I got this mail from Alan KF3B. It is uploaded for a reference of the discussion. I asked Alan if I could upload it or not. So far, no response. Since this won't contain any personal information etc, I would quote the whole here.
First I thank you for your thoughtful
posting about RBN and SKIMMER. It caused me to reflect on these
Before talking about radio, I should share bits of my own sense
of our existence. I think that every advantage is also a disadvantage. For
everything we gain, we also suffer a loss. Every strength is also a weakness.
This sense of duality is not limited to technology, but seems to me to be
universally true about all parts of life. However, I'll limit this email to
I became a ham in, I think, 1955. Technology at that time was so
advanced compared with Marconi's time. Compared with today's technology, it
was, of course, quite primitive. I remember having mixed feelings when I
changed from my J-38 straight key to a Vibroplex bug. First, I enjoyed very
much the ability to send faster. On the other hand, I always fancied myself a
good code sender and felt a sense of loss because it took less skill to send a
good string of dots. When I moved from crystal control to VFO I felt only
slightly sad because it took skill to search for guys calling me off my
frequency. With VFO control, the skill level was reduced. (I must say that I
always hated the limitations of crystals, HI). Then radios were improved.
They drifted less. Changing from receive to transmit became effortless. Again,
a very positive movement, but a sadness because I always tried to perform these
tasks well manually and that opportunity was forevermore gone. Then coaxial
cables replaced twin feed lines. Again, a good improvement, but a loss
personally because I had enjoyed building antennas with odd shapes fed with
twin-lead and matching then with my old Johnson Matchbox. Then came broad-band
transceivers. No more dipping-peaking-dipping. I was good at it and missed
performing those activities. Then phase-lock-loops. Rock solid transceivers.
Big forward technological movements, but a personal loss because I no longer
would need to utilize a skill set I had learned.
I went inactive in
1971 until 1994 to raise my family and devote myself to my commercial life. In
1994, more or less by accident, my close friend Don brought down to my then QTH
the old 75A-4, KWS-1, TO Keyer, paddle and matchbox.. We threw some wire out
the window to a tree, turned it all on (nothing caught fire) and I made a CW
QSO. I still could copy 20+ wpm easily, but had never heard "5NN" before. I
had to ask for three or four RST repeats before I understood that 5NN was 599.
Replaced the 75A-4/KWS-1 with Yaesu FT-1000D. Began to have mixed
feelings again. The 1000D was like heaven. But ... I did not have to zero beat
the receive frequency. I did not have to worry about anything. The new radio
did everything. What about my old skill-sets? How sad it was to use the
internal keyer in the 1000D instead of my old Hallicrafters HA-1, the original
"TO Keyer". On balance, forward progress, noting with a bit of sadness that my
old skill sets were no longer needed.
Then replaced the 1000D with the
K3. More wonderful features. Great technical progress. But what about my old
skill sets? When noise reduction is active, I don't have to use my ears. I was
good at picking up signals near the noise floor. But the K3's amazing
technology removed the need for me to do what I had
Technological progress seems to imply a shift in effort from
people to something else.
Society seems to adopt a technology if the
advantage outweighs the disadvantage. The not so obvious part of this is that
the scale for measuring advantage and disadvantage is not universal. It depends
on who is measuring. For example, a new computer program to reduce the amount
of labor needed to to a job is valuable to an employer but harmful to the
employees who stand to lose their job. So, the 'measure--ment' depends on the
I once tried skimmer. I didn't like it. I never will.
It's not for me.
As long as I can send without friends telling me QLF
(your code sounds like you are sending with left foot), I will never use
a keyboard. As I age and my ability to use the paddle decrease, I might try a
keyboard but it will be a difficult choice. I might also give up this wonderful
hobby. That choice will come sooner than I would like it to.
But I will
use RBN. There is a growing scarcity of good ops. I would prefer rag chewing
with them than looking for them. To me, as measurer, the value of the RBN
outweighs its cost.
Now to your point of "insulting to liberty." I
learned that everything said on amateur radio was to be considered a broadcast
to the universe. People always "read the mail." Personally, I have spent many
hours just listening to good ops chatting. I am fascinated with how they
abbreviate words or just how they generally express themselves. Some of the
commonly used idioms are interesting. So I've never had thoughts about lack of
privacy on the air because I never thought there was any privacy.
or other machines that copy code well are used. They are networked together
and that cluster of networked skimmers comprise the RBN world. My personal
choice is whether or not I will use it.
Is it sad that machines to copy
code exist? Yes AND no. The person who must answer that question will have his
own sense of how to value the measurements of benefit versus harm.
the argument changes its form. Given that RBN exists, one can ask: Does RBN's
existence cause harm? One could, indeed, argue yes it does cause harm - because,
with the existence of RBN, people less skilled, people who without RBN would
never call me, are now wasting my time, adding to QRM, making my life worse!
That's a real argument. It has merit.
RBN usage during a contest
changes everything. It drastically reduces the need for a certain kind of
skill. Good ears are replaced, to some extent, with good internet bandwidth.
As technology continues to advance, seems to me that contest
sponsors must consider that entrants who use RBN are in a different class from
those who don't. Other technologies like remote receiving antennas are also
dramatic reasons to sub-class entrants along these severe technological
dimensions. Radiosport is evolving. It might not be fair or attractive in
the short term, but it will probably stabilize if and when radiosport related
technology stabilizes ....
Shin, I think that I'll stop now. I see
technological progress a two edged sword. However, it is hard sometimes for me
to apply this two edged sword way of thinking to medicine. How can tomography
be harmful? How can vaccines to eliminate Polio, Malaria, TB be harmful? I
don't know. Perhaps my thinking needs lots of refinement.
In any case, I
am grateful to you because you say things that stimulate my addled