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Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High 358

Velcroman1 writes "The newest trend in American communication isn't another smartphone from Apple or Google but one of the elder statesmen of communication: Ham radio licenses are at an all time high, with over 700,000 licenses in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Ham radio first took the nation by storm nearly a hundred years ago. Last month the FCC logged 700,314 licenses, with nearly 40,000 new ones in the last five years. Compare that with 2005, when only 662,600 people hammed it up and you'll see why the American Radio Relay League — the authority on all things ham — is calling it a 'golden age' for ham. 'Over the last five years we've had 20-25,000 new hams,' said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group."
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Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

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  • by rwade ( 131726 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:04PM (#38136440)

    The article indicates that there are 700,000 licensed radio amateurs. But how many of those that are licensed are alive? There is no provision for the FCC to investigate how many hams are alive -- and they expire only every 10 years. I've attended meetings of a number of local clubs and the average age has got to be 70 -- I would say that the count of living US radio amateurs is 3/5ths or even half that 700,000...

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:08PM (#38136512)
      From FTA:

      While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio. A recent survey of ARRL members, however, indicates that more than 80 percent of those responding are active.

      • by rwade ( 131726 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:13PM (#38136572)

        From FTA:

        While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio. A recent survey of ARRL members, however, indicates that more than 80 percent of those responding are active.

        I did see that, but that data is irrelevant to the question of how many of those holding licenses are alive.

        This is not a survey of all active hams, but of ARRL members. And it only counts those responding to their survey -- ie. it doesn't even count those that are members of ARRL but didn't answer the survey. The dead won't respond to a survey. All that this data says is that 20% of the members that respond to a survey from an organization that you have to pay to be a member of are actually active in radio.

        • by rwade ( 131726 )


          All that this data says is that 20% of the members that respond to a survey from an organization that you have to pay to be a member of are not actually active in radio.

        • by ATestR ( 1060586 )
          No doubt that there are some Hams who have gone silent key still on the rolls, but most of their registrations will expire after no more than 10 years. And the dead certainly don't account for many of the new registrations (except perhaps in Chicago).
          • by rwade ( 131726 )

            No doubt that there are some Hams who have gone silent key still on the rolls, but most of their registrations will expire after no more than 10 years. And the dead certainly don't account for many of the new registrations (except perhaps in Chicago).

            Let me put it another way -- there are 700,000 current members. From TFA:

            'Over the last five years we've had 20-25,000 new hams,' said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group."

            25,000 out of 700,000 is 3.5%. Two questions:

            1) What is the average age of US hams? I would guess it's pretty old.

            2) What is the rate of death of people of that age group?

            And even if I'm wrong about how many hams are alive, I know from listening that the bands are not getting 3.5% more busy every year -- that no one can deny...

            • Two questions:

              1) What is the average age of US hams? I would guess it's pretty old.

              2) What is the rate of death of people of that age group?

              And even if I'm wrong about how many hams are alive, I know from listening that the bands are not getting 3.5% more busy every year -- that no one can deny...

              The average age at our local club is between 30 and 40. I've been a ham for over 10 years, and I'm 39.

          • No doubt that there are some Hams who have gone silent key still on the rolls, but most of their registrations will expire after no more than 10 years. And the dead certainly don't account for many of the new registrations (except perhaps in Chicago).

            It doesn't work that way. A license expires after 10 years, but renewal is free and practically effortless, so everyone renews forever. The number of ham licenses will therefore always be "at an all time high" because of the ratchet effect created by free renewals.

            My father has been a ham since the 1960s, but hasn't touched a radio in three decades.

  • Overstated (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anrego ( 830717 ) *

    This is great. Ameatur radio is probably the last great geeky hobby.

    • by ATestR ( 1060586 )
      And likely to stay. You actually have to study (at least a little), and spend some significant money to purchase radio equipment.
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        "and spend some significant money to purchase radio equipment."

        Really? Then this $59.00 dual band 2meter 440mhz handheld I bought off ebay must not exist then,,,
        Oh and there is a secret ham thing called "used gear" I can get you a 20 meter setup for less than $100.00 including the antenna tuner.

