Author Topic: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.  (Read 17249 times)

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Offline kraptv

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Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« on: August 08, 2016, 04:04:28 pm »
I gave a talk on the slow death and exciting rebirth of modern amateur radio.

I thought it might be enjoyable for some EEVblog enthusiasts to take a look as well - and while the 'old ways' are not completely dead, I cover some of the interesting complementary things we did to appeal to a modern young enthusiast.  I did quote Dave's recent comment about not having a great push to getting his license - it's quite relevant as amateur radio used to be the only game in town for electronics tinkering communities.

Video of the presentation at Electromagnetic Field conference:

https://media.ccc.de/v/emf2016-83-rebooting-a-hobby-how-modern-digital-comms-are-reviving-amateur-radio

A few key things in addition:

I forgot to point out the mass-licensing effort going on at the Las Vegas hacker conference DEFCON.  This is a huge thing because the attendees are some of the brightest technologically curious people in the world.  DEFCON is short is a yearly-held woodstock for Internet and computer security technologists.

“Ham for Hackers”  presentation (circa 2008) at Defcon 16: https://www.defcon.org/images/defcon-16/dc16-presentations/defcon-16-jonm.pdf

I think there are a lot of exciting changes happening to the world of technology - lots of really cool stuff coming to fruition which will make the radio enthusiast world really fun and interesting.

PS - I regret burping on stage, but hey, this ain't a TED talk.  ;)
 

Offline magetoo

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2016, 04:30:39 pm »
I'm guessing this is the same talk?  (I just get SSL errors on the ccc.de site.)

 

Offline kraptv

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2016, 05:02:35 pm »
yep, you got it! Well spotted.

Also of note to your https-related error - the SSL signing authority is LetsEncrypt (https://letsencrypt.org/)  - a growing free SSL signing authority. Firefox 50 and the current version of Google Chrome already trust LetsEncrypt-certficate sites.

You may start to encounter these issues more regularly as people migrate to it. :-)
« Last Edit: August 08, 2016, 05:14:19 pm by kraptv »
 

Offline magetoo

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2016, 05:29:04 pm »
The SSL error is most likely because I'm on an old browser and the server wants to use newer encryption that's not mutually supported.

Just watched the video and it sounds like good common sense ideas to get people interested.  I share the "unfascination" for amateur radio you mention I suppose, but RF is interesting.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2016, 07:07:46 pm »
I think an unaddressed but serious problem is the proliferation of EMI emitting consumer gear including compact fluorescent and LED lamps which are making the HF bands unusable.  The only related good news is that they finally gave up on power line networking.
 
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Offline G0HZU

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2016, 09:11:50 pm »
I've been licensed for over 30 years and I watched the whole video and I have a few comments.

I agree with the overall message that amateur radio needs a reboot to find itself again. So in this respect the video was good. But I think it was too long. To reach (and impress) the people you need to reach you need to make a short and punchy presentation.



 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2016, 09:19:54 pm »
If you do another one,you could try including a catchy phrase like 'get closer to the physics' because I do feel that modern society is becoming more and more insulated from the real world of physics and electronics.

There must be a lot of people out there who love what modern networking systems can offer them but they must also feel a sense of isolation from the technical (and theoretical) side of it all.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2016, 09:21:37 pm by G0HZU »
 

Offline hammy

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2016, 10:01:33 pm »
Amateur Radio had an unique feature in the past: communication around the world.
This was the unique selling point to everyone who just watched a ham - operating his station - for some minutes. And for a lot people this was the initial spark to learn the hobby and get a license. Even for people not mainly interested in technology.
And this is lost!
The number of hams will shrink. Based on serveral factors: commercialization of frequency ranges, a dwindling lobby, outdated technology - it is not part of the zeitgeist anymore.

Like sailing. Who owns a sailboat?

Cheers
hammy

 
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Offline setq

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2016, 10:53:28 pm »
I'm quite up with the idea of maintaining 100% independent communication versus global networks. Most of my day is consumed with keeping the plates spinning on the latter and it's scary how thin a thread most things hang off.  There is still lots of value in amateur radio from this perspective. There is also still romance in the idea of jiggling some electrons around in a bit of wire with a few transistors and someone else a few hundred miles away being able to observe it.

