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Amateur Radio is Alive and Thriving, and Always Relevant to Maker Skills #hamr

From STEM to the ISS, from HAMNET to Blackhat, ars technica reports on the continued relevance of amateur radio to core maker skills and future spectrums of communication.

NORTHPORT, AL - JUNE 6: Old and new ham radio equipment makes up David Drummond's working collection at his home on June 6, 2011 in Northport, Alabama. He often fixes old ham radio equipment to add to his station. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

It’s a good time to be technical. Maker communities are thriving around the world, tools and materials to create and adapt are cheaper and more powerful now than ever, and open source hardware, software, and information mean that if you can think it, you can learn how to do it and then make it happen.

For one group of technological explorers, this is more than just a golden age of opportunity: it’s providing the means to save one of the oldest traditions in electronic invention and self-education, one that helped shape the modern world: amateur radio.

Radio amateurs get a sweet deal, with effectively free access to many gigahertz of the same radio spectrum that companies pay billions for. They’ve earned it. Throughout the history of electronics, they’ve been at the borders of the possible, trying out ideas that commerce or government deem impossible or pointless—and making them work. Here’s one example of hundreds: Allied military comms in World War II needed a way to reliably control the radios used by front-line forces, replacing tuning knobs with channel switches. Hams had the answer ready and waiting—quartz crystal oscillators. (Those are part of computing history, too. You’re probably using about 10 of them right now.).

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