My Beef With Ham Radio

My amateur radio journey began back in the mid-1970s. I was about 12 at the time, with an interest in electronics that baffled my parents. With little to guide me and fear for my life as I routinely explored the innards of the TVs and radios in the house, they turned to the kindly older gentleman across the street from us, Mr. Brown. He had the traditional calling card of the suburban ham — a gigantic beam antenna on a 60′ mast in the backyard – so they figured he could act as a mentor to me.

Mr. Brown taught me a lot about electronics, and very nearly got me far enough along to take the test for my Novice class license. But I lost interest, probably because I was an adolescent male and didn’t figure a ham ticket would improve my chances with the young ladies. My ham ambitions remained well below the surface as life happened over the next 40 or so years. But as my circumstances changed, the idea of working the airwaves resurfaced, and in 2015 I finally took the plunge and earned my General class license.

The next part of my ham story is all-too-familiar these days: I haven’t done a damn thing with my license. Oh, sure, I bought a couple of Baofeng and Wouxun handy-talkies and lurked on the local repeaters. I even bought a good, solid HF rig and built some antennas, but I’ve made a grand total of one QSO — a brief chat with a ham in Texas from my old home in Connecticut on the 10-meter band. That’s it.

Obviously, there’s a problem. It’s not lack of understanding the art and science of amateur radio. More so than the average Joe who comes in off the street to sit for a license test (and there are far more of those folks than you might think), I have a pretty good grasp of the theory and practice of RF communications. It’s not a money problem, either. At least for now I have enough disposable income to spend on “The World’s Greatest Hobby.” It’s not time either, at least not really. My kids are old enough now to be self-reliant, so it’s not like I’d be working the bands while there are dirty diapers to deal with. And my wife is supportive too, so it’s not that either. So what’s my problem? Why am I not active on the HF bands and checking in on the local repeaters?

Because as it turns out, when you’re a ham you end up talking to other hams. And I don’t like talking to hams.

Lest this be construed as ham-hate, it’s not. Truth be told, I don’t really want to talk to anyone, face to face or over the air. But there’s really something off-putting about the ham style of communication, at least to my ears. Part of this is due to listening to public service radio all my life. My dad was a cop, and hearing dispatches on the radio in his cruiser was the soundtrack of my life from the day I was born. I later listened to scanners as a civilian hobbyist, then with a more professional interest as an EMT and volunteer firefighter. I even worked the other side of the mic as a dispatcher for multiple agencies. So I developed a strong preference in radio style — brief, clipped messages that minimize time on the air while maximizing information content.

In other words, the exact opposite of what hams do.

When I hear two hams chewing the rag, I find myself thinking, “Please, just stop talking and take your thumb off the mic switch.” It’s not so much what they’re talking about, although that certainly plays into it; lots of recounting what the “XYL” made for dinner and updates on everyone’s prostate woes. I could overlook the content choice if someone, somewhere would just unkey the mic once in while and take a breath.

I know, I know — that’s not what ham radio is for. The ham bands are for conversation more than anything else, at least from the sound of it. I think I might have a better experience if I explore the HF nets that meet regularly in preparation for providing emergency communications in disasters; they might be more my style. Or perhaps the digital modes would suit me better – being able to type brief, content-rich messages and make contacts without any of that pesky talking sounds pretty keen to me.

But as it stands, I’m pretty sure I won’t be hanging around the local 2-meter repeater to make sure everyone knows what I’m getting at the grocery store. I’m glad the local hams have built out the infrastructure to do so, and I’m heartened to know they’re practicing the craft. I just don’t want to talk to them that much.

So, active hams, what part of the craft to you find engaging? I’d love to hear your suggestions for ways I, or anyone else, can make greater use of the license and help keep the hobby fun for new and old hams alike.

257 thoughts on “My Beef With Ham Radio

  1. We have some of that stuff you dislike in our area, but overall, I’m finding ham radio to be a great way to find the technologists in the crowd. I can’t really walk into a bar and have a discussion about peak detector circuits, impedance matching, antenna designs, standing wave ratio, or any of that with the people I find there. With a radio in my hand, I can just key the local repeater with the question either during a net or when others are on the air and I can have a really useful conversation where I can get someone else’s perspective. To me, that’s the real value of having the license – to further the art and learn something new along the way.

