New Directions Radio: Ham Radio Air Time for Less

Copthorne MacDonald discusses ways to get on the air for less, and New Directions happenings.

| July/August 1976

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    Copthorne MacDonald, the founder of New Directions Radio.

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Copthorne Macdonald is the inventor of slow-scan television . . . a method of amateur radio transmission that allows ham operators to both hear and see each other during shortwave broadcasts.

A Modest Proposal

A couple of years ago—when Jim Stamper (WA4HUB) and I had a chat about hams and ham equipmentJim compared the typical amateur radio operator to a man who fishes for sport.

"The sportsman's interest," Jim said, "is in catching fish at random ... with emphasis on each one's size, the desirability of the species caught, and the total number hauled in. And just as the avid fisherman wants his tackle box outfitted to handle any possible situation he may run into, the typical ham wants equipment with five-band capability, continuous tuning of each band from end to end, excellent frequency calibration, and other features which give operating flexibility, but which—at the same time-run into bundles of money."

I agreed, and Jim and I were soon discussing ways that some of us could get on the air at far less cost. We were particularly interested in cutting the expenses of those of us who use ham radio primarily as a tool for sharing with distant friends our knowledge of (and interest in) ecology, energy, the future, and other "new directions". It was soon clear to Stamper and me that the practice of restricting our operations to a few spot frequencies could—potentially—reduce equipment costs significantly.

Then again, such discipline and planning—as laudable as it may be—will never solve the more basic problem faced by would-be hams: There just isn't a decent, inexpensive receiver on the market these days. And besides that, who really wants to operate in such a restricted fashion anyway? Wouldn't you actually prefer to forget the rigidity of pre-arranged schedules altogether and just "call" your particular ham friends whenever you want to?

I think that both of these needs (the requirement of beginners for a low-cost receiver, and that of the experienced ham for spontaneous call-up capability) could be met if we worked together to design and produce a low cost, crystal-controlled receiver ... one that's tailored to our specific needs, with no extra frills.

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