I'm not a radio amateur but I've done enough in depth research and experimentation on the homebrew side of things to be put off it by a number of things.

Licensing - I understand the purpose of a license and agree it is needed but at least in the UK, the whole examination and licensing thing is a mess involving independent examiners, usually at clubs by the looks and Ofcom. There needs to be a wider audience for this i.e. you should be able to get independently examined at a bog standard pro-metric test center. The exam is easy and is optically marked so this is as complicated as it should be.

Disparate knowledge and literature. Knowledge on RF electronics comes in packets which are poorly joined together. I can build a stable varicap tuned buffered colpitts oscillator (I have done this!). I can build a diode ring mixer (I have done this) but I have no idea how to derive what dBm the mixer requires for the LO and antenna ports. I have read literally a pile of information that says X dBm for the LO, but I don't know why. There are very few theoretical resources on matters like this which cover end to end engineering. Experimental Methods in RF Design is as close as it gets and I really like it but putting down £40 for a book to make up for the deficiencies in two other £40 books (ARRL handbook and RSGB handbook) is the status quo for amateur radio literature. There needs to be a canonical well-edited non-affiliated source of information much as there are in other hobby spaces these days. Something that makes you go "ahhhh I understand". And a stab at ARRL, please lose the random inch ratio conversion factors in everything in the handbook.

Time - I can't afford the time to join a club (or hackspace) to fill the gaps in the disparate knowledge from the above and double-check my thinking. I have a family. A 45 minute commute to a club isn't an option for a lot of us and the canonical answer from the US is talk to an elmer or in the UK, join a club.

Antennas - To actually start building your own equipment, and get on the air, the best bands require big antennas which is a massive problem for us in London. There is no textbook "here's how to do this" type thing out there in this space either. There really needs to be building block tutorials on how it all works, how to think about it etc. It took me months to change my mindset to power levels and the frequency domain from the regular time domain of traditionally taught electronics for example.

Age and eliteness - I'm in my thirties and when I turn up at Kempton and Dunstable once a year to eviscerate the parts and surplus suppliers, I'm one of the younger people there. I'll occasionally bump into someone who asks what my call is and I explain I don't have one. I'm not specifically saying this is everyone but when someone finds out or observes you are younger than the status quo yet older than a "student" and doesn't have a license there's an awkward silence and a void of respect and communication. Perhaps a twilight zone, an awkward customer.

Anyway, I hope people see at least a single data point from a rank outsider here.

Please persuade me otherwise.
 

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2016, 12:23:47 am »
Amateur Radio had an unique feature in the past: communication around the world.
This was the unique selling point to everyone who just watched a ham - operating his station - for some minutes. And for a lot people this was the initial spark to learn the hobby and get a license. Even for people not mainly interested in technology.
And this is lost!

Yes, irretrievably lost, through no fault of it's own of course, it's just human communications progress.
Hobby electronics was headed into the doldrums (if it wasn't already there) until the hacker/maker movement sprang up and saved it.

How to revive interest in amateur radio? I'm afraid I don't really know  :-//
I can imagine the new age "prepper" movements getting into radio as an independent source of communications.
 

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2016, 12:35:16 am »
Time - I can't afford the time to join a club (or hackspace) to fill the gaps in the disparate knowledge from the above and double-check my thinking. I have a family. A 45 minute commute to a club isn't an option for a lot of us and the canonical answer from the US is talk to an elmer or in the UK, join a club.

Yep. I want to join my local hackerspace and go hang out (heck, I've had ideas about opening my own space), but I just have too many other commitments. I feel ashamed that I haven't even been to the local hack space, but have been to the Melbourne one twice, and meet up with them at the Maker Faires (this weekend in Sydney!)
 

Offline DimitriP

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2016, 12:51:30 am »
Quote
but putting down £40 for a book to make up for the deficiencies in two other £40 books (ARRL handbook and RSGB handbook) is the status quo for amateur radio literature. There needs to be a canonical well-edited non-affiliated source of information much as there are in other hobby spaces these days.