    Now, with that said, most other repeaters I’ve listened to are pretty much dead. There’s a one-off conversation between two strangers now and then, but not much of technical discussion. Even the national nets tend to avoid complex topics, leading to a mind numbing array of reports of what the weather is doing in other areas of the world. This could be improved with a topic of the day which some implement, but most don’t seem to. Maybe try your hand at being net control somewhere and see if you can stimulate the discussion you want with a themed net…

  2. I’ve been a Ham since high school back in 1986. I’ve done a lot of different modes, CW, SSB, Packet, 2m, SSTV and a few other things. I never did like “talking” on the radio very much since it usually ended up talking meaningless stuff about the weather, how long I’ve been in ham radio, how much power I’m squirting out the wire dipole. Ok, the antenna and power stuff is kind of interesting, but after that it was just a bunch of “Uh….uh…uhm….Ok 73, send me your QSL card!”
    For that reason, I’ve mostly been a CW guy since it would usually avoid a lot of the meaningless chatter stuff and last a little longer. 14wpm was my favorite speed. Still need to setup a station again one of these days and get back on CW – Voice? Nah….don’t like talking about things that much. 73, de KAVIK

  3. I had a ham license back in the 80s and early 90s. My initial motivation was to find geeks like myself to talk to. Once I got the on the air, I quickly discovered that the vast majority of hams don’t have much to talk about except their radios and antennas and the local weather. Then the internet came along, with forums dedicated to whatever interests I had. That pretty much killed ham radio for me.

    There’s no doubt that radio skills can be useful, especially when the crap hits the fan. Maybe with the coming Trumpocalypse, radio will be especially handy to locate food, TP, or other basic necessities like bullets, but until then, I’ll stick with the internet.

  4. What I’ve taken from my experience with amateur radio:

    1) Yes, there is an older crowd that takes joy in talking to other members of the older crowd.
    – I love listening to them. They don’t care what they talk about, so I hear some really funny, and sometimes crazy stuff.

    2) I’ve honed my skills so that, and I hope it never does, when SHTF and our infrastructure goes down, I can maintain some kind of infrastructure independent communication with others. Particularly family and other important people to me.

    But, of course, your mileage may vary.

  5. I don’t agree at all with you, Dan. You could be one of the HAMs that contribute and bring interesting conversation, instead you decide to lurk and avoid participating.
    It is because of people with your attitude that we only hear rag chewers. At least they take advantage of the license and they use the equipment they invested in.
    You seem to be in the category of people that only participate if someone else is keeping up the good interesting conversation, but your contribution in none.
    Next time, pick up the mike and start something interesting yourself. People will follow.
    Start a net, go to the club and make presentations to inspire other HAMs.
    It’s based on self promotion and volunteering, it is not a payed cable service to complain about when the shows are not good.
    You are the show. Lurking does not give you the right to complain about how others use their license.
    So many like you out there, complaining but not doing anything to help the change.
    HAM does not work well with entitlement.
    I really hope you change your attitude, else I hope you stay a lurker.
    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but as a wake up call.
    Good luck

    1. Wow, well said. IF one is on voice, CW, digital, SSTV, or any mode, you are in control and set the content of your own QSOs. If one is diligent enough to sit for an exam and set up a station, why is transmitting something relevant so hard?

      And can we please be hams and use our call signs we are all so proud of?

      de VE3EEI

  6. Dan,
    From your post I’ll guess you’re KC1DJT. As you, I became interested in electronics and radio in the mid-70’s in CT. At the age of 12 I earned my Novice ticket in ’76 and I’m celebrating 40 years as a ham this month. My first year on the air was tapping out morse code using CW, following the typical script, RST (signal report), name, QTH (location), age, weather, 73 (regards) end of QSO (contact). No long chats, though a 5 wpm (word per minute) QSOs did take awhile. I used that more to hone my operating skills than make acquaintances or “talk” to hams. In ’77 earned my general and was able to use voice (SSB & FM) but as a youngster didn’t have anything in common with folks on the air 2 to 7+ times my age so I wasn’t into rag chewing. I will admit though that back then it seems ham radio was more about a true interest in radio communications, building, designing, understanding theory, etc. than today. In this day and age its much easier to attain a license and those on the air may be family and friends who’ve entered because of something other than a true interest or understanding of “radio”. If you’re not in their circle of friends/family I can see why you might not wish to talk on the air. That’s not to say I haven’t and you can’t work into a group of local hams who share similar technical interests. It just may take a bit longer to find them.

    So given my status back then, I ended up getting involved in contesting or radiosport. No one cared about my age and actually many of the older contesters were more than happy to induct me into that facet of the hobby and mentor new hams like myself. I got excited about building and improving my station and learning operating skills, watching the pros and trying to understand their techniques. I began setting personal goals and eventually began going after state, division and national records. Today I continue to learn new things, design and build equipment and generate RF and push the envelope in an attempt to see how far I can be heard, many times with as little as possible or on frequencies well into the microwaves. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with newer, younger and older hams alike in an attempt to get them excited about “radio”. There lies the key! Find something that excites you and someone interested or willing to learn or share that interest. That’s what makes the hobby fun and has kept me active and in the loop for all this time.

