Helping Secure Amateur Radio’s Digital Future

The average person’s perception of a ham radio operator, assuming they even know what that means, is more than likely some graybeard huddled over the knobs of a war-surplus transmitter in the wee small hours of the morning. It’s a mental image that, admittedly, isn’t entirely off the mark in some cases. But it’s also a gross over-simplification, and a generalization that isn’t doing the hobby any favors when it comes to bringing in new blood.

In reality, a modern ham’s toolkit includes a wide array of technologies that are about as far away from your grandfather’s kit-built rig as could be — and there’s exciting new protocols and tools on the horizon. To ensure a bright future for amateur radio, these technologies need to be nurtured the word needs to be spread about what they can do. Along the way, we’ll also need to push back against stereotypes that can hinder younger operators from signing on.

On the forefront of these efforts is Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), a private foundation dedicated to supporting amateur radio and digital communication by providing grants to scholarships, educational programs, and promising open source technical projects. For this week’s Hack Chat, ARDC Executive Director Rosy Schechter (KJ7RYV) and Staff Lead John Hays (K7VE) dropped by to talk about the future of radio and digital communications.

Rosy kicked things off with a brief overview of ARDC’s fascinating history. The story starts in 1981, when Hank Magnuski had the incredible foresight to realize that amateur radio packet networks could benefit from having a dedicated block of IP addresses. In those early days, running out of addresses was all but unimaginable, so he had no trouble securing 16.7 million IPs for use by licensed amateur radio operators. This block of addresses, known as AMPRNet and then later 44Net, was administered by volunteers until ARDC was formed in 2011 and took over ownership. In 2019, the decision was made to sell off about four million of the remaining IP addresses — the proceeds of which went into an endowment that now funds the foundation’s grant programs.

So where does the money go? The ARDC maintains a list of recipients, which provides for some interesting reading. The foundation has helped fund development of GNU Radio, supported the development of an open hardware CubeSat frame by the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), and cut a check to the San Francisco Wireless Emergency Mesh to improve communications in wildfire-prone areas. They even provided $1.6 million towards the restoration of the MIT Radio Society’s radome and 18-foot dish.

Of all the recipients of ARDC grants, the M17 project garnered the most interest during the Chat. This community of open source developers and radio enthusiasts is developing a next-generation digital radio protocol for data and voice that’s unencumbered by patents and royalties. In their own words, M17 is focused on “radio hardware designs that can be copied and built by anyone, software that anyone has the freedom to modify and share to suit their own needs, and other open systems that respect your freedom to tinker.” They’re definitely our kind of folks — we first covered the project in 2020, and are keen to see it develop further.

John says the foundation has approximately $6 million each year they can dole out, and that while there’s certainly no shortage of worthwhile projects to support as it is, they’re always looking for new applicants. The instructions and guides for grant applications are still being refined, but there’s at least one hard requirement for any project that wants to be funded by the ARDC: it must be open source and available to the general amateur population.

Of course, all this new technology is moot if there’s nobody to use it. It’s no secret that getting young people interested in amateur radio has been a challenge, and frankly, it’s little surprise. When a teenager can already contact anyone on the planet using the smartphone in their pocket, getting a ham license doesn’t hold quite the same allure as it did to earlier generations.

Depending on how old you are, this might have been one of the most shocking moments in Stranger Things.

The end result is that awareness among youth is low. During the Chat, one participant recounted how he had to put Netflix’s Stranger Things on pause so he could explain to his teenage son how the characters in the 1980s set show were able to communicate across long distances using a homemade radio. Think about that for a minute — in a show about nightmarish creatures invading our world from an alternate dimension, the hardest thing for this young man to wrap his head around was the fact a group of teenagers would be able to keep in touch with each other without the Internet or phone lines to connect them.

So its no surprise that John says the ARDC is actively looking for programs which can help improve the demographics of amateur radio. The foundation is looking to not only bring younger people onboard, but also reach out to groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the hobby. As an example, he points to a grant awarded to the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club (BARC) last year to bolster their youth engagement program. Funds went towards putting together a portable rig that would allow students to communicate with the International Space Station, and the development of hands-on workshops where teens will be able to launch, track, and recover payloads on a high altitude balloon. Let’s see them do that on their fancy new smartphone.

We want to not only thank Rosy Schechter and John Hays for taking part in this week’s Hack Chat, but everyone else at Amateur Radio Digital Communications for their efforts to support the present and future of amateur radio and digital communication.


The Hack Chat is a weekly online chat session hosted by leading experts from all corners of the hardware hacking universe. It’s a great way for hackers connect in a fun and informal way, but if you can’t make it live, these overview posts as well as the transcripts posted to Hackaday.io make sure you don’t miss out.

