Good day all,
Let me attempt to add a few cogent thoughts to the ongoing 'future of AMSAT' discussion...
I don't know if I am the typical ham or not, but I've been licensed for 35+ years... started in my teens. Have built some of my own gear, joined clubs, worked HF, chased DX, dabbled in lots of areas of ham radio... I've volunteered a lot of my time to different ham projects, emergency communications, repeaters (owned 3), digital networks, been a VE and so on. I'm at a point in my life and hobby that as the result of an agreement with 'she who must be pleased' I am more or less relegating myself to the simple 'sport' and enjoyment of the hobby. I build antennas, chase DX, chase grids, etc. One of the things I decided to do was get back on satellites just over a year ago. I tried an FM sat for the first time. I loved it and pursued more depth in the 'satellite' sub-hobby of ham radio.
That said... my original introduction to satellites was RS-12/13 in the mid 90s. I was living in a condo with little to no antenna and was actively chasing the CQ 50 awards (CQ magazines 50th anniversary). One of the tasks was to make a satellite QSO. Now how was I going to do that with an HF rig and a Hustler vertical on my deck. I researched, found out about RS-12 and gave it a try. My first contact on the bird was so exciting, I whooped and hollered so loud I scared the heck out of my wife. It was as exciting if not more so than my first Novice CW contact in 1977. I was really hooked and spent the next 5-6 years really enjoying that bird. Dinner times revolved around sat passes. I wrote up a webpage dedicated to helping hams make their first satellite contact on RS-12/13, maintained a forum to help people with getting on the bird and making scheduled contacts, etc. (google RS-12/13 and references to my old call and webpage STILL come up) - I
volunteered my time and enjoyed it a lot... now ask me why I never joined or supported AMSAT.
It was because I had a number of run ins with AMSAT members that basically did not have the time of day for me. (Jerry K5OE was the one glaring exception) Their attitude was that RS-12/13 uses HF bands... it was not a 'REAL' satellite. I was introduced to this early on in my research to get on a bird when I called the AMSAT office asking for help and was referred to a field rep(?) about a hundred miles for me. When I called him, he told me he worked only digital birds, knew nothing about what I wanted to know and in general BLEW ME OFF. He did not refer me on to anyone, never got back to me or gave a rats. So why did I need AMSAT? Why should I give money to a bunch of arrogant so & so's that are interested in things way over my head. Now skip ahead to this last year.
I got on ham forums, I asked questions... I bought an HT to dip my toe in the water. I built a little homebrew antenna and made a contact on an FM bird. Far OUT!!! It was cool and this was fun... just like before. But, what more was there to do?!! I traded for a UHF all mode to go with my VHF... I built home brew beam antennas and put them up. I later upgraded my rig. I started chasing grids again and enjoying running across some of the same hams. I was fortunate to got to know them... they were INCLUSIVE and encouraged me to join AMSAT... so I did. Now I am exposed to more of what AMSAT does and I see the benefit. I see now that I ran into some NON-inclusive hams years ago. Shouldn't judge the whole group by a few, etc. BUT, the problem is... first impressions are often very lasting. They lasted with me for 15+ years.
Here is my point. Without introductory birds (FM) and an inclusive attitude, AMSAT is never going to grow and acquire the volunteer and monetary support to ever achieve some of the very things being complained about. You want to recruit new hams and get them to financially support AMSAT and it's endeavors? Then you need to develop an inclusive attitude. On this reflector I've heard comments that basically imply anyone who wants to go outside with an HT and wave a yagi around is stupid. <ZAP!> There went a whole bunch of future support dollars out of the coffers. I don't think I need to touch the HEO/LEO debate, but now I am hearing that FM birds are old hat... no good... we need better. <ZAP!> There goes another huge chunk. You know what I and many 'new sat ops' hear? "What you like is DUMB!" - I LIKE FM birds... I LIKE waving my yagi around... and I joined AMSAT! I just sent in my BOD ballot and I'm trying to figure out how much I can donate to the Fox
Guess what... I MIGHT like digital birds. I've joined AMSAT now and you've got my attention... INTEREST ME! Tell me what I am missing... give me a presentation, a paper, a video, an article... hell, come buy me a cuppa joe and explain it to me. But for gosh sakes, do you really think that telling me that what I like to do is DUMB and then whine that I, as an AMSAT member, won't pay for whatever it is YOU like to do is a good strategy?!!! I am a 'sport' ham... I enjoy chasing DX, grids, the sats, etc. I have no current interest in digital modes on satellites... mostly because I probably don't UNDERSTAND THEM. My knowledge of digital on sats is guys with complicated stand alone setups and expensive TNCs that forwarded BBS messages. I mean, are you talking digital voice like DSTAR? Forwarded text? Live messaging? Video? What???? No one has ever explained it to me!!! Can I make QSOs on it and chase grids? All I walk away with after reading the comments
is... 'Gee, apparently what I like is DUMB'.
Yes, I have used a little hyperbole, but I'm trying to make a point. This pervasive attitude is driving away the very people that could potentially support and later get actively involved in your 'advocated flavor' of the sat hobby. You simply MUST remember that the majority of sat ops don't fall out of the trees fully grown. Those guys that try out sats with an HT and a home made antenna... there's a lot of them. I'm basically one of them. Some will come and go, some might stay... but if you discourage them and exclude them by insulting their current flavor of operating, why would they hang around? I eventually came back around, met a different sort and stayed. And now I'm taking the time to say what a huge chunk of those that go away never bother to say.
That being, "Help me enjoy what I like and I'll help you enjoy what you like. Interest me in what you like and I might like it, too. But insult me and insist that I change, and I'll find someplace more fun and inviting to spend my time and money."
I hope my thoughts have been useful and I ask that you please take them in the spirit they are offered. I'd like to see AMSAT and the satellite hobby grow. I understand the frustration, but it seems that many are letting that frustration kill the very thing that could help alleviate their pain.
Just try to be inclusive and see beyond the end of your own antenna.
Kevin N4UFO, ex-AC5DK
AMSAT # 39145
"Control is the need of the fearful mind. Trust is the need of the courageous heart."