    Here’s some topics I’ve found interesting over the last few years that you might consider investigating and hopefully peak your interests as well – just Google to learn more:

    SDR – software defined radios, RTL-SDR, RTL2832U ($<20) – start receiving signals with minimal hardware and free software. Or, build your own with some inexpensive discrete components, a cheap PC and soundcard.

    WSPR – "Whisper" – beacon low power digital signals and see how far around the world you can be detected. You don't even need a radio. I've used a Raspberry Pi that can generate 10mw from 0-200 MHz using free software and have been detected as far away as Austrilia.

    JT65-HF – low power digital 2-way comms. No rag chewing – just simple precanned signal report and location exchanges. See how many countries you can contact.

    Radiosport – enter a contest, state QSO party, ARRL or CQ national or DX international contest. Set a goal of number of contacts, counties, states, or countries depending on the contest. Make station and operating skill improvements, learn contesting software packages and try to best your score next time.

    Digital Voice – look into free s/w FreeDV and try your hand at something that allows one to play with digital radio that isn't proprietary like DSTAR, Fusion, etc.

    VoIP – build a internet linked FM gateway using cheap HT and free Echolink, SvxLink, Allstar Link software and link up with others around the world without need for HF and big antennas.

    APRS – a packet radio GPS system for FM that allows some brief messaging as well as location tracking of RF based systems. Also useful for VHF propagation testing (APRS Tropo)

    Broadband Hamnet – or HSMM-Mesh – go high speed with converted off the shelf WiFi gear and begin building out a ham based network infrastructure where u can publish various digital services

    CW – Learn the code – an old skill, but still quite in use today. Tap out a CQ and use ReverseBeaconNetwork and see how far away your signal can be heard without ever talking to someone. I'd suggest trying your hand at a real 2-way contact though – even if you're just following the script :)

    73, good luck and hope to hear u on the air!


  7. This article was to the point. I have been licensed for 40 plus years. Many hams complain about some bad operators on a few frequencies. I find that to be cheap entertainment. I certainly have not pursued every aspect of the hobby. Any ham who says that he has done it all is a liar. I will not repeat many of the arguments expressed on or other places. It is not the illegal activity that bothers me much. Rather, it is the common, sanctioned activities that really get under my skin. For instance, the ubiquitous presence of HF contests. Every blasted weekend there seems to be one. Then, during the week, some guys are just always in contest mode. Many are sponsored by both the sacred cow and whipping boy, yep, you guessed right, the ARRL. Last weekend, there was winter Field Day. What in blazes is that? Does that mean that those of us in the frozen north must dress in parkas and try to operate CW with mittens on in a makeshift shelter? I know, no contesting allowed on the new WARC bands. So, how many hours is 17 meters actually open during the day? If you go to 30 meters, the snooty high speed CW boys are still sending wham bam thank you ma’am. Those of us who want an old fashioned CQ followed by a QSO are running out of options. Most nets seem to be totally useless and are as much of a waste of time as Facebook is. So now, we have those that come along and admonish guys like me with an ultimatum. “Quit bitching and leave the hobby”. Well, no. The hobby has left me. This could be a really good time for hams, even with the down sunspot cycle. I relish the new technology, like SDR, which has come along. Any new radio is a much better value than its counterpart from a couple of decades ago. The slow demise of this man’s hobby has been a long time in the making. It started before Al Gore invented the Internet and cell phones became universal. Certainly, it began before thr bottom of this sunspot cycle.

  8. Get involved with emergency communications via AmRRON/TAPRN. They are using everything from GMRS and CB as part of their Channel 3 Project to Ham Radio to monitor and pass emergency traffic. They use not only VHF and HF phone modes but digital modes too for sending reports and ICS forms.
    AmRRON Corps members are dedicated to upgrading their Emcom skills to be better prepared to assist each other and their communities.

  9. Dan, it makes sense that most people would primarily use ham radios for communication during cases of emergency. I feel like every community should have a designated ham radio operator. It seems like it would be an excellent way to allow us to communicate with first responders if there happened to be a severe emergency.

  10. Dan,
    I totally agree with you about talking on the ham bands. But my “affliction” also includes cell phones and VOIP. I am just not a big talker but once in awhile I will talk just to make sure my rigs are working. So why did I get a license ? Two reasons really one is for emergency communications when all else fails and the other is for experimenting. I really enjoy tinkering with the hardware (and the software nowadays). This is what gets my blood pumping. I keep saying I should join a local club or something. Maybe someday I will. But in the meantime I am having a good time experimenting.

