About Zero Retries (and N8GNJ)
If you see something interesting mentioned in Zero Retries and would like to search all the Zero Retries “Back Issues”, just click:
All previous issues of Zero Retries are available without restriction (no paywalls).
For some background, Zero Retries 0000 was the Introduction Issue.
Zero Retries 0026 and Zero Retries 0027 were a 2021 Year End Review of Zero Retries.
Concurrent with every fifteenth (formerly, every tenth) issue of Zero Retries, I publish an Omnibus of “Zero Retries Interesting” projects, etc. The most recent Omnibus was Zero Retries 0090 Omnibus of Zero Retries Interesting Information published on 2023-03-17.
Relevant and interesting quotes:
The Universal Purpose of Ham Radio is to have fun messing around with radios - Bob Witte K0NR.
Ultimately, amateur radio must prove that it is useful for society - Dr. Karl Meinzer DJ4ZC.
We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities! - Pogo.
Nothing great has ever been accomplished without irrational exuberance - Tom Evslin.
Irrational exuberance is pretty much the business model of Zero Retries Newsletter - Steve Stroh N8GNJ.
Amateur Radio is literally a license to experiment with radio technology! - Steve Stroh N8GNJ
What’s life without whimsy? - Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
The former description of Zero Retries that was included with every issue was:
Zero Retries is a unique, quirky little highly independent, opinionated, self-published newsletter about technological innovation in Amateur Radio, for a self-selecting niche audience, that’s free (as in beer) to subscribe.
It’s now distilled down to:
Zero Retries is an independent newsletter promoting technological innovation in Amateur Radio, and Amateur Radio as (literally) a license to experiment with radio technology.
Zero Retries began publishing in July, 2021 and is published every Friday at 15:30 Pacific. For an overview of the genesis and goals of Zero Retries, see Zero Retries 0000 - The Introduction Issue.
In Zero Retries, I try to highlight some of the incredible technological innovation that is occurring in Amateur Radio in the 2020s. It was created to try to offset the “same old, same old” perspective of “the Amateur Radio Publishing Industrial Complex” that hides most of its content behind paywalls, and on the rare occasion it features an innovation in Amateur Radio, portrays it as a one-off innovation instead of explaining that it’s just one innovation of many in this era. One Amateur Radio publication is publishing a “nostalgia” section in its print magazine including advertisements for products and manufacturers who are no longer in business (and haven’t been for multiple decades).
The name Zero Retries is derived from Amateur Packet Radio where (like the Internet) a data transmission is divided into “packets” and each packet is tagged with a “checksum” that is unique to that packet. When the packet is received, the receiving station compares the checksum to the data received. If the checksum is correct (for the data received) the packet is assumed to be good. If the checksum is not correct, the receiving station sends a request to the transmitting station to re-transmit the packet (a Retry). The most ideal state of packet radio communications is that “Zero Retries” are required.
In Zero Retries, some “buzzwords” from Amateur Packet Radio are playfully used.
Request to Send is the Editorial section of Zero Retries, and is derived from the RS-232 data communications standard where one of the signals in RS-232 is “Request to Send” so that the Data Transmission Equipment (DTE) (modems) and Data Communication Equipment (DCE) (terminals) stay in synch because DTEs typically had small buffers. So, Request to Send is a playful way of saying “May I please have your attention?”. Prior to Universal Serial Bus (USB), RS-232 was the primary serial communications standard, including on Packet Radio Terminal Node Controllers (TNCs).
ZR > BEACON is Zero Retries’ “short news blurbs” section of news items I judge to be “Zero Retries Interesting” but not long enough (or not enough space for) a full article. In Packet Radio, a beacon is a brief “announcement” transmission, not directed to any station in particular.
Feedback Loop is a term from electronics, where a portion of the output signal is fed back into a circuit regulating the input. That seemed an appropriate and techie label rather than a mundane functional title such as “Comments to the Editor”.
Limitations of Zero Retries
There are four significant limitations of Zero Retries:
Trying to keep up with technological advancements in Amateur Radio is a “drinking from a firehose” exercise; there is so much going on that inevitably, some significant developments don’t get mentioned in Zero Retries because new developments occur continuously.
Zero Retries is primarily an email newsletter. The (current) publishing system for Zero Retries is Substack (see below) and Substack, mindful of the restrictions of large email service providers such as Gmail, limits the size of email newsletters to what those email service providers consider acceptable. There’s only so much room in each edition of Zero Retries.
Zero Retries content is generated by one person, though on occasion, content originally published elsewhere is republished in Zero Retries with permission or with the intent of fair use.
Zero Retries is written by an Amateur Radio Operator who has lived his entire life in the United States, with little real world exposure to Amateur Radio in other parts of the world. That’s not from lack of desire or interest to cover technological advancement in Amateur Radio in other parts of the world - I’d love to. Want to help with that? Please contact me.
The Zero Retries Unabashed Merchandizing Division
was started in March 2022 “Summer 2022” will start in 2023. It was going to be named something else that was popularized by a certain radio show about “cars”, but turns out they were smart enough to copyright that phrase. 🙁 Think of ZRUMD as a friendly garage sale, slowly liquidating Amateur Radio (mostly) ephemera to a friendly crowd.
