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Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the ok-everyone-call-bdale-garbee dept.

Communications 358

Velcroman1 writes "The newest trend in American communication isn't another smartphone from Apple or Google but one of the elder statesmen of communication: Ham radio licenses are at an all time high, with over 700,000 licenses in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Ham radio first took the nation by storm nearly a hundred years ago. Last month the FCC logged 700,314 licenses, with nearly 40,000 new ones in the last five years. Compare that with 2005, when only 662,600 people hammed it up and you'll see why the American Radio Relay League — the authority on all things ham — is calling it a 'golden age' for ham. 'Over the last five years we've had 20-25,000 new hams,' said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group."

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358 comments

But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (5, Interesting)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136440)

The article indicates that there are 700,000 licensed radio amateurs. But how many of those that are licensed are alive? There is no provision for the FCC to investigate how many hams are alive -- and they expire only every 10 years. I've attended meetings of a number of local clubs and the average age has got to be 70 -- I would say that the count of living US radio amateurs is 3/5ths or even half that 700,000...

I am. (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136466)

I've kept current since the 70's

Re:I am. (1)

ThePiMan2003 (676665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137072)

I am also still alive, I've been licensed for a year and 4 months, and at only 32 years old, I expect to be around for quite a while longer.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (5, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136512)

From FTA:

While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio. A recent survey of ARRL members, however, indicates that more than 80 percent of those responding are active.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (5, Insightful)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136572)

From FTA:

While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio. A recent survey of ARRL members, however, indicates that more than 80 percent of those responding are active.

I did see that, but that data is irrelevant to the question of how many of those holding licenses are alive.

This is not a survey of all active hams, but of ARRL members. And it only counts those responding to their survey -- ie. it doesn't even count those that are members of ARRL but didn't answer the survey. The dead won't respond to a survey. All that this data says is that 20% of the members that respond to a survey from an organization that you have to pay to be a member of are actually active in radio.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (1)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136656)

Correction:

All that this data says is that 20% of the members that respond to a survey from an organization that you have to pay to be a member of are not actually active in radio.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (2)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136708)

No doubt that there are some Hams who have gone silent key still on the rolls, but most of their registrations will expire after no more than 10 years. And the dead certainly don't account for many of the new registrations (except perhaps in Chicago).

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (1)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136796)

No doubt that there are some Hams who have gone silent key still on the rolls, but most of their registrations will expire after no more than 10 years. And the dead certainly don't account for many of the new registrations (except perhaps in Chicago).

Let me put it another way -- there are 700,000 current members. From TFA:

'Over the last five years we've had 20-25,000 new hams,' said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group."

25,000 out of 700,000 is 3.5%. Two questions:

1) What is the average age of US hams? I would guess it's pretty old.

2) What is the rate of death of people of that age group?

And even if I'm wrong about how many hams are alive, I know from listening that the bands are not getting 3.5% more busy every year -- that no one can deny...

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (1)

frozentier (1542099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137476)

Two questions:

1) What is the average age of US hams? I would guess it's pretty old.

2) What is the rate of death of people of that age group?

And even if I'm wrong about how many hams are alive, I know from listening that the bands are not getting 3.5% more busy every year -- that no one can deny...

The average age at our local club is between 30 and 40. I've been a ham for over 10 years, and I'm 39.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137592)

no, ham radio operators are licensed by FCC and there are 700,000+ licensees. ARRL membership is voluntary. This is not a survey, this is a hard count by FCC.
that said, some will have died before their license has expired, but any increase involves new licensees.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137030)

As people retire, they may be more likely to pick it back up, so this may be a golden age before a sharp decline.

Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136592)

Me too.

What they need to do... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136444)

They need to stop pussyfoot'n around and release the Bacon Radio.
Then they'll see some real increase in numbers.

Overstated (1, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136456)

This is great. Ameatur radio is probably the last great geeky hobby.

Re:Overstated (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136734)

And likely to stay. You actually have to study (at least a little), and spend some significant money to purchase radio equipment.

