News on New Directions Radio Goals, Structure and Meetings

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Over the years we've had buckets of good ideas about new projects and ways to make our organization more accessible (and therefore more valuable) to the public, but somehow the majority of these plans have died in the planning stage.

The author of this column, who has been writing for MOTHER EARTH NEWS since 1973, 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. New Direction Radio article MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 76, July/August 1982.

Thomas Edison once said that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. That remark sometimes seems to apply to many of us who are members of New Directions Radio, because we frequently fall far short of achieving our New Directions Radio goals . . . thanks not to our lack of thought (though not usually genuis -level thinking), but rather to our lack of sweat! Over the years we’ve had buckets of good ideas about new projects and ways to make our organization more accessible (and therefore more valuable) to the public, but somehow the majority of these plans have died in the planning stage.

I mention this because, as Harry Spetla (KA2DRE . . . Dept. TMEN, Hoosick Falls, New York) recently found out, there are a lot of worthwhile–but unexecuted–ideas being tossed around NDR these days.

Harry, you see, sent out a questionnaire to East Coast NDR hams asking them for their views on ways to improve our nets and Roundtables and for ideas on how to encourage new membership and increase the usefulness of our newsletter. And since partial results from his survey are now in, I’d like to share the feedback with you.

The communication needs of developing countries could well provide a worthwhile focus for NDR radio amateurs’ energies.


In the first place, many respondents felt that we need more structure and focus in our Roundtable sessions. One person suggested that it might be a good idea to have a different ham responsible for running each “meeting” . . . and that this person’s duties include not only chairing the session but also providing for a presentation (the choice, topic, and format of which would be left to his or her discretion).

Once the program is over, we could have a question and answer period. This idea of “entertainment” followed by a “feedback” time isn’t new, of course, because the earliest NDR Roundtable sessions worked this way, and folks on the West Coast still often use the format. We Easterners have simply gotten a little lazy!

Another respondent brought up the issue of goals: What are our goals at NDR? Where are we going–and why–and are we actually making any real progress?

NDR began almost nine years ago, based on the idea that ham radio should be more than just a toy: It should be a useful tool . . . both in one’s own life and in the lives of others. But we have to ask ourselves, have we met this goal?

Well, I for one believe that we have used ham radio as a personal tool which has enabled us to knit together a far-flung family of caring, turned-on New Age people. That’s no small feat, of course, but we haven’t been nearly as successful at using ham radio to help others.

Now I know most of us already have our lives booked to overflowing with activities we consider important and haven’t any more time to devote to new causes. I also know that nobody gains if we spread ourselves too thin, but perhaps there are a few socially minded souls among us who have–or can make–a little extra time for the right project.

And there certainly are many good ideas out there just waiting to come alive. In fact, some of those “dreams” have been discussed in previous issues of this magazine. Let me touch again on a selection of them.

[1] Providing a communication service for non-hams (MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 30). This seems obvious, but how many of us have sought out situations in which we could help people we care for and causes we support?

[2] Setting up ham-based information systems (MOTHER NOS. 30-33, 35, and 37). This could be done through voice radio contacts with people who are willing to share expertise or skills . . . using electronic mail, electronic publication, and text retrieval from a data base (MOTHER NOS. 61, 66, 72, and 74). There has also been some discussion about providing remote access to medical and health information (MOTHER NOS. 28, 32, and 58) . . . plus a two-way sharing of information about appropriate technology with people in developing countries (MOTHER NO. 25).

[3] Establishing an alternative news network (MOTHER NOS. 51, 55, and 57). Lots of folks are just plain tired of the information presented by our mass media, and ham radio could provide a way to spread alternative news.

[4] Increasing the use of slow-scan TV (MOTHER NOS. 23, 25, 30, 43, and 44). The technique has already been used by community colleges in Ontario and Barbados for long-distance teaching via ham radio, and it could easily be used to add another dimension to almost any NDR activity. Up to this point, the main problem with pursuing the idea has always been that too few people have access to SSTV gear, but there is a bright note! The Federal Communications Commission recently authorized General Class hams to use SSTV in their phone subbands. [EDITOR’S NOTE: To order the back issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS mentioned in this column, turn to page 104 in this issue.]

Now these are just a few of the ideas that are being bounced around, and there’s certainly room for more . . . but only if with the suggestions comes the fortitude for action. Don’t worry about failure, either . . . the best things happen only when someone is willing to take risks (without any guarantees of success). Besides, no matter what the outcome, the doer will always reap some valuable side benefits: new skills learned . . . old ones perfected . . . or just the attainment of a bit more patience with the world.

So remember that thinking of what to do is only the first step. It’s the actual doing–the other 99 steps–that are essential for achieving anything worthwhile. And if you have some new ideas that may help bring a new focus and commitment to our activities, please get in touch with Harry (or me).

Cop Macdonald (VE 1 BFL)
Prince Edward Island
Canada C1A 8C5

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 that 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. A current schedule of on-the-air activities is included in each issue of the bimonthly New Directions Roundtable Newsletter, published by Art Mourad (WB2POB) as a service to the rest of us. To subscribe, send 25 cents for each issue desired to Art Mourad, Dept. TMEN, Bergenfield, New Jersey.

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