I’ve known Dewayne Hendricks for years as a fellow wireless entrepreneur but only recently had a chance to meet up. Just back from Saipan, he was on his way to speak at an IEEE conference at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. My son and I met Dewayne at Flaco’s Cocina where we talked about the FCC, entrepreneurial spirit, Buckminster Fuller, and ham radio.
Dewayne exudes two things that are in short supply these days—enthusiasm for technology and high performance standards. (Actually, high standards are always in short supply.) He’s spent much of the past 30 years trekking the globe, bringing broadband Internet access to users in developing countries (such as Mongolia and the Kingdom of Tonga), rural areas (such as Indian reservations), and other challenging locations (the Northern Mariana Islands). Think of Dewayne as a wireless IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent.
Dewayne first came to SIU for a chance to interact with futurist Buckminster Fuller at Fuller’s World Game. Fuller invented the geodesic dome (the world’s first geodesic dome greenhouse can be visited at Shaw’s Garden in St. Louis) and wrote the book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Dewayne ended up as Assistant Director of SIU’s computer center and is proud to call Fuller and Paul Baran (co-inventor of packet switched networks) his mentors.
Like my son and I, Dewayne got hooked on amateur (ham) radio as a teenager. While he pursues new technologies, Dewayne (callsign: WA8DZP) feels that too many hams are only interested in operating and not enough are interested in pushing the technology envelope. He was involved in early efforts to grow the use of spread spectrum in amateur radio, but encountered resistance. That reminds me of the CDMA debate during the early 1990s. When Qualcomm proposed that mobile phone operators use code division multiple access (based on spread spectrum) they were accused of technology fraud. Now there are 500 million users defying the laws of physics...
I was particularly struck by Dewayne’s take on amateur radio’s digital/packet data/Internet capabilities. Hams used to lead the adoption of new technologies; now they are playing with stuff that’s light years behind the commercial sector.
Which brings me to an idea. In order for amateur radio to grow, it needs to attract more young people. One way to do that might be to build a global broadband/mobile amateur radio Internet access network using spread spectrum technology. Perhaps the first steps would be to form a group to study the applications that are likely to appeal to young people; determine what is technologically feasible; and recommend changes to amateur radio service spread spectrum rules.
If that sounds like a wireless Mission: Impossible, then we better call Dewayne Hendricks.