That's interesting (4, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136480)

I know a couple of people who were really keen HAM enthusiasts in the UK who have virtually given up on it now. One of them told me the excitement of talking to people all over the world was dulled a bit now that anyone with an internet connection can do the same. I'd love to know whether the people I know are going against the trend and HAM radio is increasing in the UK too or whether we have somehow missed a trick that the American HAM societies are using.

Re:That's interesting (5, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136866)

If you limit your ham experience to talking to other humans by voice, then I can see where the internet/cell phones/etc would dull your enthusiasm.

Things get quite exciting when you include using digital modes like WSPR to exchange messages half way around the Earth with less power than a nightlight, or using very high-speed digital modes like FSK441 to exchange messages using signals _reflected off of meteor trails_, or bouncing signals _off the moon_, or using PSK31 to dig signals out of the noise that human ears can't even detect, or work stations from your living room on a handheld transceiver via an amateur-built honest-to-God satellite.

There's plenty of frontier left in the hobby - you just have to be willing to 'enhance the radio art' by experimenting and learning!

"Other humans"? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137270)

As opposed to who/what - Martians? The Greys? X Factor viewers? Pigs with ham licenses (costs them an arm and leg aparently)?

I Are One: KK4ETS (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136482)

I just logged on to burn some MOD points when I saw this posted. Just picked up my HAM Technician license last month (Grandad was a HAM back in the 60's/70's... should of earned it sooner!), and upgraded to General class this week. Aiming for Extra next year. Now I just need to convince the wife to let me spend $2K - $20K on fancy radio gear so I can talk further than the nearby 2M/70cm repeaters...

Re:I Are One: KK4ETS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136880)

You can get on the HF bands for $500 with used equipment. I did it. If you want all new equipment, you can do it for around $1000. No need to spend $2k just to get on the air.

Re:I Are One: KK4ETS (4, Informative)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136932)

Now I just need to convince the wife to let me spend $2K - $20K on fancy radio gear so I can talk further than the nearby 2M/70cm repeaters...

I hope you're kidding -- there is really no need to spend more than a few hundred bucks. From where I am on the West Coast, just last weekend I hit Japan and Hawaii with a cheap 10 meter dipole ($35 -- it would have been a third the cost if I built it myself) and a $650 used FT-897D.

Re:I Are One: KK4ETS (1)

theunixbomber (2023818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137162)

I recently got my licenses as well. 2 weeks ago today to be exact. What drew me to it was exactly what others are saying.... the ability to get on the air for relatively little money and talk with others around the world. Not that I've gotten that far yet.

Also working with packet radio, satellites, talking with the IIS... these things really sparked my geek interest like nothing has in a long while. I find it funny that a technology that my grandfather could have been into is still intriguing today.

N0NEA (5, Interesting)

Juneau (703789) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136484)

I got my license over 20 years when I started work at an RF engineering company (I was the accountant). I wanted to learn what we were building and the owner and most of the engineers were hams. I don't use my license much, but I learned a lot about technology. I learned to solder, built my own packet radio rig, and made the assemblers and techs laugh about my skills. I still am able to carry on a decent conversation about radio and it's served me well in all areas of technology.

Re:N0NEA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137594)

I'm just shy of having mine for 20 years too. Got it because it looked interesting. Studied for my tech during a camping trip where it rained more often than not.

In a space of a year I had upgraded to Extra. One thing about voice, some of the conversations you hear especially on local repeaters are too damned funny.

Easier Entry (3, Interesting)

kenzal (1726510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136488)

Don't suppose this has anything to do with the removal of the Morse Code requirement in 2007

Re:Easier Entry (4, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136530)

It's been possible to get a code-free Technician license for almost two decades.

However, it likely has much more appeal now that you can get on the international HF bands without a code test. (Code-free Tech only had access to VHF/UHF and above)

Re:Easier Entry (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136722)

Keep in mind that technician class is limited to CW transmissions below 30MHz, so morse code is still somewhat required for shortwave.

