By Norm Fusaro, W3IZ

At one time or another we have all drifted back to happier, simpler times to help ease the stresses of life.  While many professionals might agree that an occasional trip down memory lane is healthy and often therapeutic, few would recommend that we live in the past.  Our human brains are wired to remember things that are comforting and suppress unpleasant memories.  That is why we tend to use phrases like "the good old days" even if the time in reference was peppered with hardship.

Depending on how you look at it, ham radio like the automobile, has either hardly changed over the last 100 years or has advanced dramatically because of technological progress.  Today's automobiles are loaded with safety features and convenience gimmicks yet the basic car is still a wheeled vehicle that burns fossil fuel in an
internal combustion engine in order to transport passengers from point A to point B.  In comparison radio operators still modulate and demodulate electromagnetic signals to communicate with stations near and far.  Computer processing and micro electronics play a big part  in how these illustrations have evolved, but have things really changed?

Amateur Radio is just one of many sectors where we see state-of-the-art technology blended with traditional concepts.  A trip to any marina will find modern sailboats made from composite materials and loaded with the latest navigational electronic devices but the basic component, harnessing energy from the wind to propel a vessel, has not changed in the thousands of years since its discovery.  I am sure that you can think of your own examples where the application of modern technology has reshaped an old-fashioned idea, but the point is that while it is nice to remember and replicate things from the past, we live in the present.

Many people have an image of Amateur Radio as a nostalgic remembrance of another time when radio seemed to be magical when in fact it has always been cutting edge and futuristic.  This portrayal of ham radio is reinforced by radio amateurs themselves through their reluctance to accept change and their insistence on preserving old technologies.  The propensity to look back is not as prevalent in other activities as it is in Amateur Radio.  When I go fishing I don't run into any anglers sporting woven rattan creels and bamboo fishing poles yet there is not a day that goes by when I am not reminded that "real radios glow in the dark" or some other witty reference to bygone times.  How far back do we want to go to be authentic before it becomes absurd?  "If it ain't spark it ain't radio?"

Years ago companies like Heath provided a way for many to get involved with Amateur Radio through kit building.  The radio kit was less expensive than factory produced gear and, depending on the skill level of the builder, the finished products performed pretty well. Maintenance and repairs were easily performed because the builder had an intimate knowledge of the circuitry.  Today, mass production and robotic manufacturing processes help drive down the cost of electronic equipment and in many situations make replacing a device more cost effective than repairing it.  A current manufacturer of Amateur Radio that started life as a kit company quickly experienced a similar evolution.  After a few short years of producing kits, the company found that they could offer a better product at a lower cost by providing assembled circuit boards populated with surface mount components.  Assembly is a matter of plugging-in boards and configuring systems similar to how a computer is built. 

Digital electronics has allowed the experimenter to trade-I the soldering  iron for computer software codes and the term home-brewing, once a common ham radio activity, has now given way to a more descriptive phrase -- soft-brewing.

Developers like Joe Taylor, K1JT have completely re-written the rules when it comes to EME, meteor scatter and other exotic digital modes once reserved for the eccentric radio amateur.  Today many hams employ WSJT software with modest stations to ricochet information to one another via the lunar surface.  Other software experimenters are
developing new modes and tools for the radio amateur to exploit the power of digital

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Billy Booth

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Norman "Ned" Davis

John Davidson

Elizabeth (Rene) Bush

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