  11. i’am having a very hard time with hf mobile. been there done that. no one will talk to you more than a minute. and if they do theywant to brag about all the equipment they have,or talk about building some project. i have been a ham since 2000. i did cb radio and had more fun. i feel hf mobile is a waste of time and money.. but i really need help. i’am always confused what to do in my truck.

  12. My ham activity is building systems. I work on repeaters. I am building a new digitally based message system. I do antennas for a living so I build ham antennas as well. Once built I don’t use them much with a few exceptions like contesting… the ultimate way to test these new systems.

    So yes like you I tend to not talk to other hams, but very much enjoy helping them do so.

  13. I’ve been a ham for 3 years now. I’m not much of a “rag chewer” either. Not a big talker even in person. I’m kind of like “Mr Ed”, I don’t speak unless I got something to say. I enjoy building antennas, built a 6m moxon bean a couple of weeks ago and don’t even have a 6m rig hihi
    On SSB I enjoy contesting which has short responses. I really like working DX, trying to see how far I can communicate and how many different countries I can reach. I’m really into digital modes. I’m very close to having 5 band WAS with digital modes. I’ve found a lot of other hams seem to think digital isn’t being a “real ham”. Sorry, but not everyone likes just talking about nothing. If you want to discuss equipment, antennas etc thats fine. I really could care less about your weather or your last surgery :)

  14. Many people have mentioned all of the new ways of exploring ham radio (digital modes, etc.). For me, the hobby has gone the opposite way, I’ve gone totally retro. My only rig at present is the Heathkit HW-8 that I soldered together back in 1978. Two watts into a classic antenna….600 ohm ladder line doublet. Every QSO is a challenge and a small victory. So, if you’re bored with ham radio, think about the QRP route….lots of building projects to be had online, etc.

  15. I’ve invented a word for the kind of communication some hams gravitate to: “Nonversation”. Nets, EmComm, events, contests, working DX.. They don’t require smalltalk. And they’re as legitimate as any other form of hamming. Although everyone has a passion for something, and if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in conversation with someone who shares that passion, you just may find yourself in a ragchew.

  16. Well I’ve literally read half – okay a good third or more – of all these posts and wow, the negativity. But then again I can understand some of it. But the bottom line is as always – you have a volume control, band switch, off button, you know where I’m going with this… I’ve had my license since 1994 and never did a thing with it until about 6 months ago when a friend tossed a Baofeng in my lap for free. That too sat on the shelf for a year until I picked it up to explore. I’m an RF\Microwave Metrologist by trade and I can hold my own with rf and electronics for the most part. But what I discovered is a passion of sorts, of some seriously educated people out there that enjoy playing around radios and whatever else floats their boat. I avoid the “Nonversation”’s and enjoy listening to nets on the repeater that interest me. BTW Gary (above) I’m going to use that new word a bunch now ;) I’m still stuck on VHf and UHF for a bit until I get a decent digital rig at home. Nothing expensive but nice to use and reliable for the most part. I love vintage boat anchor era type gear. Ahh, the glow and warmth of tubes. Simple but yet challenging at times to work on. I’ll bet it can be fun chasing DX on an old Hallicrafters rig. I chose Hallicrafters here because it was my first receiver as a kid – the S-107. Still have it (a replacement but that’s another story) and many more as I assemble a complete Hallicrafters 1960’s vintage station. It’s fun!

    The bottom line is Ham radio is what YOU make it to be. Just try and not loose more spectrum. Get active! I contested this past winter field day – got over mic fright in 30 seconds, pounded 40 and 80 meters for a while, shut down the 911 call center for a short bit because we splashed harmonics up on VHF (we didn’t know we had a problem until we got that serious phone call), changed out antennas and I made my first HF contact ever after that. I got my girlfriend (not YL) to get her license a few months ago via a ham cram (and yes I don’t recommend them as you’ll see) and she created a pileup on herself and left me in the dust. Rubbing elbows with the old guys, hoisting, tweaking and tuning antennas was all part of the deal that day. You can have all the theory you want but take it to the field and it’s fun to try and make it work. I shook my head at unsoldered connections, bent coax and more. They complained of bad SWR. We all learned a bit that day ;)

    It’s a hobby that I gravitated to and I won’t let it take me over but it can steer me to new friends, experiences and maybe more. I think the key is to give it a chance and see where it leads you! Repeaters boring? Move along…. nothing to see here… ;) I have to admit my girlfriend got hooked really good on contesting. Took all of 10 minutes. She was REALLY upset for months prior – complaining she has a license and don’t know what to do with it, where’s my Elmer!… bla bla. Guess what…. Once she showed up at a club event and sat in front of that radio, she instantly gained a handful of elmers.
    I smiled. Twenty minutes later she was pointing to a Kenwood HF rig and saying we need one of these lol.