Not true -- techs have phone in 10m band (5, Informative)

rwade (131726) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136988)

Keep in mind that technician class is limited to CW transmissions below 30MHz, so morse code is still somewhat required for shortwave.

Well, that's not true. From this chart [arrl.org] , technician licensees have phone (SSB) privileges in the 10-meter band at 28.3-28.5 MHz.

Re:Easier Entry (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136738)

Don't suppose this has anything to do with the removal of the Morse Code requirement in 2007

Perhaps, but that was only for General class - Technician was always (?) code free. But General class gives you access to the lower frequencies with longer range capability so perhaps that's it.

I think it's more likely that Amateur Radio is now the Boy Scouts of the 21st Century. It's big 'repurposing' has been in the field of Emergency Communications [arrl.org] . They've had some good publicity with recent major disasters, offer a 'function' for the hobby ('Honey, I need to buy that radio to help in the event of a natural disaster' - worth a try anyway), allows you to get involved in something besides talking to someone at the end of the world.

They even have cool reflective jackets and donuts.

Or perhaps a combination of the two and other things.

Technician was not always code free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137040)

The original Technician license required 5 WPM Morse code and General written test.

Re:Easier Entry (2)

NF6X (725054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137084)

Technician was always (?) code free.

The no-code Technician class license was introduced in 1992. Prior to that, applicants had to pass a 5 word per minute Morse code test for the Technician class license. More recent changes include dropping the Morse code requirement to 5 words per minute for all classes, followed by dropping it entirely.

Re:Easier Entry (3, Informative)

TheJediGeek (903350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137120)

No-code tech has only been around for about 20 years or so. Before the elimination of the code requirement for all license classes, there were two tech classes. The "no code" tech and tech plus. There was also Novice class which has now gone away. Interestingly, Novice required 5 wpm CW yet would not grant voice privileges on 2M or 70cm.

I think the increase in amateur radio licenses probably has more to do with more people expecting the S to HTF. There seems to be a growing expectation that a global collapse, nuclear holocaust, government collapse, zombie apocalypse are just around the corner. It's probably a combination between that and people wanting to be prepared for more local or regional disasters like blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

Re:Easier Entry (1)

LVSlushdat (854194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137320)

Technician was always (?) code free.

Incorrect.. When I got my Tech license in 1976, I had to take a 5wpm code test. Its been at least 20 years since they dropped the code requirement on the Tech license.

K7DGF

Re:Easier Entry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136764)

I think that may be part of it however CW (morse code communication mode) appears to be more popular than ever. You can see that by looking at the number of cw contacts made during some of the 'DXpeditions' major contests. Also, when you get your extra class license, what else would you use the lower 25kHz of the major bands for? That's where all of the good stuff is!

Re:Easier Entry (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136804)

i know when i was growing up - that was the reason i never bothered to get it - not that i couldn't do it but rather the time needed to practice to get my speed up wasn't worth it.

You know... (1)

cmv1087 (2426970) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136500)

I think I still have my ham radio license somewhere from when I took a mini course in the subject back in middle school. We all got our licenses at the end of the course and I never did actually use a radio since. It's probably expired by now, though, or close to.

Re:You know... (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136622)

It's probably expired by now, though, or close to.

Ten years is the license term, assuming you've kept your email current with the FCC. If you haven't, and some snail mail bounced, they will have kicked you to the curb sooner.

Re:You know... (1)

cmv1087 (2426970) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136878)

Expired then. I've changed emails at least once since then (assuming this wasn't during the time we were using AOL) and moved four times. Thanks.

Oh well. Maybe I'll renew it, maybe I won't.

Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High (0)

Pingo (41908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136526)

Well, since they no longer require morsecode, anyone can get a ham radio license. On the morse code ham radio segments all is well but on the phone bands all kind of nuts is presented.

73 de SM2IUF

What's the attraction? (5, Interesting)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136556)

With the internet, and cell phones, and all; what is the HAM radio attraction?

