The ARRL has honored veteran AMSAT personality and Amateur Radio digital pioneer Tom Clark, K3IO (ex-W3IWI), with its President’s Award. ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, presented the award plaque to Clark at a January 10 meeting of the Potomac Valley Radio Club in Blacksburg, Virginia. The plaque, which bears a likeness of ARRL Co-Founder Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW, recognizes Clark’s 60 years of advancing Amateur Radio technology.
“In addition to his work with AMSAT, Tom was a leader in the development of the AX.25 packet radio network in the 1980s, when he was W3IWI. Anyone who was on packet in the 1980s knew that call sign,” President Craigie said. “I recall attending a forum he gave on packet radio at a hamfest in Baltimore in the 1980s, when people on the East Coast were just getting interested in the mode and its possibilities.”
Clark was a TAPR director during the heyday of packet radio forwarding, and TAPR’s significance was huge, she said. “Before terminal node controllers were available on the commercial market, if you wanted to get on packet, you ordered a TNC kit from TAPR and assembled it. I still have my TAPR II TNC.”
Former AMSAT President and current AMSAT Director Bob McGwier, N4HY, was more direct. “There would be no AMSAT to inspire all of this work without Tom Clark,” he said, noting that the organization was in serious trouble after the Phase 3A satellite launch failure.
“Tom took over as president of AMSAT, and he saved the organization and inspired all of us to look to the future and aim for the stars,” McGwier said. “All that has followed, including PACSAT and microsats, CubeSats, AO-13, all the way through AO-85, are a direct result of Tom Clark saving AMSAT and providing it leadership as president from 1980 to 1987 and continuous leadership on the Board of Directors of AMSAT from 1976 until today.”
McGwier said it was Clark who convinced him in 1985 that the future lay in digital signal processing — DSP. “We started the TAPR/AMSAT DSP project, and it was announced in 1987,” he said. “We showed in our efforts that small stations with small antennas could bounce signals off the moon, and, using the power of DSP, we could see the signals in our computer displays.”
McGwier said this led to the SDX, the Software Defined Transponder, included in ARISSat and in AMSAT’s Phase 3E. McGwier said Clark was an early supporter of women in science, too.
“Tom is now and always will be a leader, mentor — the chief scientist for all of Amateur Radio,” he said.
Clark is an advisor to Virginia Tech as adjunct professor of aerospace and ocean engineering and of electrical and computer Engineering. McGwier said Clark will play a crucial role in the Phase 4B geosynchronous satellite opportunity on the USAF Wide Field of View spacecraft, in which Virginia Tech is a partner.