Author Topic: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?  (Read 225073 times)

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Online xrunner

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Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« on: June 08, 2013, 12:52:11 am »
I have (or had, I think the license is expired now because I didn't renew it) a General Class license. I was big into morse code in junior high school, but lost interest over the years.

Ham radio used to be the ultimate electronics hobby. I mean it was the Big Time thing if you wanted to experiment with electronics. You really had to know your shit.

I realized the other day, I never, and I mean never, hear about a ham hobbyist on electronics forums. I'm sure they have their forums, but it seems to be a dying hobby. I don't know if computers are killing it or the internet, but something happened, for me anyway. I just didn't see the challenge in it at some point. Maybe it was that you could go buy the most elegantly engineered radios and given that, there was no more challenge to it.  :(

Thoughts?
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Offline ve7xen

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2013, 12:59:22 am »
I think it has a lot to do with how easy and cheap it is communicate internationally now. Before my day, it was actually difficult and/or expensive to communicate with people in other parts of the world. Now we do it every day, essentially for free.

That said I'm a (not very active) operator and have a fair bit of interest in applying more modern design to old ideas. Not modern design, but something more modern than we would have done in the 80s. APRS is a good example. Most of the TNCs out there are still based on 1980s analog demodulators. SDR is really interesting too, as are some of the crazy new digital modes.

Still lots going on :).
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Offline Hydrawerk

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2013, 01:04:52 am »
Well, my father could not easily send messages from Czech Republic (middle Europe) to a guy from Australia in early 1980s.
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Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2013, 01:06:27 am »
I think it has a lot to do with how easy and cheap it is communicate internationally now. Before my day, it was actually difficult and/or expensive to communicate with people in other parts of the world. Now we do it every day, essentially for free.

Yea I think you're right. Back in the day (I mean early 1970's) there was no way to talk to other countries, other than some sort of expensive international call or a letter.  :P

Ham radio was a really neat way to do something many people simply couldn't do or even really understand how to do. I got tutored by a Ham operator and that how I got into electronincs. Shoot - I knew things that many grown-ups didn't have a clue about.

Even before that, I got into shortwave listening because I got kits from Radio Shack. I listened to WWV and foreign nations and thought I was doing things that nobody else could do.

I still have a JRC communications receiver - not made anymore but man it's a kick-ass receiver. But do I use it for anytning now? No.

It's the damn internet!  :rant:
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Offline Radio Tech

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2013, 01:38:17 am »
I am a General class operator.  Not qute as active as I was 2 years ago but  when I am in the shop the radios are on and monitoring. There are serveral ham radio forums. qrz.com being the biggest. But it is not ham radio. I do agree that the internet and cell phones has took alot out of the hobby. But it is not dieing. Put up a decent antenna, listen to the bands. They are very active. I am talking about HF freqencies. Not VHF or UHF.

The only reason I am not as active is because of the shop. When I am in the shop I am working on HF rigs or amplifiers. Most power supplies in these are between 2 to 3KV. Not every body wants to work on these. Like the new breed of ham operators. Not that I have anything at all against them. It is just at one time most ham operators could repair thier on stuff. Now that the FCC has made becoming a ham op easier, there are folks in the hobby with no electronic back ground at all.  So I started repairing more and more radio equipment for ham operators.  So I am still enjoying the hobby.

Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2013, 01:55:09 am »
I am a General class operator.  Not qute as active as I was 2 years ago but  when I am in the shop the radios are on and monitoring. There are serveral ham radio forums. qrz.com being the biggest. But it is not ham radio. I do agree that the internet and cell phones has took alot out of the hobby. But it is not dieing. Put up a decent antenna, listen to the bands. They are very active. I am talking about HF freqencies. Not VHF or UHF.

Hey there!

I just dug up my paperwork. My license expired in 2012 but there is a two year grace period. I guess I'll register with the FCC tomorrow and renew it. It would be a shame to let it die, but I have no idea what I will do with it. Maybe when I lose interest in my model railroading hobby ...  :-//
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Offline Radio Tech

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2013, 02:05:14 am »


Hey there!
Greetings

Quote
I just dug up my paperwork. My license expired in 2012 but there is a two year grace period. I guess I'll register with the FCC tomorrow and renew it. It would be a shame to let it die,
I agree, that would be ashame. Please renew. This hobby could use you. Believe me.


Quote
but I have no idea what I will do with it. Maybe when I lose interest in my model railroading hobby ...  :-//
There are many things in had radio you may fine interesting. Several you are already doing.
Electronics
Computers

Google software defined radio (SDR).  This is a radio you can build (or buy) that is controlled by your computer.
Other things of interest is space communications.  Beaming your signal into space and repeating in back via OSCAR. Or communicating with the space station.  Another is EME which is earth moon earth. Bouncing your signal off the moon.

