Should ros be removed rom ships


Dennis Smith

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Aug 24, 2002
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Hi All,

My question is , do modern Sat Com systems prove better than the old system of morse. I personally have my doubts. Morse was international, "Q" Codes were the be all and end all, any R/O could communicate with any nationality using these codes.

More important than that is , who repairs the radar, who knows the radar regs. Who repairs and maintains the sat com....

I have been on 3 ships where we have been stopped at sea and the sat com aerial has been pointing at the funnel. The ship can`t move, so the only option is Morse to establish any comms.
The thing that worries me is that now there is no one able to communicate in a total breakdown in comms.


Sorry everyone - I`ve got a bee in my bonnet


best wishes and rgs

Dennis

Parks speak to me!!!
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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Dennis, I wouldn't say you have a bee in your bonnet at all. Like it or not, Morse is history, but modern replacements are not always the answer.

Modern regulations require a very elaborate array of communication devices. They vary quite a bit, depending on the ship's range of operation. Naturally, the operators are supposed to know all about working them.

The reality is rather different. If you go to sites such as the US Coast Guard, the Australian Marine Safety Authority and other similar agencies in advanced nations, you will find lists of ships detained as unfit for sea. Many of these are detained because of the inability of crews to use radio equipment. In some cases the equipment itself doesn't work.

Modern radios can be worked by any idiot who can press a "send" button and some idiots do. I have been told privately by Australian seamen that in certain waters the emergency channel is full of the sound of crews exchanging racial abuse. It's not a pretty picture.

The task of getting things up to scratch largely rests with what is called the Port State Controls, of which I've given examples. By using the right of a nation to control ships entering its ports, they try to make up for the sloppy practices of crews and owners. It's an endless battle. In Australia we have recently noted an improvement in the standard of visiting ships but a decline in crew quality.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Dennis,

Sorry, I've been radio silent for a while. It was a holiday weekend here.

I'm with you. I abhor the complete abandonment of older technology in many instances when newer technology is more convenient. In my opinion, Morse code should continue to be taught to R/Os and HAMs and should continue to be a requirement for a license (like it used to be until recently). There are instances where, as you mentioned, the newer technology fails.

I have a similar gripe with the disappearance of "Paddles" aboard aircraft carriers. In the old days, the LSOs would indicate glideslope to pilots landing their aircraft on deck with large, coloured "paddles." With the general use of the Fresnel lens landing system, LSOs no longer have the capability of using non-electronic means of bringing aircraft aboard. What do you do during a complete electrical casualty, like when the ship is subjected to an EMP? My personal preference would be to not forget the older technology as you embace the new...especially when the older technology remains useful as a back-up.

Oh, well..what are you going to do? Smarter minds than mine made the decision to stop teaching the sextant, MoBoard, Morse code, and any number of other archaic navigational/communication methods. They must know something I don't. Or, they have greater faith in the technology than I.

I'm paid to put state-of-the-art combat systems aboard ships. They sure do cost a lot more money than a grease pencil and sheets of Plexiglas. Maybe that's why the old systems are no longer welcome...not much profit potential. Maybe, like just about everything else, the decision to trash the older ways was made because of money.

Humourous aside...I was watching the film, "Panic Room," last night, where a mother and daughter are trapped inside a strong room, with murderous thieves outside preventing their escape. At one point, the daughter grabs a flashlight and blinks "SOS" out a small aperture to the outside, hoping to grab the attention of a neighbor. The mother asks her where she learned how to Morse "SOS" and the daughter replied simply, "Titanic." I thought this was funny, because I don't remember hearing "SOS" in "Titanic." Now, if she had only said, "Ghosts of the Abyss"....

73,
Parks
 

Dennis Smith

Member
Aug 24, 2002
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Dave, Parks,
Thanks very much for the replies, It was a public holiday here in the U.K. when I wrote the post and I must admit I wasn`t sober. However, I stick by what I said and would like to thank you both for the back up.
I appreciate that morse is now gone (I`m sad about that - it took an awful lot of practice to get to 30 words per min.). My main problem is maintenance. When I was made redundant in 1989 I held every qualification that was available to a sea going electronics officer in the U.K. - ie.