On another planet, there are services that will open your head and fill it with all the available information and understanding you need to have, for free.
The name of the planet escapes me.

   If three 100  Ohm resistors are connected in parallel, and in series with a 200 Ohm resistor, how many resistors do you have? 
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2016, 01:31:55 am »
Yes, irretrievably lost, through no fault of it's own of course, it's just human communications progress.
Hobby electronics was headed into the doldrums (if it wasn't already there) until the hacker/maker movement sprang up and saved it.

Has the hacker/maker movement saved it?  I had not noticed.  At least here in the US, I see a continuation of earlier technical projects taking advantage of new technology fueled by increasing integration.  I am not sure there are more of them; they may just be more visible on the internet which by itself has advantages; smaller projects can now receive support from a wider audience with less effort.

Quote
How to revive interest in amateur radio? I'm afraid I don't really know  :-//
I can imagine the new age "prepper" movements getting into radio as an independent source of communications.

I have seen very little overlap with the prepper movement but I may not have been watching closely enough; it seems like most preppers are expecting cellular and internet communications to continue functioning.

In the past a big advantage of amateur radio was continuous use which maintained expertise for when it is really needed but now that cellular and internet communications provide functions which previous amateur radio handled well, people moved as well.

I have often considered whether smaller well documented open projects like the QRP kits of the past could provide dual use hardware to support digital emergency communications but there *has* to be a non-emergency use for wide support and current FCC regulations in the US make this difficult; mixing public internet with amateur radio is practical forbidden.
 

Offline GreyWoolfe

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2016, 01:54:13 am »

Quote
How to revive interest in amateur radio? I'm afraid I don't really know  :-//
I can imagine the new age "prepper" movements getting into radio as an independent source of communications.

I have seen very little overlap with the prepper movement but I may not have been watching closely enough; it seems like most preppers are expecting cellular and internet communications to continue functioning.


I am a Volunteer Examiner Liaison and I can say that I have had preppers come to testing sessions for their Tech license.  I don't think that they have caught on to the fact that if EMP takes out cellular and internet communications, then the uP in their Baofeng handi-talkies will probably suffer the same fate.  Flint, steel and a blanket, anyone?
That which doesn't kill you still requires a co-pay.
 

Offline whalphen

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2016, 02:22:40 am »
About 3 years ago I decided to obtain an amateur radio license upon a suggestion from a friend.  I wasn't sure why.  I'm not interested in having casual discussions with strangers around the world.  I just decided to explore the amateur radio world to see if there was anything interesting.  I have an electrical engineering degree, but have done very little electronics work.  After a few years doing electronic instrument design, I spent the large majority of my working career in administrative and managerial positions.  I retired about a year after getting licensed.  So now I have the time and freedom to explore.  Here's what I've found:

Amateur radio does provide opportunities to talk to others all over the continent and the world.  And it's not only via radio.  Amateur radio is almost like a club.  Introduce yourself and your callsign to another amateur radio licensee anywhere and you're immediately treated as a friend.  For example, just a few weeks ago I encountered an amateur using a portable rig on a mountaintop in Japan.  After introducing myself with my callsign, I was welcomed and had a long friendly chat.  Nearly every ham I meet is welcoming and eager to help me enjoy the hobby.

Amateur radio is a community service.  In the US, radio amateurs sit on the state emergency operations teams along with a wide variety of government and community representatives.  In the event of a disaster, radio amateurs may be called in to provide emergency communications channels.  When a child or other individual goes missing, the amateur radio community assists in communications and search and rescue.  If a marathon race or a Christmas parade is held, the amateur radio community is asked to provide point to point communications along the route to ensure problems and emergencies are communicated and addressed quickly.

Amateur radio offers entertainment in the form of challenges and contests.  For those who like to compete, there are innumerable contests and technical challenges.  Can you make contacts in 100 countries?  It's not easy.  Can you do it using 5 watts or less?  Tough, but possible.  I've been trying for two years.  There's nothing like the thrill of contacting a researcher at the South Pole using only 5 watts.  Or making a trans-Atlantic contact using only 250 milliwatts!  This was possible using a digital mode with intensive computer processing to extract the signal from the noise.  Or, how about making a contact via a repeater on the International Space Station as it zips by -- using only a portable radio and a handheld antenna?

