Although it’s only been 2 weeks since the introduction of Pokémon GO ™, it’s already a social phenomenon. The augmented reality video game, developed by Niantic for your smartphone, has received accolades for drawing gamers out of their homes and onto the streets to play. Maybe you count yourself among the gamers. Or maybe you feel a little left out because you don’t play the game, or have sworn never to play the game, or (admittedly you don’t get it). Well, if you are an amateur (or “hobbyist”) radio operator then this Pokémon GO article is for you!
It’s no surprise that amateur radio operators draw comparisons between Pokémon GO and Amateur Radiosport. If you haven’t been keeping up with the Pokémon GO hype, you’ll need a bit of information about the game. To play, you’ll need to download the free Pokémon GO app for your iOS or Android device. Players are called “trainers” and walk around their neighborhoods using their smartphones to discover and capture small creatures, called Pokémon. Integrating the app with data from Google Maps creates real associations with your surrounding environment. Trainers (players) visit PokéStops, which are local landmarks, to stock up on virtual supplies needed to play the game. Achievements are earned by leveling up, earning badges, and completing challenges. team in virtual Pokémon gyms. All of this happens while you walk your head around your smartphone screen, a skill already mastered by most smartphone users. Okay, now you know enough about Pokémon GO to sound like a desktop water cooler expert.
Now let’s compare video games to amateur radio. Radio amateurs operate their radio equipment from fixed and portable locations; from home and on the go. Although amateur radio in itself is not a game, it is amusing. In the findings of a study conducted by Readex Research for ARRL in 2015, the most cited reason for getting involved in amateur radio is “fun”. Survey respondents could choose multiple reasons for becoming a ham, and finalists included “to expand their interests in electronics, communications, or other technologies” and “to support communications in disasters and others. emergency room “. So, in a nutshell, people become amateur radio operators to advance their interests in (1) technology, (2) public service, and (3) for fun!
One area of particular interest to amateur radio is Amateur Radiosport – a general term for amateur radio contests and operating events that will earn you various achievements and awards. Take, for example, the National Parks Live from the ARRL (NPOTA) operating event, which celebrates the centennial of the US National Park Service. NPOTA encourages radio amateurs to use their portable radios from official park locations. Radio amateurs who are park “activators” are sought after by park “hunters”, who are other radio amateurs trying to establish radio contact with activated parks. Sounds vaguely familiar, eh? Pokémon GO has trainers who chase and capture Pokémon; and NPOTA has hunters who collect activations from national parks.
Similar to collecting Pokémon creatures, the allure of radio sport is recording every radio contact for scores. Hams use computer logging programs, such as online ARRL World log, to follow their radio contacts. Achievements are earned by the total number of confirmed contacts with other hams in the qualifying categories.
There is a calendar full of amateur weekend radios competition, annual operating events and price programs including the first challenge, ARRL DXCC, awarded for confirming radio contact with a minimum of 100 countries (“entities”). And, pop-up special event stations encourage hams to establish contacts with stations installed in lighthouses, on islands and at the top of mountains.
Radio sport is a tradition as old as amateur radio. In the early days of radio waves, radio amateurs recognized their peers for making the first radio contact across town, then across the country, and finally across the world. Today, this same spirit of innovation is found among radio amateurs whose signals travel at wavelengths considered by some to be unusable, or at extremely low power levels that require sophisticated software to extract the weak signal. High-tech fun!
While radio sport is full of fun and achievement, the side effect is that radio amateurs who participate in radio sport improve their own technical and operational skills and improve their station readiness. The competitive nature of radio sport encourages radio amateurs to assemble better radio stations, build more efficient antennas and operate skillfully on air.
I tried Pokémon Go. But I thought to myself, “I’m drawn to the touchscreen of my smartphone for the pleasure that is calculated by intelligent computing. In contrast, radio amateurs participating in a radio sport have more control of the game. Seeking and jumping are shaped by the station you set up, your operating skills, signal propagation, and other people who may be affected. ‘to listen. Already, for example, the main “Chaser” for National Parks Live has established confirmed radio contacts with 435 national park activations. Impressive, and it didn’t require any data charges!
Check out Pokémon GO so you can tell your kids or your neighbor’s kids that you, too, are fashionable. But if you are an amateur radio operator, and more specifically an amateur connected to sports radio, you know that the allure of the next radio contact won’t go away so easily. – Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, ARRL marketing manager, life member, ARRL member since 1984