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Re: AMSAT-BB Digest, Vol 3, Issue 349

>>A few years ago at the 2002 AMSAT meeting in Ft. Worth, Tony, 
>>AA2TX was giving a talk on his antennas made from cardboard 
>>boxes and aluminum  foil.  There was a grade school class in 
>>attendance with their  teacher.  When the talk was over, the 
>>kids swarmed over the boxes and  aluminum foil to make 
>>antennas with great enthusiasm.  Very inspiring  -- this is 
>>the kind of reaching out we need.
>>Instead of our self serving pursuit of DXCC, WAS, VUCC, WAC 
>>and  others, maybe the ARRL needs to sponsor an award for 
>>bringing new Hams into the community. Otherwise, someday, 
>>no one will remember what those letters even  stood for.

Believe me, at 43 years old, I'm acutely aware of two facts:

1. I'm relatively young for a radio amateur; and
2. I'm not exactly young.

Amateur radio has a few things going against it as far as "young"
people are concerned, and some of these things cannot be easily
solved by regulation changes, mentoring, etc.

First and foremost is that amateur radio is a technical hobby and
is consequently viewed by young people (hereafter taken to mean
"people under 25") as nerdy, uncool, etc.  I say with some 
confidence that very few people who currently hold amateur radio
licences were members of the popular crowd in high school or
university.  Is that silly?  Perhaps... but it's also true.
Young people have a lot of demands on their time, and being "cool"
is as important now as it ever was, maybe more so.  The result
is that amateur radio is going to appeal to a comparatively small
number of young people from the get-go.  I am not sure how or
if this perception can be overcome.

Second, advancing technology makes the hobby less useful than it
once was.  If you wanted to chat with people in far away lands
back in 1979 (when I first started SWL), then amateur radio was
probably just about the only way to do it.  If you want to do that
today, you need only download any of a multitude of simple computer
programs and have at it, with no technical skill, no licence and
little or no cost.  People getting into amateur radio now will
be doing it, in my opinion, purely for a love of radio or tinkering
rather than what I perceive to have been a large palette of reasons
in decades gone by.  This issue can probably be overcome by raising
the profile of amateur radio as a hobby with a modern flavour.
Certainly amateur radio satellite and keyboarding modes for amateur
radio help out a lot.  No offence to morse code afficiondos, but 
the vast majority of the kids I see (I volunteer at the Canada
Science and Tech museum) think of morse code as a quaint reminder 
of days past... interesting only as far as "yeah, my grampa used to 
do that, neat" but not interesting enough to be something they'd want
to do.  Every time someone tries to raise the importance
of morse code in amateur radio, I guarantee it scares away another
potential young licencee who sees amateur radio as old-fashioned
and backward.  On the other hand, get a kid talking on a satellite
to someone across the continent (or ocean, from here) and they'll
remember that for a LONG time.  Get a kid chatting with
someone around the world by keyboard using Olivia or PSK31 and they
can relate instantly because they're used to instant messaging.
Seriously, as radio amateurs we should really downplay morse code
outside our licenced ranks.  People who want to keep code alive 
will do so, but very few people are attracted to this hobby by
morse code and I believe a great many people are repelled by a
perception that if you can't do code, you're not a "real" radio

Third, and this also can't be overcome by mentoring etc., is that 
amateur radio has space and financial requirements that are beyond
most young people.  Everyone on this list go look at your stuff 
right now and add up what it cost in terms of currency as well as
indoor and outdoor space.  Sure, you *CAN* get into amateur radio
with a used 2m HT picked up in Dayton for $100.  But let's face it
the really cool stuff requires more sophisticated (read: expensive)
equipment, usually with antenna systems that require space and
more money.  When you're a teen or a young person just starting
a family, it's a discretionary expense that is probably just not
high on your list.  Only when you've started to get a few grey hairs
(if you have any hairs left) is it likely you'll be in a comfortable
position to invest in the "good" stuff.  This is the reason, in my
opinion, that radio amateurs largely seem to be no younger than about 
35 or so.  It simply takes that long to get in a position to really
pursue parts of this hobby.

That's my spin on it.  And I'll be back in the museum on Saturday
showing off amateur radio satellites to the kids :)

73 de VE3OIJ

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