As President of ARRL, [Rick Roderick, K5UR] spends considerable time proselytizing the hobby. He has a standard amateur radio call that includes tales accumulated from his decades as a licensee, and has QSL cards from rare DX contacts to show how radio amateurs speak around the world.
He has given this talk countless times and is accustomed to being well received by the audience, impressed by what can be done with radio. But when he passed it on to a group of young people, as reported by Southgate ARC, he was surprised to see the lack of interest from the audienceto which DX or the challenge just doesn’t cut it when they grew up with the all-encompassing Internet. Writing in the ARRL annual report for 2016, he said:
“Change is not usually easy for us. But when I looked at this group of young people and saw their disinterest in traditional ham activities, I realized that I had to change. We need to change. It will not be easy, but it is essential that we address this now. “
If you had to profile a typical group of radio amateurs, it would not be difficult to understand why [K5UR] turned out to be in this situation. It may be an unpleasant portrait for some amateurs, but it is fair to say that amateur radio is a hobby that is mostly done by older, wealthier men with the means to spend thousands of dollars on commercial radio stations. It is also fair to say that this is hardly a prospect that would energize everyone except the most dedicated youth radio amateurs. This is not a new phenomenon where it is written, it was definitely so in the days when they issued G7 call signs, for example.
If Hackaday were able to advise ARRL on such matters, we would probably suggest a return to the roots of amateur radio, a time in the early 20th century when technology was important, rather than collecting DXCC objects or network squares, and the amateur first he had to build his own equipment instead of just ordering a shiny radio before he could make contact. Give a room full of kids a whale building session, get them to do a little radio. And lobbying for construction to be an integral part of the licensing process, it’s really very sad that where it’s written, the lowest level of amateur radio license excludes home-made radio equipment. Given all this, why should it be a surprise that amateur radio is simply not exciting for children?
Title Image: enixii. [CC BY 2.0]. We hope that these dormant children are not in the middle of a lecture on radio amateurs.