Amateur radio is a learning opportunity.  Learning electronics or RF design from a stack of textbooks is very difficult and dull.  But, learning how to design an amplifier by building one is much more interesting and effective.  Amateur radio presents the opportunities that can give you the initiative to build and learn.  Recently I found a need to have a low power VHF amplifier for something I was exploring.  With a bit of internet research and reading I learned all about Class E amplifiers.  Using free PCB design software (KICAD) and an online PCB fab shop I was able to design and build one at very low cost.  Need an antenna?  Do some research.  Learn about it, and build one.  I have a long list of ideas and projects (learning opportunities) queued up as a result of exploration of amateur radio.  In two years of playing around with amateur radio designs, I've learned a huge amount about RF design, microcontroller design, and C programming.

Amateur radio is a teaching opportunity.  I now do volunteer work with the local middle and high schools, teaching students about electronics and radio communications.  Most of the students I work with have developed strong interest in engineering careers.  Electronics can be interesting and fun.  But, add in the ability to use radio communications to do remote sensing and remote control, and it opens up the world in ways that students cannot otherwise experience.  With electronics students can measure the room temperature and the wind speed.  They can measure the barometric pressure in the classroom.  And they can make robots move across the floor.  But add radio communications into the mix and it gives them the ability to explore the planet.  We can capture telemetry from satellites to monitor the conditions in space.  We can send high altitude balloons to the top of the atmosphere and recover the payloads after descent.  We can measure the abrupt temperature change that occurs as the balloon moves from the troposphere into the stratosphere.  We can put data collection buoys out on the Great Lakes.  We can monitor conditions on the bottom of the river through the deep freeze of Michigan winters.  We can use low power WSPR radio transmitters to investigate the effects of the sun on the ionosphere.  Radio communications allow students to look beyond their smart phone screens and beyond the walls of the classroom.  This opens their minds and gives them the skills and confidence to explore the far reaches of the planet with their own brains and hands.

Amateur radio is not old technology.  Like everything else, radio technology is evolving and migrating into the digital realm.  As we've seen audio, video, computers, and telephony merge into modern digital devices like smartphones, much of what was done in analog radio designs in the past is now done with computer processing.  Much of radio technology is also merging into digital devices.  You don't need to learn all about analog RF electronics.  There are digital integrated circuit chips that can connect directly to a microprocessor to send and receive radio.  I recently completed a design of a transceiver for a high altitude balloon which uses a PIC microcontroller interfaced to a $4 ISM transceiver chip to send and receive data over VHF or UHF channels.  This is the same kind of chip that's in your automobile key fob or your utility meter.  It helps to know a bit about the analog filters -- but what you don't want to learn, or don't have time to learn, you can get from data sheets or online design tools.

Amateur radio can be expensive, but it can also be inexpensive.  Nearly every capability you can't afford to buy you can build at much lower cost.  And, with low cost Chinese radios, test instruments, and parts, a person can get started with a minimal investment and move up to more expensive and better quality equipment once they learn which field of radio electronics they enjoy.  My first radio was a $30 Chinese handheld.  I'm building my own spectrum analyzer using plans from the internet.  I've built two RF power amplifiers, a transverter, and a WSPR transmitter.  After learning that surface mount technology is not difficult to work with, I built my own reflow oven.  My main HF antenna and my VHF antenna were built using parts from the local hardware store.  Used equipment is readily available.  And I can always find another ham willing to loan me any test equipment I need to use.

Since I started exploring amateur radio I've learned that it's much more than the stereotypical image of a bunch of old guys sitting around with headsets and microphones chatting about old vacuum tubes and such.  Yes, you can do that.  But, amateur radio also offers many more dimensions and opportunities to contribute to the community, to have fun, to learn, and to teach.  If you enjoy electronics, consider adding radio technology into your skill set.  And, if you have interest in using radio technology in your electronics designs, consider getting licensed.  It will open up lots of opportunities for new ideas and explorations, as well as a huge community of other radio amateurs eager to help.
 
