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QST-- Computer Magazine?

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by N4INU, Dec 19, 2001.

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  1. N4INU

    N4INU QRZ Member QRZ Page

    From Paul, WA3VJB
    QST Magazine is the latest ham radio venue falling victim to the computer craze.

    Oh, okay, so it's not really a craze, but aren't there enough computer-oriented magazines to cover the subject without filling up the pages of what's supposed to be "dedicated entirely to Amateur Radio?"

    I totally endorse and commend to you the comments of my good friend Bruce, W1UJR...
    --previous text follows--
    Opening the new QST I was shocked to discover on page 53 an article

    entitled “Build Your Next Computer – A DIY Guide to Today’s PC Technology”.

    Perhaps “shocked” is too harsh of a word, let me instead insert a phrase from my friend in amateur radio, Tom W2KBW, “I was disappointed by not surprised.” What’s next, reviews of cell phones and DVD players? For those who have not read a QST from the 40-60s, go back and see what a proud legacy the magazine has. A far cry from the “Popular Electronics format and content that we have today.

    Now before you tell me the important place that computers have in radio today, let me assure you that I am no Luddite. I use a PC for home and business purposes, but if I want to read about PCs I will go out and buy a magazine devoted to them. I would much rather my radio reading material and ARRL dues be used on articles that promote the hobby, and educate those involved in it. I am not for one minute suggesting that QST follow the lead of Electric Radio, for I know that is but a small contingent of the amateur community. I will suggest however that QST could learn a great deal from the detail and information that ER offers. Especially so in the last 3 or 4 issues, ER has featured some outstanding articles on antenna and feedline theory, transmitter repair, highlights of running a radio shop, construction of regen receivers, and other material keeping with the nature of amateur radio. The one bright spot in this month’s QST was the article dealing with the Autodyne, a rare exception to what the League normally foists upon us in the publication.

    As a recent licensee (1995), I found the teaching materials offered by the League and others woefully inadequate. Certainly they were fine for passing the test; by having the questions and answers how could you miss! But if you wanted to do more than simply memorize questions and answers, if you really want to understand radio, I found nothing of greater value than a conversation with an old-timer, and a trusty ARRL Handbook from the 40s. Indeed, at no time in the history of amateur radio has the need for education, articles dealing with the “why” and the “how” been more needed than today. It has become exceedingly difficult to find articles and books on radio and electronic theory, especially in League publications. I am not speaking here about basic information, but teaching and detail like the ARRL handbooks from the 40-60s. Again, take a look at a handbook from 20 or 30 years ago, and compare it to today’s offering. Certainly the equipment has changed, the tube has given way to the transistor, the crystal to the DDS VFO. And not all of those changes are bad; indeed some have made the hobby more pleasant and even accessible to a larger number of people. Despite the surface changes, the real knowledge of radio, feedlines, antennas, propagation, etc. have changed very little. The real meat and potatoes, the “how” and the “why” either still remain missing in many of today’s publications, or when offered are so watered down as to be of little practical use.

    The biggest secret, one of which I was let onto early-- and which is often overlooked at hamfests-- is those “golden oldie” radio texts from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Often purchased for less than $5, one of these books will give you more theory and education than a shopping cart of the ARRL fare.

    Just my 2 cents worth, and please leave some of the old buzzard books for me.

    73 Bruce W1UJR from Snowy State of Maine
    <center> --end previous text-- </center>

    VJB continues:

    A few years ago I resented the contamination of hamfests with computer gear. Hamfest organizers, seeking to boost gate receipts, openly advertised radio fleamarkets as "computer and ham radio" fests, and I never felt the two were compatible. Others must have agreed, because now the computer buffs generally have their own second-hand meets, and the hamfests are now less focused on recruiting from that group.

    A driving enthusiast's magazine, AutoWeek has been including a lot of minivan/Sport Utlity product reviews, and has defended the practice as serving the enthusiasts market. How? Because many people who enjoy driving a two-seater must occasionally also own a minivan. Okay, I guess.

    If the publishing logic of QST is the same -- viz. that hams also are interested in computers -- I wonder whether it would be to the ARRL's benefit to explain the placement of such an article?

    Respectfully submitted,
  2. KB9TQN

    KB9TQN Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's been my experience that many hams are just like other people when it comes to computers. They just don't have much experience with them. Especially some older hams. If this brings them onto the internet to share their knowledge over a wider area then I think it's great.
  3. KC8SJR

    KC8SJR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I for one was not shocked at all. I think PCs more than likely fall in to the realm of more than few amatuers. We use PCs (as amateurs) quite a bit for things such as: logging, QSL databases, radio programming, DX forcasting, satellite hunting, checking the weather, and etc. The PC has become an invaluable tool for ham operators in the recent years. And what better way to learn about the inner workings of a PC and maybe even learn a little modern electronics than to build your own.

