I was driving down to visit my Mom today; and I had Joey and Cara (my kids) in the car with me. I had the Icom dual bander in scan mode, which happened to stop on the W2LI UHF repeater, which is located on the Jersey Shore. The repeater must have been in IRLP mode, because there were two gentlemen speaking on the repeater who, as my kids noticed right away, "sounded different".
These two gentlemen were Alan M3ELP who lives in Runcorn, UK, which is not all that far from Liverpool; and Ian G4ZPZ who lives in Dukinfield, UK, not all that far from Manchester. They were looking for Stateside contacts, and at the moment, no one was going back to them. I took the opportunity to say "Hello". It was different, speaking with Hams in England as we were driving down US Route 1 in New Jersey; and it gave my kids a chance to hear something other than the normal 2 Meter repeater fare that they usually hear when they are with me (and I have the radio on).
After the QSO, I got to thinking of all the stupid arguments that get started on e-Ham or QRZ as to whether or not this is "real Ham radio". And I think that maybe it crosses the normal lines and becomes a new kind of Ham radio - maybe "hybrid radio" for lack of a better term?
OK - we all know the definition for "traditional" Ham radio. Two guys get on the air, emit RF and communicate, antenna directly to antenna. No problems with that definition (hopefully).
Then there's one form of Echolink. Bob W3BBO and I get on our computers just about every Saturday and we chew the fat. Computer to Internet to computer. No RF anywhere. Not Ham radio - just two Hams shooting the breeze using the Internet. We could just as easily be using Skype or some other program for that matter. Echolink in and of itself does not make it Ham radio.
Alan and Ian get on their HTs, and get into repeaters in the UK, which are hooked up to the Internet. This gets them into a NJ repeater which is also hooked up to the Internet and I talk with them using my mobile VHF/UHF radio as I whiz on down the highway. Ham radio? Definitely yes! Traditional radio? No. "Hybrid" or "assisted" radio? Yes! Fun? Yes! DXCC countable? No.
And the fun part is what is most important. I can't understand the grumpiness towards IRLP, Echolink linking and newer technologies like that. Believe me, I have been called a curmudgeon and an O.F. and worse; but I bear no animosity or ill will towards stuff like this. However, I have to admit that yes, there is enough purist in me that I do cringe a little bit when I hear the term "QSO" used for Echolink conversations made via computer-Internet-computer, or for conversations made using that software driven ionosphere simulation program thingy. When there's NO radio frequency energy being used anywhere, it's not Ham radio - but the "hybrid" stuff is just fine by me!
As an aside, I guess my kids have come very accustomed to my love of CW. After the mobile QSO, my son looked at me and said, "Dad, you actually used a microphone!"
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!