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

blackanvil (1147329) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136676)

Fear is driving this. Fear and paranoia that the official channels of communication will be filled with nothing but propaganda and misinformation should something truly important happen. The hams I know are adamant that should a terrorist nuke go off in a big city, or civil unrest to the point of conflict, or a solar flare take out the electrical infrastructure, they'll be the ones communicating and coordinating the relief/rebuilding efforts. In their defense, many hams have kept by their radios during times of local emergency, just in case, and in some highly-touted instances actually proved useful.

Re:What's the attraction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136916)

I don't know about the fear part, but this is true. If we were ever hit by a pulse, HAM and any tube circuits will be all that's working. If you have ever worked on this stuff it is interesting. It's nice to get away from the ultra high tech throw away world.

Re:What's the attraction? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137544)

We already have the EAS system and it is working just fine. Why can't you trust the government? Your distrust of the government and the people in government agencies is sickening, they just want to help you.

I think you are Traitor and should be either deported, imprisoned, or executed as an enemy of the state. They are only trying to help you.... And you bite the hand that helps feed you and clothe you....

Re:What's the attraction? (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136686)

The technology is interesting, and emergency comms are a bonus if you live where that's likely to matter.

I haven''t bothered becoming a ham though I'm prior avionics because there are plenty of ways to communicate today. I'll eventually hang a mast off my shop (for a variety of antennas including radio) but there isn't much reason to bother unless your other hobbies make doing it very easy.

Re:What's the attraction? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136712)

You have to look beyond the simple "communications" aspect and explore your inner geek. Ham radio is so much more than simple communications. There are facets to fascinate almost anyone with a bend towards things tech. Just the band options alone are huge. Everything from the traditional HF and huge antennas to microwaves and dishes. Learning how things work - learning what to use for what - and maybe even finding a new use for something, that's just a part of it all.

For me, ham radio lead me to many years of working in networking and FOSS (it's how I found and learned Linux). From there, to commercial and public safety communications. Now - it's a big part of what I do 'outside work' to relax. Many things to many people. And enough options to be attractive to most.

Basically, if you ask such a question like that - comparing ham radio to commercial services - those around you that had the opportunity to share the joy of Amateur Radio have not done such a good job.

If all you want to do is exchange data from point A to B - well, yea, you can do that too in ham radio - but you're missing out on most of what's going on.

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

guzzirider (551141) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136714)

The only required infrastructure for communication is that the Earth has an atmosphere, I guess for line of sight, that may not be necessary.

FPV (4, Informative)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136746)

I would imagine that FPV model plane flying has quite a bit to do with this. Most of the high-powered control systems you need to make FPV a reality require a HAM technician license. With the massive upswing in FPV flying I would expect to see a big boost in HAM license interest.

Re: FPV (4, Interesting)

NetFusion (86828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137562)

The HAM license is required for legal use of the FPV 1280 MHz video links and frequency hopping UHF control systems on the ARS 433 MHz bands in the US. They transmit at powers of 500 mW ~ 1000 mW which allows control ranges greater then 10 miles line of sight.

Warning: FPV is not a cheap or easy hobby! It requires a great deal of electrical, mechanical, engineering, radio, and flying skills to be successful.
The RCG FPV Forum [rcgroups.com] is good place to learn more.

Re:What's the attraction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136760)

You can talk with Japan for free or send some packet data with friend in the same city [up to 100km] without intetnet :)

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136792)

With all the pre-built computers out there, why build your own?

Answer: to see how everything works at the lowest level. The internet and cell phones are a pretty-packaged bundle of things that (usually) work right out of the box. Ham radio equipment is like getting the tools to learn how all of that stuff works with an opportunity to put it all together yourself. Educating yourself in something you're interested in is always worth it.

radio for radio's sake (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136830)

spin the dials, null out QRM if you have a bad case of neighbors with plasma TV using another antenna and a summation box, hear something interesting and just... talk.

Re:radio for radio's sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136912)

what is QRM? What is a summation box?

Re:What's the attraction? (5, Informative)

RustNeverSleeps (846857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136836)

With the internet, and cell phones, and all; what is the HAM radio attraction?

