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Author Topic: 700,000 + licenses -- the reasons?  (Read 7035 times)
W0TLP
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Posts: 83




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« on: November 16, 2011, 08:36:15 AM »

By now most know that there are more than 700,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the U.S. http://www.arrl.org/news/us-amateurs-now-700-000-strong.

Of course, this is a count of valid licenses, not "active" hams.

It would be interesting to get an idea of how many of the new hams got their tickets because of an interest in ham radio -- the DXing, tinkering, experimentation, etc -- versus an interest in "preparedness." Many of the prepper books and videos advocate ham radio as a way for the common man to have communications when "the grid goes down." But they don't necessarily advocate hamming -- the hobby stuff.

I'm not making an argument for or against being licensed for "prepping" versus an interest in electronics and radio as a hobby. Just wondering what kind of impact the prepper movement has had on licensing.

Perhaps we'll see a spike in ARRL and local club membership. That won't be a perfect measure but it could indicate more people being interested in the hobby. But if we see a steady drop in club rosters and a spike in amateur licenses, that might be good indicator that licensees are more interested in just having radios than playing with radios as a hobby.

Maybe more people are just interested in ham radio and are motivated to get their licenses now that there's no code requirement. I know several people who had always had an interest but assumed it would be too hard to pass a cw test, myself included.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 08:40:46 AM by KD0KVV » Logged
N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2011, 09:51:58 AM »

We're actually over 701,000 as of yesterday (701,068).

While there is an emphasis on "emcomm", I think the wider aspects of "hamming" are still the big draw. Note that the percentage distribution of licenses is such that a lot of folks are going for General and Extra.

The growth is probably partly due to the reduction in test requirements - both code and written. Particularly written, which was dramatically reduced in 2000.

The really good news is that the growth seems to be ongoing. The last remnants of code testing went away more than 4-1/2 years ago, yet the numbers keep growing.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W0TLP
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Posts: 83




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« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2011, 10:41:29 AM »

Jim, I hope you're right about the interest in "hamming." I think it's the case, but issued licenses isn;t enough to convince me.

I'm glad the test requirements changed. That's why I am a ham now. I found both the tech and general exams -- I took both in 2010 -- to be interesting to study for, not incredibly difficult but still an enjoyable challenge. The Extra book is melting my brain.

I decided to study for my tech license at the urging of a "prepper" friend who thinks that radio is the way to communicate when it "all happens."

Like many, I had a mild interest in radio as a child and teenager -- I recall a Boys' Life magazine cartoon that depicted ham radio operations ("I'm talking to Paris ... Paris, Illinois") -- but didn't have enough desire to learn Morse code to go for the license. I suspect there are many people who have an interest but still think Morse code is required.

My eyes and mind were opened to the amazing world of ham radio while studying for my tech license and it quickly became a hobby, not merely a "prepping" solution. My friends and family are fascinated that I have made contacts through a satellite using an antenna made of PVC and a tape measure, that I can send e-mail and text messages without any sort of Internet connection or cell phone service and that I've learned a bunch of interesting skills in building, tinkering and problem solving. It was the relative simplicity of the tech license, and the thoroughness of the ARRL study guide -- that open the gate to this really cool hobby that happens to have a public service use that could come in handy. And now I'm teaching myself the code because it's just plain cool. I'm talking Steve McQueen cool.

My buddy who convinced me to get my license still believes that radio will be the way to communicate when the power and phones fail. Yet he still doesn't know how to change the PL tone on his radio; knows the frequency of just one repeater; and sure as heck will not be able to figure out how to hit a repeater, let alone which repeater, when in an unfamiliar area or if repeaters are out of reach of his stock rubber duck. And long-distance communications? He's hosed.

To each his own, but I tell him he's wasting his callsign.

The whole "when all else fails" marketing campaign doesn't really send much of a message about the reality of ham radio.