        The only people that have to spend significant money are the fools that did not learn anything when they were testing and cant bring themselves to touch that yucky ooky used gear....

        Eeeewww... IT's got old people

      • Re:Overstated (Score:4, Informative)

        by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:47PM (#38139278) Homepage Journal

        considerable [ebay.com] money [ebay.com]?

        2 meter stuff is pretty cheap. Same price range as dicking around witrh Arduinos, once you've included breadboards, power supplies, blah blah blah. Addmittedly, some hams don't think of 2 meter as 'ham', but it's cheap, a busy band, and if you get the urge to go SW you'll be able to sell off your stuff. Probably. Real hams never sell anything.

        Now, it does get more expensive for better stuff. But there are licenses today that don't seem to require as much tech as before. Learn up and you can buy some used stuff, it up, and be on the air.

        If you want a cheap hobby, try QRP [wikipedia.org]!. And be a *real* ham and build yer own [ebay.com].

        Oh, and antennas are the coolest part of all this, to me. Clever antenna designs make all the difference...

    • by aunchaki ( 94514 )

      My model trains may disagree with you!

  • That's interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:06PM (#38136480)
    I know a couple of people who were really keen HAM enthusiasts in the UK who have virtually given up on it now. One of them told me the excitement of talking to people all over the world was dulled a bit now that anyone with an internet connection can do the same. I'd love to know whether the people I know are going against the trend and HAM radio is increasing in the UK too or whether we have somehow missed a trick that the American HAM societies are using.
    • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:29PM (#38136866) Homepage

      If you limit your ham experience to talking to other humans by voice, then I can see where the internet/cell phones/etc would dull your enthusiasm.

      Things get quite exciting when you include using digital modes like WSPR to exchange messages half way around the Earth with less power than a nightlight, or using very high-speed digital modes like FSK441 to exchange messages using signals _reflected off of meteor trails_, or bouncing signals _off the moon_, or using PSK31 to dig signals out of the noise that human ears can't even detect, or work stations from your living room on a handheld transceiver via an amateur-built honest-to-God satellite.

      There's plenty of frontier left in the hobby - you just have to be willing to 'enhance the radio art' by experimenting and learning!

      • As opposed to who/what - Martians? The Greys? X Factor viewers? Pigs with ham licenses (costs them an arm and leg aparently)?

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Wow! That sounds amazing. The closest I'd ever to go that was listening to FM radio back in 1989 when there was a solar storm flare reaching Earth. We actually started hearing local FM radio stations from Nordic countries. I don't know if anyone there started to receive UK stations.

        Other fun thing we did was to get a world radio (FM/AM/LW/MW/SW), an astronomy guide, and go outside on a Summer evening. We could just make out the reflection of sunlight from the satellites as well as hear them "chirruping" ove

  • I just logged on to burn some MOD points when I saw this posted. Just picked up my HAM Technician license last month (Grandad was a HAM back in the 60's/70's... should of earned it sooner!), and upgraded to General class this week. Aiming for Extra next year. Now I just need to convince the wife to let me spend $2K - $20K on fancy radio gear so I can talk further than the nearby 2M/70cm repeaters...

    • Re:I Are One: KK4ETS (Score:5, Informative)

      by rwade ( 131726 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:33PM (#38136932)

      Now I just need to convince the wife to let me spend $2K - $20K on fancy radio gear so I can talk further than the nearby 2M/70cm repeaters...

      I hope you're kidding -- there is really no need to spend more than a few hundred bucks. From where I am on the West Coast, just last weekend I hit Japan and Hawaii with a cheap 10 meter dipole ($35 -- it would have been a third the cost if I built it myself) and a $650 used FT-897D.

      • No doubt! A couple of weekends ago I heard 10 meters was up again, so thought I'd play. I have a Radio Shack HTX-100 10-meter radio I think I paid about $200 for way back in the day, a PVC-encased balun I bought for maybe $20, some speaker wire, some feedline and a power supply. Total was maybe $400 a long time ago.

