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Author Topic: The Death of Ham Radio?  (Read 20068 times)
WB4LCN
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« on: November 07, 2011, 01:37:41 PM »

Ham Radio could have a resurgence with the youth.

Though my Ham license had lapsed in the mid 80s, (recently re-licensed) I still kept up with Ham technology. Even so, I still have an opinion.

Just recently there was a complete power outage in San Diego. Many 20 and 30 somethings, knowing I was a Ham, asked me how that was handled by the Ham community. We talked about all the different options that hams had at their disposal. Each of these people were very impressed and each showed a valid interest in how they could become Hams.

Most were not aware that there was a bit of study involved in getting their Ham license. When told this, I could tell that there was a little cooling off, but they still remained interested in the emergency preparedness that Ham Radio offered.

It's my gut feeling that if there could be some relaxed adjustments, with entry level licensing, - maybe going back to a Novice Class with no code requirement and a reduced amount of electronic theory and radio wave propagation, we might attract some new blood. Keep the classes of licensing afterward, as they are, but re-introduce a Novice Class license.

Thank you for reading.

Dave
WB4LCN
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First, make it work, then make it pretty.
Yaesu Rigs: Kenwood TS-480HX, FT-8900R, FTM-350AR (Bluetooth motorcycle mobile), VX-8DR, SB-102 boat anchor (built one as a kid)

Moderate Spock: "Live for a reasonable amount of time and scrape by."
N3DF
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2011, 03:02:51 PM »

I have found that a General class license is within the reach of just about any motivated high school (and some younger) students. 
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Neil N3DF
K5LXP
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2011, 03:04:10 PM »

The "difficulty" of the exam isn't an impediment to entry.  A few hours of study plus $15 and you're in.  Eight year old kids have passed the exam. How much easier does it need to be?

There's only so many people that really want a ham license.  If they were printed on the back of cereal boxes there would still be only so many that would follow through and do something with it.  Frankly, if the requirement to memorize a few test questions and have a passing familiarity with the service are too much, then I don't want them around anyway.  The bands and ham forums are populated well enough with technically and operationally vacant licensees as it is.

There's already radio services that don't require an exam - CB, FRS/GMRS and MURS.  Let's not make ham radio one of them.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AB2T
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2011, 08:29:16 PM »

It's my gut feeling that if there could be some relaxed adjustments, with entry level licensing, - maybe going back to a Novice Class with no code requirement and a reduced amount of electronic theory and radio wave propagation, we might attract some new blood. Keep the classes of licensing afterward, as they are, but re-introduce a Novice Class license.

Once I advocated for a reduction to two licenses (General and Extra), with full frequency privileges for both, but a much tougher and longer examination in compensation.  That's probably not the way to get people interested.

The current three class system is adequate.  The issue is getting young people to upgrade from Tech.  Many young people get the Tech and never get their General.  Some young Techs are satisfied with FM repeater culture, and don't care about HF.  Others lose interest and let their licenses lapse.  

I got my (old) Extra at 15.  I haven't regretted that decision for a minute.  It's been great not worrying about that license -- all I have to do is renew now.  Then again, I spent two years practicing code on the Novice bands to get there.  The Novice was important when HF was the primary interest of most hams.  Nowadays, the entry point is VHF/UHF.  The key to getting young people up the ranks is exposure to HF operating.  That includes time with CW, data, and phone.  This might spur some young people on to getting their General and Extra. The lack of Elmering nowadays, combined with the absence of school or club stations, severely limits HF time for young hams.

73, Jordan  
« Last Edit: November 07, 2011, 08:30:47 PM by AB2T » Logged
K2ACB
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2011, 08:25:54 AM »

I was first licensed at the age of 14 with a novice class license. That license was the gateway to amateur radio for many young people. Even though at that time it was only valid for a year and on Hf you were limited only to CW on several hf bands with many restrictions, the novice license was comparatively easy to obtain.

I think it was a mistake for the FCC to eliminate the novice class license. I would reinstate that license . It would allow more people to get on the HF bands and would be easier for young people to get into the hobby.

When I was a teenager a lot of high schools had amateur radio clubs. When I travel around New York City today I see high school buildings and even some schools of higher education that have HF antennas on the roof that are falling apart after years of not being used and neglect. I also pass other school buildings that I knew in the past had HF antennas on the roof of the building. Today there are no antennas on the roof.

