Last night I joined in my first multi-person Google+ Hangout and it was a blast. I was invited in by another Amateur Radio operator, Jim, KA6QZU. The Hangout was called “Ham Radio Nightly Hangout” and eventually others joined the group. He told me their group has these meetings online every night at 9:00 PM, central time. Usually I am not up that late because we go to work very early. I have to say that I really enjoyed the conversation and was amazed at how clear the video and audio was. If the masses ever discover these Hangouts, they will be hooked. There was a connection to theTWiT Podcast when Tom, KB4HQA joined in the conversation. Since this Hangout is a regular occurring, I hope they put up a web site so people can find them. Maybe even a Google+ page. I have found a way to keep up with them assuming they keep the same name for the Hangout. I just went on Google+ and searched for the term “Ham Radio Nightly Hangout” and then saved my search results. That way if anyone posts about it, I will see it.
Anyway, I have always loved ham radio and the Internet. This is just one more example of how cool they are together. In fact, it seems that ham radio operators and photographers are the most active of any groups I have seen on Google+. I really would like to become more active in ham radio. I have really been frustrated since I moved in to our new house that my interface cable between my radio and computer no longer works because my computer has Windows 7, 64 bit version. I’ve steadfastly refused to buy another cable because I feel I am being forced to buy more equipment for someone else’s gain. My cable was only a year old when I got Windows 7 64 bit and I refuse to upgrade my equipment every time a new version of the operating system comes out. The major issue is that radio manufacturers continue to use obsolete RS-232 connections so I had to use an adapter cable that no longer has a driver for the 64 bit version.
In my ham radio world, computers are just as much a part of the hobby as the radio itself. I occasionally, more often than not, run across those that say “that is not real ham radio!” My answer to them is “oh well”. Everything has computers these days and to say that it is not ham radio is foolishness. Is your TV not a TV because it now has a computer tuner in it? Is your coffee maker not a coffee maker now that it has a computer timer in it? Of course it is. One may argue that in ham radio it is different. There are many modes such as IRLP, Echolink, Allstar Link, etc that use the Internet to transmit communications. I don’t think it is different at all as long as there is some aspect of radio being communicated with. For example… The telephone now uses Satellites, land based transmissions, Internet, etc to get the voice from one place to another. The end result is that someone, on one end of the conversation is holding a telephone in their hand. Modern day television is the same. Computers are just one more tool in the process and a very cool tool at that.
I think that computers are very much a part of ham radio and just prove that it is not an antiquated mode of communications. The ionosphere is still our friend and the computer, Internet work together with it to transmit, process the information so that the signal is better used. These Google Hangouts are just another way that amateur radio operators can communicate and share their equipment visually. I’ve had a computer and a ham radio for 29 years and the computer has not hindered my ham radio usage but rather enhanced it. It is an exciting day to be around if you are a gadget person like myself.