        Anyway, strung the dipole between two badminton net supports, fired it up, and was talking to Canada, Europe, and all over the east coast from the central US. My 12-year-old thought it was pr

        • Go with the FT-897 (Score:5, Informative)

          by rwade ( 131726 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:40PM (#38139178)

          Next step is I want to get something portable like an FT-857 or 817 and do some mountaintopping. Good times!

          Have to recommend the FT-897 [universal-radio.com] wholeheartedly. The FT-897 is electrically identical to the FT-857. The FT-857 is the FT-897 in a smaller package intended for use in a car. As such, the FT-857 has fewer external buttons and knobs than the FT-897 so navigating it while it's on your desk or on top of a boulder could be more challenging than with the FT-897.

          While the FT-817 is very popular among the mountain topping community, 5 watts is a frustratingly low level of power unless you're on CW. I'm not sure about the condition of your legs and back, but carrying a larger battery and a marginally heavier transceiver so that you can do 20 watts is probably worth the effort. Further, the FT-897 will do a better job on your desk than either the FT-817 or the FT-857 will do.

          I bought a 897 used on craigslist for about $650. Don't even bother with the retail price tag -- Yaesu and ICOM both build their gear to last.

  • N0NEA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Juneau ( 703789 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:06PM (#38136484)
    I got my license over 20 years when I started work at an RF engineering company (I was the accountant). I wanted to learn what we were building and the owner and most of the engineers were hams. I don't use my license much, but I learned a lot about technology. I learned to solder, built my own packet radio rig, and made the assemblers and techs laugh about my skills. I still am able to carry on a decent conversation about radio and it's served me well in all areas of technology.
  • Easier Entry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kenzal ( 1726510 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:07PM (#38136488)
    Don't suppose this has anything to do with the removal of the Morse Code requirement in 2007
    • Re:Easier Entry (Score:5, Informative)

      by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7@coTEArnell.edu minus caffeine> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:09PM (#38136530) Homepage

      It's been possible to get a code-free Technician license for almost two decades.

      However, it likely has much more appeal now that you can get on the international HF bands without a code test. (Code-free Tech only had access to VHF/UHF and above)

    • Don't suppose this has anything to do with the removal of the Morse Code requirement in 2007

      Perhaps, but that was only for General class - Technician was always (?) code free. But General class gives you access to the lower frequencies with longer range capability so perhaps that's it.

      I think it's more likely that Amateur Radio is now the Boy Scouts of the 21st Century. It's big 'repurposing' has been in the field of Emergency Communications [arrl.org]. They've had some good publicity with recent major disasters, offer a 'function' for the hobby ('Honey, I need to buy that radio to help in the event of a

      • Technician was always (?) code free.

        The no-code Technician class license was introduced in 1992. Prior to that, applicants had to pass a 5 word per minute Morse code test for the Technician class license. More recent changes include dropping the Morse code requirement to 5 words per minute for all classes, followed by dropping it entirely.

      • Re:Easier Entry (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheJediGeek ( 903350 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:46PM (#38137120)
        No-code tech has only been around for about 20 years or so. Before the elimination of the code requirement for all license classes, there were two tech classes. The "no code" tech and tech plus. There was also Novice class which has now gone away. Interestingly, Novice required 5 wpm CW yet would not grant voice privileges on 2M or 70cm.

        I think the increase in amateur radio licenses probably has more to do with more people expecting the S to HTF. There seems to be a growing expectation that a global collapse, nuclear holocaust, government collapse, zombie apocalypse are just around the corner. It's probably a combination between that and people wanting to be prepared for more local or regional disasters like blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      i know when i was growing up - that was the reason i never bothered to get it - not that i couldn't do it but rather the time needed to practice to get my speed up wasn't worth it.

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:11PM (#38136556)

    With the internet, and cell phones, and all; what is the HAM radio attraction?

    • The technology is interesting, and emergency comms are a bonus if you live where that's likely to matter.