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Online EEVblog

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2016, 03:37:38 am »
I have seen very little overlap with the prepper movement but I may not have been watching closely enough; it seems like most preppers are expecting cellular and internet communications to continue functioning.

Then they are very uneducated prepper!
There could actually be a big potential market there in the US for preppers to join the community.

Quote
I am a Volunteer Examiner Liaison and I can say that I have had preppers come to testing sessions for their Tech license.  I don't think that they have caught on to the fact that if EMP takes out cellular and internet communications, then the uP in their Baofeng handi-talkies will probably suffer the same fate.  Flint, steel and a blanket, anyone?

The most plausible prepper "crisis" actually involve natural disasters, solar flares taking out grid and hence all mobile and internet comms etc. Nothing that would usually take out independent radio gear.
 

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2016, 03:39:27 am »
I have seen very little overlap with the prepper movement but I may not have been watching closely enough; it seems like most preppers are expecting cellular and internet communications to continue functioning.

Then they are very uneducated prepper!
There could actually be a big potential market there in the US for preppers to join the community.
Several million at least:
https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2013/03/23/u-s-preppers-3-million-and-counting-when-modern-society-collapses-unto-itself/

Quote
I am a Volunteer Examiner Liaison and I can say that I have had preppers come to testing sessions for their Tech license.  I don't think that they have caught on to the fact that if EMP takes out cellular and internet communications, then the uP in their Baofeng handi-talkies will probably suffer the same fate.  Flint, steel and a blanket, anyone?

The most plausible prepper "crisis" actually involve natural disasters, solar flares taking out grid and hence all mobile and internet comms etc. Nothing that would usually take out independent radio gear.

If I was a prepper I'd probably have a shot a Yotuube channel devoted to amateur radio and comms for preppers, got to be a big niche there.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 03:41:12 am by EEVblog »
 

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2016, 04:04:48 am »
I'm not sure a lot of 'preppers'  would put the effort in to get an amateur licence for just one component of 'preparedness'.  I am left with the impression some hams have gone the 'prepper'  way.  Others have a interest in emergency comms and have greatly helped some disaster recovery efforts.
Whoah! Watch where that landed we might need it later.
 

Offline setq

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2016, 07:19:08 am »
I knew a few peppers a few years ago (they exist in the UK too but are slightly less nuts than the US variety) and they have unlicensed CB and VHF walkie talkies in their vehicles and houses and that is as far as comms seem to go. This is the same kit local farmers use as their mobile phones don't work in the remote parts of their farms. They are aware that cellular and internet communications are fragile, sometimes from very personal experiences. I don't think amateur radio gives them much over this.

Recent events in Turkey, I.e. the military coup, the various European wars from the 1990s, the whole Russia vs Ukraine thing and the numerous natural disasters is where amateur radio stands out as a unique tool. The first thing any opposing force does is secure public communications and the first thing at risk from a disaster is public communications.

The problem is that these events are rare and you can usually see them coming.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 07:20:39 am by setq »
 

Online borjam

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2016, 08:01:33 am »
It's complicated and a multi factor problem, in silly consultancy-speak ;)

I am 46 and I finally did the paperwork for my license two years ago, although I had actually passed the exam back in 1989! I had been in and out of the hobby since then, never transmitting, just experimenting with SWL, receivers, etc. Even my professional life has been linked to radio (my first real job was to develop some control software for an AOR3000 in order to monitor outages in some UHF relays, and there wasn't so many people with some radio knowledge and software development experience). And some radio knowledge has helped me a lot. When WiFi networks begun to get affordable, some basic notions on radio communications and antennas made you look like genius compared to the typical "computer guys" trying to set up wireless networks.

So, finally, after I was asked to give a talk about SDR over Echolink, I did the paperwork and now I am active after all those years! Of course I joined URE.  What I found was a community in which I am one of the youngsters, at 46!.