51 thoughts on “Helping Secure Amateur Radio’s Digital Future

  1. When I was a kid in 1968 or 69, the magazine for Scouting in Canada had anarticle about broadcast band DXing, complete with winding an antenna wire around the radio. Next issue, there was a letter mentioning ham radio as the next step.

    There was also an article in Jack & Jill, a magazine for kids. I can’t remember if it was in a back issue I’d not noticed, or after the Scouting letter.

    When I found the hobby electronic magazines in January 1971, they all had construction articles for ham radio. Electronics Illustrated even had a column by Wayne Green. But these are gone, and certainly not on the newsstand.

    In 1971, there were four ham magazines, three definitely on many newsstands. Only CQ is at the newsstands now.

    Much was said about making entry easier. I’d argue that shifted focus from a technical hobby to talking on the radio. Which shifted it away from kids.

    But in the 32 years since Canada simplified, I remember one article in the local paper about the hobby, shortly after. It’s really easy to find info about the hobby in the internet age, but not much to tell people there is such a hobby. So who would look? The local clubs don’t even promote their fleamarkets away from the hobby,even though such events might appeal to alarger crowd, and it’s one way to pull in new people.

    Idon’tthink this is about competition, but a bubble in the ham clubs who don’t know how to do outreach.

  2. As an amateur radio operator, I take note that we are indeed becoming a rare breed.
    How many people get their license, then let the license lapse and expire?
    You can’t go by licenses alone to take a census of the number of hams in the USA.
    I know of at least one ham who is licensed and doesn’t use a radio or participate in any form
    ham radio activities. Another I haven’t seen for over a couple of decades but I know they were
    licensed and let their license expire, never bothered to renew and at the end of the 2 year grace
    period, the call sign was returned to the pool of available choices.
    I wonder how many hams get a license, and even go as far as getting a cheap radio then having
    that radio just sit in a drawer. I’m reminded of the cartoon of a ham operator in their mom’s basement
    wearing bakelite headphones pounding on a straight key. Most of the people that see me in public
    with my handheld radio that bother to ask questions are of my own age and generation. Gray hair
    and gray beard. I did have a kid once ask me what I had. I told him it was a radio where I could
    talk all over the world. He scoffed and said he could do that with his cell phone.
    I replied, yes you can, but when you don’t have cell service or wireless access, mine still works.
    Maybe it’s just me, but the younger generation doesn’t have the same enthusiasm as kids of
    the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. Even today, a crystal radio is still a wonder to me. Listening to radio without batteries.

    1. “As an amateur radio operator, I take note that we are indeed becoming a rare breed.
      How many people get their license, then let the license lapse and expire?”

      The license isn’t everything IMHO, even without
      one I would still keep the Ham Spirit alive. Many SWLs or radio fans are acting in the spirit of amateur radio. They won’t die out as long as one passes on the flame of curiosity and kindness. In my language, there’s even an antique word for these people, der “Höramateur” (the hearing amateur).

      He’s/she’s/they’s no different to the guy/gal with a transmitting license sometimes. The listener has the same ideals, but usually more patience and more focused mind. Perhaps a tiny bit like a therapist who listens to all the problems of patients.

      Those listeners sometimes even have their own call sign, issue by amateur radio clubs. These call signs or, rather, listener’s signs are not having the same status as an ordinary call sign, but are fine to join international QSL card exchange. Also, these listeners do need to qualify, too. They must pass tests, too, which are sometimes by far more challenging than those American “Technician” licenses. Back in the day, these listeners had to pass a telegraphy exam, even.

      That being said, some radio amateurs are proud to be listeners *only*. They even get an extra listener’s sign, because they want to attend exclusive listener’s “contests” or because they want to calmly observe the bands with peace in their mind, but as part of a community. These fellows do also meet with the more common hams, attend ham fairs.

      Personally, I think we sometimes can learn more from SWLs/BCLs, makers and listening hams than those who always shout into the mike.
      That’s what’s so wonderful about the hobby/sevice, it has so many facettes. Like a diamond. 💎

    2. ” I did have a kid once ask me what I had. I told him it was a radio where I could
      talk all over the world. He scoffed and said he could do that with his cell phone.”

      Rightfully, I think. They grew up in another era, after all.
      The internet and the cell phone system is a fascinating achievement, after all. It’s a wonder of their time.

      To them, it’s what was the electro-mechanical telegraph was to your generation. Or the steam engine vs the horse carriage, hi! 😉

      “I replied, yes you can, but when you don’t have cell service or wireless access, mine still works.”

