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Author Topic: What killed Ham Radio???  (Read 19872 times)

Posts: 514

« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2009, 04:14:01 PM »

Despite much doom and gloom rhetoric, ham radio is far from dying.  Changing a bit, sure.  The presence of "requirements" has never been an impediment to anyone who really wanted to do whatever it is they wanted to do.

 - You want to be a doctor?  You invest time in med school.
 - You want to me a lawyer?  You invest time in law school.
 - You want to be an engineer?  You invest time in engineering school.
 - You want to be a ham?  You learn what you have to learn to become a ham.

If one has the true motivation to do something, "requirements" are merely an obstacle to overcome.  Maybe it sounds harsh but not everyone has to has to hold an amateur radio license.

Posts: 2899


« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2009, 05:09:01 AM »

Ah, yes. Ham Radio.  The only hobby in the world that HAS BEEN ON LIFE SUPPORT FOR THE LAST 90 YEARS!!!!!

Guys, please. STOP with the gloom and doom. The reason you aren't hearing as many people on the band now as opposed to 1990, is because conditions have been poor. Back in 1990, there were tons of sunspots!!! Hence forth, way better conditions, leading to more activity Now we have barely a flicker from El Sol (although, it appears that is changing ever so slowly).  Do you not think that disuades people from turning on the rig???  

Regarding the licenses being "more accesible, what ever do you mean by this?  End all license testing maybe???  It's easier than ever before to become a ham radio operator.  No more "easy access."  There's been enough of that over the last 10 years.  Like one of the people on hear said, if it's in the blood, you will do it.

Regarding age. Here we go again. So the demographic is 55 years and up most of the time.  Who cares??? I am 43 years old and don't see this as a negative.  Hams with a few years behind them have experience.  Again, no matter what the age, if it's in the blood, people will obtain their license.

And with regard to hamfests, come down to the Pittsburgh area for one of our hamfests.  (Breezeshooters, mainly) and see just how barren it is.  By the by, those of you who went to Dayton. Just how barren was it there?Huh  

Honestly, I really wish that this "ham radio is dying," schpiel would stop once an for all.  You guys are as bad as the Glo-BULL Warming tree hugging fear mongers.  Enough, already!

Vince P

Posts: 805

« Reply #17 on: July 06, 2009, 12:51:49 PM »

It's the way folks are. Like the virtues of having to walk to school in the snow, up hill both ways. I suspect that 25,000 years ago, an old caveman was grumbling that things had gone to Hell since he was young and had to kill his mammoth by gnawing through an artery, and now all the kids had to do was stick a spear in the right spot.

Posts: 372

« Reply #18 on: July 06, 2009, 02:46:01 PM »

Ham radio is not dead.  

Oh sure we have problems.  The band conditions make it very difficult to get out on 100 watts. And, the absence of viable VHF/UHF communications makes a Tech license not much more than a permission slip to call CQ on an empty repeater.  (Any radio manufacturer even make a 2 meter SSB or even packet data transmission?)

The decrease in attendance at Hamfests is really more to do with people being busy and not able to spend a day at some Hamfest wandering between tables of "soon to be recyleables".  Seriously, I have been a Ham for 5 years and there has been a noticeable bump in the garbage content of hamfests.

Hamfests also have no real value to the new ham as the prices people want for old radios are near to what the new ham could pay for a brand new radio with a warranty.

Add the trash factor and the loss of market utility, hamfests are going to keep fading away.

We have a money problem.  Consider a packet radio station.  Ever thought about what it would cost a new ham without existing radio gear to go from baseline to a functional packet station?  Not counting the PC, you are well near a grand between the radio, the TNC, the power supply, and the antenna and cables.  $1000 is a lot of cash to drop on something that you "MIGHT" be interested in 6 months from now.

The days of some kids sitting in the barn wiring together a crystal set from old tractor parts is over.  How do we get people interested in various parts of radio without big money?

