Recently, many articles have been written about the so-called ‘demise’ of Amateur Radio and how to attract younger people into the hobby. Here is an example from Hackaday:
AMATEUR RADIO JUST ISN’T EXCITING by Jenny List
Re-posted by Layne, AE1N
[EXCERPTS] As ARRL president, [Rick Roderick, K5UR] spends a significant amount of time proselytizing the hobby. He’s delivered this talk countless times, and is used to a good reception from audiences impressed with what can be done with radio. But when he delivered it to a group of young people, as Southgate ARC reports, he was surprised to see a lack of interest from his audience, to whom DX or contesting just don’t cut it when they have grown up with the pervasive Internet. Writing in the 2016 ARRL Annual Report, he said:
“Change generally doesn’t come easy to us. But when I looked out at that group of young faces and saw their disinterest in traditional ham pursuits, I realized that I had to change. We have to change. It won’t come easy, but it’s essential that we get to work on it now.”
It’s fair to say that amateur radio is a hobby pursued predominantly by older more well-off men with the means to spend thousands of dollars on commercial radios. It is also fair to say that this is hardly a prospect that would energize all but the most dedicated of youthful radio enthusiasts.
Were Hackaday to find ourselves in the position of advising the ARRL on such matters, we’d probably suggest a return to the roots of amateur radio, a time in the early 20th century when it was the technology that mattered rather than the collecting of DXCC entities or grid squares, and an amateur had first to build their own equipment rather than simply order a shiny radio before they could make a contact. why should it be a surprise that for kids, amateur radio just isn’t exciting?
What is very interesting to me, though, is reading through the 158 comments to the Hackaday article. (Keep in mind that these were gleaned by an Old Timer Age 72 who has been hamming 59 years and still immensely enjoys operating. So here goes: Interesting comments (to me) on the article:
- “I used to think amateur radio was uninteresting. Then I found TAPR, AMSET, and a host of amateur radio enthusiasts who are more experimenters than operators. They are out there and their numbers are growing.”
- “Too many rules and regulations; no broadcast; limited data communications; etc. It all leads to super-boring conversations with by-the-book types. RF is cool; but amateur radio and tis byzantine structure is not.”
- “From my talks with young folks (and new potential newcomers) I’ve heard 3 things: 1. The need to go take a written test about electronics is daunting. And honestly, I understand that. 2. If you’re buying your hardware, in small solid state form, understanding the electronics IS more difficult. 3. The internet made the world smaller than even shortwave had.”
- “Amateur radio was interesting in the past because it could let you communicate with people you otherwise couldn’t communicate withy. With the internet, this is not true, and it will never be the same again. The chief motivator is gone, and now it’s pursued for its own historic sake rather than by the novelty of talking with faraway people. Like so may things, amateur radio was a product of the times, and that world will never come again. Rather than lament this and wish for what was, better to appreciate it and move on.”
- WA4MP: “I might have taken this article seriously about 5 years ago, but not now. In the past few years, ham radio has taken off is some quite interesting new directions: Inexpensive QRP SSB radios aren’t just for voice. Many can take advantage of the new digital modes that seem to be popping up every few months, modes than can exchange messages at below the noise level. There’s also WSPR, for exploring propagation and, as commercial services are going to satellites, new spectrum is opening up for hams in parts of the spectrum where we never has space before. No, today if ham radio has a few, it’s that there’s too much new stuff going on for anyone to manage.”
- “Amateur radio is not a hobby but a collection of hobbies united by their shared use of licensed radio spectrum.”
- “Been an amateur radio operator for 46 years and enjoy every minute of operating, repairing, building equipment. Use the knowledge and skills learned from the Amateur Service every day. I am the chief technical person at my job. Amateur Radio has helped me to THINK!’