The Sundance Mountain Radio Association (Palmer Lake, CO) today announced the creation of the Things On The Air (TOTA) program. The radio association’s Need More Lists Committee spent the past year analyzing the effect of various “on the air” programs, including the Islands On The Air (IOTA), National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) and Summits On The Air (SOTA).
The overall trend is clear. The ham radio community used to be satisfied with the basic DXCC list (a list of countries that aren’t really countries so we have to call them entities). But over time, additional lists to be worked have been created. For example, the Islands On The Air (IOTA) was created in 1964. More recently, the Summits On The Air program was established in 2002. It seems that every year or so we hear of another “something” on the air program. Even the normally docile satellite grid chasers created a Walmart Parking Lots On The Air (WMPLOTA) event.
Unfortunately, this has created a miss-mash of programs with inconsistent and conflicting rules. The Need More Lists Committee concluded that the best solution to this problem is to fast-forward to the likely end state: pretty much everything can be put on the air. Inspired by the latest technical hype called Internet Of Things (IoT), the committee named this program Things On The Air (TOTA).
To be comprehensive and inclusive, the TOTA program is based on the existing Maidenhead Grid system. There are 324 fields defined (AA through RR), each having 100 squares (although they really are not square). Each square contains 576 subsquares indicated by aa through xx. So using the six-character locator results in 324 x 100 x 576 = 18,662,400 unique locators. Or, as the Committee likes to say, about 18 million locators. In North America, the six-character locator represents a rectangle about 3 miles by 4 miles. This raises the question of how many things need to be on the list inside a typical 3 x 4 mile rectangle. An in-depth study revealed there are a lot of things that might need to be listed in even a small area.
For TOTA to achieve the vision of being the “last list of things on the air”, it must accommodate an unlimited number of listed things. To start out a 15-digit serial number is appended to the 6-character locator to indicate a TOTA thing. As the program grows and new Things are added to the list, the 15-digit number can be extended indefinitely.
Here’s an example listing of some of the first TOTA designators:
Locator Serial Number Description DM79nb 000000000000001 Walmart Parking Lot DM79nb 000000000000002 Home Depot Parking Lot DM79nc 000000000000001 Leroy's home QTH DM79nc 000000000000002 Leroy's barn DM79nc 000000000000003 The big tree behind Leroy's house DM79db 000000000000001 Charlie's home QTH DM78lu 000000000000001 Pikes Peak Summit DN70di 000000000000001 Rocky Mountain National Park
When making a valid TOTA contact, the activating station must give a signal report and the TOTA designator: 6-character locator followed by the serial number (at least 15 digits but may be longer). The official TOTA list is currently be maintained on an Excel spreadsheet on Leroy’s computer but a HDFS database is under construction to handle the expected large dataset.
The Committee requests the help of all amateur around the world to submit additional entries into the TOTA list. Eventually, this process will be automated via the ThingsOnTheAir.com web site but for now submissions can be made in the comments field below.