Smol.net on the radio 📻?
What happened in the 90s?
When I was a kid, in my Mexican hometown I didn't have the chance to use BBS, Teletext or Ham radio. I read about those in books or magazines, but never actually played with any.
I could connect with a friend in the same city via phone modem to play games or to transmit files and later to the Internet at the huge speed of 56 kbps.
And more recently?
Radio broadcasting was always interesting for me, I started a college radio station in 2008, and we moved all the content to Internet radio and an emerging Podcast system. Was a nice hobbie, but nothing really reached farther than school.
In those years connection was limited by hours or data transmitted. Renting a server was many times more expensive, or you'd have to set up your own server. Now you have almost unlimited data in your home, or a decent amount in any city and highway in some countries.
'Sadly' today is really simple to rent a VPS for 5 USD/month, storing many gigabytes of audio, video, text or any digital text and serve it 24/7 on many protocols and formats, say HTTPS, RSS or any other.
With a mobile phone you can play almost any format, get a data plan in many main cities for as few as 10 USD/month or even look for a public WiFi Hotspot to connect to any end point in the Internet. A lot has changed for good.
Cell phone coverage in the USA
About 5 years ago I heard about Outernet (renamed later to Othernet), and I was intrigued again. The are (were?) renting a satellite slot to broadcast digital signals with files, Wikipedia among other cultural content, to a whole continent or to USA and northern Mexico.
You need to buy specialized hardware or adapt a Raspberry Pi, buy a satellite receiver, and pay some amount of electricity. Then in places without Internet you can have a WiFi repeating all the info received from the satellite.
Wikipedia - Othernet
Wild idea appears
In 2021 I learned about Gemini and SmolNet. The idea and philosophy behind is pretty cool.
Perhaps streaming selected smol content on a Ham radio transmitter would make sense? Makes me wonder.
Community Wiki - SmolNet
It's extremely inconvenient, unlike the current alternative, slow, expensive and geographically limited. At least an interesting engineering solution for a problem we don't have in big cities anymore.
I have been wondering this for a few months now. I have seen a Modern Rogue video where they had a HAM specialist on who demonstrated sending data using radio. That made me interested in using GMRS to try to send gemlogs to my father across town.
I've been trying to learn more on SDRs in general, and specifically Airspy, to hopefully help get a setup where I can use my phone to send him data, however I've only just really got into it so far. He's gotten way more into using SDRs to talk to people around the world, so when I get my tech license I'd like to look into doing it on HAM as well. I don't know enough about MURS, the only people that use it around me are Knott's Berry Farm's chicken restaurant, but it might be good to look at as well.
Some acronyms written out for anyone who doesn't want to go look them up:
GMRS - General Mobile Radio Service, one of the amateur radio bands, overlaps with FRS - Family Radio Service
SDR - Software Defined Radio - Essentially you took some of the hardware components of a radio, and made them into a software interface on a computer. Lot's of added functionality.
MURS - Multi-use Radio Service
Cool, if you have any progress keep us in the loop.
BTW in which country are you currently? I'm in MX, I think I should look first into the current laws for HAM.
There are ways of sending e-mail via APRS/packet data over VHF and HF frequencies through amateur radio. There are a few issues which you face such as the fact that broadcasting is not allowed under amateur radio licenced conditions. That rules out the broadcast to many aspect. However, you could always devise a method of requesting pages from a server which then transmit that as a data packet over RF. Throw in an identifier to show what was requested and you become compliant. APRS is worth investigating as it is a network of data which interfaces to the internet. The speed of transmission which can be achieved over these frequencies is not great. There is a reason that companies such as Alphabet are trying to use light as a transmission medium over RF for crossing rivers in the Congo. Though, smolnet is nice and efficient in use of memory so that may not be a concern and any smolnet access is better than none. Propagation can be an issue for the HF bands in particular with it fluctuating wildly as the Earth spins. I would be tempted to use NVIS to ensure consistant propagation over a 400 km or so radius. Although the working frequency will change as the planet rotates so you still do not get something constant enough. Perhaps VHF is the best way. Ranges should be up to 50ish km with a half decent antenna and an efficiently encoded data signal with nice bit error recovery schemes designed in.
Thank you for this valuable insight! =)
I have not worked with amateur radio in any way, so there are a few acronyms here to research first. (I have a background in electronics and did some research on radio-frequency transmission, but I moved to servers and Internet pretty soon)
I recalled hearing in a podcast about a similar use case with AM radio waves used to transmit data from humidity sensors in farmlands. As you say, it was extremely slow but reliable enough.
Pages I should read later:
Wikipedia - Near vertical incidence skywave
Wikipedia - Very high frequency
This is super interesting, have you tried out Othernet at all? Seems like they are suspended until next spring. It would be interesting to try out.