Annoyed by spam? Offended by drooling online porno-pimps? Tired of stupid commercial Web sites that put stylistic frippery and banner ads ahead of content? Bugged by pop-up windows? Who isn't?
The Internet is sick, just as ham radio was sick back in the years after the First World War, when bad amateur operators and lawless commercial stations fought for control of the airwaves. The good hams --- who sought to use radio for fun, learning, public service, and emergency disaster aid --- were getting drowned in the noise
Hiram Percy Maxim (call sign W1AW, "The Old Man" and founder of the American Radio Relay League) discovered the answer, or actually, a couple of answers. The Wouff-Hong is a mystical object of unspeakable terror, "amateur radio's most sacred symbol" which "stands for the enforcement of law and order in amateur operation." Its partner, the Rettysnitch, "is used to enforce the principles of decency in operating work." Physically, the Wouff-Hong looks like a couple of rough chunks of wood banded together in a forked configuration; the Rettysnitch is a pointy metallic probelike device. Their method of use is too gruesome and horrible to describe.
OK, for the unromantic realists who haven't yet understood: they were jokes. But what the Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch stood for was real. There was no technological way to keep abusers off the air, and there were no governmental regulations that could be enforced. But if social pressures could be generated and brought to bear, there was a chance. If decent hams refused to tolerate or talk (telegraphically speaking) to rotten ones, the bad eggs would learn to clean up their acts. If violating the rules was shameful, and if violators were exposed whenever they were identified, then even the lids who lacked any sense of propriety would hesitate before interfering with legitimate amateurs.
Where are the Internet's Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch now, in our time of desperate need?
Thursday, July 19, 2001 at 16:52:02 (EDT) = Datetag20010719