Many of the people I speak to today who are new to ham radio especially on HF are retirees or are people who for a long time were interested in the hobby but it took them years to get the incentive to take the examination. Most of my operating time today is on HF . To operate HF requires a General Class or higher license. Then you have to get the HF equipment . An HF station is much more expensive to purchase than a VHF-UHF station. For that all you need is an HT. To operate HF you also need space for an antenna.

People's interest may change over time. I have been through phases where Ham radio was put on the back burner so to speak. I had vhf-uhf equipment but could not put up an HF antenna and  I was very inactive. Then after a few years my interest in amateur radio was rekindled and I was on the air much more. Circumstances changed and I had space for an HF antenna  . Change  is part of life.

Today ham radio suffers from competition from the internet and VOIP programs like Skype. My own sons ages 15 and 13 have told me that they think in this age that amateur radio is an antiquated hobby.

They say to me why does one have to study for a test that you must know radio theory when you can go on a computer or cellphone and speak to anyone in the world without needing to know anything about radio theory or rules and regulations. They make a point though I disagree with them.

I tell them that in times of emergencies when there is no power ,lights,cell phones etc the only means of communication maybe via amateur radio.This is why I also feel that it was a terrible mistake for the FCC to end the 5 WPM code requirement for the Extra class licernse.

There is the ultimate disaster scenario. This is when a person or group of individuals have no access to power,internet, cell phone service,mobile communications etc. However if someone has a small penlight battery powered CW transceiver such as an Elecraft KX1 that is very light weight and can fit in a coat pocket along with a few feet of wire ,if you now CW that can save your life.

I read that a few years ago a fellow was in the Mountains of Oregon camping. Where he was his cell phone did not work and he had no access to any amateur radio repeaters. He broke his leg in an accident. Lucky for him he was a radio amateur. He did take with him an Elecraft KX1 CW transceiver.
He was able to use that by using a little wire antenna to put out a CQ and contacting a radio amateur 500 miles away for help. He could have died without that transceiver and if he did not know CW.

Anyhow getting back on topic, I feel that if amateur radio was offered in more schools today as it was in the past we would have many more young people going into the hobby.

Nevertheless I feel that amateur radio is here to stay. The number of licensees in the USA and around the world has remained steady in recent years with slight increases in some places. So i would not write off this hobby.

Finally amateur radio is still a multi million dollar business. If there wasn't a market out there why are Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom , Ten Tec , Elecraft and now the Chinese manufacturing and selling amateur radio equipment and why are there smaller firms like MFJ and dozens of others doing the same.?

If there was no future what is there incentive to come out with new radios and accessories and still be in the market?
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W5ESE
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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2011, 09:54:31 AM »

I think the excessive emphasis on emergency communications will be the death of ham radio.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2011, 10:59:32 AM »

Techs already have HF access on 80, 40, 15, and 10M. Reinstating the old Novice wouldn't get them anything more in the way of HF access. Giving them full access to all the HF phone bands *might* help get them interested in HF.

When I was getting started in the late 1950's I didn't have any access to school club stations. They may have had them in NYC but in the midwest they were pretty much unheard of. I got experience by visiting a few local hams at their homes.
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KG4NEL
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« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2011, 01:51:39 PM »

Quote
They say to me why does one have to study for a test that you must know radio theory when you can go on a computer or cellphone and speak to anyone in the world without needing to know anything about radio theory or rules and regulations. They make a point though I disagree with them.

Ask them why anyone in their right mind would own a sailboat, or light aircraft, when it's much less hassle to go online and buy a commercial ticket to somewhere Smiley

I agree with their point, although it should bother someone in ham radio just as much as it bothers a yachtsman that nobody uses sailboats as their primary means of long-distance travel.
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KO3D
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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2011, 06:35:49 PM »

Less licensing requirements aren't going to make things better. As you said, there are other services available for people who won't bother to learn Technician level material. Too many people are being brought in for EMCOM who have no interest in Ham as a hobby. 100K new hams who are ER nurses and EMTs waiting for Katrina 2.0 with ARES aren't strengthening AR. What ever happened to ham radio as a HOBBY?