      I haven''t bothered becoming a ham though I'm prior avionics because there are plenty of ways to communicate today. I'll eventually hang a mast off my shop (for a variety of antennas including radio) but there isn't much reason to bother unless your other hobbies make doing it very easy.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:20PM (#38136712)

      You have to look beyond the simple "communications" aspect and explore your inner geek. Ham radio is so much more than simple communications. There are facets to fascinate almost anyone with a bend towards things tech. Just the band options alone are huge. Everything from the traditional HF and huge antennas to microwaves and dishes. Learning how things work - learning what to use for what - and maybe even finding a new use for something, that's just a part of it all.

      For me, ham radio lead me to many years of working in networking and FOSS (it's how I found and learned Linux). From there, to commercial and public safety communications. Now - it's a big part of what I do 'outside work' to relax. Many things to many people. And enough options to be attractive to most.

      Basically, if you ask such a question like that - comparing ham radio to commercial services - those around you that had the opportunity to share the joy of Amateur Radio have not done such a good job.

      If all you want to do is exchange data from point A to B - well, yea, you can do that too in ham radio - but you're missing out on most of what's going on.

      • Ham radio is no longer "banging brass," though you'd think that was all there is if you watch crummy movies like Independence Day.

        I took the license exam with Code, and the VE said "Hey, you did great, you should take the General exam." I hadn't studied for it, and really wasn't prepared. He offered "What have you got to lose?" So I took the test, passed, and he followed with "Excellent, the Extra exam will only cost you another 15 minutes." I chuckled ... he didn't. So I took the Extra exam, and
    • FPV (Score:5, Informative)

      by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:23PM (#38136746)

      I would imagine that FPV model plane flying has quite a bit to do with this. Most of the high-powered control systems you need to make FPV a reality require a HAM technician license. With the massive upswing in FPV flying I would expect to see a big boost in HAM license interest.

      • Re: FPV (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NetFusion ( 86828 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:11PM (#38137562)
        The HAM license is required for legal use of the FPV 1280 MHz video links and frequency hopping UHF control systems on the ARS 433 MHz bands in the US. They transmit at powers of 500 mW ~ 1000 mW which allows control ranges greater then 10 miles line of sight.

        Warning: FPV is not a cheap or easy hobby! It requires a great deal of electrical, mechanical, engineering, radio, and flying skills to be successful.
        The RCG FPV Forum [rcgroups.com] is good place to learn more.
    • Why should governments and telecoms be the only people who get to run radio communication systems?
    • spin the dials, null out QRM if you have a bad case of neighbors with plasma TV using another antenna and a summation box, hear something interesting and just... talk.

    • by RustNeverSleeps ( 846857 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:28PM (#38136836)

      With the internet, and cell phones, and all; what is the HAM radio attraction?

      People ask me this all the time. Ham radio is a big hobby with lots of areas to be explored, it's not simply about communicating. Some people are interested in building their own gear, some in preparing for emergencies, some in public service (communications for marathons, parades, etc). Some people are paper chasers, working to earn awards for contacting stations in as many different countries as possible, others like to operate in ham radio contests (like this one: http://www.cqww.com/ [cqww.com]). Some hams even bounce signals off the moon, using it as a giant reflector satellite.

      When people ask me why I like ham radio when I could just call someone on my cell phone, I like to compare it to fishing or hunting or any number of other hobbies. After all I can just buy fish to eat at the store. Fishing strictly as a means to obtain fish probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's not why people do it. Likewise, strictly communicating with other people isn't really why people do ham radio. There's a lot to learn in ham radio, and it can be a really fun, satisfying hobby.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        What? I fish strictly as a means to obtain fish. It's a skill that can be honed into a survival skill--there are star anglers that catch fish for fun, not waiting out hours and days to land the big one but continuously pulling up fair-sized pan fish and throwing them back because they want the BIG big one. You can leave at 4am, go to the river, at 5am have yourself sat down checking the trout out, and at 7am head home with 8 or 10 good fish for the next few days. Do you know how much fish costs?
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Yes, like driving a model T, or using a pay phone.

    • See this comment [slashdot.org] for my current passions in the hobby.

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      Why do some people enjoy spending all day cooking a nice meal when there are perfectly good restaurants nearby? Why go camping and sleep in a tent when there are hotels available? In each case, the answer is not just to have food, or just to have a place to sleep, or just to communicate, it is because the process of doing those things is something they enjoy.

