Over the years you’ve heard me utter the phrase: “Get on air and make some noise!”. It’s not an idle thought. The intent behind it is to start, to do something, anything, and find yourself a place within the hobby of amateur radio and the community surrounding it.

Since starting my weekly contribution to this community, thirteen years ago, almost to the day, I promise, this wasn’t planned, you’ll see why in a moment, I’ve been working my way through the things that take my fancy, things that are of interest to me, and hopefully you. From time-to-time I don’t know where the next words are going to come from. Today they came to me five minutes ago when a good friend, Colin, VK6ETE, asked me what inspires me, after I revealed to him that I didn’t know what I was going to talk about.

That’s all it took to get me rolling.

There are times when getting to that point takes weeks, I do research, figure out how something works, explore how it might have been tackled before, if at all, and only then I might start putting my thoughts together, often I’ll have multiple stabs at it and if I’m lucky, sometimes, something emerges that I’m astonished by. Today is much simpler than all that, since the only research required is to remember the people I’ve interacted with.

Last week I met an amateur, Jess M7WOM, who was in town. Until last week, we’d never met and interacted only online. We discovered that we have a great many things in common. A joy for curiosity, exploration, technology, computers and a shared belief that we can figure out how to make things work. That interaction, over the course of a day, continues to fuel my imagination and provides encouragement to try new things.

The same is true for a friend, Eric VK6BJW, who asked what they should do with the hobby after having been away for a long time with family, children, commitments and work. Just asking a few simple questions got the juices going and provided inspiration to start playing again.

Another amateur was bored and claimed to have run out of things to do. A few of us started asking questions about their exposure to the hobby. Had they tried a digital mode, had they built an antenna, had they tried to activate a park, or as I have said in the past, any of the other 1,000 hobbies that are embedded within the umbrella that we call amateur radio.

Right now I’m in the midst of working through, actually truth be told, I’m starting, Okay, actually, I’ve yet to start, reading the online book published at PySDR.org. Prompted by a discussion with Jess last week, I started exploring a known gap in my knowledge. I likened it to having a lamp-post in front of my face, I can see to either side, but in-between is this post, obscuring an essential piece of knowledge, how one side is connected to the other. In my case, on one side, I can see the antenna, how it connects to an ADC, or an Analogue to Digital Converter. On the other, I can also see how you have a series of bytes coming into your program that you can compare against what you’re looking for, but the two are not quite connected, obscured by that … post. I know there’s a Fourier Transform in there, but I don’t yet grok how it’s connected.

Recently I discussed using an RDS, or Radio Data Systems decoder, called ‘redsea’, connected to ‘rtl_fm’, in turn connected to an RTL-SDR dongle, that is, you connect an antenna to a cheap Digital TV decoder, tune to an FM broadcast station and use some software to decode a digital signal. It turns out that the PySDR book serendipitously uses this signal path as an end-to-end tutorial, complete with all the code and example files to make this happen. I actually read the chapter, but it’s assuming some knowledge that I don’t yet have, so I’m going to start on page one … again.

So, what has this got to do with Inspiration, you ask. Well, everything and nothing. Inspiration doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It needs input. You cannot see light without it hitting something, radio waves don’t exist and cannot be detected until it hits an antenna, the same is true for inspiration. It needs to hit something. You need to react, it needs to connect.

That is why I keep telling you to get on air and make some noise.

I’m Onno VK6FLAB