Response from Dan Stark, N0CRD,
concerning the article… “The Last Word” in the ARRL Contact, January 2015
ARRL’s Centennial is now over. The candles have been blown out of the birthday cake, and now that the Centennial QSO Party is over, the bands seem awfully quiet in comparison.
The inevitable question that hangs in the air is, “now what?”
Well, at 70 years of age and looking back, I have always been a dreamer and experimenter! Not afraid to walk into an area I am not familiar with. Willing to make big mistakes to learn and apply new found results. Taking a risk to experience the gain of knowledge or rewards that step might bring. I have always been a risk taker and some times failing miserably. But not always! Sometimes the rewards are really fruitful!
An Amateur Radio license is your ticket to experimentation. Experimentation is how you learn! Don’t be afraid of it! However, before you do take a risk, learn all you can and minimize the risk!
Risk taking might be the very trait that has built my strong background in Electronics, Computers and Amateur Radio! Because of this trait I have always been a little ahead of the technology curve, for my age, even before I was ten years old.
My first experiment (a confession) as I recall at the age of ten or eleven. I was listening to a AM broadcast radio science show (about circa 1954) describing how you could make a microphone out of several pencil leads by laying them across two razor blade (sharp edges up) and with the two wire leads (for the audio) coming off the two razor blades. What I didn’t understand at the time was this was audio not 110 volt ac. Not knowing the difference at the time, Of course, when I connected the razors to the 110v outlet… a hole was quickly burned into the carpet! No one in my family or neighborhood understood this process nor appreciated it! Nor did they offer to tell me why this result happened! They did inform me what would happen should I do it again on the new carpet! This failed experiment, for me, started a whole new search for answers, and maybe a vocation!
Yes even in my lifetime professional occupations, the same reasoning (only now educated) would lead to daring and bold moves to learn, experiment and apply. And without getting to deep into resumes, you can be assured that I have traveled the bleeding edge nationally and some internationally, learning, marketing and successfully applying some very new technologies in electronics, communications and software… The bleeding edge is a roller coaster ride you would never forget! Better to stay close to the cutting edge. The thrill keeps leading you back to the beginning of the loop! You will want to discover more and more once you go down this road!
That being said, I have always wondered why amateur radio hasn’t walked into some of those bleeding / cutting edge areas of activity? Don’t get me wrong, I understand and have participated in the Amateur Radio forefront of communication experimentation, including communication in space, weather, GPS, digital and a host of other things. But I don’t see a whole lot of progress in the area of Amateur Radio and (AIML) artificial intelligence! It is a perfect fit!
I do understand that most hams have to work with what manufactures have made available to the market. Operators in general rely on excellent Ham or commercial equipment, and so do I. This is the story that I am challenging concerning “Where do we go?”
It seems very exciting to me to watch and participate in the development of I-Phone, Android, Google, Internet, search engines and space technology. Amateur Radio has made it possible over the years to grow with and use all these technologies.
Now, Software Defined Radio (SDR) is going to challenge every thing we are accustomed to understanding and using in our hobby. Not just in how we access, tune and handle.. It is going to change how we actually use the radio for communication.
You see SDR is software, the programming of the computer using code languages. The code / software will control everything. Yes, even the spoken word, response or action.
On the local Kansas City 6 meter repeater we have just activated, which is controlled by a” computer, every detail of the legality for Ham use (less the observation of who is using it) is pretty well covered and complied with the software controlling. It knows when to ID, time out, announce messages, insert a beep tone. And yes, soon I hope, it will hold a conversation with you. It is the latest risk I am employing to learn exactly how to make the result a pleasant and useful one for all Amateur Radio operators that use this repeater.
It is far beyond a pipe dream. Anyone with a little bit of experience in the Electronics, Computers and Amateur Radio area could do this! It is not a fully developed field, but sufficiently enough we should have these Amateur Radio auto bots active abundantly in our community repeaters in the next ten years.
The conversation from the repeater A.I.M.L. controller being communication concerning Ham Radio, Emergency Services, weather, math, radio principals, formulas and just about anything (non commercial) you can derive out of the Amateur Radio Handbook or other “on line” or storage device sources. .
How will it do this? If the Amateur radio Hand Book (or any other Amateur Radio Source) can be reduced to a data form, locally or streaming in from afar, to a central (repeater controller). The central controlling computer could
1. Search for interpretation of the speech request or command (Speech Recognition available in most Microsoft windows,7 +) reference ( ttp://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/set-speech-recognition#1TC=windows-7)
2. Search for the correct response via all allowed resources (think Google search or use the A.I.M.L. data sets search system. (See more at A.L.I.C.E. http://www.alicebot.org/aiml.html )
3. Then the same computer controller could be equipped with Text to Speech software for responding to questions you are asking via your Amateur Radio Handheld. The same response could do it with a human derived personality voice (Reference.. http://sheepridge.pandorabots.com/pandora/talk?botid=fef38cb4de345ab1&skin=iframe-voice )
In Amateur Radio Television (A5) you could even see an animated character talking to you responding with your answers (or requesting more clarification). And what about streaming video over the wide bands we haven’t used much yet. Think about smart phones, video and data. Our 900 MGHZ and up might allow for some real experimentation in this area! Equipment seems to be everywhere. All we have to do is learn how to convert and use!
In the digital mode, guess what, all the above information could be presented. The whole process is already a digital state. Where do you want to go? What do you want to learn? How do you want to interact with your hobby, profession or skill set?
Perhaps what we as Amateur Radio Operators, experimenters and entrepreneurs should be doing as Elmer’s, clubs and organizations, is target in where we want to be. Knowing where we want to be will allow us to target our learning, teaching, experimenting and goal setting.
