Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Missing Link?

My wife and I had dinner at our neighbors’ house and our host mentioned that he has made it his mission to clear out all of the clutter in his home. The task has become somewhat of an archeological dig as he pulls out relic upon relic from deep within his closets.

One found object was his now grown son’s ham radio set – the radio itself and all of the “QSL” cards that had been sent to him over the years from people he had spoken to from all over the world.

Having gone to sleep-away camp as a kid, I remembered the camp’s ham radio shed and how such cards took up virtually every available inch of wall space within it. These cards with their official call signs and operator numbers were proudly displayed for all to see. One couldn’t help but be impressed by the collection of messages from the USSR, China, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

The ham radio operator actually chatted with the sender of each and every one of them!

It suddenly dawned on me:

Was connecting with ham operators from around the world back then much different than connecting with people on FaceBook or Twitter today? Were QSL cards much different than “Friends” or “Follower” lists?

Can you think of any other antecedents of today’s social networks?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until then, over and out.


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  1. Web 2.0 did not create anything new, just made the tools we already had more "social."

    Here's a post I did about two years ago that covers a bunch more similarities:

  2. You're right, Alan. There are a great many analogues between what we do now and what we did then. There's nothing new about making connections.

    I do think, though, that the collecting of QSL cards by ham radio operators was the closest thing to collecting or following friends on FaceBook and Twitter. CBers didn't do that.

  3. I think my pre-social networks experience as a kid was having penpals all over the world. :)