I'd love to see the ARRL and other clubs push the "ham radio is just plain cool" agenda as marketing.  Maybe it will result in more of the licensees getting involved and inventing more cool stuff.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 01:10:03 PM by KD0KVV » Logged
N4KZ
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Posts: 598




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« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2011, 12:22:53 PM »

Now that 10 meters has finally returned to the living, I've had 4 QSOs with West Coast stations who all indicated they were new to ham radio, mainly got involved in it for the emcomm and had heard about the fantastic 10-meter conditions and wanted to get on the air to experience them. A couple of the guys were so green to HF that they really didn't know how to initiate a QSO, how to turn it back over to the other station at the end of their transmissions, etc.

But we all have to start somewhere. I recall 30 years ago running into new hams on the air who mainly got their tech tickets to use the autopatch on their local 2 meter repeaters. Being a die-hard traditional ham, I wasn't real thrilled to hear folks getting their tickets just to make phone calls from their car but I always tried to be friendly and welcoming to them.

Thirty years ago, a woman called me on the phone. Her son was a U.S. Marine stationed overseas and she really wanted to be able to converse with him frequently. She had some vague knowledge that people with ham licenses could sometimes communicate long distances and she wanted to know if there was much hope finding anyone with the ability to patch phone calls through. I explained about third party agreements and that the places where her son was stationed or likely to be stationed didn't have third party agreements with the U.S. I told her that I thought her best chance at success would require she and her son both get their ham tickets and converse directly with each other on the ham bands.

You know what? That's exactly what she and her son did. She went from having little radio knowledge to getting an advanced ticket and setting up a nice station. Her son got licensed too and apparently managed to find access to ham gear on his end -- MARS station, embassy club station, or whatever -- but the last I heard they were successful in talking on the air from time to time.

Amazing determination, I would say. So, we might be leery of some of the reasons people get their ham tickets but sometimes it all works out in the end.

73, N4KZ
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W6RMK
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« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2011, 09:11:35 PM »

for not very much money and time, you could do a decent mail survey of some statistically significant group of hams.  All their mailing addresses are available, of course.  A few hundred responses would get you pretty good data. 
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N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2011, 03:50:33 AM »

for not very much money and time, you could do a decent mail survey of some statistically significant group of hams.  All their mailing addresses are available, of course.  A few hundred responses would get you pretty good data. 

But how do you make a scientifically-valid selection?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W4KVW
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Posts: 488




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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2011, 04:16:29 AM »

The FCC numbers are WRONG as with MOST numbers that are calculated by the Government.Just searching the few hams within Baker County,Fla. by the zip codes within our county which is a small county we have at least 6 more hams than we really have.The numbers will NEVER be correct because those who become SK are NOT reported & don't get removed from the FCC list of current hams until they have been a SK for several years & they do not renew.I think that from just doing a quick review I'd say we have about 5 to 7 listed in the county whom are SK have NOT renewed or have moved away.

Clayton
W4KVW
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N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2011, 06:16:43 AM »

The FCC numbers are WRONG as with MOST numbers that are calculated by the Government.

How do you know?

Just searching the few hams within Baker County,Fla. by the zip codes within our county which is a small county we have at least 6 more hams than we really have.

But is searching a few hams in one county in one state (which btw has a very high percentage of senior citizens) a representative sample? I think not. It's a heavily biased sample.


The numbers will NEVER be correct because those who become SK are NOT reported & don't get removed from the FCC list of current hams until they have been a SK for several years & they do not renew.

Of course - but it's always been that way. The license-total numbers have always included a certain percentage of hams who are dead, incapacitated, or who have lost interest and will never come back.

In the bad old days the license of an SK ham would rarely be cancelled by FCC, because it wasn't usually reported. A ham could renew one day, pass away the next, yet be in the database for years.

Today, with vanity calls, we have an incentive for at least some SK hams' demise to be reported to FCC: family, friends and others wanting the SK ham's call.

btw, the numbers I post do not include licenses in the grace period.

73 de Jim, N2EY



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W6RMK
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Posts: 651




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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2011, 09:44:18 PM »

for not very much money and time, you could do a decent mail survey of some statistically significant group of hams.  All their mailing addresses are available, of course.  A few hundred responses would get you pretty good data. 