There are many reasons why amateur radio is slowly dying. First, how many hams were attracted to it by the ability to speak to people from other countries? Back in the Cold War era you could even talk to hams from the Eastern Block, even if they weren't allowed to tell you what the temperature was (a usual joke of the day). Today the Internet makes it cheaper and easier. And social networks take such a large part of most people's attention, it's difficult for most youngsters to take some interest on this.

People's attention span is decreasing alarmingly. I've heard with horror that TEDish talks are "the future of education". I understand that a short talk by a really gifted speaker, of which there are just a handful in the whole world, can be really inspiring. But how many Sagans, Attenboroughs, Feynmans, etc can you name? Still, science topics are often hard to really grasp, you need to put a lot of energy on it. Of course, there is that plague of recent engineers who don't bother to know what they are doing and just do a Google search, copy and paste a solution of sorts.

Getting into radio as a kid must be much more disappointing now. When I had my first (crappy) shortwave radio back in 1983 or so, you would be amazed at the sheer quantity of stations from different countries you could listen to. Later I was given a more serious receiver (A Sony ICF-5900W with SSB!) and it was rather easy to receive a lot of amateur transmissions, even using a simple indoor dipole in my room. Today there is a lot of awful noise. I remember I hated TV sets back in those old days, but now it's much worse!

Now, imagine that kid (myself when I was 13) playing with dad's radio to see what is that "SW" thing, only to find noise. Lots of it. A different question would be, of course, the language barrier. Back in the 80's there were broadcasts in every language you could imagine and it was so funny to listen to Radio Moscow or Peace and Progress boasting the spontaneous demonstrations of joy of the miners at the Red Square...

The generational gap is dramatic as well, and most hams have become "obsolete" in so many ways. For example: Imagine that a real catastrophe strikes. Could a network of phone or even CW based communications cope with the information flow? Not at all. It could be a marginal help in certain tasks, but nothing else. In order to be an effective force to be of real help in a serious emergency and make a difference, you need both people with "traditional" radio skills and people able to set up complex digital networks. Fortunately, the availability of cheap digital radio equipment, especially DMR, is making some people get acquaintanced with these topics.

Maybe the IoT thing can help spark some interest. After all, wireless communications are fundamental. But there is something I don't like at al in the whole maker community, and it's again the shallow approach we see everywhere. People copies, pastes, hits with a hammer if needed, and stuff kinda works.

But often the maker in question doesn't really understand what s/he's doing and, worse, is utterly unable to communicate it to a peer. So you see so many forum posts in which someone asks a question, not bothering to give any details of course, receives some more or less helpful answers and, finally, posts a "hey, I fixed it" without bothering to explain how.

When I was a kid, a pair of HTs was a terrific present. How many kids have you presented with HTs in the last ten years? If you did, how were the HTs received?

 

Offline Kilrah

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2016, 08:45:30 am »
How to revive interest in amateur radio? I'm afraid I don't really know  :-//

Me either, but more importantly I don't see why it would be "necessary". Things come and go, amateur radio is like film photography, both were enourmous things back in the day, but both simply became obsolete through the appearance of things that do everything much better without really any drawback. Both have a few oldies who want to continue do do things the way they always did, a few youngsters will be interested an try/play a bit as a curiosity, but there's no way either will become "mainstream" again because neither really satisfies a need nor solves a problem anymore.

Interestingly there's just been a thread on an RC forum I follow where a bunch of guys mentioned they had sold their "expensive and increasingly uninteresting" amateur radio gear to start R/C flying instead. There's RF involved too if they're really into that, plus a lot of more relevant knowledge and entertainment to be gained.

I can imagine the new age "prepper" movements getting into radio as an independent source of communications.

Yep having an independent, open communications network would be a nice thing, but even for that common voice radio is totally obsolete, if something were to be done it would use what modern systems allow for. It's impractical to make something like that in "normal" times due to regulations, licensing etc, but don't worry that should hell break loose you'd see people create their own independent long range, encrypted digital communications network based on off the shelf radio modules or repurposed mobile phone hardware in a matter of days once nobody gives a shit about the government and/or regulatory entities anymore. Wouldn't be justified to go through legal difficulties to create something you can sell in preparation, but the day it's really needed it will "just happen", and no regulatory authority that might still have any jurisdiction would be able to ask for radio amateur licenses, sell bands usage rights for billions or stop the proliferation of hundreds of thousands of devices.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 08:52:09 am by Kilrah »
 

Online VK5RC

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #21 on: August 09, 2016, 11:46:10 am »
I am not sure I believe the line "amateur radio is dying".

