[aprssig] WB4APR SK

R Kirk isobar at verizon.net
Wed Feb 9 12:06:47 EST 2022

Steve, and all…  Maybe this is time to let APRS decline gracefully. Ham radio, along with most of us, are no longer spring chickens either. I don’t see APRS as thriving in the future regardless of its leadership or structure.  There are still a few fun niches but small position tracking is no longer unique. Every kid has a cell phone with most APRS capability. I don’t think the marvelous wide networking system you pioneered can go on for long. The question is whether to leave the system going as is, till every one eventually expires, or to pull the plug soon.
Are manufacturers going to continue to make APRS radios?Where are all those new hams? (We're getting pretty old & fat)Are you going to give your source code – to whom?Are the remaining hosts going to continue to make their servers available?Are protocols fixed forever?Is most of APRS just a weather network?Who’s left to track?Want to buy a buggy whip?

Bob KirkN3OZB

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Dimse <steve at dimse.com>
To: Ian_Wade_G3NRW via aprssig <aprssig at lists.tapr.org>
Sent: Wed, Feb 9, 2022 10:29 am
Subject: [aprssig] WB4APR SK

Yes, it is true. Amateur radio has lost a true pioneer in its transition to the digital age. I will certainly miss him. We often argued, but I deeply respected him. I'm glad I had the chance to express that to him unequivocally before his death. When he was diagnosed he was not expected to last 6 months but he made it two years, and it took covid to finish the job. He was tough as well as brilliant.

Bob did not want to make a big deal of his cancer and did not want sympathy, so he only told a few people. He did drop a few hints over the last two years though. Bob tried to get a group of active programmers in APRS to come together, but no one stepped forward. We talked about it, and I told him I thought it would not happen until he made his diagnosis public and involved the larger community. He did not want to do that, so I agreed to help as I could. I have control of aprs.org, and TAPR has the paperwork to transfer the APRS trademark.

The APRS community has some choices to make. I am no spring chicken myself, and I have no desire to assume Bob's throne on top of APRS. However I am not going to just hand responsibility to a single person. This needs to be a community effort and not become dependent on a single person. We need to use this sad opportunity to strengthen APRS. I hope people will step forward to form a group to assume the leadership role. I would like to see a non-profit formed with a real board of directors, bylaws, and open membership. But I'm not going to do it - collaboration is not one of my strengths either!

I am sure TAPR will be willing to help in any way it can, and a real APRS group should be able to secure a grant from ARDC (ampr.org) for funding itself. If you weren't aware ARDC, which has held the IP allocation since the beginning, sold an unused quarter of the allocation to Amazon for $108 million a couple years back, and has been giving out grants for worthy ham radio projects. 

This can be a beginning of a new era for APRS if a few people are willing to take on a lot of unpaid, under-appreciated effort. If that doesn't happen, I will update the aprs.org pages with new user-defined packet definitions and to-calls. I will not be drawn into discussion about protocol changes, new icons, or other such minutia. Other than housekeeping details, the protocol is not officially changing until an open membership group steps up and takes over. Without the ability to change, people may decide to implement changes unilaterally, which will not be good for the community.

Bob loved APRS, and he wanted it to thrive after his death. But for all his flashes of brilliance he was never good at creating a collaborative group. We tried to help him by creating the APRS Working Group in the early 2000s but he never did anything with it once we created the protocol and stepped aside. It is time for someone to step into his shoes and lead, or APRS will decline.

It is in your hands.

Steve K4HG

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