But how do you make a scientifically-valid selection?

73 de Jim, N2EY

This is a pretty standard problem. There's some more details, but, basically you pick a random sample from the database.  You send out the questionnaires, you see which ones come back.  You do this with several different groups of questionnaires (to see if the response rates and the responses to the questions are similar). The actual questionnaire design has to be done right.. randomizing the ordering and using a pool of questions (sort of like VEC exams).  Then, there's statistical techniques to deal with the non-responses (and with various reasons for non-response).

But in any case, it's straightforward.. there are textbooks (and probably websites.. I haven't dealt with this in over 35 years.. it was one of my first programming jobs)

It takes remarkably few surveys to get a fairly decent reliability (i.e. margin of error of a few percent with 95% confidence).. I'd guess a few hundred at most.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2011, 07:16:38 AM »

for not very much money and time, you could do a decent mail survey of some statistically significant group of hams.  All their mailing addresses are available, of course.  A few hundred responses would get you pretty good data. 

But how do you make a scientifically-valid selection?

73 de Jim, N2EY

This is a pretty standard problem. There's some more details, but, basically you pick a random sample from the database.  You send out the questionnaires, you see which ones come back.  You do this with several different groups of questionnaires (to see if the response rates and the responses to the questions are similar). The actual questionnaire design has to be done right.. randomizing the ordering and using a pool of questions (sort of like VEC exams).  Then, there's statistical techniques to deal with the non-responses (and with various reasons for non-response).

But in any case, it's straightforward.. there are textbooks (and probably websites.. I haven't dealt with this in over 35 years.. it was one of my first programming jobs)

It takes remarkably few surveys to get a fairly decent reliability (i.e. margin of error of a few percent with 95% confidence).. I'd guess a few hundred at most.

Maybe. I'm suspicious of survey methods that claim high accuracy from a very small sample. Particularly when the subject is so complex.

Still, the results are going to be better than the non-scientific ones.

But in any event it's a bell-the-cat question, because there doesn't seem to be anyone in ham radio willing to fund such surveys.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K1ZJH
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Posts: 972




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« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2011, 07:36:26 AM »

for not very much money and time, you could do a decent mail survey of some statistically significant group of hams.  All their mailing addresses are available, of course.  A few hundred responses would get you pretty good data. 

But how do you make a scientifically-valid selection?

73 de Jim, N2EY

This is a pretty standard problem. There's some more details, but, basically you pick a random sample from the database.  You send out the questionnaires, you see which ones come back.  You do this with several different groups of questionnaires (to see if the response rates and the responses to the questions are similar). The actual questionnaire design has to be done right.. randomizing the ordering and using a pool of questions (sort of like VEC exams).  Then, there's statistical techniques to deal with the non-responses (and with various reasons for non-response).

But in any case, it's straightforward.. there are textbooks (and probably websites.. I haven't dealt with this in over 35 years.. it was one of my first programming jobs)

It takes remarkably few surveys to get a fairly decent reliability (i.e. margin of error of a few percent with 95% confidence).. I'd guess a few hundred at most.

Jim

There other things for consideration. I agree the numbers are slightly skewed because of SKs still being shown as licensed hams.
I can think of several local hams who have past and are still shown as active.

The ham population is aging.  Add that to the ten year licensing and you now have many hams passing away with several years
left on their licenses before expiration. Most of the desirable 1x2 calls are long gone, so there is little incentive for anyone to
apply for a vanity call like KN1ZJH whenever that clown kicks the bucket Smiley

Pete
like KN1ZJH
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1424




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« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2011, 12:29:34 PM »

I'd love to see the ARRL and other clubs push the "ham radio is just plain cool" agenda as marketing.  Maybe it will result in more of the licensees getting involved and inventing more cool stuff.

