The Dawn of a New Era? How after the ChiCom Plague we will never go back again – Part 5 – Full Ham Edition
My last post in this series discussing the paradigm shifts in our lives brought on by the ChiCom Plague, but with a particular focus on Amateur Radio.
The paradigm shifts I covered in posts 1, 2, 3 and 4, that appear they will stay with us once the ChiCom Plague virus is thwarted are (in italic to show they were already covered):
- Accelerated Change on multiple Axis
- Risk Analysis of Social Contacts
- Risk Analysis of Group Meetings (Starving the Monkeys)
- Travel vs Teleconference
- Supply Chain Robustness
- Distrust of the MSM and other public voices with an agenda
- Increase in Personal Preparedness
- Two-is-One, One-is-None mentality as the new norm
- Unmaintainable generics vs Sustainable Brand options
- Exotics vs Field-Maintainable Equipment
- The Death of JIT (Just in Time) logistics
- Education Reform
- The Kennedy Reality (Ask not..)
But what about ham radio? (Listed in Bold to match the other posts):
- The Hamfest has taken a forever hit
- Boat Anchors and Used Gear will have polarized values
- One-Man-Band Equipment Providers will be Challenged
- Did Big Group Field Day just die for 2020 or did it go the way of the Dodo?
- What happens to Club Meetings?
- Supply Chain Issues Favor Domestic Production
Delving into these issues:
The Hamfest has taken a forever hit
Between the demographics of a Hamfest attendee, the uncontrolled aspects of this sort of event to allow for effective risk control, the ability to obtain 90% of the experience through remote delivery and the lower life priority most would assign to a hobby exhibition/convention, the Hamfest as it was has taken a forever hit.
The Hamfest attendee in aggregate form is more exposed to the challenges of the pandemic as they are more highly exposed to many emergency issues. What the aged demographic has gain in wisdom and technique in their years they have lost in fitness and health – and then some. While people started in our hobby healthy the average Hamfest demographic has medical prescriptions and would struggle to pass a military type physical. Higher risk than the general population.
The Hamfest itself is a relatively uncontrolled event. Inbound attendees and an exhibits/exhibitors are largely unscreened and would be hard to disinfect. Much of the facilities typically used are multipurpose occasional use venues with issues ranging from pest control to needing portable sanitation. Food is often provided by volunteers, who do their best to meet local health rules but are not equipped to provide food delivery in a pandemic situation.
That only two things about a Hamfest are unique to a physical event – the “hands-on experience” and the “Eye-ball QSO experience” – while most of the other experiences can happen with other methods of remote delivery, truly tips the cards against the big Hamfest.
The special deals and new product announcements already happen by internet and press at the same time they happen at the Hmafest, so that doesn’t have to change.
The “hands-on experience” perhaps can be worked around with no questions return periods of new gear, like FlexRadio has built their delivery model around, and taking a cue from the XYL who often attends “Fashion Trunk Shows” where new collections of designers she likes are out on an extended road trip at selected boutiques, that manufacturers may have to do “Ham Radio Trunk Shows” taking a demo-trailer of gear on the road to meet with small groups of hams – carefully decontaminating between mini-venues.
Used equipment sales/trades like at Hamfest Flea Markets usually require the “hands-on experience” to facilitate. In the future they may have to happen by proxy (you get a buddy/volunteer to look at it for you where it is), by escrow (sent to you on approval once you deposit the funds with the coordinating escrow agent) or be limited to local sales.
The “Eye-ball QSO experience” is the hardest to replace with a virtual experience and would be the largest loss if big Hamfests go away.
Boat Anchors and Used Gear will have polarized values
The changes in how we deal with Boat Anchors and Used Gear will polarize values. Already Boat Anchors are separating into “just old gear” pricing where hams can buy vintage gear for less than what that gear would cost to ship and at the other end desirable vintage gear has much more value, typically changing hands at a rough equivalency to modern transceiver. Non-working or parts Boat Anchors are usually “giveaways” and highly collectable pieces still achieve collector’s pricing. But most of the Boat Anchors will not be desirable or valuable. Do not forget that those who grew up with these radios are dying, downsizing and few repair techs are replacing those who have died or retired. That was being seen before the Pandemic.
Used gear will similarly polarize. Models of radios with known problems, unobtanium repair parts or underperformance issues will be near “giveaways.” The “good stuff” will tend to hold more value.
Largely these are usual market dynamic accentuated by the pressures of the Post-Pandemic situation.
One-Man-Band Equipment Providers will be Challenged
The Post-Pandemic world will revalue the offerings of “One-Man-Band” radio gear and software products. How much money do you want to invest in gear that a single person getting ill, and perhaps never returning to their work, would make your investment into “orphan gear?”
Your “Lifetime License” for ham software may have taken on a new, shorter, and terminating meaning.
“One-Man-Band” issues can partially be mitigated if a “One-Man-Band” provider enters into a mutual-support association with like-minded and similarly skilled other vendors. That way a buyer would feel more secure that is XYZ Software or XYZ Hamradio Doodad will be taken care of for support, warranty, updates and parts even if XYZ bites the dust.
“One-Man-Band” outfits will need to have a succession plan, a plan-B like a mutual-support association and be transparent enough with the ham radio marketplace to make their products valuable. Otherwise “One-Man-Band” products must be considered short term and disposable.
Did Big Group Field Day just die for 2020 or did it go the way of the Dodo?
This more about whether the Paradigm Shift challenging this year’s Field Day is one-off or it will redefine Field Day from here out.
In many places, even if the various levels of shutdown/quarantine remain in place when Field Day 2020 rolls around, it will be possible to do a modified form of Field Day. But the big group multi-station Field Day is likely not going to happen this year.
Will this be the case for Field Day 2021? Lacking a cure or vaccination for the ChiCom Plague future Field Days may still favor individual or very small groups over the Big Group event.
What happens to Club Meetings?
The local club here is doing its meetings by repeater. Some groups are doing web-based meetings. Others may have a hybrid approach using several remote technologies. Some groups are modifying their by-laws to allow distant voting.
Meeting as a group will have to wait until it can be done safely, and the use of remote technologies will likely continue even then.
Since we are a hobby that is all about communicating-at-a-distance it makes a lot of sense.
Supply Chain Issues Favor Domestic Production
We are already seeing new transceivers delayed. ICOM moved it launch of the IC-705 from May 2020 (Dayton Hamvention time, which was canceled) to Q4 2020 due to supply chain issues.
Other transceivers made in China will also suffer supply issues.
Domestic producers need a lot of parts often made overseas to assemble their transceivers stateside, but once they have the parts they can build, supply, and support their products.
As several of our big-name transceiver manufacturers have Japanese roots, and with Japan as a nation vowing to pull much production back from China to again be Japan based, there will be further supply disruptions.
As for getting support parts/modules for overseas built gear, the challenges are much greater than they were before. We may have to scavenge from donor rigs to keep our main rigs going if the overseas suppliers are disrupted. Or well equipped third-parties or repair depots will have rebuild and/or replicate parts.
These are few of the many ways our hobby has been transformed and I hope you have learned from the sharing of thoughts on the Paradigm Shift the ChiCom Plague has been the catalyst for.