      Absolutely. But they rarely ever saw a black out in their short lives. We can’t blame them. They will understand if they’re older.

      “Maybe it’s just me, but the younger generation doesn’t have the same enthusiasm as kids of
      the 50’s 60’s and 70’s.”

      It’s just you. 😁 I was a 90s kid and construction sets including crystal radios were still a thing in the 90s.
      My father and me built them together sometimes, and sometimes I was building them alone.
      And I was still capable of daydreaming, too. My friends and me rode our bikes with walkie-talkies, play hide and seek and other things that kids used to do for centuries.

      However, our interests changed over time. We also were more mentally grown up for our ages, maybe. At age 6/7 we played with old computers, game consoles, r/c cars and listened to music cassettes.

      Generations before us were still playing in the sand pit at age 10 (exceptions existed of course). A family friend from the ex-GDR born in the 60s told us that. That would have been unbelievable for us in the 90s! 10, that meant being almost grown up to us kids (whichbwas exaggerated, of course). At that age, some even had their first girl friends etc. Playing in the sand pit. Jeez. 🙄

      So maybe, it’s time to try to fascinate the kids for radios at a much earlier age? Say 5 or 6. Age 10 and up is simply too late to start. 😔

      However, there were also downsides in my/our gen. We nolonger grew up with the brutality of the past. We nolonger saw our family members on a farm killing farm animals. We weren’t accustomed to killing living things. Kids from the 50s-70s weren’t as sensitive, perhaps. It was normal to them, because it was part of public live.

      Anyway, the main “problem” here is perhaps that people like you think that kids nolonger have that enthusiasm, because they aren’t fascinated by the same things as you/us. Imagine meeting your grand grandparents who marvel about gas lanterns. Or an early electric washing machine.
      You try to feel the enthusiasm, but it’s simply not there.

      It’s like playing pong on an early video game console. You think to yourself “well, yes, it’s an achievement!” but simultaneously, you don’t want to continue playing with it for much longer. You rather like to play a NES game, or an Atari 2600 game, or something else.

      Even more so, those topics may even depress them, since they must “think down” but simultaneously won’t like to hurt your feelings.
      That’s at least how I felt when said friend told about his bleak 60s childhood with tin soldiers, the chicken-decaptivating grandmother and his outside play on the gray, polluted city streets.

      Personally, I think that it’s really a sign of respect if the kids of today at least try to keep their criticism low. Expecting them to honor our beloved rusty stuff perhaps isn’t easy to them.

      It’s as if people from the year 1950 must try to show respect to those sometimes fearsome inventions from the middle-age.

      Especially our huge shortwave antennas have that feature. They scare ordinary people as much as a medieval knight with a long sword turning up in the backyard.

      “Even today, a crystal radio is still a wonder to me. Listening to radio without batteries.”
      Same here, but with a twist. I soon was fascinated by optimizing the circuit. Trying better diodes, use a bridge rectifier, add an optional battery to assist the diode (improve weak signal rx), adding an AF amp (0V1 radio), adding a variable capacitor. Make a homebrew battery from lemon juice and pencils (for the diode).. 🙂👍

      1. They don’t have the same love of radio that we do. Their enthusiasms are different because the
        technology is different. Where we had radios. 8 bit Apple //e computers, modems and telephone lines,
        kids now have access to gigabit internet connections, 64 bit computer that run 50 times faster than
        that old Apple computer. Whereas we had crude graphics by today’s standards (think Doom) some
        of the games today look like a cinematic feature compared to graphics of even a few years ago.
        While I do retain my love of old things (I have an old candlestick phone still) and and old shortwave set,
        I can appreciate new technology. The crystal radio without a battery is a simple set, and while we have
        software defined radios today, there’s something to be said for simplicity.
        You are right however. If today’s modern human had to go back to an earlier time without the current
        technology, I doubt many would make it. I guess that’s why I gravitate towards old things.
        There was an article recently about how people who were experiencing a power outage couldn’t
        use their debit/credit cards. They had to rely on really really strange objects. Pieces of paper
        with green and black ink, silver and copper colored discs, and strangest of all, they had to use
        this grey matter in their head to figure out how to use these items. :) :) :)
        I’m not against the advance of technology (I want my flying cars!) or technological innovation for
        they have made life easier. The washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, stove, refrigerator to name a few.
        I don’t think ordinary people are scared of our antennas etc. It’s just something they don’t understand.
        Through my grandfather, I lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s. His stories, along with
        archived news footage from that era taught me very valuable lessons.
        So, while I learn about the new, I remember the old.

