In 1980 in his regular column, Copthorne Macdonald introduced Art Mourad as the new editor of the New Directions Roundtable Newsletter and discussed the possibility of creating a hybrid ham/computer network.
LEFT: Copthorne Macdonald, amateur radio enthusiast, inventor of slow scan television, and founder of New Directions Radio. RIGHT: Art Mourad, who took over as editor of New Directions Roundtable Newsletter in 1979.
PHOTO: MADALEINE MACDONALD/MARY SPARKS
If you happen to have read the fine print at the very end of last issue's column, you probably noticed that the New Directions Roundtable Newsletter is now being put out by Art Mourad (WB2POB). After four years of voluntary hard work, the original Newsletter editorial team of Randy Brink (WDØHNF) and "Bo" Bogardus (W6HSE) is taking a well-deserved rest.
Randy and Bo started the publication back in 1975. Initially, it focused on West Coast NDR happenings, but soon began to play a national ( and international) role as well. One of the Newsletter's important functions has been to list current on-the-air activities across our amateur radio network. For a while, I tried to include such schedule information in this column, but the necessary publication delays and space limitations made such listings impractical. On the other hand, the Newsletter —with its short turnaround time—has proved to be a perfect vehicle for detailed, quickly out-of-date information.
Both Randy and Bo deserve our sincere thanks, for their dedicated efforts during these past years!
I'd like to thank Art Mourad, too ... for taking the torch from the hands of the original editorial team and enabling the NDR Newsletter to continue. Art—a truly fascinating guy—was born in the Bronx and now resides in northern New Jersey. In 1975, he received a degree in accounting ... but certain events that occurred during the two years following his graduation made juggling figures come to seem rather irrelevant to Art.
For one thing, he was greatly moved by the demonstration at the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear reactor in 1976, when 1,114 people put their personal freedom on the line and were arrested. Following that eye-opener, Art read Unacceptable Risk: The Nuclear Power Controversy by McKinley C. Olson.
"It really shocked me," says the new newsletter editor, "to find out that the government would let companies make millions of dollars at the risk of disintegrating a portion of our country and killing large numbers of people."
Since then, Art has directed his life toward actively doing something about the nuclear insanity that surrounds us. In 1977, he joined Safe Energy Alternatives (SEA), an alliance of antinuclear groups, and—this past August—was part of the demonstration against New York's Indian Point nuclear power plant.
Now, in addition to his antinuclear activities, Art has offered to edit and produce the NDR Newsletter.
There is some question, though, about just what direction the NDR Newsletter should take from here. Would it be better for it to stick pretty much to ham news, or should the paper venture more widely into alternate forms of living and various opportunities for involvement in environmental causes and such? Is it, perhaps, time for our organization to actively seek out more of those situations where radio can help change the world for the better? Should we launch some new projects?
Art (whose address appears at the end of this column) would like your thoughts on such matters. And, of course, we'll be discussing the various Newsletter possibilities during on-air gatherings throughout the winter.
There's nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come, they say. And when the same thought starts popping up—quite independently—in many different places and in many people's heads ... then that notion's hour must be pretty close!
The idea, in this instance, concerns establishing a transnational alternative computer network linked up by ham radio. Since more and more hams have purchased personal computers recently, such a computer/ham-radio tie-in may well now be possible. Art proposed the idea to me, as did Frank Fisher (WA4UXQ) and Dennis McCracken of Synergistic Systems.
Dennis sees such a development as "a fast-response, decentralized neural network for the quickly developing New Age community". He goes on to say: "With the rapidly worsening energy crunch, economic chaos, etc., it's imperative that we get this network cooking now!"
Frank (who's an M.D., by the way) told me that he started using his 48K Apple II microcomputer for data analysis in medical research.
"Since then," he said, "I've become aware of myriad socially beneficial uses for microcomputers ... such as in an interactive, easily up-dated, problem-solving/consulting bank for paramedical people. Centralized computer systems call up images of 'Big Brother' in most folks' minds, but privately owned computers and other aspects of 'personal technology' can increase the impact of people by pitting 'our' technology against 'their' technology ... and enabling just plain folks to hold big corporations, big government, big labor, and all unresponsive institutions accountable for their actions."
Art's comments are in a similar vein: "I think we can benefit from certain kinds of high technology, like computers and ham radio. Decentralized high technology is the object."
I agree with Dennis, Frank, and Art... and I can also see considerable benefit in using microcomputers and radio to link men and women on our part of the planet to groups and individuals in Third World countries. Direct people-to-people contact is essential if we're all to understand one another. And, ironically, many personal contacts that would otherwise never have occurred have been made possible by such high-technology but "convivial" tools.
Can "electronically facilitated" relationships really be meaningful? You bet they can! When I was in Europe last summer, I finally met several of my electronic pen pals—close allies like George Wood, Jan Ivarsson, and Godfrey Boyle—folks I'd never seen in person, but with whom I'd been communicating for several years via ham radio and correspondence. In each case, the meeting was like reuniting with an old friend after a long separation.
Of course, relating with another individual in person is always best. But when that isn't possible, allowing electronics to serve as the connecting link can be almost as valuable.
Cop Macdonald (VE1BFL)
New Directions Radio is an international network of radio amateurs concerned with those ways of using ham radio (and related modes of communicating) that promote our own growth as individuals, and which we perceive as helping to create a more aware, more caring, and more responsible human society. We encourage all who share these interests to work with us.