    • With the internet, and cell phones, and all; what is the HAM radio attraction?

      You obviously never lived in a rural area where there is no cell phone service and the only possible ISP is satellite.

    • Really it is about learning. I haven't taken the test, but I've been reading over a lot of the ARRL reference manuals over the last year and there is a ton of cool stuff (the satellite and electronics manuals have been damned interesting).

      In the end my only real goal is to receive SSTV from the ISS, but come on, it is SSTV from the ISS. How cool is that?

    • With a small handheld ham radio I was able to listen in on a signal from the international space station as it went overhead. If you don't know why that is cool, please turn in your geek card on your way out.
  • Perhaps reading the news and realizing that the world is pretty much skrewed... That even if we elect the most qualified and selfless leaders that it may be too late to "fix things"? The number of folks planning for the worst is increasing at an exponetial level..
    • I was thinking the same thing. I actually looked into HAM just two months ago or so for the very same reason. :-) It's fairly crisis-safe and more or less citizen regulated, very much like the early private computer networks such as Fidonet. The last bastion of citizen-driven communication so to speak. I am still toying with the idea of getting my license.

      • Unfortunately you don't seem to understand:

        1. The purpose and intent of amateur radio
        2. How it is regulated and enforced
        3. What it is.

        There is nothing citizen regulated about amateur radio. It is regulated by the governments of the amateurs licensed, specifically the FCC in the USA. There is no similarity to FIDONET whatsoever. While crisis-safe - that also isn't its intent. The purpose of amateur radio is to allow amateurs to communicate with each other. A result of that communication is that they often

    • Re:Survivalist (Score:4, Insightful)

      by epall ( 632054 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:51PM (#38137192) Homepage

      I first got my ham license precisely as a hedge against the apocalypse. If things really go bad, what use is a programmer? Anything requiring a $6 billion fab to get going will be out the window, so I've got to have some other useful talent. Ham radios can be built from scratch fairly easily, so I figured I'd learn to build and use radios so I'd be useful post-apocalypse.

      What ended up happening is that I got into my first real hobby, and I've been enjoying making contacts with my little handheld radio. Soon I'm going to be putting together a rig for talking to people around the world! Sure, you can use the internet, but it's not about the messages: it's about the medium. Being able to build your very own personal communications device that can reach around the world feels awesome.

  • I got a license in 1995 and was active until 1999. Around that time, there was an early online database that would allow you to look up licensed hams in your neighbourhood. I found that several people on my street were listed, but when I asked them about it, they said they had given up on the hobby years before. My local club was mostly in their 60s and 70s, and I can't imagine it's any better now.
  • by macwhizkid ( 864124 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:14PM (#38136608)

    It's neat that amateur radio still has a niche in today's world, even though these figures are less impressive when you consider (1) population growth in the US over the last four decades and (2) getting a radio license now is much easier than it used to be.

    These days, no Morse code knowledge is required for Tech level, and many clubs offer a "get your license in one day" class for cramming on the published question pool and then doing a brain dump into the exam before you forget everything.

    Really, if you have a free Saturday and you've ever thought for more than 10 seconds about getting your radio license, there's no reason not to do it. [arrl.org]

  • Sunspot Cycle (Score:5, Informative)

    by trolman ( 648780 ) * on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:15PM (#38136612) Journal
    It helps when the sunspot cycle is on the upswing. During the CQWW last month it was almost no effort to work Australia and Japan from Texas.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:24PM (#38136770)

    I'm a younger ham (22) and yes, there aren't too many of us, but we're certainly gaining numbers. What I've found, is that becoming a ham is getting to be very common amongst experimenters. The FCC allows us to design and construct our own equipment, not have to have it type certified, and use it on the air. We get to use higher powers than the unlicensed bands do, and we have a variety of modes to communicate our message. Sure I hop on a repeater once in a while, or I'll talk to Japan on a quiet Saturday, but what I use MY license for most is designing and constructing telemetry systems for high altitude balloons and high power amateur rocketry. It's a lot of fun, and having my license provides a lot of opportunities.