        1. Ham radio was never a mainstream hobby. Fifty years ago in high school, I was the only one with a license. Maybe there were a dozen kids interested in electronics, but they never got ham licenses

          It was on the level of kids doing amateur astronomy or other technical hobbies. They never appealed to everyone. Something lured them in. Maybe it not being mainstream helped.

          Fifty years ago, just radios and tv in the average home. If you wanted technology, you would have been a hobbyist. When small computers came along, hams and electronic hobbyists were the ones able to adapt. People haven’t become more technically able in recent decades, the technology has been dumbed down. Someone with a computer now is not the same as someone with a technical hobby fifty years ago.

          To say we can’t compete is to dismiss ham radio as nothing more than talking on the radio. We were never getting them fifty years ago, why are they important now?

          There are programs to teach ham radio in schools, part of the curriculum. How many stick with the hobby? It’s not about getting them, but finding the ones who find the hobby fascinating.

          But we used to get good press. Which lured in the ones that wanted the hobby. The Hardy Boys had a Shortwave Mystery with ham radio. “The Year when Stardust Fell” was an SF juvenile that featured ham radio. There were stories in the paper. These found the like minded kids.

      2. “Anyway, the main “problem” here is perhaps that people like you think that kids nolonger have that enthusiasm, because they aren’t fascinated by the same things as you/us. Imagine meeting your grand grandparents who marvel about gas lanterns. Or an early electric washing machine.
        You try to feel the enthusiasm, but it’s simply not there. ”

        Strongly disagree. I find a lot of very old tech very fascinating, especially things like the first TV or the first photograph.

        Fascination is not simply related to your experience. When you have a wondering mind things can fascinate you, even if you are used to them.

        This is not a question of generations, but of a mindset. If you see wonder everywhere, or just the same old every day things. Especially the old can be fascinating since it is *not* common.

        1. “This is not a question of generations, but of a mindset. If you see wonder everywhere, or just the same old every day things. Especially the old can be fascinating since it is *not* common.”

          Oh, come on! That sounds like some old people wisedom, really. 🙄

          But yes, If that’s true then it doesn’t make sense to say that children have lost something, either. Because, that’s generalizing or lumping together, things, too.

          It’s the environment they grew up with, I think. And the age maybe vs the generation. Unfortunately, a society has generations, too. It’s not about DNA or humsn evolution, I mean.
          People from 5000 years ago (say old Egyptians) weren’t necessarily less capable in their imagination, they lust lacked information.

          Ok, some of my personal experiences:

          My little sister was totally happy with CB radio at age 8 and so was the 9 years old daughter of a CB radio operator, too. Just heard her on the band last year. She and her dad had the time of their life.

          Sure, that doesn’t prove that all kids have a positive mindset. But it does prove that not all kids have a negative mindset, at least.

          Let’s just stop thinking we’re somehow mentally superior or something. Rather the contrary. The youth serms to care about the future. Climate change, rights to personal development, getting away with old gender roles etc.

          These kids may be different to us (me included) and I admit I don’t understand certain things they make a fuss about, but when it comes to hame radio, they do at least not contradict the values of the Ham Spirit.

          “The Amateur’s Code

          The Amateur’s Code is the creed by which all ham radio operators should aspire to live by. Written in 1928 by Paul M. Segal, then general counsel for the ARRL. You can still find the code published to this day in many ARRL books and publications.
          The Amateur’s Code

          by Paul M. Segal, W9EEA (1928)

          The Radio Amateur is:

          CONSIDERATE….. never knowingly operating in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

          LOYAL….. offering loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.

          PROGRESSIVE….. with knowledge abreast of science, a well built and efficient station, and operation beyond reproach.

          FRIENDLY….. with slow and patient operation when requested, friendly advice and counsel to the beginner, kindly assistance, co-operation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.

          BALANCED….. Radio is an advocation, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

          PATRIOTIC….. with station and skill always ready for service to country and community. ”

          Source: https://www.jpole-antenna.com/about-2/the-amateurs-code/

          Even though they’re no amateurs, they seem to embrace at least some of the values of amateur radio. Maybe even more so than us. They still fight for development, don’t accept the status quo. Now who’s more advanced in thinking? Them or us? ;) vy73/55 Joshua

      3. “Even more so, those topics may even depress them, since they must “think down” but simultaneously won’t like to hurt your feelings.
        That’s at least how I felt when said friend told about his bleak 60s childhood with tin soldiers, the chicken-decaptivating grandmother and his outside play on the gray, polluted city streets. ”

        That’s a strange view. I found other people’s living styles always interesting.
        It’s similar to taking an interest to different cultures and nations.