My r/o`s ticket
Radar maintenance ticket
An ARPA certificate
ENAM certificate (Electronics navigational aid maintenance)
and a British HND in Marine Electronics (Higher National Diploma)

There was no other ticket/qualification I could take, I worked damn hard for those qualifications and I thought (stupidly) I would now be able to continue my career until when ever. I knew morse was going to die but I was assured by employers that now I had the extra qualifications I would be safe, because the maintenance standards would increase, not decrease.
The ships I sailed on after getting the qualifications were all sat com equiped which I thought was great, I could work on deck, in the engine room or wherever, and I did. My work load increased 3 fold, but it was great, I loved it.Then it all went to a bag of rags when on one ship I was on had sever electrical problems (no electician aboard, due cut backs and they had an ERO aboard). I managed to keep everything going until we made port, where I was to be relieved, but on my relief day the guy turned up and found me up the foremast changing lamps (NOT BULBS - THEY GROW INTO FLOWERS), he asked if he was expected to do this work, I said "Yes" and he got straight back in the Taxi and went home. The guy who eventually relieved me was a second mate with an R/T ticket, no maintenance qualifications at all.
Yes I am bitter, I spent nearly 5 years in college getting the qualifications to make me employer friendly, but all I did was price myself out of the market, the annoying thing is that it was the employers who pushed me to gain these extra qualifications.

Still got a bee in my bonnet!!!!

73`s TUSEEU

Bst Wishes and Rgds

Dennis
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Dennis,

Are you on the R/O mailing list? I copied the following exchange today that has a certain relevence to this topic:

<font color="#000066">OM,

I've just read your web page on The Institute article "Signing off : latest technology replaces Morse code"

Your remarks concerning Morse Code strike a responsive chord, but I'm moved to comment because I don't feel that this issue has been shown in the most clear perspective.

In order to save time, I'll intersperse my comments with your original text, Internet style.

> Thus, we see another clear indication that the maritime community
> has, with good reason, abandoned the use of Morse code.
> Furthermore, that "good reason" appears to be rooted firmly in the
> desire to save lives and the views of the experts that Morse code is
> an "insufficent" means of communication in emergency situations.

No offense, but I feel you've got the cart before the horse here. The maritime community abandoned Morse because it was cheaper to substitute automatic alarms and satellite-based location for human operators that ship owners had to pay every month. The initiative did not come from the Coast Guard, but from the shipping industry.

> This deflates "Morse Myths" such as "Morse always gets through."
> and "Morse is important for emergency communications." which are
> often invoked in an attempt to "justify" forcing Morse code on all
> hams, whether they wish to learn and use it or not.

Let me illustrate with an analogy: I chose this one for a reason that will be apparent shortly.

I'll confess, right up front, that there's a bid of the curmudgeon in any Extra class like me. I was a soldier once: I crawled under the barbed wire, and my impulse is to make the newcomers crawl under it, too.

That said, I'll also add that crawling under barbed wire teaches valuable lessons to soldiers, and learning Morse can teach valuable lessons to hams. The code requires a discipline and dedication that experienced leaders in all walks of life will appreciate, and we're in need of other options if we don't have Morse.

> Morse code is no longer a part of any credible emergency
> communications plans ... the maritime services were the last
> "holdout." Yes, amateurs use Morse, but only for recreational
> reasons. No known governmental emergency management agency, public
> safety agency, or private relief agency such as the Red Cross,
> Salvation Army, etc. (our primary "customers" when we're providing
> emergency communications assistance) places any reliance on or plans
> to use Morse code in its emergency communications plans. Thus, no
> need exists for a cadre of Morse-trained amateurs willing and ready
> to step in a a moment's notice to "save the world from disaster with
> Morse code."

With respect, I disagree: no competent emergency planner would ever disregard a tool that is in place and usable. It may not be his first line of defense, but it should be a part of any credible plan where the equipment and expertise is available.