People ask me this all the time. Ham radio is a big hobby with lots of areas to be explored, it's not simply about communicating. Some people are interested in building their own gear, some in preparing for emergencies, some in public service (communications for marathons, parades, etc). Some people are paper chasers, working to earn awards for contacting stations in as many different countries as possible, others like to operate in ham radio contests (like this one: http://www.cqww.com/ [cqww.com] ). Some hams even bounce signals off the moon, using it as a giant reflector satellite.

When people ask me why I like ham radio when I could just call someone on my cell phone, I like to compare it to fishing or hunting or any number of other hobbies. After all I can just buy fish to eat at the store. Fishing strictly as a means to obtain fish probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's not why people do it. Likewise, strictly communicating with other people isn't really why people do ham radio. There's a lot to learn in ham radio, and it can be a really fun, satisfying hobby.

Re:What's the attraction? (2, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137092)

What? I fish strictly as a means to obtain fish. It's a skill that can be honed into a survival skill--there are star anglers that catch fish for fun, not waiting out hours and days to land the big one but continuously pulling up fair-sized pan fish and throwing them back because they want the BIG big one. You can leave at 4am, go to the river, at 5am have yourself sat down checking the trout out, and at 7am head home with 8 or 10 good fish for the next few days. Do you know how much fish costs?

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136984)

I got my license for communicating on the 2m band for paragliding--its a standard communications device for many types of aviation. But I would say 40K new users in 5 years is not exactly a stampede.

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137038)

Why do some people enjoy spending all day cooking a nice meal when there are perfectly good restaurants nearby? Why go camping and sleep in a tent when there are hotels available? In each case, the answer is not just to have food, or just to have a place to sleep, or just to communicate, it is because the process of doing those things is something they enjoy.

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

AnalogDiehard (199128) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137048)

With the internet, and cell phones, and all; what is the HAM radio attraction?

You obviously never lived in a rural area where there is no cell phone service and the only possible ISP is satellite.

Re:What's the attraction? (-1, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137088)

2 things:

People who want to prepare for a non-existent end of society
And people who don't want to be mainstream.

That right, being a HAM operator is the same thing as a hipster. Disagree? think about what annoys you about hipsters, and then thing about that at any HAM meeting.

Certain dress, attitude, and facial style gets preference for just those things.

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137224)

Really it is about learning. I haven't taken the test, but I've been reading over a lot of the ARRL reference manuals over the last year and there is a ton of cool stuff (the satellite and electronics manuals have been damned interesting).

In the end my only real goal is to receive SSTV from the ISS, but come on, it is SSTV from the ISS. How cool is that?

Re:What's the attraction? (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137486)

With a small handheld ham radio I was able to listen in on a signal from the international space station as it went overhead. If you don't know why that is cool, please turn in your geek card on your way out.

Survivalist (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136586)

Perhaps reading the news and realizing that the world is pretty much skrewed... That even if we elect the most qualified and selfless leaders that it may be too late to "fix things"? The number of folks planning for the worst is increasing at an exponetial level..

Re:Survivalist (2)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136782)

I was thinking the same thing. I actually looked into HAM just two months ago or so for the very same reason. :-) It's fairly crisis-safe and more or less citizen regulated, very much like the early private computer networks such as Fidonet. The last bastion of citizen-driven communication so to speak. I am still toying with the idea of getting my license.

Re:Survivalist (4, Insightful)

epall (632054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137192)

I first got my ham license precisely as a hedge against the apocalypse. If things really go bad, what use is a programmer? Anything requiring a $6 billion fab to get going will be out the window, so I've got to have some other useful talent. Ham radios can be built from scratch fairly easily, so I figured I'd learn to build and use radios so I'd be useful post-apocalypse.

What ended up happening is that I got into my first real hobby, and I've been enjoying making contacts with my little handheld radio. Soon I'm going to be putting together a rig for talking to people around the world! Sure, you can use the internet, but it's not about the messages: it's about the medium. Being able to build your very own personal communications device that can reach around the world feels awesome.