Yes, there are still things ham radio can do that your cell phone cant lol.

Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2013, 02:19:24 am »
I agree, that would be ashame. Please renew. This hobby could use you. Believe me.

I will. I will create an account at the FCC tomorrow morning. If I do not explicitly say to this community that I have renewed my ham license tomorrow, please feel free to kick my online ass.  ;)
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Offline SLJ

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2013, 02:45:10 am »
I attend several HAM fests every summer.  Great place to find parts and used test equipment.  Many of the swap meets are becoming loaded with used computer equipment but the larger ones around here have plenty of interest to just about anyone interested in electronics.

If you live in the US you can check the calendar here to find meets in your area: http://www.arrl.org/hamfests-and-conventions-calendar

Offline vk3yedotcom

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2013, 02:49:49 am »
There are many things in had radio you may fine interesting. Several you are already doing.
Electronics
Computers

Google software defined radio (SDR).  This is a radio you can build (or buy) that is controlled by your computer.
Other things of interest is space communications.  Beaming your signal into space and repeating in back via OSCAR. Or communicating with the space station.  Another is EME which is earth moon earth. Bouncing your signal off the moon.

Yes, there are still things ham radio can do that your cell phone cant lol.

There are those who entered ham radio in the '60s and '70s to talk around the world. That's no longer as attractive with the internet.  So the motivations for people entering it are probably narrower than they were. Still they definitely remain for the technically inclined.  Also there are likely to be many hams here who have broader interests and/or don't necessarily have their callsign as a username.

When the internet replaced packet radio for sending messages a lot of hams hooked packet gear up to a GPS.  The result is APRS - they're able to track cars and things via radio.

Amateurs who go hiking or mountaineering to remote areas are well out of mobile phone coverage.  There are a lot of small voice, morse and data transmitters that are easily built to maintain communications.

Another growth area is the interface between microcontrollers and radio. Arduinos are used to control variable frequency oscillators. Raspberry Pi can be set up as a low powered transmitter.

There is a mode called WSPR where just milliwatts can span the world by transmitting data very slowly. The WSPR network can be monitored on the web.  This is useful for testing antennas and propagation as you receive details of exact signal levels from around the world.

There is still significant morse activity on HF.  However there is also now a worldwide system called the Reverse Beacon network comprised of receivers around the world.  Put out a CQ call and even if noone comes back your signal may be captured and reported online.  Again this provides useful data for antenna testing.

Like computing the real (and nominal) cost of radio gear has fallen. This applies for both commercial and home made gear.  Construction is easier than it was.  As an example, it is possible to build a basic HF SSB transceiver for under $100 in a few days. Eg
« Last Edit: June 08, 2013, 02:52:47 am by vk3yedotcom »
NEW! Ham Radio Get Started: Your success in amateur radio. One of 8 ebooks available on amateur radio topics. Details at  https://books.vk3ye.com
 

Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2013, 04:51:13 am »
I don't know if being able to "talk" via the Internet with people around the world is the major disincentive
for people who would otherwise be "Hams".

It does use up time which may otherwise be used for hobbies (not just Ham Radio).

On a winter's day,it is easier to sit back in bed with your laptop,(like I am at this moment) & argue with other old farts (OK,some of you are young farts! ;D) about Electronics,or Ham Radio ,or football,than it is to sit in your cold lab,Ham shack,or football stadium! ;D

I would definitely suggest joining QRZ.com,as they are a nice mob there.
 

Offline Radio Tech

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2013, 12:18:12 pm »


Another growth area is the interface between microcontrollers and radio. Arduinos are used to control variable frequency oscillators. Raspberry Pi can be set up as a low powered transmitter.


Nice info. But the above quote grabbed my attention.  I recently got interested in Pic programming. You sound like you know a bit of older ham radio.  Remember the old Swan 350 radios, also the Siltronics line they built. Those thing drift all over the place.  This is where the Pic comes in handy. Remove the old VFO unit and replace with a small board.  Program your frequency range and you end up with an old style radio with a modern touch. I also replace the old dial with a LCD display.

Offline lemmegraphdat

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2013, 12:24:11 pm »
I got me a cell phone. It's totally Star Trek.
Start right now.
 

Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2013, 12:25:38 pm »
I tried to log into the ULS to renew. I didn't know I had any account at all, so when I filled out the registration, it told me I did have an account. I apparently already have a password but I have no idea what it is. I tried to reset my password.

It said I had to create a personal security question to reset it, because I didn't have a personal sec. question on file, and after I finished that form, it said the request was "assigned to an agent". It would take up to 3 business days.  :(

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Online xrunner

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2013, 12:28:13 pm »
I got me a cell phone. It's totally Star Trek.

