Caught this flashback from the February 1986 edition of the Western Michigan Packet Radio Association newsletter. Written by Phil Karn, KA9Q it’s interesting as a historical waypoint, but also prescient given that Karn now presides over an organization that has been doling out funds to build the digital network that hams still aren’t willing to finance…

Amateur Psychology - Food for Thought

by Phil Karn, KA9Q

Here’s another thing to keep in mind while discussing the merits of different ways to build amateur packet radio networks.

The average amateur is very individualistic. It is much more difficult to get him to contribute to a joint effort resulting in a shared system than it is for him to buy another piece of hardware for his shack. AMSAT sees this all the time; the same person who gladly forks over $2000 for an HF KW linear he hardly needs balks at buying a $100 share a communications satellite that will likely do far more for his communications capability. The linear he can park in his shack, twiddle the knobs and show off to his friends. The closest he ever gets to the satellite is a picture in the AMSAT Satellite Journal; it isn’t truly “real” to him.

What this says to me is that a network design philosophy that puts the lion’s share of the “smarts” out in the “network” (as opposed to the amateur’s shack) is going to rub against the grain of most amateurs; they won’t support it. Oh, they’ll all say they want it alright, until you ask them to kick in extra money to help support it. Given how much money most hams have invested in RF hardware just to avoid paying the telephone company, I suspect you’ll find it easier to sell him a more expensive box than it’ll be to sell him a cheap box that requires a bigger membership fee to talk beyond his own backyard.