It may be in the conventional sense of the numbers of guys stuck behind a simple analogue HF rig trying to communicate with another similar Ham BUT  the TOTAL activities of hams and I think actual numbers of hams is increasing.

In the last 10 years a new club has formed in my city Adelaide, several new repeaters have been installed and the existing clubs are not running short of members. Our club's presentations are expanding into areas that weren't even considered 10 years ago. An Australian has communicated over 3000km using 10GHz RF. Enrolments for Gippstech (Aust VHF+ Ham conference) gets bigger each year. Homebrew gear using semi-digital construction and low power is gaining interest esp with SI5351 type chips.
You have to look at the explosion of Hams and their websites, offering small club or other related projects for sale or offering experience of what they did and how they did it.  My Earth Moon Earth transceiver ( in construction) uses module from kits from Australian, USA and UK hams.
The increasing age of Hams I think just reflects the time pressure on younger people today however we have a large number of recent retirees in our club.
The hackers, makers and CBers may move into Amateur radio just as some Hams move out into others e.g. RC or plain electronics.

I think there has never been a better time to be a Ham, such amazing stuff, so easily found (internet) , so much useful information and so much great gear at bargain prices. :-+

http://www.arrl.org/news/us-amateur-radio-numbers-reach-an-all-time-high
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio_operator
Whoah! Watch where that landed we might need it later.
 
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Offline whalphen

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #22 on: August 09, 2016, 02:33:55 pm »
I think VK5RC makes a valid point about the increasing age of people entering the hobby.  In our local high school club we have many more students interested in joining but can't due to competing distractions.  Their schedules are full of sports, music, and other activities.  However, those who develop interest in electronics or engineering careers seem to prioritize their participation in the club over other things.  At the middle school level we have higher number of participants (about 3 to 4 times as many) because they don't yet have as many competing activities.
 

Offline PaulS

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #23 on: August 09, 2016, 06:06:50 pm »
I have seen very little overlap with the prepper movement but I may not have been watching closely enough; it seems like most preppers are expecting cellular and internet communications to continue functioning.

Then they are very uneducated prepper!
There could actually be a big potential market there in the US for preppers to join the community.
Several million at least:
https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2013/03/23/u-s-preppers-3-million-and-counting-when-modern-society-collapses-unto-itself/

Quote
I am a Volunteer Examiner Liaison and I can say that I have had preppers come to testing sessions for their Tech license.  I don't think that they have caught on to the fact that if EMP takes out cellular and internet communications, then the uP in their Baofeng handi-talkies will probably suffer the same fate.  Flint, steel and a blanket, anyone?

The most plausible prepper "crisis" actually involve natural disasters, solar flares taking out grid and hence all mobile and internet comms etc. Nothing that would usually take out independent radio gear.

If I was a prepper I'd probably have a shot a Yotuube channel devoted to amateur radio and comms for preppers, got to be a big niche there.

This must be a local thing, in my old city they had a net (people get on the state repeater network to talk) about prepping every week, and I listened in a few times. It always seemed quite busy.
 

Offline TheSteve

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Re: Rebooting a Hobby: The Death and Rebirth of Amateur Radio.
« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2016, 08:04:03 pm »
I've just always liked radio, that won't change even with the internet. I still think it is a total blast to bounce a signal off the moon or use a handheld directional antenna to make contact with someone thousands of kilometers away using a satellite smaller then a beach ball in low earth orbit. I also love fox hunts(finding hidden transmitters in a park etc). Nothing like running around a park with an antenna made out of some plastic pipe with cut up pieces of a tape measure as the antenna elements.
Amateur radio is certainly growing in Canada, but it has evolved in that for most it isn't about big antennas mounted on a tower anymore. We are also seeing more support from cities and governments as they are providing resources and locations to setup stations that can be used during emergencies.
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