I talked to a fellow ham a long while back about ham radio nets. This fellow ham is active with ham radio and a contributor to the hobby. He contributes a lot; money, time, time away from family, etc. So, why would a guy that is so involved with ham radio almost never check-in to a net? I asked the guy bluntly, as I do most times I’ve got something curious on my mind, and he said “so boring.” This may very well be true.
Nets are very repetitive both in schedule and by nature. Even though a net has different radio operators who direct traffic on the net, almost all nets consist of a controller, a scheduled time and channel or frequency, and operators who check-in with the controller who logs the contacts. Why do we do it?
My experience with nets goes back to 1995. We used local repeaters to run nets, and anyone within range would check-in to the controller directed net with their call sign, name, and QTH (location). Networking with other hams at a scheduled time and frequency allowed clubs and emergency coordinators to assess the reach of their equipment. This also gave clubs and emergency coordinators an opportunity to listen to who was out there in the field and active in ham radio. Before the internet was widely available, a good list of licensed hams was maintained by hand and rarely 100% correct. On the other end, field operators had the opportunity to check equipment function and assess how far their radio reach was. This was a great opportunity for everyone and local repeaters were very integrated into public service and emergency coordination.
Today, these activities are still practiced regularly. I think the net I used to check-in as a teenager is still on the same day as it has been for more than 25 years, albeit with some time changes and repeater hardware upgrades. I imagine there are nets out there that are longer running with exactly the same time and frequency.
We have more opportunities now than we ever have had before to check-in to nets. Without opening another can of worms that begs for argument and raises questions and causes all sorts of fuss from many people, I must say that digital radio and internet linked nets gives us more opportunity to network as hams than ever before. You can catch a net around the world at any time of day or night on any day of the week. So, with internet networking, why aren’t ham radio nets obsolete and why do we still check into them? It is simple. We practice ham radio.
Even though we can communicate around the world and never touch a radio, we still practice ham radio in all of the modes available and by any way in which we can connect. Both wired and wireless and sometimes both, we network with other ham radio operators to practice our hobby and make connections. Having nets gives us the opportunity to meet at coordinated times and channels to still do, fundamentally, what we have been doing for as long as I have been on the air.
Take the opportunity to listen to the preamble on a net. The roots of the net are spelled out in most preambles given before the net begins the check-in period(s). Almost every preamble will give the purpose of the net and the rules for networking with hams. Some nets are very tightly controlled and others are loosely organized. But, all nets have intent and purpose.
Whether you find nets boring or not is up to you. No matter how you find nets, there are long standing practices and purposes. Nets should be respected and I find them important as do many, many other hams.
Thanks for reading.