Software Defined Radio (SDR): An evolutionary view

Ham radio is founded on getting your hands dirty.  Figuring things out even when you weren’t taught how to in “school” (technical school, college, work, etc.)  Ham radio has been thought of as a hobby for anyone with an interest in using invisible signals to communicate over distances and creating and enhancing the devices that make that possible.

SDR Radio seems, at first glance, against the grain to me.  Like a distraction from the core goals and ideals of ham radio.  It seems like a spike driven between two people:

  1. Ham #1: the farmer who has taught herself how to create an oscillator, connect and match it to an antenna, and key it off and on, all the while listening for her own signal and, hopefully a reply, an a shortwave radio tuned to the frequency of her oscillator.
  2. Ham #2: the electronics engineer who went to college for sciences and math and knows advanced RF, electrical, magnetic, and mathematical theory.  She dedicated 4+ years of her life to understanding the abstract, especially intangible aspects of radio.  She is uniquely poised to pick up the SDR device and its code, extend it, hack it, and homebrew what she wants.

Of course our Ham #1 above is capable of learning the knowledge that our Ham #2 has.  It is just a gigantic hurdle that may often seem unobtainable.  It is important to remember also that both Ham’s skills are essential too.  As Calculus is built on addition and subtraction,  SDR radios are built on transistors, diodes, capacitors, and electricity and magnetism.  To maintain and grow our hobby we need both skill sets as a community.

With that said, I have my eye on SDR to see where it does open a door to new applications rather than supplanting the self educating Ham’s skills.  I’m looking for unique capabilities that it can provide to BOTH hams to open doors to new applications and understandings.  I expect many such uses will turn up and I will look to find the ones that seem to empower all Hams

I will call out SDR applications and implementations that may be gateways for all hams at in the SDR category.