  17. It’s a hobby and to some people its only purpose is to give pleasure to engage in it as a hobby. But there are other people who think that to have all that expensive equipment for hobby reasons is stupid. These are the people that want to get involved with net operation and act important just in case there is an emergency. There are many hams that get involved in the technical aspects of the hobby and there are many hams that just like to communicate and share information about their equipment, themselves and their families. Some hams are a combination of all of the above and that’s fine too. As we hippies used to say, do your own thing or what ever floats your boat.

    I have some thoughts on all this but I’ll start out with a little background information. I started out with electronics as a shortwave radio listener when I was a teenager in the early 1960’s. Back then the shortwave band was loaded with signals. You could hardly move the tuning dial before another signal would pop up. The band had 3 primary users and they were, Shortwave Broadcasters, Utility and Amateur radio. To me the most intriguing was the utility part of the band because that contained radio communication not intended for the public like ship to shore radio communication and encrypted teletypewriter broadcasts for a whole range of reasons. The marine utility CW part of the band was great for learning Morse Code. I also briefly got involved with the Chicken Band in the 1960’s and then finally got my ham ticket in 1979.

    I got my FCC first class broadcast license in 1977 and was an Electronic Technician until I retired in 2009. So I was involved with radio and communication as both a profession and a hobby. I met many people that were involved with electronics in their jobs that were also ham operators. So for me the hobby was pretty good and my only beef with it now is that it is not as friendly as it used to be. Back in the 60’s, 70’s’ 80’s and part of the 90’s if you listened to lets say the 40 meter band you could hear hams calling CQ all over the band. Listen to it today and there is hardly anyone calling CQ. As a matter of fact there is hardly anyone period. Except for static the only thing I hear are nets and sometimes a few ham rag chewers doing their roundtable thing. Calling CQ is a lost art and it seems like people do not want to make new contacts and have a meaningful conversation.

    It seems like the only people who want to call CQ, these days, are the DX hounds that hang out on 20 meters and above. In earlier times you might actually have a meaningful conversation with a DX station operator but now all you get is: Oh very fine signal 15 db above S9, thank you for your 5 by 9 report and 73. At least that’s a lot better than some boring fool trying to impress everyone as a net control operator. For some reason net control operators often sound like Elmer Fudd. I should check into a net and when it comes time for my comments I would like to say. Maybe you fools need to stop acting like a bunch of overly important stuffed morons and go fan out over the band and then call CQ. Make the hobby friendly again and enjoy a good old fashion rag chew with some new ham that does not know the ropes. Be an Elmer to some new ham instead of an Elmer Fudd.

    I don’t know when this unfriendly attitude started on the phone part of ham radio. I just know I liked ham radio when it was more user friendly in earlier times. Maybe the unfriendly attitude started with more net activity or on the 75 meter phone band where mean old LIDS hang out with their roundtable QSO’s that only include hams they know. I call this bunch the wise guys. Just for fun try to join their roundtable rotation and see how fast they put you in your place. The 75 meter phone band was always the armpit of ham radio even in the 1960’s and still is to this very day. But the 80 meter CW portion of the band always had friendly operators that called CQ most of the time.

    Getting back to some of the talking points of this blog I’d say that if someone had an interest in ham radio as a kid and then shelved it for 40 years only to return to it thinking that they would feel the same way about it is stupid. As I have said, things have changed and Ham radio is no longer user friendly and when you miss 40 years of a great hobby and then return to it you are bound to be disappointed. Couple that with the fact that things that were new and interesting to us as kids fade as we get older and we no longer have that burning interest as kids. In other words the mystique is gone.

    The solution is simple, if you don’t like rag chewers then tune around until you find what you do like. You don’t have to like them or listen to them and they don’t have to like you and judging by your attitude they probably wouldn’t. If you want people to operate ham radio in a professional efficient manner then it’s no longer a hobby. So to answer your question about what you should do? My answer is to just leave it alone and stop trying to remake it into what you want.

  18. Same as it ever was. The local repeaters near my house are the absolute worst. 3 dudes still talking about how great these ancient Motorola handhelds repurposed from a local Railroad are the cat’s pajamas. For the past 6 years…. YAWN.

  19. I just stopped all ham radio last week after being licensed since Jr High 1960. Its a mess of filthy talkers and low grade morons. I do respect those who still have labs and tinker with electronics.. but guess what these folks may or may not be hams and if licensed, do not operate.

