For most of my 40-plus years in the hobby I’ve been an HF enthusiast. I’ve never really been a big fan of repeaters. It’s a different style of operation and one that doesn’t hold much interest for me. But in recent years, I have sampled Digital Voice via D-STAR and DMR and I’ve found these a little more interesting.
These forms of communication don’t really intersect, but I’ve noticed that I regularly use HF for brief data exchanges and when the mood for longer conversation strikes, I pick up one of the DV radios.
This could be the result of perpetually poor band conditions that make rag chewing at HF tougher than it used to be. Or it could be that there are many other ways to communicate that are more appealing than they used to be.
Sprints, contests, state QSO parties, SOTA, POTA, FT8 - you name it, modern HF enthusiasts like to make contacts. Hundreds and thousands of brief contacts. These are short exchanges via the aether, a high-five on the shortwaves, ships passing in the night - and that makes up the majority of activity on the bands these days.
Of course there are naysayers who claim these aren’t personal enough to be “real radio” but these guys are quickly fading away. Their complaints are nothing more than the death rattle of a passing generation.
I think there’s a fundamental shift taking place in front of our eyes.
HF for the adventure of launching radio signals into the unknown to discover what echoes may return, and digital voice via the Internet to reliably stay in touch with like-minded enthusiasts around the planet who share an interest in conversation without the vagaries of propagation.
This combination might well be the new future of amateur radio.