That total figure has always been meaningless (2)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136596)

I got a license in 1995 and was active until 1999. Around that time, there was an early online database that would allow you to look up licensed hams in your neighbourhood. I found that several people on my street were listed, but when I asked them about it, they said they had given up on the hobby years before. My local club was mostly in their 60s and 70s, and I can't imagine it's any better now.

Radio licenses are easier to get (4, Informative)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136608)

It's neat that amateur radio still has a niche in today's world, even though these figures are less impressive when you consider (1) population growth in the US over the last four decades and (2) getting a radio license now is much easier than it used to be.

These days, no Morse code knowledge is required for Tech level, and many clubs offer a "get your license in one day" class for cramming on the published question pool and then doing a brain dump into the exam before you forget everything.

Really, if you have a free Saturday and you've ever thought for more than 10 seconds about getting your radio license, there's no reason not to do it. [arrl.org]

Re:Radio licenses are easier to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136840)

No morse code is required for ANY LEVEL, and the test is inanely easy.

Sunspot Cycle (5, Informative)

trolman (648780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136612)

It helps when the sunspot cycle is on the upswing. During the CQWW last month it was almost no effort to work Australia and Japan from Texas.

Re:Sunspot Cycle (1)

epall (632054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137150)

What bands did you use? I'm getting ready to buy my first HF rig, and I'm trying to figure out if I can go with an MFJ single-band right, but I don't know what's best for DXing.

Re:Sunspot Cycle (1)

trolman (648780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137262)

What bands did you use? I'm getting ready to buy my first HF rig, and I'm trying to figure out if I can go with an MFJ single-band right, but I don't know what's best for DXing.

Ten Meters was great and will only get better.

My networking guy has a ham license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136646)

The equipment is pricey and the rewards are few, but he doesn't deny how satisfying it is in practice. Plus it does wonders for your emergency preparedness.

Compared to population growth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136666)

In the past six years, the population of the United States has grown between five and six percent. These figures show that, in the same period, the number of ham licenses has increased by...between five and six percent.

It's not just about talking anymore... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136770)

I'm a younger ham (22) and yes, there aren't too many of us, but we're certainly gaining numbers. What I've found, is that becoming a ham is getting to be very common amongst experimenters. The FCC allows us to design and construct our own equipment, not have to have it type certified, and use it on the air. We get to use higher powers than the unlicensed bands do, and we have a variety of modes to communicate our message. Sure I hop on a repeater once in a while, or I'll talk to Japan on a quiet Saturday, but what I use MY license for most is designing and constructing telemetry systems for high altitude balloons and high power amateur rocketry. It's a lot of fun, and having my license provides a lot of opportunities.

Also, basic radios are getting cheaper. You can certainly buy the multi-thousand dollar rigs, and they're certainly nice, but for less than $100 these days you can get a nice little handheld, dual band, and will cover most all your local repeaters. If you're at all interested, contact your local club, they would love to have you. In my experience, it's a very welcoming hobby.

Nigel
K7NVH

Re:It's not just about talking anymore... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137240)

Poke around the junk sales and hamfests. You can pick up an old 80s 2m rig for next to nothing, and construct an aerial in ten minutes.

My "office" 2m radio for a long time was an old Icom IC2E that I picked up for £2 at a junk sale, and built a j-pole aerial for. It didn't come with a battery, so I just ran it off a mains adaptor. It's pretty old and a bit limited, but perfectly fine for hitting the local 2m repeaters or listening to S20.

Now it's the receiver for my APRS igate.

Average Age? (2)

sakelley (68439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136874)

And the average age of those 700,000 license holders? Anybody?

I hold an extra class license, which I don't really use, and my impression was that the average age was around 65. If you want to tune in and chat with other oldsters about medical problems... then amateur radio is for you! Though some will treat you as a lower class of operator for not being a "brass pounder" (i.e. someone proficient in morse code). And you might feel unwelcome if you're LGBT; they're, um, a little on the conservative side.