  20. I just gave it all up after 56 years, last week. Talk about screaming at passing cars of fist fighting windmills. I would lie if I said, it all bad. I am an introvert, philosopher , teckie type. Wanted to be a DJ, but how did I build a transmitter and working antenna, plus get a FCC license? Well, I took tech in high school, in 1964 go First Class Phone and upgraded to Extra. I always hated NETS and the small minded crap of cliques. Did have a huge 700 watt am Transmitter at 16. Later frittered away at college failures and finally LOW pay AM radio. In 1975, went back to school seriously this time, too a degree.
    I was even a DX er in 19 70’s got maybe 120 countries (that is enough) and worked China too.
    Best fun was doing phase Three Oscar Sats. Worked Australia on sat from Vermont!
    So, what can I say, its just time to let it go. Go on and see the world, write a book, create music.. millions of possible things for creative people. I waited too long.
    That’s my story and 7200 is a cess pool.. that shows how far its all fallen, there is no bottom

  21. Wow, your story is my story…you can only build so many antennas. Recently I put my gear for sale and bought an Ailunce HD-1 DMR Radio, then I bought a Nano Spot to go with it. I have had more QSO’s the first afternoon than all of last year on HF. There are two limits on some DMR repeater the reduce QSOs to 15 minutes max and individual TimeOutTimer that cuts you off at 5 minutes. A lot of guys get around this by getting their own hotpot (like me) which makes it a lot more lik ham radio, So far, though, the QSOs I have gotten into have been generally short and just an exchange of information. There’ws some rag chewing too.l I think you might find this more interesting and if you do, I’m 3158451, call me. Biob K5RWT

  22. Well Gentlemen: I am one of the old farts to which much reference was made in the many comments on here. I have been licensed 61 years. Communications radio & radar , instrumentation,,SCADA, telemetry & avionics were what sustained me over the years. I must admit that the tone of the opinions expressed on this site has given me introspection that I have not previously enjoyed. You have all given me great hope that ham radio will soldier on, albeit armed with a suite of protocols & Equipment that are “Buck Rogers ” style to many. We all are inheritors of those who have come before us, & we build on the discoveries of the pioneers. In due course, the mores & technologies of your “time” will incur the disparagement as you levy at others today. Alas it was always thus. I am gladdened to hear of the builders & experimenters that have expressed themselves here. I wish you all the enjoyment, the learning, & the skills, comradeship, & plain old fun that I was privileged to enjoy during my decades with the hobby. 73 to you all, & thanks for exposing the “other” side of ham radio to me.

    Cheers! de Brian Hind VE6XX

  23. the real problem is the rampant narcissism of the last couple of generations… They don’t want to listen to anyone else talk and couldn’t care any less about any personal conversation that doesn’t revolve around them. I agree that Hams can be long winded and that is very annoying… but there are thousands of possible frequencies to use so you are not forced to listen to anyone that bores you with extended monologues. This whole article (and many of the responses) reeks of narcissism and a “me me me” attitude. This is a glimpse at what is a major social problem worldwide. People only concerned with themselves and need instant gratification for any activity they engage in. It’s a sad commentary.

  24. Thanks for the sob story, it is not realy ham radio’s fault if you are socially inept and hate others. If your only social outlet is blogging stories on the internet than clearly something is wrong with you not with the world around you.

  25. Welllll….

    Some like it hot. Some like it not. Some like it fast. Some like it slow. Some stay at home and some like it on the go…

    That about says it all for the different tastes in Amateur radio.

    If you don’t like ragchewing, try contesting- Field Day comes to mind. Don’t like sharp info only? Try Special Events. International Memorial Ships Weekend is an idea. IMSW is cool. Try to contact decommissioned ships or memorials to ships- the SHORT stories you’ll hear are awesome. Contacting a harbored sub is really cool.

    Anyway- explore, experiment, build.


    Couldn’t agree with the original poster more. So here was my response to the banality of such rag chew discussions. I offer this for two reasons first come visit with me Wednesday’s on the Bigfoot Radio Net at about 0-100 UTC actually, that’s Thursday morning. And 2 set up your own group to discuss things other than what radio you’re running, where you ate breakfast, where you’re going to eat lunch, and your latest doctor’s appointment and or ailments. 73’s have a great life. KF5THB

  27. Ive been a ham for around 55 years now, and yes there have been times ( years ) of inactivity due to various reasons. But I have always returned to the hobby.
    In my case having a valid ticket was a factor in getting a work position with a company that lasted 35 years, well that and a first phone ticket. The person doing the hiring knew what it took to obtain these tickets and was sold on me and offered the pisition on the spot. So I guess what Im saying is in the end it may not be all about the hobby and if you can or cannot actually talk to another person on the air. Beside all that there are many different modes to explore these days, a operator should be able to find their niche pretty easily without even touching an actual mic.