Inspirations for Zero Retries
Inspirations for Zero Retries are almost too many to count, but it’s only fair that I try to cite them given the inspiration they have provided to me.
The name Zero Retries as a name for a newsletter was created by Budd Churchward WB7FHC for the newsletter of the now-defunct newsletter of the now-defunct Northwest Amateur Packet Radio Association (NAPRA) based in Western Washington, USA. I have many, hopefully most, of those print newsletters. I owe it to the memory of NAPRA and the original Zero Retries to scan them and put them online. More than three decades after my participation in NAPRA, both WB7FHC and I found ourselves in Northwest Washington (near Bellingham, Washington) where we are now occasional collaborators in various projects involving Amateur Radio data communications.
ARRL Gateway Newsletter - you’d never know that this newsletter ever existed (1984 - 1990) by browsing the ARRL website. It’s inexplicable to me that there’s no mention of Gateway there because Gateway was the newsletter that knitted the disparate groups, developers, and networks together and progressing more or less in unison during the early to middle years of the birth and growth of Amateur Packet Radio. Each biweekly issue brought interesting, useful, and often actionable news about Amateur Packet Radio.
It’s not quite the same publication as it was in the glory days of Packet Radio, but the TAPR Packet Status Register newsletter (1982 - present) was a profound influence on me. I wrote several articles for PSR, and was very briefly an editor. I used one article I wrote for PSR as a writing sample in my application for a columnist position, and that position changed my life.
It’s almost two decades since the last issue, but David Isenberg’s The SMART Letter was another profound influence to me on what, and how good, a newsletter with a solo, profoundly competent voice could be. Isenberg was famously the author of a profound essay called The Rise of the Stupid Network which foretold the rise of the Internet and the inevitable decline of the Public Switched Telephone Network - PSTN (as the be-all-and-end-all of telecommunications). The SMART Letter illustrated to me just how much influence one voice can have.
Boardwatch Magazine was a profound inspiration, and I unexpectedly became a columnist for Boardwatch. My Wireless Data Developments column launched my professional writing career. In particular, Editor Rotundus Jack Rickard’s editorials and his skewer, don’t suffer the foolish folks that were ill-advised but wrote to Boardwatch anyway were absolutely inspirational on how effective (and fun) an independent publication could be. Rickard’s replies to such folks were practically poetry. Boardwatch was one of the few publications where the ads were as informative and interesting as the editorial content. (Byte was another.)
Micro Cornucopia was the epitome of a publication with narrow niche, but diving very deep into that niche. I discovered Micro C less than two years before Editor David Thompson decided to fold it. Micro C was simultaneously an inspiration for how much one person could accomplish with an independent publication… and the dangers of one person becoming too successful with an independent publication (it takes over your life).
Jerry E. Pournelle (Users Column / Computing at Chaos Manor) and Steve Ciarcia (Circuit Cellar) were both columnists in Byte Magazine. Both wrote in a conversational style that I really enjoyed. Pournelle especially wrote about how he used microcomputers and along the way offered commentary about the microcomputer industry.
About the Editor
I live (very close) to beautiful Bellingham, Washington, USA (the City of Subdued Excitement). Bellingham is nestled in the far Northwest corner of Washington, about ten miles South of the US / Canada border, and about 50 miles South of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
My passion in Amateur Radio has always been data modes and other technology oriented activities in Amateur Radio. In the 2020s, I’m semi-retired and working on passion projects like Zero Retries and dabbling on projects in N8GNJ Labs. Although I’m not yet active in Amateur Radio satellites, to do so is in my plans. Ditto microwave (mostly networking). In 2023 my major focus will be getting more antennas installed, getting on the Amateur Radio HF (shortwave) bands, and a major secret project.
In 2021 and 2022, I was a volunteer on the Grants Advisory Committee (GAC) at Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC). I no longer have any involvement with ARDC, a condition ARDC required for me to write substantively about recipients of ARDC grants.
From September 2021 through August 2022, I was President of the Mount Baker Amateur Radio Club Digital Group (DG). I remain loosely involved in the DG.
In 2022 and continuing, I’m a Board member of the Whatcom Emergency Communications Group (WECG), a primary Amateur Radio emergency communications group in Whatcom County, Washington.
My other writing outlets include my personal Amateur Radio Blog N8GNJ.org and Superpacket, a blog about the big picture of Amateur Radio (something of a precursor to Zero Retries). There are other newsletters in development.
About the Assistant Late Night Editor
Jack Stroh, Zero Retries Assistant Late Night Editor (Emeritus), was profiled in Zero Retries 0031. Jack is now a Silent Keyboard (Zero Retries 0042) and prior to his death had retired from his role as Late Night Assistant Editor due to illness (Zero Retries 0038).
About the Zero Retries Pseudostaffers
When Zero Retries began, these folks encouraged me as I developed Zero Retries. I paid close attention to their respective blogs that occasionally featured “Zero Retries Interesting” subjects. Thus they were, for a time, named as a (entirely imaginary title) Zero Retries Pseudostaffer.
All of them remain trusted advisers, and I’ll always accept their call, email, and input.
Substack is an excellent platform for authors to create and publish email newsletters, including a well-developed subscription fee mechanism. I recommend Substack as it has proven to be reliable and consistent, and constantly evolving and improving.
Steve Stroh N8GNJ
Last updated 2023-05-03