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Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:

from on December 17, 2012
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Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:

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Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by WA4D on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
"Admitting that amateur radio was a ‘dying hobby’ nowadays, its advisor Alan Ming Addie said on Friday that sustainability was the biggest issue faced by the club, "

A Refreshing honesty in this Boreno Ham club's approach.
Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by AB9TA on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
In many ways we are the cause of our own demise, as many of us are stuck FIRMLY in the past: "Apart from technical knowledge relating to operating the amateur radio, club members will learn the Morse Code, a system of sending messages in which the alphabet is represented by signals, he added."

Why on earth should anyone bother with manual Morose Code today? I'll admit it can be fun if you're so inclined, kinda like a trip to a museum. But, it was invented in the middle of the 19th century, so it's over 150 years old and way past obsolete everywhere in the real (relevant) world.
So why do we keep pushing it?

If we want to attract younger techies to ham radio, we need to embrace the future of RF technology. Things like combining computer and radio, digital modes, software defined radios, you know; modern stuff.

After all, most techies are already using this technology in their smart phones, we should be providing an interesting place to learn and experiment. We need to be thought of as looking toward the future. We're in the 21st century now, we shouldn't be pushing a communications method from two centuries ago.

Bill AB9TA

RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by WA4D on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Yes Bill your insightful comments noted!

And some of those modes and protocols and technologies are
Being pursued by Hams. But in my estimation they are a tiny minority in the USA

Mike. wa4d
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by W5DQ on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!

Great idea but when was the last time you saw an interface spec for a smartphone so one could design a working interface to allow the smartphone and ham radio to work together easily. I don't plan on tearing up a $500 Motorola RAZR just to find out if I could make an interface work. When the tech data becomes readily available on the hig tech toys from the consumer side of the equation, there will probably be a large influx of activity like you mentioned. I would not look for much more than a item here or there until then.

Gene W5DQ
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by K6RIM on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!

I understand that you are not personally into Morse code, but a lot of folks are. Just listen in to CQ WW DX CW or ARRL DX CW; there is so much activity that it's hard to find an unused frequency! And significant CW activity is not limited to major DX contests; it takes place on a daily basis on most of the HF bands.

I'm not sure that it's accurate to say that we keep "pushing it." The FCC has, for all intents and purposes, effectively eliminated any meaningful Morse Code requirement for US hams. As you know, the highest class ham license in the US, the Extra Class, requires only 5 WPM; it used to require 20 WPM. That's not exactly "pushing it."

As for the argument that it's over 150 years old: so is sex, "which can be fun if you're so inclined, kinda like a trip to the museum."

Agree that we need to reach out to the younger crowd, but it's not easy to pull them away from their video games, smart phones, etc. But that's the challenge.
Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by AF7JA on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I seldom post here at eHam anymore; but, this topic caught my eye. The first thing to do, as others have said, is to make it relevant. As stated, Ham Radio today (ok, for my entire "aware of ham radio" life; which started in the late 70's with an uncle who was into ham radio. . . my father had his first phone and, as such, had no interest in Ham Radio) is like a trip to the museum.

To attract young people we need to get out of the Antique Radio Restoration League mindset (nothing wrong with tinkering on old stuff, just understand that it is not a hugh draw, it is something that forms after entry).

We need to be asking, how would we present ourselves at Def_Con ( see: and ). Most years at Def_Con there is a competition for the furthest wi-fi connection. Ham radio operators need to be using events like this to show case expertise that translates to modern applications if there is a real desire to attract young, technically minded individuals (hint, they frequently call themselves "hackers").

To attract young people, or anyone else for that matter, Ham Radio needs to be relevant
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by WN2C on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I may be mistaken but the last time I checked, the code requirement was abolished, zip, nada, gone as in no more.
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by K6RIM on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Just did some light research. You are absolutely correct: there is no longer ANY Morse Code requirement for ANY class of amateur radio license in the US, including the Amateur Extra Class license.

So I'm not certain why AB9TA asks why we keep "pushing" it (Morse Code).

Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by VE7TJL on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
As someone who was attracted to the hobby as a younger working age guy I can say accessibility is big. The club I got involved in had meetings every Thursday at 7 so it was pretty easy for me to get to one or two each month after work. Also a number of members were enthusiastic about digital modes as well as CW and so on.

After moving to another town I found the local club holds meetings at a coffee shop late Saturday morning. Try selling that to a young family. Also any local nets seem to be held during working hours so those are a no-go.