  28. Ham radio is for whatever you want it to be. You can keep conversations short, concise and full of information. Why do you think prosigns exist? Try doing satellites. There isn’t time for a long chat. It’s very challenging and you can reach long distances. The high bar keeps out the riff-raff. Gotta be smart to work the sats. Keep your skills sharp for when the next earthquake hits. 73, AL6O

  29. Numbers stations are where the real action is at. Not much time for BS at 10 wpm, and you can be selective about who you talk to since you’ll already had to have traded one-time pads.

  30. So HAM RADIO isn’t for everyone ….
    But then marching in hate parades wearing pussy hats doesn’t appeal to everyone either!
    As a Trucker I enjoy my HAM radio for many reasons…
    I can get a better weather report from other Hams in an area where there is adverse weather happening, In the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere I sometimes enjoy getting in on a late night NET after getting tired of satellite radio. Also as a CERT Member and a disaster worker in a major west coast city the HAM Radio is an essential tool in the saving of lives as a first responders, since the ham radio is generally faster than calling 911 in a disaster!
    Now I can sympathize with the author of this article in that listening and talking to other Ham Radio operators can be boring and seem mindless at times however they are at least practicing their craft and bettering their vox skills as well!
    HAM RADIO isn’t for everyone but those of us who enjoy it aren’t worried about the feelings of those who don’t!
    So enjoy your respective hobbies and I will do as well!

  31. Amateur radiois pretty much what you make it, and there are a lot of cool things that don’t involve sitting on 2 meter repeaters listening to old farts complain about prostate problems. By the way, fairly large swaths ofmthe HF bands have become almost as excruciating as the often vapid conversations on repeaters. There are alternatives…

    Working with satellites can be fun. You can combine your software and math skills to predict when a satellite will be within range and what azimuth and elevation you have to orient your antenna to reach the satellite. Pretty much by definition, satellite conversations are mercifully short. It doesn’t take much to work satellites. There are 2m/70cm FM satellites that can be worked with a 5 Watt hand held transceiver and a self-built antenna made from a firing strip and about a dozen coat hangers. The antenna design on the Internet and it can be built in under two hours – the most time consuming (and blister inducing) task is straightening the hangers. Of course you can geek out and build a fancy auto tracking station if you like projects.

    Another fun aspect is hidden transmitter fox hunting. That certainly involves little or no talking. A local club here holds fox hunts every two weeks and the foxes can be pretty creative with hiding spots. Again, the bar of entry is pretty low. A hand held receiver and an antenna built from a few bits of left over PVC pipe and tape measure metal is all that is needed, If you want, you can geek out building fancy synthetic Doppler antenna switchers and couple your RDF to mapping software. Better yet, you don’t even need an amateur license to fox hunt, becuase you only need to receive the fox signal, By the way my home brew $10 satellite antenna has also worked pretty well for fox hunting.

    I’m not big into public service, but if that’s your bag, there is ARES, RACES, MARS, or non affiliated public service clubs that support community events. You can and probably should, formalize your preparedness by taking courses – see your local ARES group on what is expected of you.

    If you think amateur radio sucks, it is because you didn’t look hard enough. There is much more available than rag chewing on local repeaters from an FM hand held transceiver.

  32. I agree with you Dan. I stay in for RACES in my rural county and, on a personal level, since I am frequently in areas in northern Michigan with no cell service, I keep a rig in my truck in case I need help. The rig is set to a local repeater for that type of contact. Other than that, rig off…I don’t care to just talk either.

  33. Ham Radio has been around for years – but you guys must live in a cave somewhere! Maybe you should take a little initiative and get off your duff and get active! We have radio a local radio club with hundreds of members! Our club has 4 active repeaters which we hold daily nets including Ares net on Thursday evenings! Our club won the ARRL field day Number ONE position last year in the 9A category. The Vagabond net is held daily and meets for breakfast every Wednesday at a local restaurant. Now all of that said…

    Ham Radio is NOT dead by any means! We have licensed 7 year olds and several 15 year olds who love the Digital world of FT8. What I see here is a bunch of hams complaining about other hams and NOT supporting their hobby! Who said Ham Radio is Dead anyway! Must have been the same ham who has nothing to do but complain about ham radio here!

    Get Active – Go to a Club Meeting – Talk on the radio! – Go have breakfast with some local hams – Be a mentor to young people – They love Raspberry Pi Projects – Weather Balloons – Teach them about Zello and start a ham radio channel – or join ours on Zello! Do Something! If you don’t want to do anything just let your license expire and stop ranting about Ham Radio – Ham Radio is Alive and Well – You guys are the ones who are dead!