Morse code is also a part of day-to-day communications both inside and outside the military. Consider:

1. The U.S. Navy still employes Morse Code, both for radio and signal(light) communications. Lights are, for obvious reasons, extremely hard to detect, and radio operators find Morse to be a useful tool both for maximizing bandwidth use and for informal or H&W traffic.

2. U.S. Intelligence agencies still hire, train, and support large groups of employees for intelligence gathering systems based on Morse, since guerilla forces of all stripes and colours find the low cost, low weight, low battery drain, and low profile of Morse to be useful.

3. Many fire services still require Firefighters to learn American Morse, since fire alarm boxes all contain morse code keys and sounders, and the apparatus is in place and available in any fire alarm box, to any Firefighter. It's a lot cheaper to give them firebox keys than two-way radios, and cellular channels get overloaded very quickly during any wide-scale emergency.

In short, Morse code still plays a part in emergency and ordinary communications used by many different players.

> Amateur Radio is still an important part of the emergency
> communications plans of such "customers" however. They simply want
> and need more modern and efficient services, such as tactical voice
> using VHF/UHF FM (for local work) or HF SSB (for medium-long range
> work) and accurate, high-speed digital data transfer and messaging
> services such as packet radio and perhaps remote access to the
> internet and/or their own computer systems.

Well, they may WANT "more modern and efficient" services, but they NEED something that WORKS. In disasters, our "customers" have to be concerned with getting the message through, not with how it's done:

1.For local communications, yes, FM is fine. So was AM, before FM became popular. CW never competed with voice in local use.

2.HF SSB is not, IMNSHO, reliable for medium or long range work. Experience DX'ers will tell you that big amplifiers and big skyhooks are the entry price to using SSB for reliable communications: despite advances in receiver design, SSB *STILL* requires high power and high towers to be reliable. It's not practical to run a KW on battery power, to set up beams in field locations (especially during hurricanes), nor to expect every ham in every corner of the world to honor requests for the clear channels that reliable SSB must have.

3. I'll defer to others on the data speed question: AFAIK, 1200 bps is still the accepted standard for amateur packet on VHF, with 9600 capability a distant second. Perhaps times have changed in the few years since I used packet, but the complexity of computer based systems argues against relying on them in an emergency. In any case, HIPAA requirements would prevent the exchange of confidential computer-based patient data over the airwaves, since hams can't use encryption. You might argue that in an emergency, the rules would bend, but that's not the way the systems would be set up as a matter of routine, and it's not the way they'd be used in the field, where joining a computer to an existing Windows NT/200* network is beyond the capacity of most users, let alone ham operators unfamiliar with the network and unequipped with logon codes. To expect that hams could join together nodes of a customer's data network isn't a viable option when the maximum of flexibility is essential.

> In light of this, while we accept (and have no quarrel with) the
> recreational use of Morse code by any amateur who chooses to employ
> that mode, we believe that the Amateur Radio Service has a public
> service obligation (and a survival-based self-interest) in
> modernizing and eliminating the undue emphais on Morse code
> proficiency which currently exists in the amateur licensing
> structure and testing process.

Well, that's the heart of it. This might surprise you, but I agree that hams must modernize: however, the direction and extent of that modernization is open to question.

I'll cut to the chase: there was always an unwritten agreement between hams and our government vis-a-vis Morse, and the unease with which hams contemplate Morse's declining importance is a tacit admission that we've nothing to replace it with.

You see, during the times when Morse was the standard for reliable communication, ham operators enjoyed the use of some very valuable pieces of spectrum, in exchange for our participation in an important, but largely invisible, agreement. We got the bands, and the government got a trained cadre of operators who could be pressed into service quickly during war.

With amateur traffic nets patterned EXACTLY like their military counterparts, with the simple technology of Morse, and with (let's be honest) no other option open to it, the U.S. military supported hams in their efforts to get, and keep, HF spectrum which was far more valuable then than now.

Times change.

Military electronics are now so sophisticated, and so secret, that technicians in the field have been reduced to board-level replacements, and troubleshooting has been limited to go/no go tests on custom-made diagnostic tools. The boards pulled from service are returned to regional repair centers, or to their manufacturers, for repair, and the average GI, even one trained in "electronics", is unlikely to know anything like the amateurs of the past.

