Since everything seems to be IP based, telephone, internet, and now TV, and all it takes is one backhoe to spoil your day. If you look and even and modest sized government building or business for that matter, the sheer amount of communications or "traffic" is just mind boggling. Granted when push comes to shove, some of those communications are aren't important as others some are more leisurely. But either way, there is a ton.
When something goes wrong, a emergency director of sorts has to prioritize what needs to get through. Then that someone directing has to almost word by word take those messages to a ham who setup for this emergency and that ham then "handles" that "traffic" in almost a word by word translation to the other end where that ham takes those dictations to who ever is directing that end.
Doesn't this sound like a bit of a bottle neck? Two hams, one on each end being handed / and handing 3x5 cards of messages. Good-god is this the 1940's? Well on the positive at least side hopefully the really critical messages got passed to the respective ends which does beat the alternative of no communications due to the normal circuits being down. And in the end it's a ham radio horary because we look good and helped in a time of crisis?
I'd like to think there are certainly better ways do handle this 90 % of the time. This antiquated national traffic system (NTS) is a very good fundamental concept to maybe resort to as a last resort or when you need to handle traffic long distances to different countries. For county/localized based emergencies I think hams should be learning more about setting up emergency ad-hoc wireless networks. After all TCP/IP seems to be the building block of modern communication. If hams can come in and set up a temporary wireless data link of a decent throughput, in theory all of the normal "traffic" of the building can be routed over this wireless link in the temporary absence of fiber/telco lines/cable etc that the slightly inebriated backhoe operator may have severed.
From the Level 1 ARES training manual:
"Do not think about how to use ham radio to send the message - just think about the best and fastest way to send it".
Here are some good thoughts from Wayne Green, W2NSD from April 1987:
OUR 50-YEAR-OLD TRAFFIC SYSTEM
A message sent via the ARRL National Traffic System arrived this morning. It had to do with a coming visit from a Kansas ham. Well, that was nice-except the message was delivered three days short of a month after it was sent and the chap had visited a couple weeks ago.
How about it, you fanatic ARRL members, is constructive criticism uncalled far-out of line blasphemy? Am I a candidate for the lunatic fringe I'll even suggest that we're close to the 90s-and not the 1890s-that perhaps it's gelling lime to gel the delivery time down to two weeks on messages?
One would think that our advances in technology should somehow be usable to get traffic through within seconds anywhere in the country-minutes around the world.
I'm sure there is still a need for a message handling system that takes a month to deliver the messages. Let's see now, what would we use that for? What a wonderful system to have in place for use in times of emergency. right? And that's supposed to be one of the reasons for the National Traffic System, I believe. Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
When I got involved with RTTY back in 1948. I was impressed by the speed and accuracy of digital communications . We had to build our own converters at first , but as commercial equipment came on the market I expected the traffic handlers to go for it. In 1950 we had a RTTY repeater and network set up so any RTTY op in the Greater New York area could leave a message at an unattended station-complete with an acknowledgement of receipt. It seemed like an ideal system for emergencies and traffic handling.
So here we are, almost 40 years later, and we're still banging out messages with hand keys and taking near a month to get 'em halfway across the country- from Kansas to New Hampshire. Wow! Is it any wonder we have a shortage of youngsters interested in "enjoying" our hobby? Oh, we've made a little progress. Vfo's replaced crystals in the 405. Side from band replaced AM in the 60s. Repeaters replaced simplex in the 70s. Nothing has yet replaced the dull QSO, the traffic handling, or the DX pileups of the 305.
One thing modern business has recently relearned from the past - the customer is right . If you've read the business success and the excellence books, you know the most successful businesses are those that provide the products and services their customers want. They keep asking what's wanted-and provide it. Amateur radio has been particularly resistant to this philosophy, with the same results we've seen in business- imminent bankruptcy.
Even the most insular of amateurs is aware by now that all is not well with amateur radio. I'm not the only one pointing to our lack of growth-our geriatric membership--- our lack of technical progress in the last twenty years. Indeed, you don' t hear anything else these days-even from the ARRL.
Perhaps it's time to look at amateur radio as if it were a business- a nonprofit business, but still a business. Thus, if we're going to keep our business going we're going to need new customers to replace those who lose interest or die-or both. If we're not holding the interest of customers- and not attracting new customers in adequate numbers to stay in business, it's time to ask the customers and potential customers what they want that we're not providing.