Listen to 14.313 and you quickly see that even 35 years as an extra doesn't make someone a good operator. The FCC has all but given up enforcement. Local repeaters are dead. Kids are obsessed with texting and don't even realize their phone is a radio.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
KO3D
What does handing out water cups at marathons have to do with ham radio??



The "difficulty" of the exam isn't an impediment to entry.  A few hours of study plus $15 and you're in.  Eight year old kids have passed the exam. How much easier does it need to be?

There's only so many people that really want a ham license.  If they were printed on the back of cereal boxes there would still be only so many that would follow through and do something with it.  Frankly, if the requirement to memorize a few test questions and have a passing familiarity with the service are too much, then I don't want them around anyway.  The bands and ham forums are populated well enough with technically and operationally vacant licensees as it is.

There's already radio services that don't require an exam - CB, FRS/GMRS and MURS.  Let's not make ham radio one of them.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

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AK4KZ
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« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2011, 07:55:08 AM »

For what it's worth..  one thing I think we have to get over is that ham radio is in competition with the internet. I mean, yes and no. There is certainly overlap. But people hanging out on Facebook and texting on their phones aren't usually doing so because they have a love and fascination with technology. I don't think people become hams (for the most part) because they can't find a better or more efficient way to communicate.

So, in the sense of "why would we do this when we have the Internet?".. that's true. If that's all you see in the hobby, then it's probably not for you. And the same idea extends to the licensing process. The tests are pretty easy overall. If you can't learn the theory, you can memorize the answers. But either one involves some dedication to the journey. If you can't do that, maybe you should be texting.

There is so much to do that's encompassed within the amateur radio umbrella. And, in each of those areas, there's still advances to be made. I'd like to see some of those computer people get involved with the hobby. Lots of room to grow there but it's going to stem from a love of solving problems... not the ability to talk to someone. Someone who says, "why would we do that when we have the Internet?" is probably not going to be the one who's designing a better amateur satellite.

I've been working on computers for over 20 years.. between PCs, programming and networking, security and database systems. I'm no slouch at what I do. Believe me, I've got some more efficient ways of communicating. But I'm learning CW. I'd really like to become a competent fist. I'm fascinated by sat comms and looking forward to diving into that. And I'm really interested in figuring ways to put digital comms to other application uses. Eventually, I'd like to experiment with antennas. It's the technology that draws me (even though many would say it's antiquated). It's the learning and the challenge. I think that's your target audience. And I think that's been a huge target audience throughout the history of ham radio. Sure, there have been practical uses over the years but the personal challenge and fascination is often the big draw. One either has it or one doesn't.

[as an afterthought.. if we needed more doctors and pilots, I hope the answer wouldn't be to make the entry tests easier. Although.. didn't some place just do that with the police exams? Scary. Just sayin']

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 07:57:49 AM by AK4KZ » Logged
K0RGR
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« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2011, 04:48:06 PM »

I'm not sure that we need an easier entry level, but I would like to see some kind of restructuring.

Our current licensing scheme is a hangover from many decades of a two-tiered system - those who were proficient at the Morse Code, and those who weren't. Even before the no-code license, 5 WPM Technicians were relegated to the VHF/UHF oblivion, because you needed 13 WPM to get on HF, except under very limited circumstances as a Novice.
Before WWII, you only needed 10 WPM , but I guess all hams got better at CW after the war.

Politically, I doubt that a meaningful change will come in this area until most of my generation are dead.

The current Technician grants VHF/UHF privileges that are far, far beyond the required knowledge for the ticket, while granting HF privileges that are far, far less useful than the old Novice, unless the holder goes through the old hazing ritual and learns the code. I'd like to see some reasonable limits put on the VHF/UHF, while granting at least a few more HF privileges.

ARRL proposed merging the Tech and General, and creating a new Novice. I think they planned to give too much to the new Novice, but I think they were otherwise on the right track. We could also fix the problem to a great extent by simply giving Techs a nighttime HF phone band and some nighttime digital. Before WWII, the equivalent license had CW on most of the same bands as the current Tech, with phone on 160 and 10 meters. That would be a good start.

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W7ETA
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2011, 11:57:48 AM »

When i got my ticket in the late 70s I heard that going to multiple choice questions would kill ham radio.

