It turns out I’ve been a social media user (perhaps even somewhat of an expert) for almost 30 years, now. Time to update my resume.
According to this article, amateur radio (a.k.a. ham radio) is the original social media. Um, OK. Let’s compare and contrast…
The article cites these examples:
- Talking to people in England and Australia
- Using abbreviated words (e.g. BCNU = be seeing you in ham radio and when texting)
- Providing communications during emergency situations
- Using technology
- Thousands (millions?) of people can hear/read what you send in an instant
OK. There’s no arguing that they have some things in common. In fact, ham radio (Morse code, to be specific) had a speed advantage over texting in a demonstration on the Jay Leno show some 10 years ago. This report from Indiana University had somewhat different results, however, so your mileage may vary–mine would be embarrassing, so I won’t even bring that into the discussion. But, to be fair, let’s look at some of the differences that the report from Indiana University illustrated, if not highlighted.
- Ham radio requires a desk-mounted piece of equipment (and a long antenna that wasn’t shown), while texting requires a device that fits in your pocket
- Ham radio is somewhat more inconvenient (see previous point)
- Not shown, but you can send a text to many more people than you can send a ham-radio message
- A text can be sent in English (or any other language that you can type on the keypad), while ham radio messages are coded in Morse code. (Granted, you can also speak over ham radio…like a phone, for example)
While they have some things in common, they are also different in many ways.
I have fun with ham radio and I’ve talked to far-away places. For the past two years, I’ve used it to support humanitarian work in eastern Honduras. That I can string up a wire and talk to someone in Brazil without any additional equipment beyond the radio that’s connected to the wire, never ceases to amaze me, but is it social media?
I’ll settle for calling it technical communications.