Just a few quick thoughts on the future of Amateur Radio from out here in the Wisconsin Countryside.
Over the last several months I have taken a bit of time to ponder what direction I see Amateur Radio going – not just for me, in my personal experience, but for the hobby as a whole. Here a few of my completely non-scientific thoughts:
Amateur License Numbers will continue to slowly rise. Adding interest to our hobby are additions from the Home Schooled, a segment who have found Amateur Radio a welcome science addition to their studies, from Preparedness Buffs (both individual “preppers” and organized, often church led, preparedness followers) who find communications to fit with their world view, and a steady interest from the traditionally interested society segments. Many of these newcomers are motivated mentor/coach/teacher types who are picking up the Elmer slack in developing more interest.
The hold-back wave of introspective “Ham Generation ‘ME’ types” are retiring from the hobby. Their life progression is now post-retirement or retirement, and the issues caused by their not developing much amateur radio interest in many of their offspring or other family becomes less a downward pull on the hobby.
The License is “just a license” and skills recognized as a life-long pursuit. An improvement over the gatekeeper mentality of former licensing schemes enhances the hobby for more ongoing-life-learners – the sort who will work to add skills, not just wallpaper, as they live the hobby.
Retro Interests will be Good for the Hobby. Whether the challenges of doing more with less (you have to love QRP for this), building kits (where else can you build useful gear, and often with through-hole technology … the resurgence in CW Morse Code as a voluntary taking-up is a great sign of how important Retro Interests are.
Mixing of Old with New makes for an Awesome Experience. Things like boat anchors with replacement high reliability components, add-on enhancements and even computer “cyborgism” makes for an experience like one’s father or grandfather’s amateur radio experience, without the downsides. Neat stuff!
I should wax on more, as the future for amateur radio is fantastic. I remain surprised at individual hobbyists who have “lost their radio mojo” and would generalize that malaise to the entire hobby. Afraid I’ve just not seen the same hobby doom and gloom out there.
Other upsides to reflect on are the very low ongoing costs to operate and continue in the hobby once involved, the relatively low cost of entry (yes you have those who complain that you need at least a little bit of investment to get started, though I think they are just being cheap and somehow forget that this is true of almost every hobby – I mean price up a decent piano if you want to start playing, or a league grade trap-gun if you want to shoot trap; or price up the huge investment of racing or big water fishing – in comparison amateur radio is not stand out expensive at all, in fact it is fairly cheap!)
There are nearly endless opportunities to try new modes, work DX, set up Emcomm efforts and join in nets. DXpeditioning, Special Events, US Island Operations and county hunting are just a few of the focus interests people find themselves involved in.
Perhaps there is some truth that it was a different world when an Amateur had to travel to an FCC Office and test in person, often built their own gear and always had CW abilities. That different world had a lot of good going for it, though we must remember that it had just a great lot of bad in it, and much of what we know now was unknown then.
Most importantly it is a memory only – a past that won’t return – and a past that provides a solid foundation for the bright future of our Amateur Radio hobby for the time to come!