Hams Discuss the Hobby’s Biggest Weaknesses and Opportunities.


I recently asked a simple question about amateur radio on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter a few weeks ago.

What is the biggest strength, weakness, opportunity or threat in ham radio now?

Here are some of the answers, and it is great food for thought.

Strength

  • The license itself. It is a gateway to careers in Internet technology, engineering, and scientific experimentation.
  • The ability to communicate totally ad-hoc.
  • The great people in this hobby.

Weakness

  • Lack of protocols, equipment, and applications to transmit data. Digital is encumbered by onerous, ancient rules regarding data modulation, as well as a complete inability to support any form of practical experimentation other than the art of antenna patterns. Add to it, the difficulty to petition the FCC for rules changes.
  • We need to overcome the attitude that ham radio is a post-apocalyptic means of off-the-grid communication, and get back to taking an interest in furthering the state of the art. With SDR (Software Defined Radios), Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, you can still build a low-cost radio in ways that were not available just a handful of years ago.
  • Not providing new people with a step-by-step way (into the hobby). CB was wildly popular, but the ham community turned its back on them. If you want to grow, you have to accept the masses.
  • Most ham equipment is rather expensive compared to consumer electronics. A mid-range laptop costs around $500. The mid-range HF radio is at least double that amount. You can buy the best console game system for less than the cost of a new HF radio station.

Opportunity

  • The biggest opportunity is youth. I don’t buy the attitude that young people are not interested in our hobby. The technology employed in various aspects of the hobby are state of the art. The bright young minds of today are eager for a challenge and the communication fields offer it.
  • The biggest opportunity is advancing the state of the art with the resurgence of kits. The SoftRock ensemble is a great example. It is about $100 and will work with a roadkill computer as its brain.
  • The number of new applications who enter the hobby to experiment with data communication.

Threat

  • Resistance (of current licensed operators) to adopt anything new. A new SSB radio that really only has slightly better filters? They are all over it. DMR? They don’t understand it, so it must be no good or illegal.
  • Cell phones which can do more than most radios except for HF communication.
  • We shouldn’t concentrate on “When your cell phone goes down,” but rather how cool it is to build your own voice or data network.
  • EmComm (Emergency Communication) trying to take over the hobby.

What do you think?

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13 thoughts on “Hams Discuss the Hobby’s Biggest Weaknesses and Opportunities.

  1. cfernandomaciel says:

    I think the author is trying to say that it’s the way Ham Radio hobby is being spread to the people, that in most cases people tend to focus solely that it’s for SHTF situations. Not that EnComm is a thread itself.

    I couldn’t agree more with the text! Congratulations!

    Like

  2. Andros says:

    Just one ting, if you go for your first driver licence
    that OK to use a learning licence for six month, one years
    some place.

    For amateur radio licence you can passively listen
    from the radio. No practice just study , wen the last
    a radio amateur or will by operator kill someone
    during the process of learning

    we’re are the temporary learning licence for radio operator
    maybe limited to 5 watt , limited for Somme X month
    and you can not renew without legitimated reason.

    Until someone show the body of a victims y always
    seen radio amateur bigotry , not individual one but
    as a cultural trait.

    Y tell that from Canada. Y was a licence operator
    in 1965 to 1982. again from 1982 to 1987 in Germany
    an again in 2012 back in Canada going to all the process
    again why do you think so fey join,

    That my view on the mater.

    Like

  3. jamesstevens895298528 says:

    Interesting article! I get the feeling from reading CQ magazine that EmComm is much more of a focus in the U.S. than it is here in the UK.

    I think lack of innovation is stagnating the hobby, ie better filters are good but not trying DV…

    The “Maker” community is one we should target as well, big opportunity as a lot of these people will be very interested in Ham Radio, they just need to hear about it 😄

    Thanks, James M0JCQ

    Like

    • I think it is a simple function of marketing. Over the past twenty years, you can’t get away from any discussion about the hobby without EmComm being a reason to get your license.

      It’s as if the only reason to purchase a smart phone is to play Candy Crush.

      Oh, wait. Nevermind.

      Like

  4. I don’t believe that EMCOMM is a threat to the hobby, many of the hams that I know including myself were first drawn to the hobby because of EMCOMM. In fact Amateur Radio is what opened the door for me into a career as an Emergency Manager. I do agree that it needs to quit being referred to as a “Post-Apocalyptic” form of communication. That is completely unreal, without the skills as an EMCOMM how will you know the skills to communicate after the big one?

