Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nobody to talk to?

There's an interesting forum discussion going on at in which a relativly new amateur radio licensee asks why he is having so much trouble finding people with whom he can carry on a good conversation.  The responses have been all over the map but quite a few take the tack that society is mean, that amateur radio ops are not what they used to be, that the quality of people who are currently in the hobby is not what it once was...back in "the good old days."

You know what is funny? Had there been an Internet and online forums back in 1962, you would have seen many of the very same comments you see there now.  You know the kind...whether it's a forum for ham radio or for stamp collectors:

The hobby is going to heck. Nobody to talk to. Those SSBers are ruining the whole thing for the rest of us. People are impolite and disgustingly uncivil. They talk about things they shouldn't on the air. No wonder our numbers are aren't entering the hobby...the FCC is ignoring us, hoping we go away. The test is too easy. 5 WPM Novice? Disaster! Guys don't even know how to turn on their radios. Where's the challenge, the barrier to entry to keep out the riffraff? Glorified CB! Weed 'em out! Make 'em build a transmitter before they can get a license. Make the code test be 40 WPM.  That'll make sure anyone entering ham radio represents the elite, the best.  (Sound just a tad "Nazy Youth?")

I'm no Pollyanna, and I think I have a realistic view of the hobby, current society, and technological change. I even blog on it here for all five or six of my loyal followers.  We have the same problems, issues, idiots, and goofballs as we probably had when Marconi made the first DX QSO. We just have a much more elaborate (and anonymous) way to hear and complain about them.

There's an interesting concept among those who study media. It suggests that while life on this planet is so far superior for most of its inhabitants than it has ever been in history, we dwell on the bad things more. That's because good news and positive stories don't sell papers, increase viewers and listeners, or make you click on web sites. Doom sells!  (See my earlier rant about global warming.  Lots of folks have made money and won prestigious awards selling that concept!)

Case in point: that gal who was charged with killing her daughter down in Orlando but was found innocent. Women have been accused of killing their kids since the very beginning of time. Many were found innocent. Why does this one continue to be the lead story on all those cable channels?

And what does that have to do with not being able to find a QSO on 146.88? Well, hopefully you get the point. The hobby is not going to heck in a handbasket. There are jerks out there...on the hams bands just as there on the Internet and in real life. But there are also plenty of delightful, interesting people. We just tend to blog and post about the bad ones.

Maybe everyone should get off the forums and blogs and, instead, go twist a dial on their radios and listen!  Or actually smile and say hello to that person next to you on your next airplane trip.


Anonymous said...

Hi Don!

As one of your six blog devotees, I, too take exception to all these Nattering Nabobs of Negativism (thank you, Spiro Agnew).

My worldview is that you "make your own movie" for the good or the bad and then experience what your level of expectation is.

Too many folks out there want to be "entertained" and seek immediate gratification. You and I are Old School enough to know that ham radio is a hobby with a constant learning curve and infinite possibilities, only if you do the time with butt in desk chair.

Yes, I had a couple great Elmers that got me started, but they were not DXers. I had to learn that skill all by myself. And, yes, suffer through a period when it seemed that all the juicy rare DX wanted to talk to everyone but me. Now, I AM the DX when I launch my own IOTA DXpeditions and everybody has to kiss MY ring. What a switcheroo. Hi!

Plus, folks have got to build a thicker skin for such so-called rejection. We writers have seen more rejection slips than the day is long.

So, I don't get too alarmed about a guy here and there who feels dissed or whatever on the repeater. They simply have to look deeper into what "real" Amateur Radio is.

BTW, it was a cool 96F here today north of Milwaukee. For a minute there, I thought I was in Alabama.

CUL, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! How many guys call CQ once and give up? Or make one swipe up the band and decide there's nobody on the air?

Hate to tell you, but we were only 94 here today. But the humidity was about 120%! You have to love air you can cut with a knife.


Don Keith N4KC

Anonymous said...

Hi Don,

I read one of your replies to that awful "Where is the Spirit of Amateur Radio" article on, and I wanted to thank you for being so reasonable and respectful.

I'm one of the Amateur Extra licensees who doesn't have any on-the-air experience. I studied electronics in college and in the military, and once I was introduced to ham radio last year, I was excited to learn more about it. I studied and passed the exams, and then I went on eham to look at reviews for equipment.

What I found there is making me question my desire to get further involved with this hobby.

While I'm perfectly capable of soldering a circuit board, I'd rather spend my time putting together a working station, so I can get on the air and talk to people.

The FCC didn't require me to learn code, but I want to learn it anyway. Why should I be considered a lower class of radio amateur simply because I wasn't forced to learn code for an exam?

It's nice to know that not all hams are as unfriendly as those posting on eham.


Roxanne, KC7RXN

Don Keith N4KC said...

Oh, Roxanne, please don't judge our hobby by the people you see posting on eHam and other such sites. The Internet gives anybody with a computer and an ISP the capability of publishing comments to the world, regardless how uninformed, ill-conceived, and prejudiced they may be. I'm sure you see equal vitriol on other sites, too, and they are not representative of the vast majority of the hobby. I wonder if you go to a site devoted to golf you would see posts saying anyone who doesn't use hickory club shafts or who use modern computer technology to improve their swing should be banned from the sport? Bet you do!

Still, I am totally in favor in allowing people to express their opinions openly, regardless how goofy they are. I think we all need to learn to cull out the goofy ones and learn from the others.

Put that station together and get on the air. There are fascinating experiences awaiting, lots of things to learn, and there are many, many fascinating people out there waiting to meet you and talk to you. I know. I met and talked to a couple of them yesterday on 40-meter SSB. And I'm listening to one on 17 meters right now as I type this. And then I'm going to drop down to one of the PSK31 frequencies and talk to some more.

Roxanne, thanks for posting, and I look forward to meeting you on the air someday.


Don N4KC

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Don, for the encouragement! I know the internet is full of people with prejudices of all sorts. It just seems like nearly all of the old-timers share the opinion that newcomers aren't "real hams." I try to see it as it is, a bunch of people bemoaning the loss of the "good ol' days" in a public forum, but it does bother me.

Like anyone venturing into unfamiliar territory, I'm going to be nervous when I finally get on the air. I can only hope that my first contacts will be with the nicer people out there, and not the ones who will treat me with disdain for not having to pass the more strenuous tests to get where I am today.

Too bad I can't also take the tests that they did, just to
prove that I can. I would be up for that sort of challenge!

I'll let you know when I'm finally able to get on the air. My husband is retiring from the military soon, and he doesn't yet have a new job. Once the dust settles, I'll be able to get my radio. Until then, I'm learning CW and shopping for just the rig equipment for my ham shack. :)


Roxanne, KC7RXN

Don Keith N4KC said...

Roxanne, I'll make you a bet. The first five people you talk with on the air will be friendly and welcoming.

If not, I owe you a buck!


Don N4KC