So clubs out there: If you want to attract younger members make sure you're accessible. I Highly recommend the Thursday evening idea.
Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by AB9TA on December 17, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Great comments!
A few responses:

While it's true that CW is highly used day-to-day and in contests (I even run fully computerized TX/RX CW in contests when the mood strikes), the point is that CW is only used on the ham bands. Learning to use a key or bug has far less value in the real world than learning how a computer and radio can be connected and used. Whether it's ham, commercial, cellular, or wi-fi, the concepts are similar.

I know of one existing app for PSK-31 that runs on i-Phone or i-Pad, there are probably others for different platforms out there. They use either the built-in speaker / mic or a headset connector for audio. And, there will be more as time goes on.
No need to hack the expensive phones just yet, as Gene pointed out, but there will be more and more used phones just waiting to be modded as time goes on..

Yes, there is still a requirement for morse code: On HF (80M, 40M, 15M), Novice and Technician are allowed CW only in those bands. The rules need to be changed to allow N/T licensees to use some digital modes on those bands (say up to PSK 125 and RTTY only using no more than 100 baud at 170Hz shift.) We allow N/T to use digital on 10M with no ill effects.

And we do push CW, consider 60M. The five channels started off voice only, and after a few years the rules were modified to allow CW and, almost as an afterthought, digital modes.

The mindset where we need to be accessible and go where the young minds are is good.. Just leave the morse keys home when we do a ham radio demo..

Bill AB9TA
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by W5GNB on December 18, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
We have I-Phones, Cell phones, and Computers of All kinds with the very latest in technology, it is hard to compete with Ham Radio. Social contact with their peers is what the younger kids want these days and all of the above cater to that just perfectly.

In our area, there are very few younger hams and LOADS of OLD GEEZERS. There is little in common with the these folks due to the age barrier. The club is all but DEAD except for a Coffee-Klatch on Saturdays where the old timers talk about how Great it was in the OLD DAYS.

Also, the use of the HF amateur bands has turned away a boatload of younger folks in my area. It sounds like CB'ers on 75 and 20 meters and nearly every weekend there is some sort of stupid Contest that dominates the bands with poor operators. The younger folks I have had contact with are simply Not interested in all this foolishness.

I have seen a few kids get their Tech license simply for experimenting or to fly RC airplanes but as for actual "Hamming" like the old days ..... IT's pretty much OVER.............

Gary - W5GNB

Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by KE4ZHN on December 18, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Sadly, this is a sign of the times. With all the high tech toys young people have access too...why would they bother to take a test and buy expensive gear..only to tune around the bands and listen to some stupid contest drivel...or some old timer talking about his gallstones? If you want to attract young people you need to emphasize more on digital technology and combine it with radio.

I love a good old fashioned rag chew on the bands...but the reality is, no young person is going to be interested in two middle aged guys talking about rigs from 20 years ago...or other old school topics. I liken our hobby to the same type of enthusiasts who restore and drive antique cars. They are fun to work on...their great to drive and admire for short trips...but nobody in their right mind would want to drive one everyday when they have access to a modern car. Young folks today are also programmed for instant gratification. They dont want to take tests or bother with silly technicalities like cutting wires to certain lengths and putting them in the air. They want to push a button and send their text to someone in Hobart Tasmania in an instant. Not wait for band conditions. Its just a totally different world than it was back in the day...we all have to realize this and adapt if this hobby is to survive.
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by WA4D on December 18, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I found KE4ZHN's remarks insightful and spot on. Indeed the group of responses on this thread I enjoyed all.

I think it's over for the era of Ham radio that many of us were part of. Yes there are echoes, but it will now morph into whatever it becomes, for many of the reasons you all raised in this thread.

Most of us my age (62) have no connection to Youth culture and have little understanding of what they're into. Trying to relate to them is not for their Grandfather. The Rockwellian vision of my youth. (Radio merit badge age 14 in the Boy Scouts, and the test given by the TV Repairman who lived down the street and learning code on an ARC-5 and Amecco oscillator) All that is irrelevant and gone. As it should be.

Time to let the new generation create what they will. I'll be listening as it fades away.
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by AK4YH on December 19, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Morse code is what brought me to Ham radio. So, not always true.
Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by KB9EZL on December 20, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Yes Bill, I got into Ham Radio in the mid 70s and prior to that it was CB radio which was really buzzing at the time. All of the jamming and language on the
band discourage me about staying in the hobby. I Got my Novice and got busy with trying to earn a living. The CW part of amateur radio really did not
interest me since even a lot of the CBers were progrssing to SSB. A friend of mine got his license about the same time and we let the licenses expire because of other things like boating and HP cars.

