Make FOSS Ham Software

Published 2021-07-23 on Cara Salter's Blog - Permalink

If you follow ham radio news, you might have seen a recent post to the EZNEC1 website. It gets a little long, but the important line is

On January 1, 2022 I will be retiring. I’ll be nearly 76 and want to spend more time at other things. EZNEC is and always has been developed, sold, and supported only by me, so all development, sales, and support will end at that time…

The following is the first bullet point in the explanations that come immediately after (emphasis mine).

EZNEC will be released to the public domain and become free of cost and can be freely copied and distributed. I do not plan to release the source code.

This line is important, because it means that not only will all support and development cease, there is no one who can take up the torch and continue development of what some would consider a critical tool for radio amateurs. This software will soon fade from relevance, and this is an issue that I’ve seen build for a while. So many of our tools are based on proprietary software that much of our hobby is beholden to private corporations and our hope that they will continue to operate in good faith.

One of the goals of every amateur in the hobby should be to increase the number of new amateurs joining us to replace the ones we lose every year. Having expensive proprietary software as the prominent requirement for running a quality station is exclusionary to newcomers.

As the most experienced members of our hobby begin to exit it, for whatever reasons, we must be prepared to move on and continue with amateur radio. When software is developed by a single person, as EZNEC was, when that person no longer wishes to keep going, and doesn’t release their code, the software withers and dies. This is part of the software lifecycle, but in this case there is no alternative to EZNEC that I know of. If you know of one, please drop me a message in my public inbox (found in the sidebar)!

When software is free, knowledge is free. Encryption and obfuscation isn’t allowed on the air, why do we allow it in our software?

  1. EZNEC is a popular tool to model antennas and their RF patterns. ↩︎

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