  34. I’m fairly new to the Hobby, some of the conversations can seem mundane but to me the challenge is building equipment and antennas capable of making good contacts without the need for an amplifier. i find it very satisfying to make a DX contact with a good signal report running 100 watts barefoot through a homebrew antenna. Find that part of the hobby that keeps you interested or captures your imagination. There is a wealth of knowledge out there all you have to do is ask. Asking questions will also make the conversation more interesting than what’s for dinner.


  35. I appreciate your comments…we are about the same age and have similar backgrounds. I had a 5 channel CB base station as a young teenager. Yes, I “talked skop.” I said I would get a Ham license but life got in the way.
    I ‘ve been in fire/ EMS for thirty years as a volunteer, and owned portable & mobile radios along the way. I’ve worked as a professional EMT and also dispatched when not on the ambulance. I’m now semi-retired and studying for a ham license. The local club operates on 2 meters but I’m also wanting to work statewide on 10 meter low power, as I have also volunteered in disaster relief.

  36. In large part, i agree with the sentiment in this article…. I too come from a public safety communications background where you only keyed up if you had something important to say, and you kept it short and to the point. As such, while I’ve only had my license for a few months, i haven’t actually made but one contact, and that was simply to test my DMR hotspot. I don’t want to to talk just for the sake of talking. I have to have a reason and something to say.

    I have however gravitated to other areas of the hobby that i enjoy immensely. I’ve built my own 70cm repeater using a couple inexpensive mobile radios and a Raspberry Pi Zero as a controller. I’m currently building a solar APRS digipeater and igate with a raspberry pi zero and a 2 meter rf board. I’ll probably rarely if ever use the repeater or aprs node myself…. But i enjoyed building them, and make them available for public use.

  37. Read through most of the other responses and the original post. Ham radio has hundreds of facets. DX, contests, ARES, Satellites, rag chewing, etc. Some like to repair or build radio’s, If none of this attracts you, quit bitching and let your license expire. This solves your problem.

    Rick Bunn N4ASX

  38. Ham radio definitely can still be interesting, it’s just about finding the right niche. Satellite work is a lot of fun, and there’s no time for ragchews. APRS really interests me to, if costs were lower I think it would be a good supplement to IoT. And reviews can be interesting if the topic is more engaging than people’s day to day lives. Ironically, I feel like most of my ranchrag start by texting a friend and half the point is seeing if we can even get a QSO to begin with. And I suppose that’s fine. Even into the early 90s amateur radio could play a big role in private communications because cell phones were still cost prohibitive. Now it tends to be a novelty or a niche. And that’s alright, it’s still important for emergency and end of the line coverage, and ragchews for those inclined. :-)

  39. I like Cw and a quick ago on a pileup. That gives me my ham fix adrenaline rush. I also do not engage in long conversation on the radio or in real life. Maybe my chemistry. But there is something for everyone on ham if you love the idea of wireless communication and antenna experimentation. 50 years on the hambands.

  40. Wow, I must be member of a different set of license holders. None of us ragchew. None of us contest, None of us build our own radios. I would advise everyone to review part 97. Emergency Communications is one of the reasons for Ham radio, and that is primarily done on UHF/VHF. Join an ARES/RACES/ACS group and you will be right up your alley. Learn formal messaging and radiograms for short succinct message traffic. If you want to do a great service in HF, learn about the National Traffic System. The list is endless.

  41. I use my ham license to experiment with RF. I design my own antennas using EZNec (CAD software). I’ve restored a 1931 and a 1958 radio, and learned to use an oscilloscope tracing circuits. I have created several Maker projects that automate part of my station.

    I still love CW and use Morse Code to DX – fast contacts that just prove you’ve contacted another country or island or exotic location

    There’s so much more to the hobby than jibber jabbing.

  42. Been a Ham for 60+ years. Never seemed to have the problems so many have described here. There is always one common switch on a ham radio. If you don’t like it, switch it to the off position. Problem solved.

  43. Just like our man with a beef I gained a license early 70’s and also inherited the mike shy gene. Never a problem when your mates were all experimenting along with you building gear and antennas but once we all moved into different areas of employment it all fell apart. The ticket was a great thing to cover the vast range of transmit equipment I acquired over time but never got to use because I didn’t want to talk to the rag chewing community. Finally I realised the hobby was too based on the new commercial equipment for my gear to ever get air time and landfill got a lot of it. Don’t worry it just increased the value for those collectors still sitting on their stashes. Realisation that my annual fee was wasted for the last 2 decades I finally called it a day. Its not fun when the challenge of building stuff has gone.

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