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Author Topic: Is ham radio aging or not ??  (Read 7472 times)
K7PEH
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Posts: 1124




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« on: March 23, 2011, 11:57:36 AM »

Every now and then the topic of the "aging" of ham radio pops up and there are a variety of opinions stated.  Often, some of the strongest voiced opinions seem to suggest that ham radio is NOT aging but rather growing by leaps of not bounds by youth.  I rarely see this in my own contacts; indeed, in my experience most of my contacts are with hams that are older then me and I am 63.

When I say "older then me" I am probably referring to about a third to a half of my QSOs where I actually know the age either by exchange of such information or via QRZ lookup where the person just happened to enter their age or birth year.

So, I am guessing that if there are new hams on the youth side of the spectrum, they are invisible to me.  And, I can see how they are invisible in that:  (1) I am about 90 percent CW; and, (2) I almost never use repeaters on VHF/UHF (maybe once a month).

By my experience ham radio is definitely aging (in the US at least).  But, like I said, my experience is skewed to favor older hams.  I would be interested if others see things particularly different or view the same age distribution that favors old and older.
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VE4EGL
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 12:45:00 PM »

Interesting question.  I'll throw in my ramblings on the matter.

I think that while the numbers are growing overall, there's an uneven age distribution between modes and bands.  The lower bands (40M and down) mainly seem to be used by people who have been doing this for a long time and those who want to try everything.  With some of the amps and prebuilt antennas on the market you can work the world on an old soup can so there's not as much need to try to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of your setup, just add more power.  As a side note, I bet you could have a decent hot meal using a can of soup as a dummy load.

I think the divide between CW users and non-CW users is only going to get bigger too, thanks to computers playing a larger role in everything.  Obviously you still have enthusiasts who learn code, but between it no longer being required and more difficult to learn than digital I think you're probably seeing that a lot of new licensees just aren't hanging out in the same places as the old ones.
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I used to think you needed an elaborate setup to work DX, then I made a QSO 3,000 miles away using a dipole 8ft off the ground in the middle of a forest.
KS2G
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Posts: 436




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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 08:28:47 PM »

For a Google demographic analysis of more than 500K U.S. hams that used the Internet in December, 2010, look here:

http://f1jxq.passion-radio.org/ham-radio-amateur-news/demographics-of-americain-amateur-radio-who-is-us-ham-radio/

Google says: The typical ham radio operator in US is a male (66%) more than 35 years old (80%), mainly with some college education (52%) and a household income more than $50,000 (59%).
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N2EY
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2011, 02:31:44 PM »

The truth is, nobody really knows. Here's why:

1) FCC hasn't collected birthdate data on hams for years. So there's no scientific way to get ages.

2) Even if we had licensee age data, we don't know if the licensees are still alive. A ham can pass away shortly after renewing, and the license can stay in the database for up to 12 years unless a family member takes the trouble to cancel the license.

3) Observations of who goes to hamfests, club meetings, etc., are not necessarily a cross-section of the amateur population. A lot of younger folks don't do those things for lack of time, transport, money, etc.

4) On-air observations will only tell you the ages of the few hams you work who happen to share the band/mode/time interests as you.

5) Americans are living longer, having fewer kids and having them later in life. The "average age" of the entire population keeps going up. The younger hams are often busy with job, family, school, etc.

6) There are and will always be relatively few hams younger than about 10 years old, because of the license and equipment requirements.

7) A considerable number of new hams are empty-nesters and retirees. Nothing wrong with that, but you can see how it would change the demographic.

It would be really great if FCC would collect birthdate info again. Anybody know why they stopped?


73 de Jim, N2EY
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K7PEH
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2011, 03:37:25 PM »

The truth is, nobody really knows. Here's why:

1) FCC hasn't collected birthdate data on hams for years. So there's no scientific way to get ages.

I disagree, I think there is a scientific way if you consider the methods used by pollsters who claim scientific and mathematical models to back up their data.  So, it is possible to create a sampling model that would probably have a pretty decent limited marginal error.  No, I am not going to do this but I do believe there is a scientific way to get an age distribution.

2) Even if we had licensee age data, we don't know if the licensees are still alive. A ham can pass away shortly after renewing, and the license can stay in the database for up to 12 years unless a family member takes the trouble to cancel the license.

I agree with your point about the "status" of a license but if you did have age information associated with each FCC managed license you would have more information then we do now and I consider that a good thing.

3) Observations of who goes to hamfests, club meetings, etc., are not necessarily a cross-section of the amateur population. A lot of younger folks don't do those things for lack of time, transport, money, etc.

Maybe.  Actually, I think a hamfest is closer to giving a representation of the ages then you imply above.

4) On-air observations will only tell you the ages of the few hams you work who happen to share the band/mode/time interests as you.

I agree, otherwise based on my own QSOs I would say that the typical ham radio operator is older then 63.  But, here you could
also create that "scientific" method of a sampling model to discern some valuable information if one had the will to do so.

5) Americans are living longer, having fewer kids and having them later in life. The "average age" of the entire population keeps going up. The younger hams are often busy with job, family, school, etc.
I agree with your comment (somewhat) but I am not sure which side of debate it favors.

6) There are and will always be relatively few hams younger than about 10 years old, because of the license and equipment requirements.
I agree with your point with regard to the licensing requirement but not the equipment requirement.  I am betting that most, by far, young hams of age 10 or younger are brought into the hobby by their parents.  Therefore, equipment is probably not an issue: either the parent loans their own  station or buys them a station (yes, these parents are richer, probably buy the kid a car at 16 too).

7) A considerable number of new hams are empty-nesters and retirees. Nothing wrong with that, but you can see how it would change the demographic.

