[AMRadio] Is AM a special case, or is it "just another mode"?

Donald Chester k4kyv at charter.net
Wed Jul 31 17:08:47 EDT 2013

A debate has flared up in some ham radio discussion circles, triggered by a
QST editorial, whether AM should be regarded as a "legacy" or  "speciality"
mode, or if it's "just another mode", nothing more than one more button to
push on a transceiver. If it's the latter, then what is the purpose of these
AM websites and mailing  lists in the first place? Why not just stay with
e-Ham and QRZ.com?  This discussion has not been heard on the air and
remains largely amongst what I like to call "cyber hams" whose presence is
visible on the internet, but whom you rarely if ever hear on the radio.

My take on the issue is that we can't afford to be "special" or
"exceptional" in the sense that AM privileges are granted only in a
footnote, permitting the mode to exist as an "exception" to the general
rules, as was proposed under the now-defunct ARRL bandwidth petition, and
presently listed in the non-binding IARU Band Plans. Were that the case, AM
could easily be eliminated altogether with the stroke of a pen or  the click
of a mouse, by simply erasing the footnote. AM privileges must remain firmly
embedded in the FCC rules as one of the mainstream modes of operation. But
to those of us who operate AM, there is more to the mode than just another
button to push on a radio. The present day AM community includes probably
one of the  last remaining vestiges of what has existed for close to a
century as genuine amateur radio. Amateur radio is more than just
"communications"  that we could just as easily carry out using a cell phone.

Equally disconcerting is the premise that "we must adapt to the 21st
century", a buzz-word I see of late whenever a topic like bandwidth
limitation, or plastic radios/appliance operation vs. home-building/vintage
AM comes up for discussion. In reality, adapting to the 21st century is a
strong argument AGAINST bandwidth limitation, since congestion on HF has
clearly decreased over the past 15 years or so, to the point that it's
largely a non-issue to-day, despite the inflated numbers of licensees in the
FCC data base. As to-day's high school kid would put it, "that bandwidth
obsession is SOooo twentieth century".

The QST editorial can be viewed at
ItSeemsToUs.pdf  The trigger mechanism was the reference to the infamous
bandwidth Docket 20777, which as originally proposed would have eliminated
AM on all amateur frequencies below 28.5 mc/s.

Don k4kyv

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