    Along with the lines of new kits and lower price point radios, many new radios out of China are the ones that newly licensed and the old timer are using due to the price point. Regarding DMR, I will agree, new things should not be shunned but it should be embraced. My biggest concern is that we now have the following operating in DFW area: Analog Wide and Narrow FM; D-STAR (VHF, UHF, 1.2 DV/DD); DMR (VHF, UHF); Fusion (VHF, UHF); P25 (Analog N, Digital, UHF, VHF); Echolink; 10M; 6M; 2M; 70CM; 220 MHz; 900 MHz; 1200 MHz; and who knows what all else is out there. We have a lot of disparate systems now, sure there are the standard statewide closed groups, but there are many more out there that have embraced technology. The issue I see is the disparate systems. Public safety realized after 9/11 that Police A couldn’t talk to Police B, Fire couldn’t talk to Police, and so forth. Amateur Radio is going down that path now. Until there is an Interoperable mandate in Amateur Radio we are going to struggle when we have that wide scale big disaster. Along these lines is the interoperability between groups not related directly to communications. The groups that are RACES versus ARES or some other group.

    It is time to work out these petty differences and put the arrogance in a trunk at home.

    Like

  5. Gerry Hull says:

    I think you are very wrong in a lot of your findings — even if the results come from new hams. I’m a member of the Yankee Clipper Contest club — a ham radio contesting club, but with members who hold a wide variety of interests. Most of the DMR activity in New England (and a large part of the DMR Network) is driven by one of our members, who you might consider an “old timer”. He is constantly helping new hams get on DMR.
    Our members do HUGE outreach for new hams…

    Your comments on the cost of new HF gear make ZERO sense. Consumer electronics has a customer base of BILLIONs of people. The ham population worldwide is only a few million at most — probably more like 500K. And of those, most are on VHF. So the market for HF radios is small — therefore the higher cost. I’ve been a ham since 1975. Yes, when I started in the hobby, I could not afford a Drake C Line or a Collins S-Line — I had $60 to spend, and for that money, I got a working HF rig. Over the years, I got better and better gear. There are 1000s of choices for <$300 HF rigs that will be a lot of fun and teach you this hobby…. and that is right in line with the price of a new iPad, etc.

    "We need to overcome the attitude that ham radio is a post-apocalyptic means of off-the-grid communication, and get back to taking an interest in furthering the state of the art. With SDR (Software Defined Radios), Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, you can still build a low-cost radio in ways that were not available just a handful of years ago." What rock have you been hiding under? Yes, their is some media bias towards this view, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Have you ever read QEX? There are lots of publications about these technologies.

    Remote HF operating is taking off, allowing hams in restricted antenna areas to enjoy using and operating HF from decent stations. This can be very cheap. See http://www.remotehams.com.

    "Resistance (of current licensed operators) to adopt anything new. A new SSB radio that really only has slightly better filters? They are all over it. DMR? They don’t understand it, so it must be no good or illegal."

    Total pile of crap. "Older Hams " are very open to new tech. Why is DMR growing like wild fire? Why are Digital modes on fire on HF — Some of the oldest hams I know LOVE Digitial operation on HF.

    "Cell phones which can do more than most radios except for HF communication."
    Cell phones can do HF via Remote operation…

    "We shouldn’t concentrate on “When your cell phone goes down,” but rather how cool it is to build your own voice or data network."
    Why build our own V/D network?? The commercial ones are great!!! HF is the ultimate reliable network.

    "EmComm (Emergency Communication) trying to take over the hobby."
    HUH???? Where does this come from? Probably the #1 activity among ACTIVE operators is HF contesting. There are tons of VHF-only hams who do not operate at all — but have seemed to form opinions that make no sense.

    The #1 competition for youth in ham radio is other technologies… WE have to market how cool radio is… and that's not going to be solved by any one protocol, SDR design, or $30 HT…

    Like

  6. Wim says:

    I don’t think that EmComm is taking over the hobby, at least not in my part of the world. It is a part OF the hobby!!
    73 Wim pe1pme

    Like

  7. So true! In Canada, most of the people think of ham radio as CB. Some people are so mean as to say; “It’s a fad that’s dying” When I explain to them what it really involves, they think differently. It’s true that we have to move away from the “emergency communication thing”. But, on the other hand, it got hams back on the air after loosing battles with some cities. People don’t wanna see antennas or wires. Up here, some towns have even bylaws against clothes lines! Let’s get the younger people involved. Like I tell my kids; “It’s free communication worldwide”! And these days, not much is free!

    Like

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