Since then, all of the ham radio is dying threads have been redundant.

73
Bob
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K5WCF
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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2011, 02:30:07 PM »

Well, for what it's worth here's my two cents worth.
As long as there is a person out there who appreciates or is interested in one of the many different aspects of amateur radio, there will be hams. The time may come that we might not have the bands that we once had, but there will still be people willing to work with what they have. Plus I feel we all have a narrow minded view of the over all size of the ham community. We look at numbers mainly here in the U.S. and we see the decline of interest here locally, we seem to forget this is a worldwide hobby. Personally I wish we had more teens involved in our hobby but unfortunately there is alot of things competing with amateur radio. I also feel hams could be a little more inviting both on the air and in person. We all have some story of how awful our hobby can be at times, rather a rude person on the air or in fighting in a local club, there will always be something that shines a poor light on amateur radio as well. It seems to me this hobby grows best when it is done person to person there's a reason we have these things called Elmers. We need to show those interested first hand what they can do, how easy they can do it and that their only limitations are how far they want to go with it. For me ham radio will die when they pry my mic from my cold dead hand. That just how I see it.
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N2EY
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« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2011, 07:25:05 PM »

Our current licensing scheme is a hangover from many decades of a two-tiered system - those who were proficient at the Morse Code, and those who weren't.

13 wpm is hardly "proficient'.


Before WWII, you only needed 10 WPM , but I guess all hams got better at CW after the war.

Not exactly.

The code test speed changed from 10 to 13 wpm in 1936, five years before the USA entered WW2.

Politically, I doubt that a meaningful change will come in this area until most of my generation are dead.

Why?

The current Technician grants VHF/UHF privileges that are far, far beyond the required knowledge for the ticket, while granting HF privileges that are far, far less useful than the old Novice, unless the holder goes through the old hazing ritual and learns the code.

Huh

There hasn't been a Morse Code test for a US amateur radio license form more than 4-1/2 years.

All US amateur radio licenses have been available with a 5 wpm code test since 1990. From 1990 to 2000, there were "medical waivers" for the 13 and 20 wpm code tests. but all it took to get one was a simple letter from any doctor.

ARRL proposed merging the Tech and General, and creating a new Novice.


When was that?

 
Before WWII, the equivalent license had CW on most of the same bands as the current Tech, with phone on 160 and 10 meters. That would be a good start.

No, that's not how it was.

Before mid-1951, there were only three classes of US amateur radio license: A, B and C. B and C were essentially the same except that B was from an FCC examiner and C was "by mail".

All three license classes required 13 wpm code, sending and receiving, and a written exam of about 50 questions. That test included draw-a-diagram, calculate-and-show-your-work, essay and multiple-choice questions.

All three license classes allowed all amateurs to use full authorized power on all amateur frequencies. However, the 'phone subbands between 2 and 25 MHz were reserved for Class A only.

The Class A license required a Class B or C license for at least a year plus an additional, more-advanced written test only. Class A did not require any additional code testing. The Class A could only be earned from an FCC-examiner run test session, no by-mail such as the Class C. Also, if a Class C wanted a Class A, s/he had to first retake and pass all the requirements (code and written) for a Class B in front of an FCC examiner.

Before WW2 the HF/MF amateur bands were 160. 80/75, 40, 20 and 10 meters. 40 meters was all-CW; no phone subband at all.

So all a Class A got you was the ability to use 'phone on 75 and 20. Back then 75 'phone was 3900 to 4000 kHz and 20 'phone was 14150 to 14250 kHz.

After WW2 we got 11 meters because 160 was in use for LORAN. We got 15 in the early 1950s and 30, 17 and 12 in the early 1980s.

There's a lot more to the story, of course, but the above hits the high points.

Yours for historical accuracy,

73 de Jim,. n2EY
« Last Edit: November 11, 2011, 03:20:11 AM by N2EY » Logged
AK7V
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« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2011, 12:06:53 AM »

We've got fewer young people going into engineering, math, science, etc.  It's not a problem with ham radio or the licensing requirements - it's a cultural/priority shift among the young people in the US.  Technically inclined kids go into PIC programming, robots, computers, etc.  It's the wave of the future Smiley
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