on LINUX.  However,  I was considered a corporate  techno-anarchist of sorts because LINUX and OSS fell outside the scope of the corporate mind-set ( not that there was ever much of that anyway).

Here’s a subset of AA6E’s first paragragh. Take a minute to read it and then follow the link to the remainder of the article.

How to explain to a non-computer-geek ham what Open Source Software and Linux are all about? OSS and Linux are important to software users the same way a good repair manual and schematics are important to hams. Not every ham knows what to do with schematics, but those who are inclined to open up, understand, repair, and modify their equipment certainly do.

Before you jump off, there’s two ideas I want to mention. Of course,  it assumes you are interested in digging the old P4 out of the closet and loading the very best KERNEL of all time.

One choice is to download and burn yourself a copy of CENTOS.  CENTOS is what we in the trade call whitebox Redhat. In a nutshell, CENTOS is an exact replica of Redhat with a huge advantage. Since it’s been totally recompiled and is freely distributed, you don’t need a subscription to get the O/S and package updates. What’s the drawback then?

Keep in mind though that CENTOS is not an O/S for those who want nothing more that another plug an play environment like the one you are probably using right now. There is some work involved to make certain things work (like plug-ins inside of Firefox).

Hence, the second recommendation for the experimenter in you. UBUNTU is also a 100% free and open source operating system. There are variants for normal desktop use (for hams) and an educational and children’s version as well.

What??? UBUNTU? Where does that come from?

Ubuntu is an African concept of ‘humanity towards others’. It is ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’.

While I have not been digging around on the UBUNTU site lately, I have experimented with it in the past.  Since I am the ultimate techno-nerd, I gravitate toward choice number one.

As I recall, you can submit a request for your very own copy of the O/S on the Website and  receive it for free – nada – zilch ! Yep – no strings.  Of course you can also download and burn yourself  a copy. For the plug and play oriented crowd this O/S will bring you closer to the wonderful world of Windoze.

I always ask for comments guys!  Some are very generous while others are the meek of the earth. For god sakes… if you have something to say about LINUX or OSS, go for it!  Use a fake name if you want. It’s all for the betterment of the Ham community at large.

If you can’t say too much enter “like” or “dislike” in the comment field (believe me, I have thick German skin and a skull to match! You would have to go a great distance to offend my poor writing skills or lack of subject matter!).

Read AA6E’s full article here…

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