        If you feel like you shouldn’t hurt them or look down upon them, then maybe because you are trapped in a consumerist mindset.

        1. “If you feel like you shouldn’t hurt them or look down upon them, then maybe because you are trapped in a consumerist mindset.”

          Hm, I don’t know what to answer. 🤷‍♂️ I think I’m a product of my family and my environment, in parts at least. “The brave little toaster” was one of my favorite films as a child. I always repaired things (tried, at least) and tried to help animals in distress. Little hedgehogs caught between roots, birds that fell from their nest, cats that cried for attention on street. Money meant nothing to me, either, despite being rather poor. I give people what I have. Anyway, that’s not of any relevance here. It’s no excuse. It’s just how it is. That doesn’t automatically make me a good or intelligent person or whatsoever.

          1. Oh, and I didn’t think down on them whatsoever. It was about “thinking down”, as in switching the brain to compatibility mode. Reconfiguring the mind, taking the differences in account. A bit like switching languages and understanding their idioms.

            Mid-20th century society was so different from today. And that’s me, who was a part of it still! Differences: Different slang, different appliances, different political environment, cold war etc.

            Best wishes, Joshua

    3. Growing up in the 70’s, I had abundant opportunity to know what ham radio was about, but for some reason it never really interested me. There were hams around me. One used to step on our TV channel 2 (I think) reception now and then. Antennas were not a rare site in my semi-rural surroundings. High school electronics teacher was a ham. CB was hot and had strong potential as a gateway drug. but still amateur radio just didn’t float my boat.

      As for infusing new blood into the hobby: show the kids how they can injure themselves or others through RF burns or in some other ham radio relevant fashion then turn said injury capacity into a TikTok challenge. The hobby will be overwhelmed with kids . . . for like two or three weeks anyway.
      ;-)

    4. Well this day an age, the Cellphone/Internet have pretty much taken the stage as the preferred means of communication. No licence needed. No complicated rules involved. Just like Citizens Band, it’s only a matter of time before FRS/GMRS/Ham goes the way of the dodo. Today, Millennials see radio as an obsolete form of communication. Personally, I think we still need it. If there’s a nation wide blackout, radio will be the only form of communication left. RIP CB Radio.

    5. I have had this exact conversation with my father. While I am a licensed ham, I rarely ever use a radio because the internet is much more convenient. And yes, the emergency communication argument has some merit, but it is not going to get the younger generation interested. I have said many times that if you want a younger generation interested in ham radio, the ham radio community needs to quit focusing so much on talking to other people and focus more on talking to things. Use the ham bands for RC control. Use them for passing data between sensors and a host computer. Get with the makerspaces and Maker Faire and show how you can use the ham bands to provide signals for whatever project makers are already working on.

      Back in the day, hams use to have to build their own equipment. They were the original makers. Technology has moved on. The interests of the makers have moved on. Ham radio can still be a part of it. It just needs to shift its focus slightly to meet where the interest of the makers and technology have moved to.

    6. I think that technology has moved on, and it’s very difficult to bridge ham radio (despite the technical advantages it still has!) with the modern communications of any kind.

      I know this will provoke strong feelings in some, but I think ham radio’s rules and attitudes towards cryptography will eventually sever it from the modern internet, and limit it’s application to the disaster prepping community.

      Modern communications, and especially things like modern control of IOT systems require security and authentication if you are going to bridge things across the public internet. It’s an integral part of any real system. Without that ham radio is in a separate bygone world, limited to uses that superficially route traffic across the internet, but which never interact with anything non-ham. The applications that do exist (APRS, various digital routing protocols) all have modern counterparts that simply work better.

      That, combined with the strict prohibition against even incidental commercial traffic (ie the advertisements that are ubiquitous and unavoidable on the internet) means that ham radio exists in a digital ghetto.

      Personally, I think that CW communications on HF are very technically beautiful, and the simplicity and low power requirements to obtain global communications are truly unique. For everything beyond that though, I’d rather stick to the unlicensed spectrum, or purchase a cheap 4G module to experiment with, because the internet is the new airwaves, and ham radio simply isn’t compatible with it.

  3. I was at the Landfill ( County Dump ) the other day.. Saw a Lollipop Mic sitting in the Rubble Pile.. I could not let it stay there..
    My next thought is who is going to save it from my estate clean up..

    Cap

  4. As a parent who provides their kids with a project focused STEM education from home I like the idea of them acquiring such skills, however as a parent I am also not so sure about letting them touch radio gear unsupervised before they are about 16 years old, based on some of the very creepy people I know for a fact hold amature radio licenes. Need I spell it out in more detail or do you get the picture? Anyone got a pragmatic solution to that?