On the other hand, the tech stuff is pretty cool, and if you're comfortable with algebra, trig, complex numbers, and memorizing some stuff, a good geek should be able to test all the way to extra class on the first try with some studying. I did, and my math skills were quite rusty. It just took a little practice.

And building radios is actually quite fun. I recommend:
http://www.elecraft.com/k2_page.htm [elecraft.com]
from
http://www.elecraft.com/ [elecraft.com]
which is a nice blend of "the old days" and "somewhat modern stuff". Fancier radios are built by plugging the boards in, just like PC's. This one gets soldered together one part at a time.

There are also lots of plans for building radios from scratch that are drifting around the net. From a modern day perspective, it's fascinating how much you can do with a handful of discrete components.

So, in conclusion, if you're interested, amateur radio is worth checking out, just beware of the subtle demographic issues that might present themselves.

Ham Sexy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136896)

http://www.hamsexy.com

...de K5ZC (2)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136920)

I've been a ham since a couple of months before my 11th birthday. It was my first truly geeky pursuit, and still holds a special place in my heart. I am still active here and there, though I had to sell my D-STAR system when the economy went sour.

There's still a place for ham radio, both in emergency communications and in experimentation. As Nigel said a post or three ago, it lets experimenters use higher power and different modes than the unlicensed services. While others theorize, hams build.

It's been that way for ages, and hams have contributed far more recently, as well. There's a reason the first popular free TCP/IP package for the PC was called KA9Q: Phil Karn hung his callsign on it.

(And please, folks, a couple of pet peeves: "ham" is not an acronym, and it's "ham radio", not just "ham".)

The drawback of ham radio licenses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38136958)

They allow the government to track down and kill all the faggots.

Re:The drawback of ham radio licenses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137326)

Well being that all of them are Tea Bagger rednecks there is no great loss, as this is being done for the good of the collective.

Killing off all the Tea Baggers for the good of the collective is totally OK, because the majority of the people hate the Tea Baggers.

courses (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136974)

Are there courses available to learn radio hamming?
If there was a gap year in the course, would it be called a ham sandwich course?

Is it really a loss? (1)

TooMad (967091) | more than 2 years ago | (#38136996)

Population in 2006, ~6.5 billion, population in 2011 ~7.0 billion, a gain of 7.69%. HAM radio's "gain" from 2005-2011? It was less, 5.69%.

Define golden age (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137046)

"A golden age is a period in a field of endeavour when great tasks were accomplished. "

I would not consider this the golden age of ham.
Sure, more people are doing it, but I don't think that make sit a golden age. ALl it means is that it's easier to get into' which it is.

Back when we you pretty much had to build a radio to play was a golden age. Like building your own lightsaber.

No, I am not a HAM, but I built a HAM radio when I was 8.
Learning Morse Code was boring and stupid, so I never bothered to get my license' much to the disappointment to my grandfather.

Seriously, Where is the logical pattern on Morse Code? I would start practicing, but would inevitable invent my own. Something anyone could figures out with just basic introduction.

Hams Still Driving Innovation, Too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137118)

A great, open, voice codec is being developed by hams, for instance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_k-nhHE6CrI

I gots one. (3, Insightful)

nblender (741424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137170)

I got mine. As an old geek, I just challenged the exam and got it first try. My offroad club decided to switch away from CB towards HAM. It has improved our communications immensely as well as been useful in some remote medical and mechanical emergency situations. I also use an APRS transceiver to do some home automation type stuff at our cottage. I use my amateur license as a means to an end, not as an end itself. ie: I'm not interested in the hobby as it is, I'm interested in the benefits I can derive from having access to the equipment and spectrum.

I do support the local repeater society (financially) because I use their infrastructure.

Zombie Apocalypse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137256)

I'm disappointed that no one has mentioned the words Zombie Apocalypse yet.

