Ham Radio and Computer Interface

In 1980, with the personal computer revolution in its earliest stages, interest was growing in the potential of a ham radio computer interface.

| November/December 1980

Imagine this:

Wanting to get a message to a friend, you sit down in front of the of panel of keys, type out your letter, then hit a special button ... and, within seconds, your "note" travels by radio to your pal's home, even if he or she lives a thousand miles (or more) away.

Does it sound like science fiction? Well, "mail by radio" is likely to be just one of the innovations resulting from the soon-to-come "marriage" between microcomputer technology and ham radio. In addition, computer enthusiasts who have access to commercial, university, or personal data banks will be able to share their "keys" to all that information with ham friends a continent away ... and ongoing computer conferences may also become possible, free of the expense of long distance telephone charges. Since the FCC decision — earlier this year — to allow ASCII "computer language" to be transmitted over the ham bands, the emergence of a ham radio computer interface is a foregone conclusion ... and ham/computer groups all over North America are now working out the details of the coming union!

And what might such a combination of capabilities mean to us New Directions Radio folk? You may recall that I've previously discussed the fact that a goodly number of NDR people are eager to see such technologies used as tools that can be employed in the creation of the sane, humane, ecological future that most of us are both dreaming of and working toward.

A few recent breakthroughs indicate — you'll be pleased to know — that people across the country are taking advantage of today's high-tech innovations to work for the good of the planet. During my recent West Coast trip, for example, I spoke with Conrad Greenstone (WD6GMW), a gentleman who's involved in setting up a computerized agricultural information center that'll be accessible to the "alternative" community — throughout North America — via radio or telephone.

Dennis McCracken is another westerner who's determined to help cleanse the reputation chat technology has acquired in the past few years. He recently proposed the establishment, by both community groups and individuals, of "global communication stations." As Dennis envisions them, such facilities would have telephones, personal computers, ham stations, and perhaps even video recorders and cameras ... all of which would be available as public service communication tools.

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