On 10/18/12 10:41 PM, Jim Brown wrote:
On 10/18/2012 7:08 AM, Howard Hoyt wrote:
I think by our very presence here we are all amateurs.
Some more so than others. W4EF and Jim Lux are design engineers at JPL.
W4EF worked on that robot that landed a few months ago on Mars. N0AX is
principal technical editor of the ARRL Handbook and Antenna Book. There
are some pretty sharp guys around here.
73, Jim K9YC
The amateur and pro distinction has to do with getting paid, more than
skills. And, a bit about the consequences of not delivering or failing.
As a pro, you typically get paid to deliver something, and if the
something isn't of high enough quality or useful enough, eventually, you
stop getting paid. That said, there are plenty of people who are paid
for distinctly mediocre work, and even defective work; but, if you take
the entire class of "professional" people, in general, they are competent.
Professionals, because there's a business relationship involved, also
sometimes have larger consequences for a mistake. Call it a duty of
care standard. When it gets into wet stamping drawings, that's even
As an amateur, you aren't getting paid (in money terms). Typically, you
do it because you're interested in it, or it meets some other personal
need (in the F/OSS software biz, it's called "scratching the itch").
Since the compensation is sometimes internal, quality or competence
might be a driver, but might not. One might still do something, even if
you're not good at it. As an amateur, you might also be the world's
best at whatever it is, because you've spent so much time doing it, you
have a knack for it, etc
So I think the overall net is that amateurs have a wider spread of
ability, knowledge and competence than professionals do. To a certain
extent the top tail of the distribution will be a bit different: for
most activities, spending time doing the activity leads to better
performance, and if you are paid to do it, you can "afford" to spend
more time on it. WHile it's not exactly that 10,000 hour thing, it's close.
COmpare it to playing golf. To actually make a living at playing golf,
you have to have some minimum level of ability and skill, and the vast
majority of professionals play fairly well, some play extremely well.
The spread on amateurs is much wider, from duffers like me who think
it's nice when 1 drive out of 9 is reasonably straight and I break 120,
to incredibly talented people like some of my relatives who are scratch
golfers (i.e. they go around in par).
There are some amateurs who are literally the best in the world at some
actvities: Someone like W5UN or K1FO probably knows more about big
moonbounce arrays and amateur EME than anyone else. I don't think they
came by that knowledge because they were paid to do EME. There are
professional planetary radar specialists who are pretty knowledgeable
about bouncing signals off the moon, but I doubt they know all the ins
and outs of large Yagi arrays, etc.
For myself, I'm lucky.. I like radio stuff, I've been doing it since I
was a little kid (it helps to have a grandfather who was a ham and
father who was a ham and a EE professor). I got started on the 10,000
hours pretty early. And, over the past 30 or so years, for about half
that time, I've been paid to do radio stuff, and fortunately,
interesting state of the art radio stuff (from electronic warfare to
deep space telecom to radars to detect victims buried in rubble). The
other half the time, I was still doing engineering or software, but just
not doing radio (at least in a paid sense).
I work with a lot of young engineers, and from a skills and competence
thing, it's easy to tell the ones who have a childhood background with
the area. By the time you get to folks with 10 years experience, it's
harder to tell. Probably that hours in the saddle thing, again. You
have to have built an amplifier that oscillates, or a system with
terrible parasitic problems, or that was as deaf as a post, or that
exploded in a flash of light.
One thing I have noticed though.. people who are paid to do something
often don't do that exact thing as a hobby or avocation. The longest
wavelength W4EF works with at JPL is probably 20cm or so, and mostly
he's up at 1 cm or shorter. At home, though, he's working topband, at
1000 times the wavelength. Courtney, N5BF, used to do GPS receiver
development at JPL, but he just has an off the shelf GPS receiver for
his APRS rig, he works HF and does things like trying to do moonbounce
with a 5 Watt transmitter. He's doing nano/small-sat stuff now at work,
harkening back to his AMSAT days, but I'll bet he's not out putting
together an satellite station at home. I find that my ham radio
activity tends to be orthogonal to what I'm doing at work as well. I did
a lot more ham stuff when I was doing a pure software development job.
SO maybe there is somewhat of a "scratch the itch" thing
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