Posts: 805

« Reply #19 on: July 06, 2009, 08:08:42 PM »

I don't know that I have an answer to your ultimate question of how, but I'm pretty sure cost isn't the issue. It's hard to equate a packet setup with something in 1960 or 1970, but if you set out from scratch to set up teletype on HF, you'd have the radio and considerable effort and some real expense in the rest. And $1,000 to day is about somewhere between $150 and $200 then. Radios in general aren't more expensive. Those that are more than the adjusted cost of any amateur rig back then represent a huge difference in function, and you don't have to pay that much for a pretty good new rig. And very decent solid state rigs are everywhere for $400. eBay has largely replaced swapmeets and is more accessible. A Grebe CR-5 rcvr in 1921 based priced at $80 new. BIG money in 1921 and was far from luxury. Components were not cheap either.

Nor are band conditions a real issue. 20 was full of Eastern Europeans Sunday, Solvenia, Yugo, etc. And a bunch of Italians and Spaniards, including an Italian mobile a couple of days earlier, easily worked with 100 watts and a middling antenna from Texas. And there were plenty of stateside takers. And while I'm not on 6 right now, word is it has been hot.

There's probably less of a "gee whiz" factor working today. In 1915, it was pretty amazing to have anything on the air. In 1960, it was pretty "Wow!" to talk to the other side of the world. The fact that you can do it technically surprises no one today. But PERSONAL contact with other folks is still there.

I personally think we need to show the basics today to prospective young hams. Handitalkies and digital modes are too close to cell phones and the Internet. And repeaters aren't fun. They're just functional. It's that far away voice, accented and with a different perspective, in a place you'll never see that's still the kick. And, for God's sake, we older guys need to talk on the air about something other than our past or present cancers or how nice it is to have the radio to talk on since the wife died. Maybe we all ought to take up a challenge to make one new ham a year. Contact local Scout troups and offer to serve as merit badge counselor. Whatever. I do believe that if the exposure is there some will follow up on the interest.

And maybe we ought to pay some more organized attention to the large and growing population of new retirees as potential new hams. That's just a logical following of the difference in demographics today.

Posts: 26

« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2009, 05:03:16 AM »


Posts: 133

« Reply #21 on: July 07, 2009, 10:14:36 PM »

Ham radio is far from dead... in fact, it is growing mightily. When I got my ticket in '95, KE6VRK and I got into the act by playing around with HTs. Now he and I are planning a wireless LAN gateway using my house as a base, and he recently acquired a license from Apple to write a program for what he calls a "soft TNC" to run on any Mac or iPhone connected to a transceiver. Hardly what I'd call a dead hobby.

About the worst I can say is that with all the "dumbing down" in our educational system since the Reagan years (somehow we Americans think science is only for guys in white coats who work in labs), most people nowadays are put off by anything technical... I said as much in a letter to the editor of CQ back in '97. You can look it up.

Posts: 244

« Reply #22 on: July 07, 2009, 10:45:56 PM »

I meekly raise my hand here in the back of the classroom.

As a fairly new ham (licensed in Oct. 2008) I assisted my local ham club in advertising for some upcoming ham classes.  I brought some fliers to local schools and had even spoken with some of my kids' friends.

For trying to get new hams interested I found out the club I joined had tried to advertise our activities to the AARP crowd.  I hate to say it, they were courting the wrong age group.  

You're not going to have hams that have been involved 20, 30, 40, 50 years unless you capture their interest at a much younger age, and for this I mean teenagers in middle school and high school.

Quite frankly, they don't even know ham radio exists.  And further, when it is explained, they don't understand the point.  They have, after all, the internet, cell phones, etc.

I live right down on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.  Hurricane country.  Here's how I explained it to them:  "Do you remember after Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav when we didn't have phone service?  Internet?  Do you know why?"  (blank stares)  

I explained, "Servers for phone and internet, which are all the same, were under water in New Orleans.  They weren't '... All circuits are busy...' the recording said.  There was no connection to the outer world."  (starting to see a glimmer of understanding) "With amateur radio I can talk to people in other states, all over the US, all over the world, with no 'infrastructure'.  This is a vital service for regional disasters."

Now I know these kids are interested in emergency services.  They take EMT classes, some are in Civil Air Patrol, and various other emergency preparedness activities.  I've known kids who helped with Volunteer Fire Departments, directing traffic, moving around and refilling air bottles, and other ways to help.  They are interested, they just don't know about ham radio.

