Thursday, 23 February 2017
Almost 18 months ago I was getting ready to move home. All my radio antennas were taken down ready for the move apart from my Wellbrook loop which was mounted on a short pole in the garden and could be removed at the last minute. so I could listen on shortwave but that was all.
In preparation for this I had purchased an Icom ID-51 Handheld radio. This is a dual band VHF/UHF Handie which also has D Star Capability. Now in the past I had not really been attracted to the idea of D Star as it depends on either using repeater, the internet or both. But I convinced myself that it would allow me some form of communication whilst I had no antennas and no proper shack.
Along with the Icom Handheld I bought a "DV Mega" hotspot, basically a miniature transceiver with an output of 10mw which connects to your PC (or Raspberry PI- more on PI's later) and transfers the RF from the handie onto the internet and vice versa.
Well It took me some time to set all this up and get it working- D Star seemed like a mystery to me at first and I won't bore you with all the details but eventually i got the system running OK. And yes it is quite a novelty to speak to other operators all over the world using a handie. I can see how this system is a godsend to Radio Amateurs who find themselves unable to put an antenna up or perhaps are travelling and operating from hotels and so on. It does however lack the "magic" of a direct HF contact and in my opinion isn't real radio in the true sense. Take away the internet and you are just left with a short range handheld.
Now I am in my new QTH, I have set up my shack and some simple antennas and am back on the air. I still have the d Star equipment of course and yes I still use it. It is fun to be walking the dog and working Puerto Rico on a UHF handheld as I did the other day. Using the system has also introduced me recently to the joys of a Raspberry Pi computer and the Linux OS so it has provided a learning opportunity.
But "Real Radio"- its not- as long as we use it as an addition to the hobby and not as our main activity I see no harm in systems like D Star and DMR. We just should remember that its a good idea to retain communication systems that are not internet dependent.