Friday, June 5, 2009

Considering an Icom ID-1

My first impetus to get into radio came at the age of 12, when I was enraptured by the idea of CB and got myself set up with a rig and indoor compact antenna (later to grow into a decent 5/8 wave strapped to the chimney - once my father was persuaded to do the hard work of putting it up there). Looking back, I can see that this was a variant of the attraction that today's youths have toward Instant Messaging, Twitter and other social media. It was a way to enjoy conversing with others from the comfort of your own home (or bedroom), whenever you wanted, and at very low cost.

However, as noted before, my first interest in 'serious' radio leading to my UK amateur radio ticket came when I was introduced to the concept of packet radio. Thus, digital radio has always really been a draw. The computer is a unit of universal processing capability, and as we all know, the amazing opportunities it presents are multiplied by networking. Software is magic - within the medium of the computer and the network, I can weave any spell to make amazing things happen. I'm only limited by my imagination, and my grasp of the 'arcane knowledge' of how to wield all the available power and potential capability.

Now, the wired internet is truly a wonder in our time. Perhaps there were those who dared to imagine what might be possible if all the computers in the world were permanently connected together, but now we essentially live in those times. How quickly it happened, and yet how little we have yet to leverage of the sheer potential it creates. But I digress... Radio too is a perfectly viable medium for carrying signals, yet as I have already blogged it is disappointing that amateur packet radio has lost much of the inertia it once seemed to have. Of course, much of the problem is lack of data rate, and this is a bandwidth issue, which translates to both an issue of use of the available ham bands, and the design of popular radios. So, because 2m and 70cm radios are a cheap and apparently rather acceptable set of compromises for most amateurs, we have not seen much opportunity for those interested in 'speeding up' packet to really be able to hit their stride. This is somewhat less of an issue in the 23cm band, and so its interesting to see that at least Icom and the DSTAR system offers the ID-1 digital rig to provide better data rates on this band.

Looking at DSTAR in more detail, I'm quite tempted to add the ID-1 to my station. It offers something quite unique and interesting. I would definitely be happier if the whole DSTAR stack used in the radio was open source (including the voice grain codec employed, which I understand is included in the radio under license). Nevertheless, with the apparent availability of local DSTAR repeaters, this radio looks like it offers an interesting dimension, distinct from the other HF, VHF and UHF radios in the station.

That's the theory anyway. I think I'd like a chance to play with the DD mode (although my shack is perfectly fed by high-speed cable internet). I'd also like to play with the DSTAR global repeater network (even though I've yet to try IRLP).

A local purveyor of radios say they have sold a total of 3 ID-1s ever, which is interesting. There are other retailers in the city, and plenty of online retailers too, but it perhaps provides an idea of how few of these units are actually being used. Nevertheless, DSTAR is much broader than just local 23cm band simplex (that's the whole point), and so it doesn't matter as much how many radios happen to have been sold in your locality alone. Anyway, it would be interesting to hear directly from people who have bought this radio - what their expectations were and how/if they were fulfilled in practice.

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