LOL, I can see it now; Like a government PSA to encourage people to become computer programmers... "so run out today and join the fast paced and exciting world of programming! Who knows, maybe someday you will advance up to the pinnacle where you TOO can program in C++" <j/k>

-or-
Have you ever thought about your gums? Millions of people have gums and there are job opportunities for tens of thousands of dental hygienists,  join us the fast paced world of clean teeth".
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
AD6KA
Member

Posts: 2237




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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2011, 06:13:30 PM »

Maybe. I'm suspicious of survey methods that claim high accuracy from a very small sample.
Particularly when the subject is so complex
.

I agree completely.
Small sample groups are a statistical joke.

And when you are surveying people's motivations for an activity,
it involves age, level of education personal value systems,
past experiences, etc....it really IS complex. You might need
someone with a psych research backround just to write the
questions.

An unrelated anecdote about small sample groups
and statistical findings:

Did you see the Conrad Murray trial?
An MD whose supposed specialty is medical research did a study
in which 6 (six) subjects orally ingested a normally IV injected drug,
to see if oral consumption affected the quantity of that drug found in the urine.
And one of the six subjects was himself!
THIS is science?   Cheesy
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N2EY
Member

Posts: 3879




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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2011, 07:23:19 PM »

The ham population is aging.  Add that to the ten year licensing and you now have many hams passing away with several years
left on their licenses before expiration.

I see claims about how the ham population is aging - but are we, really? I mean, any more than the US population in general?

The median age of the US population keep going up. It's now 36.9 years, according to

http://www.indexmundi.com/united_states/median_age.html

That means half of us are over that age and half under. 50 years ago it was 29.5 years. In the same time period, the US male life expectancy has increased by almost a decade, from about 66 years to about 75 years.

Not only that, but most Americans are having fewer children and having them later in life. That skews the population distribution even more.

Most of the desirable 1x2 calls are long gone, so there is little incentive for anyone to
apply for a vanity call like KN1ZJH whenever that clown kicks the bucket Smiley

Maybe. But the vanity program overally is an incentive to report SKs to FCC. That didn't exist years ago.

---

What would be really interesting - and not a little scary - would be for somebody to send out surveys to every amateur listed in the database. Would be interesting to see how many came back because the licensee was SK, moved and left no address, etc., how many came back filled out that the ham was inactive, etc.

Problem is, such a survey would probably cost over $1 million to do.


73 de jim, N2EY
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W6RMK
Member

Posts: 651




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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2011, 08:18:21 PM »

for not very much money and time, you could do a decent mail survey of some statistically significant group of hams.  All their mailing addresses are available, of course.  A few hundred responses would get you pretty good data. 

But how do you make a scientifically-valid selection?

73 de Jim, N2EY

This is a pretty standard problem. There's some more details, but, basically you pick a random sample from the database.  You send out the questionnaires, you see which ones come back.  You do this with several different groups of questionnaires (to see if the response rates and the responses to the questions are similar). The actual questionnaire design has to be done right.. randomizing the ordering and using a pool of questions (sort of like VEC exams).  Then, there's statistical techniques to deal with the non-responses (and with various reasons for non-response).

But in any case, it's straightforward.. there are textbooks (and probably websites.. I haven't dealt with this in over 35 years.. it was one of my first programming jobs)

It takes remarkably few surveys to get a fairly decent reliability (i.e. margin of error of a few percent with 95% confidence).. I'd guess a few hundred at most.

Jim

There other things for consideration. I agree the numbers are slightly skewed because of SKs still being shown as licensed hams.
I can think of several local hams who have past and are still shown as active.

The ham population is aging.  Add that to the ten year licensing and you now have many hams passing away with several years
left on their licenses before expiration. Most of the desirable 1x2 calls are long gone, so there is little incentive for anyone to
apply for a vanity call like KN1ZJH whenever that clown kicks the bucket Smiley

Pete
like KN1ZJH


A mail out/ mail back (with prepaid postage) tends to find the SKs.. especially if you ask the respondant to indicate if the person to whom the letter was addressed is deceased.  This is pretty standard.  And, after all, isn't one of the things that people are interested in is what fraction of the 700,000 are non-participants?    Send out a few hundred questionnaires and there's a lot of information that can be gained, with statistical validity.
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