Now, I am wondering what the age distribution is for those who acquire their first license in these modern days (say, since 2000).  I came back to this hobby after almost a 40 year separation from my novice days.  I was 56 when I got licensed up again.  There is a group here in Kirkland, Washington that gives classes to elementary school kids and the kids are usually operating the equipment during field day.  A good friend of ours has a daughter that went through that program and it was not merely to get a Technician license, she got her General and this was back during the time of the 5 wpm code requirement.  Her dad told me that she stayed with the hobby for a little less then a year.  She married now I think.

It would be really great if FCC would collect birthdate info again. Anybody know why they stopped?

Probably because a government agency can only request your age and birth information if that information is required for whatever service is being rendered.  Since ham radio does not have any age requirements, such information cannot be legally requested.  If you join the military, run for political office, or other such thing then the government will request and require you to offer up your birth date information.

73, phil, K7PEH
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K7PEH
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Posts: 1124




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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 03:49:13 PM »

An unscientific poll....

I just used QRZ to find the birth year of about one dozen ham radio call signs that I know off the top of my head.  I also included those who posted to this topic but only two, other then myself, has age birth year information recorded with QRZ.

So, Jim (N2EY) of those dozen ham radio calls signs, you are the youngest of the group.  Now, let me admit that this is unscientific, definitely not a random sampling, and incomplete in that about a third of those call signs I did enter in never produced a date from QRZ.

The birth year ranged from 1929 to 1954 with the bulk of them in the 1940s.  Of course, this shows that most of the people I know are around my age.  That is about the only prediction you can make about this sample set.
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STAYVERTICAL
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Posts: 875




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« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2011, 01:41:28 AM »

Does it really matter?
Ham radio is a unique hobby, which should not get fixated on the modern paradigm of "growth" at all costs.
The mantra of growth is normally a manifestation of vested interest groups such as organisation officials who suffer from the malady of empire building.
They try to frighten the members of their hobby by predicting its imminent demise unless legions of fresh faced youths are inducted forthwith to swell the anaemic ranks of their membership.
Ham radio, like most esoteric hobbies removed from the football and soccer mainstream, will continue to recruit young people who are seeking the unique brand of fun which our hobby can deliver.
Removing old rusted on barriers can certainly improve accessibility, but the central tenet remains - this hobby is for those who want to communicate with others via their own equipment removed from government dependency.
Like the ultimate survivors of the insect world, the beetles, hams will still be transmitting until the last car battery and solar cell dies, regardless of what happens to the rest of the worlds technology.
If this is the type of person you are, regardless of age, you will seek out ham radio - if not, its back to the couch and TV.


73s.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 01:44:47 AM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
K3ZL
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Posts: 135




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« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2011, 11:32:58 AM »


I think the divide between CW users and non-CW users is only going to get bigger too, thanks to computers playing a larger role in everything.

Most of the young guys that I try to get interested in ham radio have no interest in voice or cw communication.  But when I mention "digital modes", that's when they begin to listen to my pitch.
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W5TTW
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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2011, 10:14:30 PM »

The typical American ham is a member of a diminishing demographic in this country, which is the Caucasian male.   
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N7DM
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2011, 11:51:03 AM »

Difficult to say if 'Ham Radio' is aging...or not.  *I* am aging. Recently I found that *amongst Hams who I know... or knew as a Kid...*, with the exception of one (1) 92 year old guy I have known since he was in his thirties.... I *am* the last Ham Standing!

I love Ham Radio and have since I was ten (10). I owe more to Ham Radio than any Non-Person thing that has been in my life. It breaks my heart to see how little the New Guys know... or can do... or talk about. THEN... I remember that *I* was lucky enough to be a Kid Ham in the days of (1) cheap WW2 surplus equipment, and (3) Hollow State, point to point wired gear that was both Work-On-Able AND forgiving if you made a mistake!  These newer guys are deprived of those two extremely important paths to experience and knowledge... that I had. Can I expect them to know about tuned feeders and matching networks, to talk about them in QSO? Of course not. THEY didn't lean out the upstairs bedroom window to change a half dozen cardboard feedline spacers, almost daily, here in North Seven Land!

These days I confine my operation to the upcoming June Madness, the November Sweepstakes, and the Ten Meter contest.  'DX' isn't much fun anymore as the EU guys I used to rag chew with [on CW] are ALSO not there.

Not much of an answer... but my best.

73, dm
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KI4SDY
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Posts: 1452




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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2011, 05:20:02 PM »

Most of the hams I meet look just like me, old! Even the young ones look old, albeit, premature. Tongue
« Last Edit: April 15, 2011, 06:30:03 PM by KI4SDY » Logged
WD4CHP
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2011, 06:11:44 PM »

It is better a lot better to be "aging" in ham radio than the alternative!

 Grin
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KJ1D
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« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2011, 08:30:44 AM »

Ham radio may or may not be but I am. I just wish I had got into this great hobby several years ago.
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N7DM
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« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2011, 01:42:36 PM »

I'd settle for still having some of that great Boat-Anchor gear!  I'd love to see a flickering set of 866 M/V rectifiers as I sent code. I *do* still own my Hollow-State T/R switch that I used on the Viking Ranger and HRO rcvr. Alas... all else is QRT.

dm
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K7PEH
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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2011, 02:44:15 PM »

My boat anchor gear (Hammarlund HQ-170A and EICO 720) is sitting in the storage garage.  Every now and then I consider the thought of selling it and then I say "no, not now" to myself.  But, I don't use it.  I can't imagine the thought of using some piece of old gear whose performance is a mere shadow of the capabilities of my Elecraft K3 or even my old backup rig, my Icom 756 Pro III.  Having tubes light up is not my thing -- my entire station, amp included, is all solid state.
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