Re: study material to teach hams on datacommunication

Kristoff Bonne

Hi Richard,

I had a number of discussion on this issue with a people on this.

There actually is a pretty good explanation for this. In essence, it is linked to the fact that the state of technology today has moved to a point where it has greatly exceeded the knowledge you need for your hamradio license.

When I explain amateur-radio and the requirement for the exam to people who are interested in Amateur-radio (e.g. at the FOSDEM conference in Brussels where we have an amateur-radio infobooth), I usually compare it to a drivers-licence.
The reason the drivers-license exists is that you drive with your car on the public road together with other people, so you need to have some "proven" basic skills to drive your car so you do not crash in other people or hurt yourself.

The same thing applies for the amateur-radio license, except that it applies to the "radio-communication spectrum" instead of the public road, .. and the amateur license (at least the "full" license) also allows you not only to drive a car, but also to build one (i.e. a basic model of a car) yourself.

If you look at the courses given in the radioclubs and most of the books you find in the bookshops, they have a very clear goal: allow you to get your ham-license. This means the topics of these courses are the same as the topics of the exams: ... the basic model of a car.

Now, what is the problem?

The issue here is that any new modern is now a very far cry from that "basic model car" I mentioned above.
Modern cars are full of electronics, sensors, all kind of microprocessors running very complex applications to hard-Real-time Operating-systems, CAM-bus to connect it all together, an android-based entertainment system, radars, internet-connectivity, etc.

The same applies for radio-technology.
Radios these days are based in DSP and SDR, include embedded microcontrollers, run algorithms on dedicated FPGAs. Radio-amateur devices include arduino's or embedded linux single-board computers, connect to back-end infrastructure on the net. We use software-tools like antenna-simulation software, electronics simulation tools, PCB design tools, math tools, SDR frameworks, etc. etc.

In addition to that, a lot of these technology depends on a level of math that go far beyond what most hams are used to.

So there is a problem!

In essence, the the basic idea for amateur-radio was been like this:

- the "base knowledge" for all ham-operators is what you need to know to pass the exam
- Once you have your license, it is the club and fellow hams in these clubs (presentations, DIY-building projects, contests, fielddays, ... ) that are the way to go from there, learn more on the things your are interested in.

But as technology has advanced so fast and has become so complex (which also resulted in amateur-radio hobby split in tens of subhobbies), that "the radioclub is where you talk to fellow-minded hams"-model does not really work any-more, or -at least- not for the most advanced parts of the hobby.

So, what is the solution? Make the exam more difficult?
I don't know. OK, A technician working on a car needs to know what sensor-board of the car does what and how it connects to the rest of the car, but can you require him/her to explain how the embedded code on the microcontroller on that PCB interfaces with the CAM-bus and handles interrupts of incoming packets over that bus?

The same thing applies for the amateur-radio exam:
Can you require a candidate licensed ham to explain how to write arduino-code to interface an arduino to an FM-transceiver to send out POCSAG paging messages, ... just to get their amateur-radio license?
That is -I think- not what the exam is about. As mentioned. The exam is there to prove you know how to operate a radio, design a basic transmitter so you do not interfere with other radio-users and you do not blow up yourself.
As a consequence, arduino-code and the POCSAG message -format does not belong in the lessons provided by the radio-clubs to get people licensed.

So, ... then what?

Well, as I mentioned, what I think would help is self-learning-track so that people who *are* interested to go "to the next step" are able to do so.

That will help both these individual hams, and also clubs who want to help members to take that step in a "group" context.

kristoff - ON1ARF

On 26/06/2020 00:25, Richard in NC via wrote:
Back in the day when the FCC gave the ham radio tests (in the FCC office) you actually had to learn about electronic theory and there were no published questions or answers. Only a brief overview of what the test would cover. For example, the Novice license covered very little electronics, the General theory (which was the same as the Technician theory as there was element 3 and not a 3a and 3b) you had to learn about FM theory and oscillators, some SSB theory, antenna theory, the Advanced license required more in depth theory and knowledge of troubleshooting, and the Extra required even more knowledge. Once the questions and answers were released to the public, people tend to memorize them and not actually learn the theory, nor care to. I myself enjoyed learning about the theory and made a career using it.

I know some who did this and have learned some things about the theory from experience using it, but it is not the same hobby anymore.

73 Richard

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