And many of these kids do have technical ability.  They repair, modify, and build computers.  I've got a photo of a "computer" a friend's kids put together out of found bits and pieces, stuff scrounged, so that little brother could get online or play games while the older boys (at that time 12 and 14, the ones who built it) could use the other family computers.  Their dad is a ham, btw.

What young people need is some guidance.  They aren't stupid or incapable.  But it is difficult for them to have interest in something they don't even know exists.

So, what to do?  Well, for one, just because we have a national "Field Day" once a year does not mean we can't have some informal Field Days on a local level more often.  And we need to pick times and places when kids aren't preoccupied during football season.

Ham radio is something that can be taught alongside some of the programs our Sheriff Departments have with youth, for example.

So the question isn't "What Killed Ham Radio???" but rather, "Why are we allowing it to die?"  Or "What are we doing to keep it alive and well?"


PS I'm now a W5YI Contact VE and we just got some new hams on their way.

Posts: 4536

« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2009, 04:12:38 AM »


I agree with you 100%. Middle school is prime time; even bright elementary school kids can do ham radio.

But I would add a few more things:

1) The main point of Amateur Radio is "radio for its own sake". Some people get it, most people don't. We only need the some who do.

2) There is a widespread but mistaken assumption that young people are only interested in computers and "modern" technology. The truth is more complex; they are interested in all sorts of things, particularly unique technologies. But they have to know they exist. Old isn't bad; look how the Harry Potter *books* caught on.

3) We really are invisible most of the time. That has to change. Good publicity is the key.

4) Ham radio has always been a niche activity. Go back 30, 40, 50 years ago, or more, and the number and percentage of hams was much lower than today. When I got started in ham radio in 1967 (age 13), there were only about 250,000 US hams, yet the population was over 200 million. Today, with 300 million in the USA, there are over 672,000 hams. So don't be fooled by those who claim we're "dying".

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 365

« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2009, 07:21:46 AM »

N2EY: “1) The main point of Amateur Radio is "radio for its own sake". Some people get it, most people don't. We only need the some who do.”

Precisely, while all the various attempts to “recruit the masses” may be admirable, it is actually misguided and not particularly effective. And I think may have actually hurt amateur radio to some degree..

N2EY: “2) There is a widespread but mistaken assumption that young people are only interested in computers and "modern" technology. The truth is more complex; they are interested in all sorts of things, particularly unique technologies. …”

And there are two very distinct differences between how computers can be integrated into ham radio:

A) To seek to reproduce/emulate what is readily available to youngsters today commercially and inexpensively (the various ham VOIP technologies, ham email linking etc.). Those who build it up have their fun building it, but few will find it fun for the long term to actually use it. There are many non-amateur alternatives to them that are easier to use and don’t come with many restrictions.

B) Or applying computer power and technology to make a better radio (most PC based SDR efforts, modes like WSJT etc.).  These folks like to tinker to make the (radio) technology better, new software, some hardware tweaks. Pushing the gear’s weak signal performance limits etc.

To try and entice youngsters with “A” will only have very limited success. Some may get into it because of “A”, but many of them will quickly become bored with ham radio and leave. Ham radio cannot compete with low cost, widely used, commercial technologies. Nor should it even try… This today closely parallels how HF phone patching of the 50-70’s (and repeaters of the 90's) was never the basis for many ham’s entry into ham radio. And if it was the basis for their entry (90's VHF repeaters), then it certainly wasn't the reason for staying within the hobby. Whereas there isn’t any widespread consumer application or examples of “B”. Those who are into “B” are indeed carrying on the traditions of amateur radio. They are experimenters and tinkerers …. “just for the fun of it”, they are not into, or looking for, communications “utility”.

