Monday, May 12, 2008

Hubble vs SMS Doesn't Make Sense

So I happened on an article on how SMS messages are significantly more expensive than downloading data from Hubble. This just really bothered me:

Why in the world are they comparing SMS messages with Hubble? Hubble broadcasts pictures of deep space, SMS messages are sent from teenager to teenager (Was that too coy? Sorry: person to person).

Hubble just doesn't make any sense. If they want to emphasize how ridiculously expensive SMS messages are per bit, compare it to OSCAR (Orbital Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio). OSCAR is a network of satellites launched since 1961 with repeaters in them. To use them, all you need is a Ham license and a hand held radio. I've been trying over the last few days and I think I might have picked up one of the beacons (Weak morse code vs noise is like 1% vs 2% milk). Getting a Ham license is very easy. There is study guides online, and the test is only 35 multiple choice questions and usually only $14.

Transmitting data through OCSAR satellites is not at all infeasible. There is a huge variety of data modes for radios ranging from computer-generated morse code to Phase-shift-keying to even more sophisticated means which are more noise-resistant. The idea of building a hand held radio with text input powerful enough to transmit on 2 meter for around $200 doesn't seem that far fetched.

Transmitting data through OSCAR is nothing more than the hardware (which they seem to ignore in their article) and the electricity. Remember that Ham radios are run off battery packs, so the power use is minimal.

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