It is a sad fact of military life that soldiers sometimes die in wars, and a sad necessity that their replacements must be able to take their place without retraining, without indoctrination, and with all due speed. It's a trueism that this degrades armies to the lowest common denominator of the societies from which those soldiers are drawn, and since American children are largely ignorant of the math, science, and physics considered routine when I grew up, those soldiers are ignorant in turn.

Ergo, the problem: we don't have anything to offer the military as far as I can see. The military, in turn, no longer protects "our" bands(remember 220?), and no longer sees a ham license as a significant factor in training decisions.

Ergo, the question: what now?

1.Do we eliminate Morse, and insist on a more technically challenging test? It's unlikely we could educate hams to the level of competence required of repair-depot technicians, let alone the engineers who design military electronics, and there just aren't enough candidates to fulfill the military's needs in any case. At least with Morse, we're still available for the slots that are still in place.

2. Do we abandon the concept of an Amateur Corps being available for military duty? What will replace it? Can Hams prepare for a future where we compete with deep-pocketed multinational corporations in bids for spectrum space? Of course not. How, then, might we claim a place at the allocation table?

3. Should we try to become a pool of operators for emergency communications? That's a thorny question. Despite Field Days or local drills, few hams are ready and available for an emergency, and their equipment is usually less transportable than they are. In any case, the Internet has drawn most potential young hams away and we're all getting old, and putting up dipoles or carting around generators during a Nor'easter is a younger man's job. Yes, this is Hobson's choice: draw more young enthusiasts by eliminating the code, but risk losing any value to those whom we've served in the past.

In short, despite the ARRL's best efforts, we as a group are, to be brutally honest, fighting a Rear-guard action against the bandwidth-hungry and well-financed commercial interests that want more and more spectrum. Merely saying that we don't need Morse is begging the question of how we'll show that we're ready for duty in emergencies or wars. In other words, what we DO need is a way to serve the public that will justify our spectrum assignments.

So far, Morse is serving that purpose, admittedly at a lower priority than in years past. To be frank, it's not about Morse, but about survival as a hobby: what can we offer to replace the code?

W1AC

So, Dennis, you're not the only one with a bee in your bonnet. Nor the only one who's searching in vain for an answer.

Parks
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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229
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Parks, I have the feeling that Ham radio is dying out. That's just a gut feeling based on the experience of a relative who holds a very old licence issued in the 1920s. In those days, it was a great challenge to make your own equipment, learn Morse at a high standard and contact distant stations. In modern times, he bought a fine set "off the shelf" and soon after gave up radio almost entirely.

Care to comment on the lack of satisfaction in using commercially made gear? Is that part of the problem?
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Dave,

In my view -- and this is only my view -- the new gear just isn't very "interesting." It's all transistorised and has so many automatic features. Like you said, you can't just build your own set anymore...a kid interested in the hobby today must instead beg his parents for the US$700 or so to buy a beginner-level set. Once bought, the apparatus is rather "sterile" -- again, in my view -- one really only needs to turn the set on and dial up (a misnomer, because the "dial" is really an LED display) the freq. There is the thrill of talking with distant stations, but to me the apparatus itself was half the fun.

It's also not as satisfying to talk with distant stations, either, as it was when I was a teenager. There are established hams who know and talk to each other on a regular basis, but with a general fall-off in participation, it's become much harder nowadays to find someone new to talk with. There's an increase in Oriental traffic, but they tend to speak more in their native tongues. English is not the global transmitting standard it once was.

Needless to say, the majority of conversations are voice. Morse is rarely heard any more, in my experience. It's just not the hobby it once was, I'm afraid. I flirted with the hobby, but didn't bother getting my license. My son showed some initial interest, and I did my best to encourage him and help him through the training manuals, but he lost interest after a while and didn't return to the hobby.

