We need to get the religion out of ham radio. No, I am not talking about the HF nets that support missionaries or similar activities. (Those people might actually be doing something good for the world.) I am talking about the religious debates concerning new technology…this technology is better than that technology.
Amateur radio is a technical hobby, one based on technology, hobbyist pursuits and mutual interest. One might think that this means issues are looked at objectively and discussions are based on logic, scientific principles and facts. Of course, this is completely wrong. What often shows up in ham radio are religious debates about technology or operating modes.
Here’s a definition of Religion:
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
You can tell when you are stuck in a religious debate…the facts quickly fade and statements like “this is the right way to do it” become louder. Underneath this is a fundamental belief trying to come out that the person may not even be aware they have.
A long running example of a religious debate is Linux versus Windows. On the surface, people argue about which one has more defects, which one is more secure and which one ultimately serves their needs better. Underneath the surface is the religious belief: software should be free, Microsoft is evil, etc. Then there are those Mac enthusiasts (you know who you are)….these folks tend to act like a cult as they attempt to convert other people to their group. (Where is the line between enthusiast and cult member?)
The latest one on the ham radio front is the debate over digital technology in the VHF and higher bands: D-STAR versus APCO P25. The debate starts out rational with a discussion of the merits of each but soon the deeply-held beliefs come out: D-STAR is bad because ICOM is pushing it, P25 is good because it is the commercial standard, D-STAR is good because it is an amateur radio standard, D-STAR uses a proprietary vocoder chip so it is bad, etc. (For specific examples, click here, here and here.) Then don’t forget the guys that say “all digital is bad, analog FM is good.”
Again, you can tell when the religion kicks in because the facts start to fade and the beliefs rise to the surface. Usually, these arguments can’t be resolved because you can’t really debate beliefs. What you get instead are flame wars on the various email groups.
What other religious debates are out there? Code versus No-Code, Open Source Software versus Commercial Software, My favorite rig versus Your favorite rig, … what else?
-73, Bob K0NR
P.S. Was Betamax really better than VHS?