  5. The hobby needs some improvement to bring in new blood. Start with making Hf radios more affordable . The license is easier to obtain now that code been removed from testing should open up more Hf frequencies next . KT2NYC

    1. “Start with making Hf radios more affordable”

      A thousand of these have already sold. I haven’t bought one ONLY because despite having a license, I only receive and don’t transmit. I got the license only because I had planned to participate in SkyWarn severe weather chasing/reporting:

      QDX – Digital Transceiver Kit – US$69

      “The “QDX” (QRP Labs Digital Xcvr): a feature-packed, high performance, four-band (80, 40, 30, 20m) 5W Digi-modes transceiver kit, including embedded SDR receiver, 24-bit 48 ksps USB sound card, CAT control, synthesized VFO with TCXO reference. QDX transmits a SINGLE SIGNAL, it is not an SSB modulator with associated unwanted sideband and residual carrier, or intermodulation due to amplifier non-linearity. QDX outputs a pure single signal.”

      https://qrp-labs.com/qdx.html

      In order to attract the young, amateur radio must give them something they can’t get with cell phones or the Internet.

      Even just SWL can provide that, providing a kind of “fishing” for signals from places around the world. That’s what attracts me and just a cheap SDR receive setup using an RTL-SDR dongle and a DIY antenna can provide that. Once they listen, they might want to transmit at which point they could get their license.

      QRP can provide the same with the ability through an amazing thing called radio propagation to communicate, especially using DX digital modes, with someone far away using a few watts of power.

      Communication via amateur satellites or even just telemetry decoding from them to know what’s happening onboard is another thing that cell phones and the internet can’t provide. Once again, just a cheap SDR receive setup using an RTL-SDR dongle and a DIY antenna can provide that.

      1. Or use a kite, held aloft by an antenna wire, connected to a telegraph key to ground.
        Voila! QRP xmitr tuned to the length of the antenna wire.

    2. Kids used to start with simple homebrew transmitters. Manywere able to scrounge money or equipment to move up. It used to be a technical hobby, you’re dismissing that, so people only want to talk on the radio, and need cheap equioment because they can’t build.

    3. Just send the FCC 2 “UPC’s” from a Cracker Jack box and you get
      a license and HF radio…….Yea….that JUST what we need!!!
      Lets dumb it down EVEN MORE.
      “I want something for nothing!!!!” “I don’t want to work for it!!”
      KT4WO

      1. People don’t want to “work for it” because the benefits they are working for aren’t clear. “Here, go study for this test and do a bunch of paperwork, and we’ll give you a license that lets you communicate! Just like you can with a smartphone, but less reliably, with a lot fewer people, and with a lot more rules and regulations to follow, and that requires expensive equipment with no interoperability with anything else you use”. Asking someone to work for that is, well, asking them to give you something for nothing.

        People with a passion for radio for its own sake will (and already are) getting the licenses. That’s a shrinking niche though. It’s the communications equivalent of the retro computing world, or historical reenactment.

  6. Well this day an age, the Cellphone/Internet have pretty much taken the stage as the preferred means of communication. No licence needed. No complicated rules involved. Just like Citizens Band, it’s only a matter of time before FRS/GMRS/Ham goes the way of the dodo. Today, Millennials see radio as an obsolete form of communication. Personally, I think we still need it. If there’s a nation wide blackout, radio will be the only form of communication left. RIP CB Radio.

  7. “should open up more Hf frequencies next” ???
    Last time I checked there was 99% of ham radio activity on single frequency per HF band (if you know what I mean).
    When I entered world of radio amateur hobby it was like entering a wonderland. No one needed to write articles about how to attract youngsters to that hobby. But things have changed. As someone who feels responsible to passing burning love for ham radio to next generation I must admit that I don’t know how to do that and that I still haven’t found any “recipe” on the all-mighty web. Fighting between different interest oriented group doesn’t help at all. Bad language you can hear/read on a daily basis doesn’t help at all. Top operators / equipment accessible to “elite” kids/people doesn’t help at all.
    Pumping up numbers (like our local organization saying that there are 10 million of radio amateurs in the world) does not help. Bad HF propagation doesn’t help at all (kid waiting for next solar cycle max is no longer a kid).
    Is it time to surrender? I don’t know but lately “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” comes to my mind more often. I guess it’s just my diminishing flame….