Parks
 

Dennis Smith

Member
Aug 24, 2002
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Parks'
No, I`m not on the R/O`s mailing list - How do I get on it?? - Sounds interesting.
With reference to long distance "chat" using the key, I remember being in the South China Sea and I had a message to send to our U.K. Office. I went through the U.K. HF station (Portishead Radio), I got through first time and the buzz that I got was fantastic, thousands of miles away and instant comms - magic!!
The comment of using SSB is totally correct, the power required is high and the problems with Tx and Rx is a pain, in as much that you may be able to hear him but he cannot hear you or vica versa. I`ve had to wait for days to get someone a phone call home for this reason (The person specified Portishead as the station he wanted - The cheapest route)


Dave,
I must admit I personally have never built a set myself, but from a professional point of view, having to maintain and repair the gear gave great satisfaction. On a ship miles from anywhere anything can (and because of SODs LAW) usually does go totally pear shaped. Great if you`ve got a Radio Spares round the corner, but a real pain in the butt on a ship with limited spares you have to make do and mend or invent, I`ve ended up arriving in port with some real Heath Robinson set ups on the radios and radars. So I would say "YES" you would get a fantastic sense of achievement by building your own system. Buying a new transceiver would definitely not work for me - Personal opinion only.

Best wishes and Rgds to you both

Dennis
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Dennis,

Yes, I was able to talk to my sister in the vestibule of the church where she was about to get married, thanks to a complicated HF relay. I was in the Indian Ocean and she was getting married in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I called up Scott AFB in Illinois on HF, where some airman set up a relay on a landline to the church in Virginia. Pretty cool in that day...nowadays, I could probably get a SATCOM call into her cell phone with no delay or atmospheric interference.

Parks
 

Dennis Smith

Member
Aug 24, 2002
166
0
171
Parks,
Yes I agree, links could be set up, but you guys in the U.S.A. had it relatively easy, HF stations all over the place, willing and able to set up link calls. Here in the U.K., the Post Office and latterly, the Home Office ran the stations, as a result only one HF station to speak of - Portishead. There was one other HF station but that was only set up for the trawlers sailing to Iceland and the Grand Banks, not much use from the Indian Ocean. And if someone specified a route ie. a coast station, I had to try (I must admit, not that hard though, when I knew there was no chance).
I agree again with the sat com issue - E.T. phone home anytime - no problem. Except for me, I had a sat com phone call home for my wedding anniversary on the 17th October, no problem straight through, I wished my wife "Happy Anniversary" and I got called all the evil names under the sun - I was 2 days early - WHOOPS, what a cock up. So as you will see I hold Sat Com responsible for all the evils in the world, if I`d been using HF it could well have taken me two days to get through, so everything would have been OK. The rub came when I worked out the cost of said phone call - about $50 (See, I can use the $ key), 3 minutes of Hell and $50 wasted - what a bummer.

Best rgds - BCNU

Dennis
 
May 8, 2001
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>>>Now, if she had only said, "Ghosts of the Abyss"....<<< Ha ha ha ha.
smile.gif

Hmmmmmmm.... I... uh.....hmmmmm......
10-4, I'll be 10-7 at this time.

Charlie
Ocean
Lincoln
Lincoln
Edward
Edward
Nora
wink.gif
 
May 3, 2005
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>>In my view -- and this is only my view -- the new gear just isn't very "interesting." It's all transistorised and has so many automatic features. Like you said, you can't just build your own set anymore...a kid interested in the hobby today must instead beg his parents for the US$700 or so to buy a beginner-level set. Once bought, the apparatus is rather "sterile" -- again, in my view -- one really only needs to turn the set on and dial up (a misnomer, because the "dial" is really an LED display) the freq. There is the thrill of talking with distant stations, but to me the apparatus itself was half the fun.<<

Amateur Radio has gone that way....I am one of the old school vintage who started out by building my own "rigs"..such as Heath Kits.. but I wouldn't even attempt to build something like a modern transceiver...and some are available for as low as $150.

For how to really build a transmitter, read "Going Mobile the Easy Way" in the June, 1960 issue of "CQ-The Amateur Radio Journal." LOL.
 

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