If on-air chatter, hamfest chit-chat, forum and blog postings are a reliable measure, then a large number of radio amateurs live in constant fear of the death of the hobby. This of course flies in the face of actual data — which shows the number of licensees in the US are at an all-time high.
But for sake of conversation, and another five hundred words over the transom, let’s ignore facts and dive into the notion that ham radio is facing imminent death. After all, life is going along fairly well here on Earth at the moment, but for all we know, a massive rock could be headed this way intent on occupying the same space as our rock — an impossibility that nature will correct with sudden destruction.
From what I’ve been able to gather, one of the most pervasive arguments for our demise is our inability to attract children to our game of radio. Apparently, a large number of our fraternity are convinced that the future of our enterprise is dependent on the inclusion of a significant number of pre-pubescent hominids.
I smell what they’re shoveling, but I disagree.
Not that I’m against young people getting involved in our hobby, I’m not, I simply don’t believe their involvement is a requirement for our continued success. I was licensed as a teen nearly forty years ago and was considered somewhat unique at local ham club events because I was the youngest ham there — by at least twenty five years — and that was 1977.
Apparently, we couldn’t attract many youngsters forty years ago either.
Dig into this a little and you will discover that the quest for this magical “fountain of youths” has been ongoing for decades and yet we seem no closer to its discovery today despite the fact that ham radio has been growing like a weed — sans the kids — for decades.
This meme is faulty, the product of unimaginative thinking. “I believe that children are our future” — that sort of tired, simplistic rhetoric. The bio pages on QRZ are testament to the tens of thousands of hams who got interested in this hobby early in life, then had no time for it in subsequent decades. Only after marriage, family and career were well underway was there enough free time to consider a return to amateur radio.
And while visiting those QRZ bios, take a good look at the accompanying photos. Most of us are overweight, out of shape, and dealing with complications from Type 2 diabetes. Do we really want to encourage children to follow our footsteps into such a sedentary lifetime hobby?
Besides, crafting a one-size fits all solution to our perceived problems, “we need more young people”, undermines the notion that one of us whose not a teenager might revolutionize amateur radio and alter the course of the hobby. You know, like Hiram P. Maxim, who didn’t get started in radio until after his 40th birthday — and was so old by then as to be useless…