Yep, that helped kill it for younger people I bet.  :-[

I remember a long time ago you could use a 2 meter radio to call a phone patch and talk to your wife and ask if she needed a gallon of milk on your way home. That was, for back then, totally friggin trick stuff.

Now it's a joke compared to what the simplest smart phone can do.
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Offline millerb

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2013, 12:37:11 pm »
Every Ham meeting I've ever gone to was basically a dick waving contest between geezers over who had the most expensive ready made gear.

Still thinking about getting my no-code tech license.
 

Offline Radio Tech

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2013, 12:44:00 pm »
Every Ham meeting I've ever gone to was basically a dick waving contest between geezers over who had the most expensive ready made gear.

Still thinking about getting my no-code tech license.

Agreed, why I do not participate in local clubs.  Or 80 meters for the fact lol.  You always have the same group of folks running the club reguards to who the president is.
My thought of a club is different than most. I am thinking do something that is ham radio related.  In stead of meeting for a steak and a beer.

Anyway go for it. But dont stop at tech, get your general. HF can be fun. Although I was a tech for many years I enjoyed the world above 50 MHz with out the use of repeaters.

Offline lemmegraphdat

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2013, 12:51:41 pm »
I got me a cell phone. It's totally Star Trek.

Yep, that helped kill it for younger people I bet.  :-[

I remember a long time ago you could use a 2 meter radio to call a phone patch and talk to your wife and ask if she needed a gallon of milk on your way home. That was, for back then, totally friggin trick stuff.

Now it's a joke compared to what the simplest smart phone can do.
Yea, but it's still the wireless.
Start right now.
 

Offline 4to20Milliamps

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2013, 02:08:35 pm »
Probably the main reason younger people aren't into ham radio is that it isn't a cheap hobby.....but it's far from being dead.

http://www.arrl.org/radio-technology-topics
 

vlf3

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2013, 02:44:01 pm »
QRP is simple and interesting, from the build aspect; it's highly mobile if the interest is there, but you need Morse-code to communicate.
 

Offline SeanB

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2013, 04:08:50 pm »
But aside from the license fees and the rig amateur radio is totally free to use, as long as you keep it clean and do not mind having it broadcast to all. Also works when all the fertiliser hits the ventilator and the phones and cellular signals are out for repair.
 

Telequipment

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2013, 04:24:11 pm »
Well as, a full A class here in the UK ,I can tell it's going strong, had mine since 1998,I still use morse code , when I feel the need, data , moon bounce HF , the full hog, ,it's a life time licence now, every 5 Years you have to let them know your still doing it and away you go for another 5 years all free, online. I believe it's easier now thank goodness for those taking it up, I don't think they do the 12wpm morse test any more, but I'll stand to be corrected on that.
Anyway I love the hobby, and speak to people all over the world daily.
 

Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2013, 04:01:39 am »
I got me a cell phone. It's totally Star Trek.

Yep, that helped kill it for younger people I bet.  :-[

I remember a long time ago you could use a 2 meter radio to call a phone patch and talk to your wife and ask if she needed a gallon of milk on your way home. That was, for back then, totally friggin trick stuff.

Now it's a joke compared to what the simplest smart phone can do.

A smartphone is either a lousy computer,or a lousy cellphone---I haven't worked out which! ;D

Actually,your smartphone is just talking to the local cell tower.
Most of the other stuff is done by the millions of dollars worth of equipment in the International phone system.

We never had phone patch on repeaters in VK--what I remember from the time when I was very active on
2m FM was working a Ham on a Bulk Carrier coming into Port Hedland about 2000km away,on the Perth repeater,then going to Simplex & working him again.

Tropo ducting is great!
 

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2013, 06:22:43 pm »
 Here is the enjoyment of ham radio just 2 minutes ago I spoke to a station in Portugal 6 metres FM 4 watts, and on my home made 6 metre transceiver, pure utter magic.  :-+ :-+ :-+ :-+ :-+
 

Offline Radio Tech

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Re: Whatever Happened to Ham Radio?
« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2013, 07:35:08 pm »
Here is the enjoyment of ham radio just 2 minutes ago I spoke to a station in Portugal 6 metres FM 4 watts, and on my home made 6 metre transceiver, pure utter magic.  :-+ :-+ :-+ :-+ :-+

Sweet, got to love 6 meters. One of my favorite bands.

Here is a couple of pics on my old homebrew 6 meter rig.
It started out as a MFJ 6 meter rig.  After a lot of modifications this is how it ended up.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2013, 07:36:57 pm by Radio Tech »
 
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