This is the future of Amateur Radio and the future is available now. Who wants to get aboard.
November 2014 KC 6 Meter Repeater Update
The one thing I like about the Amateur Radio Hobby is that there is no deadline on any given project one might take on. Therefor allowing for the sharing, study, experimentation and building of projects to your liking! As one amateur put it.. "it is like the making of fine wine!" slow but sure.
Currently transmitting 70 to 80 watts out from Olathe Kansas, with the transmit antenna at only 30 to 40 ft. with a vertical polarized J-Pole transmit antenna.
Currently in the hunt for a better(100ft or so) elevation for the central transmitter and receiver nodes and a way to boost the power to 200 or 300 watts.
The power solution is being worked on by experimenting with the pairing of 2 each 110 watt RF Power Amplifier units (salvaged from old GE Ranger 110 watt rigs) to achieve 200 watts. I am told you can do two pair of pairs to achieve 300 watts or better. Have the finals on hand and since the Ensor Auction I now have the 50 amp power supply needed. Will keep you updated down the road.
With a J Pole near the water tower location, and as a fixed, tuned, receive antenna in Independence MO, we are getting good reports from some of the higher elevations in Independence. But most in that area are not equipped with a tuned 6 meter Ant. A receive node will be placed in that area when we get the basic power and central location solved.
With these limitations and the current Transmitter height and power, The 6 meter repeater is not doing so well in the KC metro wide area coverage.
Output... 52.97 (pl 91.5).. Input is 51.27 (pl 91.5)
We are equipped (the voting unit) for up to 10 each receive nodes. However, today we only have 2 each receive node locations in actual operation. They work very well. Without better central unit placement or power out increase, We can only hope to serve better the area which we can cover.
The link freq for all 5 current programmed link receivers is 434.5. All 5 having a different pl tones. Each link being feed with a pair of homebrew 434.5 stacked Qagis'.
#1 Shawnee, KS Receive node covering up to Riverside, MO PL tone is 203.5
#2 Olathe, KS Receive node covering really well to Southern Springhill and as far south as the Paolas, club repeater site on 68 highway.. ( in my mobile at least) PL tone 162.2
#3 PL Tone 88.3 Built but Not in service yet.
#4 PL Tone 192.8 Built but Not in service yet.
#5 PL tone 151.4 Built but Not in service yet.
The biggest problem we have at this juncture.. is either increasing the elevation of the transmit Antenna / or Power. Either or both would then allow a larger outlying area for the receive nodes to be placed.
See more at http://www.gracetime.com/n0crd
Currently (while waiting for these solutions to arise) I am also doing research and programing on the possibility to install a personal Amateur Radio assistant / talking robot in the 6 meter machine. His name will be "Elmer".
In this process I am learning much about chat bots, personal assistants,
AIML - The Artificial Intelligence Markup Language
The A.L.I.C.E. AI Foundation promotes the adoption of the A.L.I.C.E. and AIML free open source software for chatrobots, chat robots, chatterbots or chatterboxes.
Just a quick update.. KC 6 meter repeater project...October 2014... KC 6 meter / Metro update
Well... 6 meters may not be dead after all! It is good that others are pursuing this band! The new 53.55 / 224.880 repeaters in Warrensburg is a good start.. and will encourage more use of the band.
I see more and more 6 meter / 220 new handhelds being sold on E-bay! That is a good sign!
While the 52.97 machine is already serving a very large area on the Kansas side... with Receive nodes in Shawnee and Olathe.. and WORKING VERY WELL FOR OVER 120 DAYS NOW.
I have decided that while tweaking the existing 52.97 machine and waiting on the additional right receive node location solutions here in KC... along with an elevated location for the central voting unit / transmitter... And because most of the 6 meter machine and building project is complete)...
I am going to bring alive a Automated intelligence device.. to be added to the 6 meter repeater.. His name will be "Elmer".. a talking robot attached to the 6 meter repeater. He will be an Amateur Radio advisory (someday)! Ha Ha..
My second major in college and last 20 years of employment was based around Computer software and related technology.. so I feel comfortable in taking on this challenge. I am sure "this old dog" will certainly learn some new tricks on the way! :-)) And could use help and advise always!
Any way that will be my winter project.. An answer bot like SIRI..on i-phone .. only better and focused on Amateur Radio and the legal things you can do on the bands. Weather, data, math, formulas, positioning and stuff you would search for in the day to day Amateur Radio endeavor..
Have already accumulated the machines for the servers and have found the open source software, with plenty of examples on how to do it.. It will be Linux based using Suse or other servers. Another cross road where Amateur Radio and computers meet.. Only this one will carry on a conversation with you like a chat bot.. Maybe even translate Morse code or other to English for you?
The IBM machine software "Watson" that was used on the game show Jepordy to challenge the All time winners of the show.. was all based on open source SUSE, and AILM code...<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/science/17jeopardy-watson.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>
On ‘Jeopardy!’ Watson Win Is All but Trivial
The Watson computer’s performance was proof that I.B.M. has taken a big step toward a world in which machines will understand and respond to humans.
"Elmer" will be alive and well someday next year on the 52.97 machine.. He will port into the machine via one of the voter links. Yes, he will talk to you and answer your questions about Amateur Radio! That is the plan and That is going to be the next major goal..
Anyone interested in helping with this project? .. Shoot me an email!
Fun for the winter! And making amateur Radio come alive with current technology!
The 10 Meter repeater Cross Link has been nixed due to concerns of possible improper license issues.