[aprssig] The APRS Working Group????

Steve Dimse steve at dimse.com
Mon Feb 14 17:17:20 EST 2022

Allow me to tell the short version of the APRS Working Group story.

Sometime around 1994 or 95 Keith Sproul started MacAPRS, the first version other than Bob's original APRS, which would eventually be rebranded APRSdos. Keith made a deal with Bob to pay royalties. I don't remember the order of the other early clients APRS+SA, PocketAPRS, PalmAPRS, APRS-CE etc, but they were paid programs and paid Bob royalties. I never asked for Bob's permission nor made a deal with him to create javAPRS and the APRS Internet System. Bob eventually decided this was untenable, so he emailed me one day saying he had granted me a license. I didn't ask for it, I didn't want it, and I didn't accept it. But I also did not make a big deal of it because it didn't affect me.

Through out this time Bob would have an idea, and email us with changes he decided to make to the protocol. He expected us to implement everything he said. This was not a fun thing. Any time someone wanted to do some other sort of program with APRS that competed with an existing program they would be shot down. Also not fun.

The problem really came to a head over what would become UI-View. By this time the Sprouls had expanded their contract with Bob to include WinAPRS. Importantly, the contract specified WinAPRS was the only Windows program that could use the APRS protocol. Not just the only official program, but exclusive rights to the protocol on Windows, which Bob claimed he had the right to grant. So when Roger came along, he was treated quite badly.

Between this and the protocol messes I exploded on this sig in early 99. It is quite something to read, the archives are out there somewhere. It was very ugly, and I am not proud of the way I handled it early on. As one APRS user wrote "It makes me cry when I see my parents fight". 

With N8UR and WA1LOU as moderators me, Bob, Greg, the Sprouls (maybe others were physically there too but I think they were on the phone) met in Baltimore to hash it out. The Working Group was a way to give Bob some sense of control, provide him with a replacement revenue stream, but mellow his effects on the protocol by committing it to a document and making changes a group process. Most importantly of all it made him acknowledge he did not have exclusive control of the APRS protocol itself.

UI-View and most of the other programs that exist today would not have been allowed without that meeting. After we worked out the protocol spec, imperfect as it is, I resigned because I had gotten all I wanted, an open sandbox and a real spec. Bob never did much of anything with the WG after the spec came out.

Legally I think you would have a hard time restarting the APRS WG. The bylaws are here:


Stana is a non-voting member as secretary, John is admin chair and only votes in a tie. The spec requires 67% of "existing votes" to add a new member, and 75% to remove a member. You might get some of the surviving members to vote for a few new members, or get all the inactive members to resign so John could resolve a zero-zero tie to add new members.

But why? The APRS working group was meant to be rule by the elite. I brought this discussion to the APRS SIG and have encouraged the opinions of all users because I do not think that is an appropriate means of governing. So once again users, do you consent to rule by a different set of elite, or do you wish to have more direct input into the direction of APRS than the APRS Working Group provides? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

(would someone repost this, at least one person says they aren't seeing my messages, and I want everyone to see it. TAPR has submitted a trouble ticket to the ISP that handles the mail lists and hopefully whatever the problem is will get fixed.)

More information about the aprssig mailing list