Religion and Ham Radio

300px-International_amateur_radio_symbol.svgWe 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 DMR (and now Fusion). 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, DMR 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. 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? Android versus iOS, Open Source Software versus Commercial Software, My favorite rig versus Your favorite rig, … what else?

-73, Bob K0NR

This post is recycled and updated from a 2007 post. Some things never change.

3 Replies to “Religion and Ham Radio”

  1. Bob, if you go beyond technical topics, there are plenty more “religious” debates in our hobby:

    – Contesters vs. nets
    – Homebrewers vs. “appliance operators”
    – Ragchewers vs. “59, TNX”
    – QRP vs. QRO
    – DXers vs. just about everybody else

    But I think there is a term–usually associated with religion but not necessarily so when used in its non-capitalized form–that describes what I think our hobby is. That term is “catholic.”

    It is defined as, “broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all; broad-minded.” I get so tired of the “if you don’t like what I like then what you like is garbage” mindset. The hobby–and the technical and non-technical aspects of it–is so broad that everyone should find room for what he or she wants to do with it.

    73 and thanks for the post,

    Don Keith N4KC

    • Don,
      Thanks for the comments!
      One thing I am personally working on is to avoid disparaging any legitimate type of ham radio activity. I slip once in a while and make a negative comment about…oops, better stop there 🙂

      Bob K0NR

  2. How about SDR vs Superhet solid state and tube HF radios? It is gettiing ridiculous in some circles where you hear the predictions of the demise of all radios that are not SDR from some. I have used and loved both, and I really am tired of guys with SDR’s saying peoples signals are too wide etc… because of what they are seeing on a waterfall display, forgetting it is only a computerized depiction of those signals and may not even be accurate. But what does it sound like? Many tube transmitters sound better then digital proccesed signals. There is room for all in this great hobby of ours. 73, Tom
    P.S. I just preordered an IC-7300 that I traded in an Anan-10 to buy, and I have a TS-520 on the bench, I have nothing against SDR’s.