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Author Topic: What killed Ham Radio???  (Read 22252 times)

Posts: 14778

« Reply #30 on: July 18, 2009, 05:12:08 PM »

"The reports of my death are greatly exagerated" - Mark Twain

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 105

« Reply #31 on: July 23, 2009, 04:40:54 PM »

Without even reading all of your post, and none of the replies, i gotta say the internet is killing ham radio!

Posts: 6

« Reply #32 on: July 23, 2009, 09:21:52 PM »

I can certainly understand where you are at as I recently moved to Seattle,WA area and was in search of a shop to bench-check my HF rig. I've found that closest shop is in Poulsbo,WA. 60+ miles away ! It's a shame that a major metropolitan area couldn't have even the most basic services available to Hams. Supply and Demand ? I am wary of shipping rig to cross-country tech facility.

Posts: 6

« Reply #33 on: July 23, 2009, 09:32:57 PM »

Yes, and other electronic devices often state that no user parts are available for reuse.

Posts: 805

« Reply #34 on: July 24, 2009, 07:44:30 AM »

"Without even reading all of your post, and none of the replies, i gotta say the internet is killing ham radio!"

Not aimed at the quoted poster, but you hear this all over. And of course who you hear it from is hams. So why haven't you abandoned HR for the Internet, if it's such a potent killer of amateur radio?

So, just how is the Internet supposed to be killing HR? Where's the competition?

I'll grant one. The stereotypical geeky kid who gravitated to ham radio, likely plays with computers today. But see below.

What else? Talking to folks? I don't think so. It has never been much about just talking. It's much more about seeing WHO you can talk to and WHERE. The Internet doesn't compute there. All distances are the same to the Internet, since the 'Net isn't even a physical entity.

Emergency communications? The Internet isn't even in the game, except as something you sometimes need to find a way to get out of the affected area and onto. For that matter, cell phones are essentially an Internet-like mode that is largely out of play in a wide-area emergency.

What's the Internet done FOR ham radio.

It's made many people aware that the code requirement has been dropped. However you feel about that, it's had a real effect.

It's provided stunning access to thousands of ideas and technical knowledge on antennas and every other sort of gear to bought, built, or fiddled with.

It's provided access to the inventories of all the important radio dealers and an huge market for used gear and a way to see what others have to say about the equipment and the dealers.

It's provided contesters and DX folks with a LOT of stimulus to get on the air.

It's provided real-time propagation information that also stimulates operation.

It's provided considerable help to new hams who are frustrated or confused and who have limited access to experienced help.

It's provided experience of hearing and seeing HR operations via You-Tube, etc. and live feeds to people who might never otherwise have the experience and get the chance to be bitten, which includes the geeky computer kid.

Any technical field benefits from proliferation of knowledge. Any hobby benefits from readily available information about the activity. There are always some side-effects. Cell phones have pretty well done in local repeater phone patches. So what?

Sorry. If you're going to tell me the Internet is killing ham radio, you're going to have to show me how it's happening.

Posts: 36

« Reply #35 on: July 26, 2009, 05:59:42 PM »

In the beginning (now THERE'S an auspicious start....) ham radio attracted people who were enthralled by the prospect of building a radio "set" that would let you talk across state lines and, eureka, across the oceans.  I was fortunate enough to have started hamming during the tube and straight-key years, and nothing I own and operate today can compare with the thrill of working cw DX on a simple dipole while the receiver tubes glowed throuogh the rcvr cabinet.

Going to the Old Post Office to take the exam when the FCC man came to town.  Waiting months to get that first callsign.  Watching the mail daily for a QSL card from two states over, and then showing it to all your friends.  I consider myself very lucky - I got to experience all those things.

From the availability of commercially built ham rigs to the easing of licensing requirements, it is clearly less of an investment in personal time and effort to get a ticket today than it was, say, 40 years ago.  Not saying 'better' or 'worse' .... just different.

Combine that with the advent of internet and email via cell phones and the like, and it is little wonder that today's youngsters have difficulty in feeling the same kind of awe and excitement that we did 40 years ago.

I still enjoy it very much, but I cant say that if I was introducted to it only today.... well, you know.



Posts: 1128


« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2009, 06:02:41 PM »

This is an interesting post that has drawn a lot of comment.

I was particularly drawn to your statement:

"there should have been a band or two dedicated to novice hams, that do not need all the schematics knowledge, basic electronics, etc.. what will they use it for since most of the newer rigs (15 years and older) are plug and play?"