    Also, basic radios are getting cheaper. You can certainly buy the multi-thousand dollar rigs, and they're certainly nice, but for less than $100 these days you can get a nice little handheld, dual band, and will cover most all your local repeaters. If you're at all interested, contact your local club, they would love to have you. In my experience, it's a very welcoming hobby.


    • Poke around the junk sales and hamfests. You can pick up an old 80s 2m rig for next to nothing, and construct an aerial in ten minutes.

      My "office" 2m radio for a long time was an old Icom IC2E that I picked up for £2 at a junk sale, and built a j-pole aerial for. It didn't come with a battery, so I just ran it off a mains adaptor. It's pretty old and a bit limited, but perfectly fine for hitting the local 2m repeaters or listening to S20.

      Now it's the receiver for my APRS igate.

  • And the average age of those 700,000 license holders? Anybody?

    I hold an extra class license, which I don't really use, and my impression was that the average age was around 65. If you want to tune in and chat with other oldsters about medical problems... then amateur radio is for you! Though some will treat you as a lower class of operator for not being a "brass pounder" (i.e. someone proficient in morse code). And you might feel unwelcome if you're LGBT; they're, um, a little on the conservative side.

    On th

  • by Jay Maynard ( 54798 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:32PM (#38136920) Homepage

    I've been a ham since a couple of months before my 11th birthday. It was my first truly geeky pursuit, and still holds a special place in my heart. I am still active here and there, though I had to sell my D-STAR system when the economy went sour.

    There's still a place for ham radio, both in emergency communications and in experimentation. As Nigel said a post or three ago, it lets experimenters use higher power and different modes than the unlicensed services. While others theorize, hams build.

    It's been that way for ages, and hams have contributed far more recently, as well. There's a reason the first popular free TCP/IP package for the PC was called KA9Q: Phil Karn hung his callsign on it.

    (And please, folks, a couple of pet peeves: "ham" is not an acronym, and it's "ham radio", not just "ham".)

  • Are there courses available to learn radio hamming?
    If there was a gap year in the course, would it be called a ham sandwich course?

  • "A golden age is a period in a field of endeavour when great tasks were accomplished. "

    I would not consider this the golden age of ham.
    Sure, more people are doing it, but I don't think that make sit a golden age. ALl it means is that it's easier to get into' which it is.

    Back when we you pretty much had to build a radio to play was a golden age. Like building your own lightsaber.

    No, I am not a HAM, but I built a HAM radio when I was 8.
    Learning Morse Code was boring and stupid, so I never bothered to get my license' much to the disappointment to my grandfather.

    Seriously, Where is the logical pattern on Morse Code? I would start practicing, but would inevitable invent my own. Something anyone could figures out with just basic introduction.

    • Where is the logical pattern on Morse Code?

      In case you're seriously asking, the most often used letters in the English language are mapped to the shortest symbols.
      E = dit, T = dah, A= dit dah, N = dah dit, I = dit dit, M = dah dah, etc.

      The numbers are
      1=dit dah dah dah dah, 2=dit dit dah dah dah, 3=dit dit dit dah dah, ...
      6=dah dit dit dit dit, 7=dah dah dit dit dit, ... 9=dah dah dah dah dit, 0=dah dah dah dah dah. See the pattern?

      Consider it a variable length binary encoding scheme it it helps.

  • I gots one. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nblender ( 741424 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:50PM (#38137170)

    I got mine. As an old geek, I just challenged the exam and got it first try. My offroad club decided to switch away from CB towards HAM. It has improved our communications immensely as well as been useful in some remote medical and mechanical emergency situations. I also use an APRS transceiver to do some home automation type stuff at our cottage. I use my amateur license as a means to an end, not as an end itself. ie: I'm not interested in the hobby as it is, I'm interested in the benefits I can derive from having access to the equipment and spectrum.

    I do support the local repeater society (financially) because I use their infrastructure.

    • I got mine. As an old geek, I just challenged the exam and got it first try. My offroad club decided to switch away from CB towards HAM. It has improved our communications immensely as well as been useful in some remote medical and mechanical emergency situations.