  4. K5DVW

    K5DVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can see both sides to this argument. I too saw the computer building article in QST. I didnt read it, wasnt interested, skipped right to the DDS article and then on to the new section on microwave communication (thanks QST!). In some regards I agree with the original poster that if I wanted that sort of info, I could find it elsewhere with much greater detail. I also understand the point that we all (many of us) use computers to some degree and some may find that information useful. I also skip over the packet articles in QST. Maybe I'm an anti-computite?


    Now, something I'd like to see is some follow up articles on how to use your newly built PC to do ham radio things. For instance, I think a windows based program that could decode/send CW from the sound card would be nice. How about using the PC to do some audio signal processing? More stuff like that.

    If I were anywhere fluent with writing computer code, I might attempt it, but I would certainly welcome and use this kind of PC related information as I think the most of us would.

  5. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I surely can understand both sides of the concern. However, I would prefer to have the magazine devote more to the amateur radio and leave the computer information to the other electronic publications. Thanks for your posting your feelings. I enjoy the "QST" but it does get pretty technical which most of it I can understand. K4WGT
  6. NF7Y

    NF7Y Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree with the original post. Computer articles, as applied to amateur radio, should be welcome and encouraged in QST. This article is not what I would care to see as it does nothing to increase my knowledge of our hobby.

    What also bothers me is the overwhelming belief that only PCs, i.e., Wintel machines, are important to amateur radio. I use Macs and Linux and find that if I don't write it myself the software/hardware selection is lacking. It discourages me that the amateur community is not more broadly based in this area.

    The reliance on an operating system, Windows, that is becoming more and more proprietary makes me believe that we should look to alternatives. Windows is now the only mainstream OS that is not Unix based. Given the experimental nature of many hams I find it interesting that they are not looking more seriously at Mac OS X and Linux.


  7. mackinac

    mackinac Banned

    Unfortunately, two topics got muddled together in this posting.

    First, about computers, I'll admit I haven't read the article yet, but an article about the basic technology of PCs as might be useful to hams seems quite appropriate. Saying an article about the basic techology will lead to reviews of cell phones is about as sensible as complaining that an article on receiver technology will lead to cell phone reviews.

    It was not surprising to me that hamfests added computers as an attraction. Twenty years ago when you went to a computer club meeting you could find it by looking for the cars with the 2m whip antennas. Hams got into computers early and were a large part of the membership.

    Second, some of those old text books are quite useful even today. One can learn a lot of the basics from Terman's "Radio Engineering". But you'd still need more recent books to keep up with current technology.
  8. KC0JEZ

    KC0JEZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, OK ....."if I wanted to read about computers I'd by a PC magazine". OK, sure. Next time you run across a PC magazine with ANY reference to using it in ham radio let me know.
    And I've got a basement full of QST, CQ and 73..even a few stacks of Ham Radio dating back to the late 40's. I think they were better due to more construction most of the over the past year I noticed one thing stayed the same...."old timers" talking about how restructuring, novice licenses, use of voice, novice voice class, etc..etc..etc..were all going to mark the end of ham radio. Well..hasn't happened in the last 50 years.....
  9. WA7KPK

    WA7KPK Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's becoming more and more evident that computers are now a part of amateur radio, at least for those who wish it to be. Sure, you can still keep paper logs and not let a computer within 50 yards of your shack, but such users appear to now be in the minority. Logging programs, great circle and atlas programs, DX clusters (recently discussed), studying for upgrades, propagation forecasts and the like . . . and that's not even getting into using computer-controlled rigs or packet operation.

    Think for a minute about how you choose a rig. You have two choices. You can research the commercial brands available, ask friends what they use, read the manufacturer's specs and make your choice . . . or you can build your own (or have someone build it for you). The tradeoff is, building your own takes longer and some specialized skills (skills it would be worthwhile for any ham to have, of course), but you get to put exactly what you want into it.

    This is also how it works with computers. If you buy a premade one, you should be able to plug it in, turn it on and start using your computer. But, you're dependent on the manufacturer or a friendly computer nerd for support, and you really have no choice of what goes into your machine. Faster or bigger hard drive? More memory? True hardware modem as opposed to Winmodem? Athlon chip instead of Pentium? Linux instead of Windows? XP instead of ME? You have to depend on the manufacturer to take care of that for you and hope you can get what you want. On the other hand, if you build your own computer, you get to choose exactly what goes into it. Not only does this let you create a computer that's yours alone and has what you want in it, you can often realize significant savings over buying one ready-made.

    Personally, I'm glad QST printed the article. I'm no stranger to building computers, but in 15 years of doing so I never thought to install rubber grommets on a fan to keep vibration and noise down.

    73, Creede
  10. mackinac

    mackinac Banned

    Yes, Electric Radio is a real magazine. It is a small nicely done magazine devoted to old boatanchor radios. Mostly stuff that has tubes in it. Don't have the address right now. Someone will come up with it, or do a web search for more info.

    I subscribed for a while, but right now am spending more time putting together my next PC than I am working on boatanchor radios (more of that some other time).
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