Changing Ham Radio – Could it be Good?

I started to comment on G3XBM’s blog post called “Rallies in years to come?“, but it started to get long so I thought I’d share it here instead. First, I sympathize with seeing a way of life fading away and changing. There is certain nostalgia that I do appreciate and there is wisdom and value among those who enjoy those things I’d not be quick to push aside. I’d also welcome a deeper conversation because I’m certainly fresh to it all so may really be missing some things.

radio rallies will soon be a thing of the past if we are not careful.

Being of the younger ham crowd, I think what we are seeing is a transformation of the community, but I’m not sure it is something to carefully avoid. The younger generation generally meets more on the Internet. It is simply where they are. I’ve personally grown up doing that and so it comes quite natural. I appreciate that some of the older community share their knowledge in blogs like this as it bridges the gap between the ham fests and Reddit’s Amateur Radio subreddit. Going to ham fests, which I’ve done a couple times, is awkward. Few people there really seem to know what to do with me or my particular interests in the hobby. I have a greater chance of finding people with similar interests if I’m willing to not limit myself geographically.

Also, I wonder if the interests and priorities of the younger crowd in ham radio simply differ from those at the ham fests. I’m personally more interested in making stuff that does radio than connecting with lots of far away places. I’ve been talking to people from far away countries over the Internet since I was in middle school without any effort. The novelty of that wore off before I was out of high school. Others are interested in the prepping aspect to protect themselves from the zombie apocalypse.

In the US, the computer fairs my Dad used to take me to have pretty much gone extinct. What has replaced them isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Craigslist has the heavily used equipment market and Ebay or the like have the better used equipment while the new stuff is available at good prices all over the place. These things died, from my perspective, because they no longer provided a benefit. Those selling decent stuff had better places to do it with less hassle and those buying were able to browse and find exactly what they wanted more easily and from their couch at midnight.

Our hobby has a problem on many fronts due to an ageing population. We ignore this at our peril.

G3XBM is certainly a prolific blogger to be respected. He referred to some other opinions which I haven’t honestly seen and appear to be lost to me so maybe he’s talked about this in greater detail and I’m just ignorant, but I wonder what the perils are. Maybe some of it is regional, but in the US the licenses is certainly going up. I’ve heard some say the active licenses have decreased. I suppose I’m one of those inactive licenses as I’m not yet on the air much, certainly no HF activity, and honestly, I don’t expect to ever be incredibly active. I just want to have the option once I’ve built up something to try it out.

I suppose decreased numbers could result in loss of frequency to operate on and I get that would be sad to see. I think we’d all be disappointed to see that happening, but I haven’t yet seen much reason to be concerned. Am I missing something?

Also, the equipment required to operate is dropping in price. That’s helped people get active as Technicians, even if the quality of the equipment is poor. Seeing that I didn’t have to jump in at the $1k+ range was an encouragement for me to give this a start.

The “ageing population” and the “young population” have the age old problem of communication. I understand the major differences of communication introduced through technology like the Internet has probably made that a lot harder. How doe the younger population and the ageing population find middle ground and benefit from each other’s involvement? I’d really like to hear more about that.

Fairlawn ARC in New Jersey, US had an event just this evening talking about engaging makers in amateur radio. Here is the Recording. I haven’t listened to much of it yet, but it starts by engaging this question.

What do you think? Should we be significantly concerned about this? What do you think the fate of the hobby is?


Published by: Josiah (KE0BLL)

I make computers talk to each other and sometimes humans. I'm trying to learn to wrangle electrons and electromagnetic waves to do my bidding as well.

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