    1. This along with other things really makes me afraid for the future, new generations have no idea about anything technology related. I know we’ll always teach engineers, and researchers and whatever. But the layman should be connected to technology somehow as well…

    2. Amateur radio is more than noisy shortwave. It has so much mors to offer. Like digital modes! Or interplanetary communications (amateur radio could be used on Mars an Moon, too!), radio astronomy, longwave, VLF, under water communications. Or X-Ray radiography. It saddenes my heart that some many people, also grumpy hams, dumb it down to 19th century telegraphy and phony over VHF/UHF repeaters.

      Most know it all oldtimers don’t even know that CW has nothing to do with morse telegraphy per se. CW is a specific form of a carrier wave (it’s pure, sinusoidal). The counter part to the ancient damped wave. Alas, most RF fanatics keep using “CW” as a synonym for morse telegraphy.
      That’s not correct, though. Hellschreiber (Feldhell) also uses “CW” signals, but it’s not telegraphy. 😔

      Amateur radio operators and their fore runners, the radio thinkerers, are not limited to radio technology. It’s rather that radio technology is the foundation to so many things! 😃

      Their skillls and interests spawn much wider. Some are also into computing, languages, cars, hiking, diving, etc. They know basics about electricity, similar to a electrician, have knowledge about oscillators/clocks, like a modern clock maker, have knowledge about wood/metal working, etc.

      They’re much more than just radio obsessed people. Radio amateurs, SWLs and makers, whatever we may call them, they’re universally skilled. It’s not just one thing. 🙂👍

      Amateur radio is a common hobby that connects so many different interests. Both a medician/doctor and a shoe maker could be a ham. When they on the airwaves, their different status plays no role. They’re equals. As hams, they speak to each other on eye level. There’s no looking down.

      Unfortunately, that’s an aspect of amateur radio people don’t get. At it’s heart, it’s a society of friendship and mutual respect. And that won’t change, no matter how many grumpy hams say otherwise. Their issues are not rooted within amateur radio itself. Vy73/55 Joshua 😃☮️

      1. CW is a perfect description. Virtually nobody was doing phone. But spark gap transmitters were outlawed. Noisy things, and not “continuous wave”. You didn’t need a BFO, a coherer or “crystal radio” decoded it fine.

        So they dropped it, you needed a continuous wave transmitter.

        1. “CW is a perfect description.”

          Yup. So perfect. It’s as if we make AM/FM synonymous for voice/phone:

          Do FM? Yup – It’s always voice. No Packet-Radio, APRS etc.
          – They’re not part of it by that anaolgy.

          Seriously, though. CW is a wave form, not a mode.
          Telegraphy (which, btw, RTTY or Morse Telegraphy?) is an application of CW. Not CW itself. A fine but important detail.

          Call me out of touch with reality if you like, but I believe that experienced hams with attitude used to talk about “Code” or “Telegraphy”, not CW. But that’s just me. And the books of the early radio days, when telegraphy still mattered. But of course, approximately from the 70s onwards it perhaps was all about “CW” in practice.Still, 2+2 aint 5. 🙄

          Vy73, Joshua

          1. No offense, though. I didn’t mean to criticize you. My apologies if I did, nevertheless.

            The problem I addressed was that most oldtimer hams do brag about their competence, but simultaneously have forgotten the original meaning of CW – Continuous Wave.

            CW originally was a modulation form. Or more strictly speaking, type of shape of of the carrier wave.

            One which looks sinusoidal on an oscillogram, rather than a “PLAY” symbol as found on an old VCR. 😉

            If hams want to use “CW” as a reference to morse then that’s fine. But it’s not its deeper meaning. That was Continuous Wave. That mustn’t be forgotten.

            Best wishes,
            Joshua

    3. “(kid waiting for next solar cycle max is no longer a kid). ”
      Why would that matter. While a mix of generations is nice, being obsessed with people younger than you is also making it an unwelcoming place.

  8. I’m just going to be honest here. Amateur Radio is a gated community hobby where only a select few are welcomed. And if anyone doubts me, watch the YouTube videos and/or listen to the conversations on the radio. Look & listen at the sex, age, and race, of those talking, and you’ll get what I mean.
    I made the mistake of doing any of that, and was just looking to get into something new. I studied, got my equipment and license, but when I attended a couple different area clubs, I was made to feel unwelcome. One of those clubs even outright let it be known that I’d probably be better off starting a club for blacks if we could put down our guns long enough.
    Ham radio does want new members outside of their family or friends, and they certainly don’t want anyone with the will to speak their own mind.

