[aprssig] Failed APRS?

Robert Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Mon Jan 19 14:21:08 EST 2009

I was just pointed to N5FDL Dave's "EMCOMM-U" and his blog entry
"The Failed Promise of APRS"
(http://tinyurl.com/7n79fb)   Here is my response to his


As the original author of APRS dating back 20 years, I have to
respond to your blog.

You are right!!!

You can imagine my frustration over the years at seeing how the
APRS concept has deterioriated by all kinds of issues that you
have raised.  Fortunately beginning in 2004,  I had had enough
and was able to break away from the APRS satellite projects that
have consumed so much of my time for the last 9 years, and get
back to APRS full (avocation) time.

Your concerns are right on!  In this hasty response, I hope to
show you how each of your concerns has been and is being
addressed, though we have to reverse a number of trends.  And we
must re-educate most existing users and all future users.

1) Fix the network!  See www.aprs.org/fix14439.html.  This
initiative began in 2004 and has shown a 2 to 5 fold improvement
in local RF network reliability.  Not only does it show the
technical how-to-fix the network, it establishes a new baseline

2) Transmit-only-trackers!  These transmit-only devices were
killing the APRS concept of rapid-real-time human digital
communications (APRS) by attempting to turn the national network
into nothing more than a vehicle tracking system. (APRS was
never intended to be a "tracking" system.  Please read

3) TRACKER MANEFESTO.  I have asked all manufacturers of such
one-way devices to include a copy of the APRS Tracker Manefesto
in their products to help educate users about the above topics
and to try to get them to join the "2-way communications
network".  I also encourge them to design two-way systems in the
future or to include speaker monitors for Voice Alert.

4) APRS Voice Alert and TWO-WAY communications for all mobiles.
We must be able to communicate at least by voice with all APRS
operators including those with TX-only trackers.  THe Manefesto
tells them to transmit their LISTENING frequency included in
their position reports.  APRS positions are NOT intended for
detail tracking, only for locating the comunicator in the APRS
network. APRS Voice-Alert replaces the passive 146.52 national
calling frequency for mobiles with the active pinging and
proximity detection (on the open road) for easy contact.  Far
far better than 52 and finding nearby operators.

5) Station and Mobile Attributes.  APRS symbols were designed
with at least EIGHT VISIBLE attributes.  8 colors displayed
these attributes by a simple glance at the COLOR of an APRS
station or mobile.  None of this is displayed by most new
follow-on "APRS" clients because most of them use simplistic
one-dimensional WINDOWS ICONS instead of
multi-layered/multi-colored SYMBOLS.  see

6) FREQUENCY OBJECTS:  Since APRS is supposed to rapidly
facilitate communications between operators, ALL APRS
digipeaters are supposed to be putting out front-panel objects
to the Mobile Radio operator that shows him the recommended
voice repeater frequency in EACH digipeater's coverage area.
Please see www.aprs.org/localinfo.html

7) Universal Amateur Radio Text Messaging.  APRS has had keypad
text messaging for over 11 years long before it became the rage
of today's youth, yet the rest of amateur radio has ignored this
powerful real-time communications capability.  We are reversing
that, by initiating a new initiative (see "Eclectic APRS" in Feb
2009 QST) and the web page: www.aprs.org/aprs-messaging.html

8) Smart Beaconing:   Too many people have been lead to believe
that APRS is a vehicle tracking system, and therefore that a
GOOD APRS network will provide GOOD tracking, and the smarter
the beaconing, the better the track.  This is IMPOSSIBLE on a
1200 baud channel never inteneded for detail vehicle tracking!
APRS is a two-way communications system between operators.  The
purpose of transmitting POSITION is only to inform others of
your activity status, availability, and approximate position in
the network.  NOT YOUR PRECISE position while moving.  Please
see the MISCONCEPTIONS web page under #2 above

9) EDUCATION!  We must educate.  Simplifying and fixing the
network starting in 2004, was the biggest step towards user
education.  By simplifying the network, shortening paths, and
getting rid of old legacy concepts, now we can finally educate
a) APRS is a 2 way system between live operators
b) APRS cannot support detail tracking on the national network
c) TRACKERS are ideal for special and LOCAL events on small nets
or other freqs
d) APRS is about COMMUNICATING with fellow hams, not pushing
one-dimensional objects around an internet map.  

Hope that helps.

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