Emergencies and No-Code Tech (2)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137272)

I'd attribute growth to a renewed interest by people who were put off by the Morse code requirement to do HF. I've been licensed (beginning as a Technician) since 1997 and just do not have an ear for code. It's hard to say because I've learned a lot more and was pretty young when I got my license, but most people tell me that the tests for all classes have become substantially easier in in the past several years.

That limited my interest in the hobby and kept a lot of capable people from pursuing it. The cost has dropped somewhat too, and the internet has made it easier for the marginally interested and low-income enthusiast get a hold of used equipment... since a lot of HAMs buy new gear like most people change their underwear.

I work for a California county school agency and we pay for our employees training materials for their HAM license and keep a radio on every site that has an operator. We it because we have so many sites, many of which remote, that would be hard to reach should the telecom systems fail or reach overload. Each radio is programmed with the local repeater and 4-5 simplex channels. We've added 10 members who will probably do very little with it.

Katrina and other large scale disasters have shown people the fragility of the telecom infrastructure in a disaster. Cell phones hardly work in a crowded football stadium. I also think that a certain amount of survivalist folks are concerned about government lock-down of other communication resources during a man-made disaster or disturbance.

That said, I got a pacemaker in 2010, and have gotten mixed advice on how safe HAM is (most say well maintained base stations are OK, but avoid HTs given their proximity to the device and risk of unintentional grounding on the body.) Even if I don't use it again, I'll probably re-register "just in case" an emergency occurs or I get stranded on the roadside. So, the rolls might be more inflated.

It is more affordable than ever (1)

mike449 (238450) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137366)

This may be one of the reasons of the ham radio popularity.
A decent HF radio cost was in the $500-1000 range for decades, which means it is many times cheaper today than back in the 60's.

Computers aren't interesting anymore -- finally! (4, Interesting)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137378)

For the last 30 years or so, all sorts of interesting hobbies have fallen by the wayside because the big hobby for technically inclined people to take up was tinkering with computers. Growing up in the 1970's and 1980's I saw people lose interest in things like electronics, astronomy, stage lighting, and yes, amateur radio. Everyone wanted to play with computers instead.

We've finally reached a stage where computers simply aren't interesting anymore. They're so generic, so bland, so uniform and cookie-cutter (yes, even you, Apple) that they just don't appeal as a hobby anymore. Unless you work in the industry they're just a tool to get a job done.

As a result, there's a new void appearing among people who love to tinker. Amateur radio is a great outlet for that. The equipment is complex enough to enjoy working with but simple enough that you can work on it yourself. Lots of other hobbies will be making a comeback in the same way. I myself have become interested in tinkering with small diesel engines - have you seen the availability of parts out there for CheapChinese(tm) Yanmar 186F clones? A hobbyist can build a go-kart or a homemade pressure washer really easily now.

Leo May Have Helped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137418)

I wonder how many people went out and got a license after Leo Laporte started talking up HAM on TWiT?

YAY! (1)

bobdole369 (267463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38137516)

YAY HAM RADIO oops I mean:
bah the junk filter doesn't let me post up CW.

sry 73 de kb8ufp robert

I'm totally missing out on 10m stuff going on - Apt dweller, so prefer to op mobile. Most (all?) of the 10m mobile rigs (that is the "affordable" ones) are quasilegal or converts or incredibly cheaply built (like the RCI-2950). I'd love an HTX-100 but those are harder and harder to find.

fcc to deregulate ham neutrality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137566)

soon the ionosphere will be purchased and reflective rights proportioned to the highest bidder; owners of large flat surfaces will implement selective reflectivity!

Yarrr be hams here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38137606)

I think people don't realize just how cool some of the radio technology really is. SSB (Single-Side-Band) for example allows operators to broadcast THOUSANDS of miles by selecting the proper frequency your signal bounces off the ionosphere and back to ground hundreds to thousands of miles away like having your own personal satellite.

Those into sailing can use a cell phone if your a mile or two following the coastline. VHF for 20-40 miles (line of sight). Sat phones anywhere but they cost to talk. Outside of equipment cost a station license and some clue it is free and quite popular on open waters.

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