NOTE: This subject is in the early stages of development. Expect it to change substantially and often.
The Distributed Amateur Radio Station is a direct development from Software Defined Radio (SDR). The reasoning behind its conception is:
One way to think about this is that it is the architecture of a distributed computing system applied to an Amateur radio station. The system could be fully self-contained, open to the Internet, or some combination of the two.
Of course, a distributed station still must have hardware: RF components (transmitters, receivers, antennas), and user interfaces (keys, mics, computers, speakers). But its heart is composed of software running on computers.
The big idea here is that the pieces of a distributed station are connected together not electrically, but rather by data. The essential requirement of systems connected by data is that they both understand the form and format of the data being conveyed between them. That means some form of data standards that both systems can apply independently in order to communicate.
Think of cell phones. They are, at base, radio transceivers. The cellular network works because phones and towers are programmed to use standard protocols. That lets you buy a new phone, put in a sim card, and immediately start using the network. The Internet works the same way, with an unlimited number of unique systems bound together by standard protocols.
No such standards exist for Amateur Radio equipment – as anyone who has tried to connect a rig to a computer can testify. That means a system of standards would have to be developed. The object would be to enable station components to communicate with each other regardless of make and model.
To my mind, the possibilities of such a system seem boundless. Think of some of that already are being realized:
The first two, although partially distributed, suffer from being closed systems, using proprietary hardware and software.
The SDR dongles and online SDR receivers better inllustrate the potential of a distributed station, in that they can be combined with any external system that can handle the data they produce (a computer, in this case).
The loudspeakers with DSP are somewhat less clear-cut. Viewing the DSP section as three blocks – analog-to digital coverter, digital processor, digital-to-analog converter – reveals its distributed nature. Those blocks could be implemented independently and be physically separated, connected via data transfer over a network. Here is an example.
The essential aspect of DARS is that it separates station operator functions from the hardware that makes up a station. That is, station hardware is controlled not by manipulating direct physical controls (knobs, buttons) that are part of the electrical circuit, but indirectly, through a computer. A second aspect is that some of the hardware can be entirely replaced by a computer – not just its controls.
The station operator has two primary functions:
[NOTE: Partial entry; still under development]