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WA0TDA: Why nets are important
Although I grew up in a medium-sized city, at one point in my working life I moved to a small town of under 1500 people. I've lived in the Twin Cities metropolitan area now for over 20 years. In my travels and in my various jobs I have worked and lived or visited cities of all different sizes. One thing that seems to be common no matter where one lives is the need to become part of a community. Sometimes a community can include nearly everyone in town, as it does when you live in a small village. For most of us, however, we self-select our own specific communities built upon some common interest or experience. Thus, you may live in a huge city but be part of a small, dedicated community of people who are devoted to rock collecting. "Rock hounds" have regular meetings that include programs and socializing. And lots of rocks.
This, of course, is how amateur radio works as well, except without the rocks. All of us who are amateur radio operators share a common experience of having passed a licensing examination. Our activity is unique because it is all about communication. Those rock collectors have to go someplace to meet -- a physical address in a real room. Ham radio operators don't have to do that. We can be part of a community by having regular meetings at a school, church, or restaurant, but we have the unique ability to meet together on the air using amateur radio. When we formalize this process, we call the result a net!
“Net” is short for network, and in ham radio it means a collection of stations gathered together on the same frequency in order to exchange information. Within the larger community of amateur radio operators there are many smaller interest groups that coalesce into their own smaller communities. Activities like amateur radio in space attract a cadre of technically minded operators who make friends and exchange information through AMSAT, including AMSAT nets. Nets can be very local in nature as part of a club activity on a 2 m repeater, or they can be global on the HF bands or EchoLink. One advantage of meeting other members of your community on the air in a net is that you don't have to travel or worry about hazardous weather. Heck, you don't even have to make yourself presentable unless your net happens to meet on amateur television! Your radio club, like mine, probably has several different interest groups among the membership. These special interest groups support net activities on specific frequency bands, such as 1.9 MHz or about specific activities like ARES.
Yes, amateur radio nets are important to keeping our various communities strong. That is why I am so concerned about keeping the Handiham HF nets on the air. Even though there may be times when there are fewer net participants because of poor band conditions, the fact that people are making the effort to stay in touch is important in and of itself. Nets depend on people taking the time to check in, even if it is only to get on the roster. The entertainer Woody Allen once said, "80% of success is just showing up". I think there is a lot of truth to that. Just show up to check into the Handiham nets, and we will keep working on that other 20%!
For your Handiham World, I'm...
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Center Handiham Manager