You are right.  There is a band allocated for such non-technical "Licensed Talkers".  It is the Citizens Band.

Ham Radio is an educational endeavor.  It was created for the purpose of training a pool of technically proficient radio operators who could serve as emergency communicators in time of need.  Over the past 75 years, most of the participants were driven by a consuming interest in electronic communication, not simply a desire to talk with their like-minded non-technical friends.

Hams should constantly strive to educate themselves and contribute something aside from conversing with their buddies.

Ham radio did not stay far enough ahead in terms of technical requirements and qualifications.  As a consequence, instead of drawing those with greater technical aptitudes and potential, we came to be a gathering of conversationalists on a party line.  

Thirty, forty years ago, hams often produced innovations and revelations in the fields of electronics and communications.

Not so much any more.

We all need to spend more time learning, experimenting and building.  This way we can add to ham radio, and actually have something worthwhile to discuss with our buddies on the air.

Phil C. Sr.

Posts: 397

« Reply #37 on: July 28, 2009, 05:49:38 AM »

Its because of the FCC dropping the code!!!  HAHAHA!! Just had to get that in there someplace!!!

Its a dirty job but someone had to do it

Posts: 194

« Reply #38 on: July 29, 2009, 11:23:18 AM »

I remember my granddad, in the 60s, talking about "the legendary demise of ham radio".  Everybody thought it was dying.

I've only been a ham a few years, but the enthusiasm I encounter on the air is stronger with every contact I make.

- k

Posts: 8

« Reply #39 on: July 31, 2009, 03:37:49 PM »

It seems to me that Ham radio consists of essentially two parts.  

Part one is the doing...the getting there....the tinkering to make it work.

The second part is the 'now that we got there, what do we do' part....the talking.

Part one has a definite audience, those who like the technical aspect of making this whole thing work.  That audience is very specific, limited (relative to the mass population) and by its nature does not appeal to a very large percentage of the populace.  It has a very definite 'nerd' coefficient with the the majority of today's younger crowd and certainly does not have a modern, chic, faddish, hip, rad, cool attraction to the very demographic that the hobby needs to draw new members from. If the hobby has very little intrinsic appeal to a large percentage of people then you have the definition of a marketing problem.

The second part competes with today's modern email, cellular phone and texting.  Why should a young person spend lots of money and lots of parking lot and cruising time doing something technically challenging to accomplish something they can do for free by email or facebook or myspace.  Again this becomes a huge perception problem which, again, by definition, is a marketing problem.

Some say that we aren't talking about young people.  I suggest that is the problem.  That is what makes the hobby seem to be an old man's hobby.  And when all that is discussed, usually, on air is antennas and radios and propagation then it is self limiting itself to the older demographic, which in turn creates an older demographically populated hobby.

Unless we somehow make it more interesting to the non-interested this is what we will have.  And this is borne out by the fact that this is pretty much what the hobby always has had.  Only problem is, the old keep getting older and eventially end up in a silent keys column.  Attrition will be what kills this hobby, if it indeed dies.

Perception is everything, and marketing dictates perception.  Maybe, that is the fate of this kind of technically oriented hobby.  Maybe amateur radio and bridge clubs have something in common.

But until amateur radio has something to offer to a younger demographic (in there mind) it will not get new membership from that demographic and attrition will slowly work its work.  Perhaps the middle aged demographic can make up the difference.  I dont know, does it? has it? will it?

The best hope in the interim, while someone comes up with some ideas about how to improve general perception, is to make the hobby as fun as possible for those of us who are presently in it.  

For this ham it's pretty fun.  My daughter thinks Im a nerd.


Posts: 805

« Reply #40 on: July 31, 2009, 06:09:04 PM »

Well, that's a thing, isn't it. Like Dilbert asking if getting his ham radio license will make him more attractive to women. T'was once a time when it was cool. Back when my grandfather, years before he was licensed as 4LU, made the front page of the paper when he and his friend astounded the town by communicating with the New Orleans Coast Guard station a couple of hundred miles away. And when books for boys sometimes had titles and story lines about amateur radio in their adventures.

It seems to me that the younger hams are very much involved in digital modes, which of course come very naturally to one raised in a digital world. We can't really judge by the apparent majority of elders on HF SSW and CW. Communicating at a distance is taken for granted by the young. Not nearly so many of them are impressed by what lies within the range of knowledge of a lot of older hams. They're certainly not going to much stimulated listening to the comparing of illness and treatments that make of up lot of HF QSO's or the inane drivel on the repeaters that seems to be mostly talking for the sake of talking.