    1. Ah jeez, that’s terrible. I’m sorry you experienced that exclusionary crap. I would hope that if that happened around here someone would speak up in your defense. Much in the same vein, I get really frustrated hearing off-the-cuff jokes about women (or just the overall weirdness towards women in general in the radio world). Where I am, I haven’t observed a shred of racial exclusion thus far, much to my relief. Personally, I definitely love to have different people on the air. There’s a repeater that is often full of Filipino chatter, and that’s awesome. I am always happy to hear them talking because for once, it’s not just English on the airwaves. I’ve heard conversations in Punjabi a couple times as well which is cool. I hope all amateur radio operators would always remember that one of the purposes of this hobby is to meet new people and share experiences with new people from all walks of life. To act otherwise really goes against the spirit of the hobby.

  9. “the hardest thing for this young man to wrap his head around was the fact a group of teenagers would be able to keep in touch with each other without the Internet or phone lines to connect them.”

    To me that sounds more like the ignorance of a consumerist person, not a question of age. Or it’s genuine curiosity, like wondering how a tape recorder works, because it seems magical.

  10. The reason amateur radio struggles to bring in new blood is IMO primarily due to the attitude of the existing demographic. There’s an astounding amount of elitism: “look at those newbies using cheap Chinese radios” and ageism: “young kids just don’t have the enthusiasm for radio that *we* have”. The financial barrier to entry coming down only helps so much. When you don’t feel welcome in the hobby community, you’re unlikely to further pursue it.

  11. I’m a ham , became one a few years ago. It’s just a lame hobby these days, that’s the problem. HF is dead and the planet is full of HT repeaters with nobody on them, and ones that have people on them are people that don’t want to just chat. The entire repeater system design is just dumb, where you have to know a repeater exists (or look it up in a “book” ) instead of innovations hams could have done to make repeaters auto-announce their presence, etc. If I’m traveling, I’ll have to look up repeaters ahead of time. That’s just stupid IMO.

    Digital modes are annoying since you can’t easily just pick up some components and put together something. You can’t explore digital modes with an SDR in an easy fun way because you need to find software to decode them.

  12. AMPR / 44net member here.

    The powers that be sold a massive part of the 44/8 address space to Amazon Web Services in 2019 with no input from the AMPR community. They were caretakers, not owners, of the address space, yet took it upon themselves to sell it behind closed doors.

    Yes, the money is being used for educational purposes etc., but what about all the money that’s disappeared on lawyers and salaries for positions that appeared out of nowhere?

    Plenty available online – start here: https://www.reddit.com/r/amateurradio/comments/cf2cbo/see_ya_448/

  13. Unfortunately, the lack of standardization and everyone doing what they want with Ham Radio is a double-edged sword. In the digital world, compatibility with different modes is the exception and not the rule whereas back in the day, everything was analog and it would pretty much work with whatever piece of equipment you had. Don’t get me wrong – digital modes are really cool and bust through QRM like never before – but it’s this lack of coordination that is both a strength and weakness of ham radio. For years now, I wished for the equivalent of Echolink for texting. Imagine setting up your own receiving station at home, it takes your dedicated texting device (which could be designed to fit in your pocket) and receives your texts, ports them to email, and then goes out on the other end to another ham with his own texting device. You could easily interface this to texting to mobile phones. I’m pretty sure interfacing in this manner is illegal – but a dedicated standardized texting device would be awesome! You could send a text on it and it would keep searching until it found a node and out it would go! It would sort of be like APRS, but tons better and not left up to chance as to whether your text was received or not. It wouldn’t be too hard to send digitized audio packets so you could send voice clips back and forth to your buddies all over said network.

  14. Any attempt to “save the hobby” genuinely needs to look at and reconsider the FCC’s involvement in licensing — particularly how slow they were to get on with the times. Someone mentioned them recently removing a coding portion but that’s just the first step.

    The entire structure of the exam possibly worked in 1982 but in 2022, a radio exam based largely on memorizing facts is just silly and just deters people who can’t / won’t memorize nonsense they could just look up when they need it in practice.

  15. Here comes the hate –
    New technology fractured our community to the point there’s no local watering holes anymore, like FM simplex
    When there was only AM, FM, and SSB it seemed you could always engage in ample activity and in some instances you had to take a number.

    On the DX side of things everyone runs to the “ cluster “ site or the fat line on the waterfall, no more searching the band for the magic of an unexpected contact.

    JT this or digital that has along with router radios has broken up the smaller pieces even more.
    Bottom line, are we engaged in a radio hobby or a communications hobby.
    If you’re in the communication camp then yes, ham radio is probably obsolete .
    Too many modes chasing less users, heck some people only turn their equipment if there’s a storm or a contest

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