[aprssig] APRS QSY

Steve Dimse steve at dimse.com
Fri Dec 29 19:20:17 EST 2017

I've gotten a couple questions about the QSY, leading me to dig back into the archives and thought it might be of interest to the wider community. I can't believe this was going on 20 years ago now. The aprs sig messages for that period are available from TAPR's ftp server in monthly files. The QSY began in October 1997, just after the DCC. If you are curious who the doubters were, this and succeeding months are the place to look


To put the time in APRS historical perspective, what would become the APRS Internet System, then known as APRServ, was a few months old. It was a PowerMac 7300 on a T1 line at the Miami Museum of Science and had a half dozen IGates scattered around the country. All IGates were one way, I'd release two-way messaging at the 1998 DCC, though we were already messaging over the internet between MacAPRS and WinAPRS clients. MacAPRS was in it's third year, PC users had APRSdos and the two year old WinAPRS; APRS+SA was also on the horizon. APRS was just beginning to get some respect in the wider ham world, for example MFJ was making a data radio crystalled for 145.79. Things were different, to say the least!

Here is the message that started it all, sent at the end of DCC after a few bar-table sessions between me, Frank Bauer, and the late, great Greg Jones. It is pretty amazing to consider that in a year, by the 1998 DCC, the QSY was complete in most of the country. This really was a key moment in APRS history.

Steve K4HG

From k4hg at tapr.org Sun Oct 12 14:48:38 1997

As many of you know, AMSAT-NA has asked that APRS move its operations off 
145.79; 144.39 is suggested as a replacement. Like many other APRS users, 
my visceral reaction was no way, we were there first, we need the single 
nationwide channel, etc. In order to foster understanding between the two 
groups, Frank Bauer, the AMSAT-NA Vice President of Manned Space 
Operations, submitted a paper to the Digital Communication Conference. 
Since I was organizing the Friday APRS seminar, the paper was forwarded 
to me. In a nutshell, the paper talks about why manned space ham 
operation is important, why they also need a single frequency, and why 
145.80 was virtually the only choice left to them. He closed by 
suggesting a compromise, but provided no specific offers.

I though about that a while, and decided to see how serious he and 
AMSAT-NA were about a compromise. I looked at the old SIG messages 
talking about a move, and compiled the objections, proposed a compromise. 
I was pleasantly surprised:  Frank upped the ante and is proposing an 
APRS/Manned Space Alliance.  I'll list the objections below, and how we 
address them.

***Begin Disclaimer
I want it to be clear I do not feel that I am "negotiating" on behalf of 
all APRS users. I have made it clear to Frank that APRS has no single 
spokesman, (if some proposed I be named APRS Vice President of Frequency 
Selection I'd run very far, very fast) and that APRS functions as 
controlled anarchy more than anything else. Likewise, this offer has not 
been approved by AMSAT, TAPR, or ARRL. I am making a proposal to APRS 
users, and hope to foster discussion and to reach a consensus. No deal 
has been struck, nothing is written in stone. I am posting this to inform 
everyone of the possibility of compromise and to hear your comments.
***End Disclaimer


1. "APRS was there first". True enough, and no way to compromise on 
this...APRS moves, no halfway solution is possible.

2. "MIR is dying, why bother". MIR will indeed be abandoned soon, likely 
before we can implement this proposal. This isn't about MIR, it is about 
the International Space Station (ISS), which hopefully begins 
construction next year. On Friday it was announced, at the DCC APRS 
Seminar, that Amateur Radio has been officially manifested by NASA for 
ISS. Now you know before the die-hard AMSAT guys know...cool, huh? Frank 
showed some nice drawings of the ham pallet, with exchangeable modules. 
Very very cool. You should have been there!

3. "APRS has not been welcomed on the space assets", or is "considered a 
second class citizen". This was voiced by several people when the subject 
has come up in the past, but is not really true. Yes, we were told to 
stay away from MIR, but this is not run by AMSAT-NA. On the other hand, 
SPRE and STS-72 were experiments where APRS was specifically encouraged. 
In any case, to allay fears, we will ask AMSAT-NA, TAPR, and ARRL to 
officially support any specific agreement we reach, and to acknowledge 
that both manned space ops and APRS are vital and exciting modes of ham 
radio that provide benefits to ham radio in general and the public at 
large. Furthermore, I asked for a guarantee of APRS experimentation and 
operation on future digital satellites, Phase 3D, and ISS. Frank provided 
his personal guarantee that APRS will be allowed on ISS (yes, we have it 
on tape), and he will work to get AMSAT-NA to commit to the same on other 
hardware, but of course that is not within his personal purview.

4. "Why should I pay to move my digi?" True enough. For most of us, a 
change will be a simple matter of turning a dial. The cost is born 
disproportionately by digi owners, who may need replace not just 
crystals, but radios, cavities, and antennas as well, since many use 
commercial equipment and may not be tunable that low. I proposed an 
APRS-QSY fund, most likely administered by TAPR, that will reimburse digi 
owners for their expense. I pledged $300 for the fund, and challenged 
Frank to match me, which he did. We will solicit funds from the AMSAT-NA 
and TAPR membership as well as the general APRS and ham communities. 
Commercial entities will also be approached, both for cash and discounts 
on equipment. Details of this system are many and will be worked out 
before we proceed.

5. "I don't want to go through coordinating another frequency". How many 
people are on 144.39? No one knows, but not too many. Until recently it 
was an AMSAT weak signal band. If there are some local users, perhaps 
they can be advised of the situation and the need for us to move, and 
even included in the reimbursement program. Also, after rereading the FCC 
rules at Greg Jones' suggestion, I find he is right, simplex operations 
do not require, and do not receive priority by, frequency coordination. 
If you have a coordinating body that handles digital simplex systems, 
then work with them, but for the most part, just get on the frequency. 

So where do we go from here?

1. Let's hear comments and suggestions. Please try to stay constructive. 

2. Listen on 144.39...if you hear nothing, and you agree with the 
proposal, put up a beacon explaining our plans. Besides establishing our 
use of the channel, it will also draw out any other users of the channel 
so we can talk with them.

3. If you have a digi that will need money for QSY, figure out what you 
need and what it will cost, we plan to set up a WWW database for the 
dissemination of the info.

4. For those in Northern California, can anyone put me in touch with 
someone active on the PBBS system running on 145.79 in the Bay Area? They 
need to be involved in this as well.

I think this is a great opportunity for APRS to gain visibility and 
respectability, not to mention a true nationwide channel which we can 
share with Canada. It also has the potential to make us look very selfish 
if we don't compromise. Please think about this seriously, and if you 
don't like it, try to come up with constructive alternatives.

Steve Dimse K4HG
k4hg at tapr.org

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