Think about what comes to mind when you think of how you would demonstrate ham radio to kids. Your answer may well reveal your age. Get the young techie hams to work on the kids. They know far better what will hook them. It's largely a matter of getting them in the door. Once they're in, a good many of them decide there are also interesting things happening below 145mHz.

Posts: 242

« Reply #41 on: August 01, 2009, 07:02:52 PM »

By asking "what killed Ham Radio", aren't we assuming that it is dead?  I would beg to differ on that one.  I've been licensed only 13 years, but I've loved radio since I was about 7 years old. It was 1960.  I used to love to take my little transistor radio to bed and listen to WLS, WLW, and others, and it amazed me that something invisible could travel hundreds of miles through the air, through the walls of my parents house and come out the speaker of that little rig.  Fiddling with RF has always been a part of my life.  

We talk about advertising, and really all we can do is let others see our enthusiasm and see if it takes.  I've been making lots of contacts during solar minimum, and since DX is harder to work, domestic work allows me to get to know other Hams in the USA.  Our beloved hobby comes down to people, pure and simple.  Without the guy or gal on the other end, all the fancy equipment in the whole world is worthless.  I'm proud to have a nice station, but I was equally proud with my first setup, a 520 and an inverted vee.  

One thing about our Society now days is that most of us are into instantaneous gratification.  Ham Radio requires patience, an open mind, and the desire to learn.  It isn't about code or no-code.  It really isn't about mossbacks or even lids.  You can't achieve excellence unless you pursue it in the first place.  You can't legislate excellence either.  How do you get people to motivate themselves?  It's gotta come from within.  That's what the real Ham Radio ethic is, and the best way to get it is through an Elmer or two who really loves radio.  Dead?  No way!   Rick, n5xm

Posts: 1461

« Reply #42 on: August 02, 2009, 09:58:18 AM »

I believe the subject should have been what killed hamfests, not "What killed Ham Radio??"  

Now to the tune of Rawhide, sing with me, trolling, trolling, trolling.

Posts: 8915


« Reply #43 on: August 02, 2009, 01:17:39 PM »

But until amateur radio has something to offer to a younger demographic (in there mind) it will not get new membership from that demographic and attrition will slowly work its work. Perhaps the middle aged demographic can make up the difference. I dont know, does it? has it? will it? "

Yeah, I think it has and will!

People need hobbies when the kids move out or they retire, and I think that's a lot of the reason why the ham radio demographic skews toward older folks.

I'm a rather younger than average ham but I'm a giant nerd who's liked radio for a long time.  I'm 30 years old, finishing my Ph.D. in Physics, learned to solder when I was 10, and was playing with little blinky electronics doodads and simple circuits in my late preteen years.

I started talking on the CB radio with some friends around town when I was maybe 13 or 14, but eventually quit that due to some morons (also teenagers) who would follow us around the band and jam us.  

My uncle, N3QCQ, had offered to help me get my ham radio license but until I quit CB I was pretty satisfied with my tinkering there.  But when I quit, I got right into ham radio.  Got my Tech+ in 1995.

"My daughter thinks Im a nerd. "

It's because you are.   And there's a steadily growing "nerd culture" that we may be able to tap into.  But, to a large extent, nerds are still nerds and we still live in a society that can range from mildly to severely anti-intellectual.

I don't think we can expect hordes of teenagers to get interested in ham radio at all.  And would we *really* want that?

I think it's reasonable to expect we could attract a few young teenage nerds, but ham radio isn't "cool."

I think we could attract a good number of older (college age+), more experienced nerds who have had more time to embrace their nerd-ity, have a bit more disposable income, and who like to do things like sew microcontrollers into sweatshirts anyway:

But you CANNOT make ham radio cool to people who don't think radio is cool, and people who think radio is inherently cool are nerds.

That's the way it is.

It's a nerdy hobby.



Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.

Posts: 2818


« Reply #44 on: August 03, 2009, 12:16:48 PM »

"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. "

Whoah.. I highly disagree there! I'm willing to bet I can get on packet radio for $100 or less. Pick up a used Icom 2AT for $30. Pick up an old working PC someone is throwing out - FREE. Build a coathanger antenna (cost of SO-239 and a short piece of coax), build your own sound card interface cable (the cost of a few audio cables / connectors) and download freeware. $1000 is a bit high! Not to mention, who on earth uses a TNC anymore these days.. it seems most everything has gone to the sound card interfaces.
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