One has to be deaf not to hear the chorus asking us, "Why Morse code?" Yes, there sure are a lot of deaf hams-at least as far as this emotional subject is concerned. They don't want to even hear about it- and there's no way you can get them to actually think about it.
The closest thing we have in amateur radio to a corporate organization is our only national society, the ARRL. This puts the onus on the League to provide us with guidance and leadership. The League got to be the one and only by killing off every upstart group that threatened their power. With that power is responsibility-and one of the major responsibilities of any corporation is to make sure the firm survives.
Corporate executives who turn a blind eye and ear to the firm's prospective customers would normally be ousted by the board of directors. In turn, directors who ignore the needs of customers, even over the advice of their executives, would quickly be replaced by the shareholders.
In the amateur radio hobby, the corporation is the ARRL, the executives are the HQ gang, and the directors are those you elect every two years in your division. You, as an ARRL member, are the shareholders.
I've talked with most of the HQ gang and I thin k they're by far the best bunch I've seen at HQ in 50 years. I wish I could say the same about the directors. Alas! Darn, there I go again, attacking the League. Or am I? From my viewpoint I see a serious problem and I have what looks to me like a simple proposed solution-one with which I think you'll agree, if you're able to think about it.
Let's go back to the analogy of our hobby and a business. If we want to keep it going, we have to provide services which in some way pay for our license to use public property: our frequencies. We've let our customer base grow old and feeble and have resisted attracting new customers. Am I being unfair to suggest there's an element of responsibility for the League to solve this problem?
The League is an $8 million a year business these days. That's about the same order of magnitude as my Digital Audio magazine, so I have a fair grasp of what it takes to run that size business. Businesses of any size have boards of directors (like the league). Since I'm on the board of severer corporations, including one projected to reach $1 billion in sales in a couple more years. I'm quite familiar with the responsibilities of directors.
Boards of directors are normally made up of experienced and successful business executives. They're experts in marketing, technology, financial management, and so on. And here's where I see the basic weakness of the league-a weakness that has kept the ARRL from providing our hobby (its business) with the leadership to keep it strong and healthy.
When you get your ballots to vote for your next director, what do you see on each one? You know what you see-a list of the ARRL appointments he's held. In many cases he's come up through the traffic system, so we know he's probably a true believer in Morse code for everyone. How many bios have you seen citing business experience-business success-including marketing, sales, financial, and ether experience which is fundamentally a part of a director's responsibility? We seem all too often to elect teachers, who haven't a clue as to how to run an $8 million business.
A business-savvy ARRL board would, I'm convinced, have started working years ago on getting school radio clubs going so we'd have the infrastructure to bring the league new customers. And they'd have kept current with Customer needs through surveys making the needed changes to keep the hobby growing-even including a no-code license.
The boards of corporations that ignore the customers find their corporations under attack by raiders. Indeed, with virtually no exceptions, recent corporate raids have been brought on by boards of directors that have let their corporations weaken to the point where the directors should be replaced.
In the ham field, the responsibility comes right down to you. It's the unwillingness of most hams to be involved with ham politics that has allowed so many hopelessly incompetent hams-good solid Morse men, to be sure-etc become ARRL directors-the biggest ego trip our hobby has to offer. Neither you nor your club has ever written to the candidates to find out if they have been successful in business-perhaps even with some experience as a director of other corporations.
No, despite my tone of attack, I'm really not blaming you, But I will blame you if you let this scenario continue. No, I have to say flat out that it's my fault!. I should have made this an issue long ago. Oh, yes, I did write about it a few years ago-but I didn't keep after you.
And you're like me. If someone doesn't hassle you, you forget. I did the same as you with the last ballot- I looked over the candidates-noted their years of ARRL service and myriad of appointments- sighed, shrugged, and tossed a coin.
The board elections are geared so there realty isn't time to get the business background (or lack of it) into print in 73 between the time we know who's running and the mailing of the ballots. One of these days we may get amateur radio set up so we're able to actually communicate in less than three months, but I hesitate to even guess when that'll be.
Tell me, if you were an ARRL director, would you think it important to update the National Traffic system by about 50 years?
II you agree and have some constructive ideas, I'd like to hear from you. If you disagree and can express your ideas in other than blind, emotional hate terms, please write. I've tried to get across my ideas on where we are and how to make things better now I'd like your ideas. I reserve the right to change my mind completely if something better comes along.