I got back into amateur radio in 80s and the reason was to do digital work. I made a friend in California and we both tried several modes in digital. My favorite was Amtor which was pretty reliable. There were times on 10m. that it could be impossible becaue of the noise to work phone and even CW. We both were using AEA PK-232 TNCs and they could also work CW and the key went by the wayside.

The kids today are all wrapped up in gaming, texting on their cellphones and if they aren't doing that they are listening to tunes on the cellphone. I would say that most of them wouldn't have a clue on what amateur radio was all about let alone CB radio. Most if they knew, would be thinking that it was archaic and an
old fashion form of communication.

A lot of the problems with our youth today is, they have to have instant gratification and because of that they have no patience nor do they want anything that is challenging such as learning about the amateur radio hobby getting new skills. A lot of the skills in electronics is dying because of this. The job situation is not helping in the electronics field

RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by KJ4FUU on December 27, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Note to the poster above: Even Extra Class licenses no longer have a code requirement.
RE: Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by WN3R on January 1, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
After attending the golden years reunion (that says it all - OLD!!) at my private school, I thumbed through some old year books and realized the ham club I started in 1959 was finished in 1965 just before the opening of a new campus.

I decided to restart the old club. However, I did my homework first and learned there was a need for a robotics club. There was my opening. We started the technology club called RC^2, Robotics, Computers, and Communication.

The only pushing I did was getting the kids to put up the 80 meter dipole on a warm day. We made a contact and turned the radio off.

Next meeting, a student asked if we could use the radio again. We did. The golden comment was, "This is way cooler than the internet."

Look us up on Our call sign is K3BSB. Watch the video and click on the link to learn about the club.

Lesson learned -- Today, we have to go to the kids as they surely aren't coming to us.

Word spread and the Spanish instructor requested to have his class use the radio to practice their Spanish. We'll be doing that with hams at Arecibo. How cool is that?

73, Dick, WN3R
Hard to Attract Young People to Join Amateur Radio Club:  
by KK4LGZ on January 5, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I want to make the following point. I do not believe the decline in young members in ham clubs is due to the unattractiveness of the hobby it's self, I think it is purely a function of it's current enthusiasts not understanding their younger counterparts, and those enthusiasts inability to connect at a social level.

Myself, I was recently licensed this summer, a 36 year old software developer and tinkerer. I entered the hobby to have emergency communication skills and capability, and was quickly sucked in to many of the much broader aspects of the hobby. I think the technical challenge of the hobby is totally engaging, it's history rich, and it's utility and place in society very valuable. Although I believe some of the social vestiges such as contesting, the format and tone of it's major publications (QST, CQ magazines) are dated, and overly verbose. I work in internet economy where I am considered an old man. I am daily surrounded by brilliant young technical talent. They are prime for this hobby, but most don't even know it exists.

My observations thus far on the community of ham enthusiasts is that most of them are twice my age, extremely polite, competent, friendly, and truly love the hobby; they have so much to offer those younger than themselves. However I also noticed that most have missed the boat on how those half their age and younger communicate, seek information, and even how they relate. I am astonished by the age gap, it's like ham radio skipped a few generations; fix it now while you have a chance.

I do not suggest that hams should change who they are, or what they do. I suggest that they change their tactics on interfacing with those younger, and realize that they will not come to you, you must go to them.

My ideas, and they are just that... ideas:
-Ask someone younger what they think of the hobby, stop speculating why you think youngsters are not joining, just learn from them on how to approach them.
-If your clubs average age is 60, I would not target the 25 year olds, go for the 30-40 year olds, I think they are looking for something like this to latch on to.
-Try meeting them where they are... I rarely see clubs advertise on, or through facebook, give it a shot! You don't need to be social media experts, you just need to try. (It's free, oh and if you don't know how, ask your grandkids.)
-Along the same idea of meeting them where they are... what ham activities would interest them? Is it digital modes, go-kits, echolink? I may not be what you think.
-My elmer was the internet, articles & especially youtube videos. Every club should consider doing short demonstrations & tutorials on youtube. (If you are going to write a tutorial, keep it short and to the point.)
-Once you get a few youngsters in the midsts, invest in them. Consider mentoring them not only in the hobby but in leadership by giving them responsibility. (Just remember that they are not retired, and may not have a ton of time.)

I'm looking forward to many year of learning and enjoying. I am sad thinking that knowledge of this hobby is not being successfully passed down. I'll do my best, I hope others will too.

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