Posts: 54

« Reply #25 on: July 08, 2009, 11:28:27 AM »

Forums killed ham radio.  If this one wasn't here, I'd be on the air, but here I sit typing and the rig is not turned on. Sad

Posts: 0

« Reply #26 on: July 08, 2009, 07:57:27 PM »

I agree with k4dpk.  I believe that you are asking the wrong question.  The Ham fest, at least the small local ham fest, may be on its way out because of the internet trading sites.  Most of what I see at local ham fests is junk (to the exclusion of the large trade shows such as Dayton...and I dont mean tail gaters).  The hobby, however, is robust -- at least in my opinion.  There was an "artificial" increase in the number of hams in the 70s and early 80s...mostly due to the CB craze which did feed more into our ranks.  Our numbers have actually been normalizing over time back to a constant percentage of the population which really has not changed in many decades.  As far as listening to the bands --  That really depends upon the conditions, both perceived and real.  If you notice just over the past few days with more sun spot numbers and an increased solar flux with improved band conditions, the bands have been quite lively.  I know that is just anecdotal, but the writer's observations were as well.  So, I think it is OK to respond in kind.  Any way, I don't see the death of Ham radio.  Furthermore, manufacturers must not either because they are producing better and better products for very reasonable prices.  I think that the manufactureres are watching the numbers and the market very carefully and there still seems to be a robust active market for really beatiful equipment.  There also seems to be this mantra that is repeated over and over about "old technology" which couldn't be further from the truth.  There are so many facets of Ham radio which employ all sorts of modern technologies.  You just need to do some reading and find yourself an "Elmer" to help you get going if you need help!  73 Daniel C. Baral  wb2mjb.

Posts: 180


« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2009, 06:31:18 AM »

Number 1 reason: is GREED! Our local hamfest used to draw hams from all over the USA. Due to increasing cost of a location it has moved three times. AND changed from a two day affair to a one day, that lasts only from 8AM until 2PM. Plus cost for entry went from $4 to $7. Oh yeah, you have to pay to tailgate now too. Our attendence dropped from about 1,000 a day, to one or two hundred for the one day.
Number 2 reason: is lack of support from the manufacturers repair facilities. Just one needed repair went like this; $63 to have it packed,shipped and insured. The manufacture repair facility lost my radio AFTER it arrived. It took four months for them to tell me this. The replacement new rig quit transmitting just like the first one I sent for repair. Then I had to send it in for repair. They later admitted to having bad microchips in a certain serial numbered group of new rigs.
Number 3 reason: Out of seven HF rigs purchased new, three of them didn't work. This is brand new out of the box with the inspector's tags included.
Number 4 reason: Lack of support from the FCC. The Deed restrictions and convenants have had a much bigger effect than anyone in the ARRL wants to admit. Who needs this headache about putting up an antenna? I visited my Mom in Florida who lived in such a neighborhood. I put a 9' vertical in her back yard on a 3' pipe for four days. You could not see it from the front of the house. She got fined from the neighborhood association even though we and it were gone by the fifth day. Turns out the neighbor behind her house complained about it. I HAVE quit ham radio once already. Unfortunately I am addicted to it and after a ten month absence I came back. I wonder if the company that makes the nicotine patch could make one to quit ham radio?

Posts: 8911


« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2009, 01:34:02 PM »

"Oh sure we have problems. The band conditions make it very difficult to get out on 100 watt"

Well, band conditions plus the fact that some of the hottest selling antennas today knock that 100W down to a handful, maybe 10W effective radiated power on the lowest bands that they advertise as being useful.

You buy one of these 43 footers with a UNUN and use it to try to talk to people on 75m, you're going to have a hard time of it.  It's lossy to start with, and since it's a vertical you get knocked down at high angles.

You put up a 50 foot high 75m dipole and people will think you're running an amplifier.

As someone with 100W and not world-beating but decent antennas, I don't agree that it's generally hard to get out with 100W.

I would have to spend a lot of money to get 10-12dB more signal out, so an amp might be a logical next step, but I don't find that I need it.

There are times when good DX bands are deader than dead to the extent that I can receive on them, but I can usually go down to 40m and work some DX with 100W.



Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.

Posts: 372

« Reply #29 on: July 17, 2009, 09:48:52 AM »

You know, I have a 100 watt rig and a G5RV.   I live in the middle of the US and experience the 20 meter hole nightly.  Got to say that except for band openings, its often very hard to get out after 1900 CDT.
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