      An excellent reason to get licensed. VHF repeaters have a much greater range -- in general but with some exceptions due to terrain -- than 4-watt mobile CB radios and with vehicle-mounted whip antennas that are much smaller than those for CB. The repeaters tend to be fairly empty these days and use by the off-road and outdoors community is certainly very welcome.

      Large urban trauma hospitals around the US oftentimes host rooftop amateur repeaters and provide free emergency power from the repeaters from the h

  • by Ohio Calvinist ( 895750 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @12:57PM (#38137272)
    I'd attribute growth to a renewed interest by people who were put off by the Morse code requirement to do HF. I've been licensed (beginning as a Technician) since 1997 and just do not have an ear for code. It's hard to say because I've learned a lot more and was pretty young when I got my license, but most people tell me that the tests for all classes have become substantially easier in in the past several years.

    That limited my interest in the hobby and kept a lot of capable people from pursuing it. The cost has dropped somewhat too, and the internet has made it easier for the marginally interested and low-income enthusiast get a hold of used equipment... since a lot of HAMs buy new gear like most people change their underwear.

    I work for a California county school agency and we pay for our employees training materials for their HAM license and keep a radio on every site that has an operator. We it because we have so many sites, many of which remote, that would be hard to reach should the telecom systems fail or reach overload. Each radio is programmed with the local repeater and 4-5 simplex channels. We've added 10 members who will probably do very little with it.

    Katrina and other large scale disasters have shown people the fragility of the telecom infrastructure in a disaster. Cell phones hardly work in a crowded football stadium. I also think that a certain amount of survivalist folks are concerned about government lock-down of other communication resources during a man-made disaster or disturbance.

    That said, I got a pacemaker in 2010, and have gotten mixed advice on how safe HAM is (most say well maintained base stations are OK, but avoid HTs given their proximity to the device and risk of unintentional grounding on the body.) Even if I don't use it again, I'll probably re-register "just in case" an emergency occurs or I get stranded on the roadside. So, the rolls might be more inflated.
  • This may be one of the reasons of the ham radio popularity.
    A decent HF radio cost was in the $500-1000 range for decades, which means it is many times cheaper today than back in the 60's.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:02PM (#38137378) Homepage Journal
    For the last 30 years or so, all sorts of interesting hobbies have fallen by the wayside because the big hobby for technically inclined people to take up was tinkering with computers. Growing up in the 1970's and 1980's I saw people lose interest in things like electronics, astronomy, stage lighting, and yes, amateur radio. Everyone wanted to play with computers instead.

    We've finally reached a stage where computers simply aren't interesting anymore. They're so generic, so bland, so uniform and cookie-cutter (yes, even you, Apple) that they just don't appeal as a hobby anymore. Unless you work in the industry they're just a tool to get a job done.

    As a result, there's a new void appearing among people who love to tinker. Amateur radio is a great outlet for that. The equipment is complex enough to enjoy working with but simple enough that you can work on it yourself. Lots of other hobbies will be making a comeback in the same way. I myself have become interested in tinkering with small diesel engines - have you seen the availability of parts out there for CheapChinese(tm) Yanmar 186F clones? A hobbyist can build a go-kart or a homemade pressure washer really easily now.
  • What do they expect. Everyone is getting screwed by ISP's and government laws. With radio all you need is friends.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_multimedia_radio [wikipedia.org]

    http://www.febo.com/hamdocs/intronos.html [febo.com]

  • Amateur radio used to be popular because it let you do something awesome, communicate with people around the world in ways that nobody else could. Whether it was talking to someone on the other side of the country or the globe on HF, or chatting locally on a 2M repeater. It gave you power that ordinarily was reserved for governments or corporations, and as such was one of the coolest nerdy things you could do. It was the same kind of power that came with the early home computer movement.

    But then we got comp

  • Not totally accurate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frozentier ( 1542099 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:27PM (#38137856)
    There's a "dirty little secret" in ham radio that skews these numbers, though. When the morse code requirements were lowered and eventually dropped, many of the "old order" of radio operators literally drove the new hams off the air. There was vile hatred towards the new hams, and they were told they were not "real hams", or that they held a "general lite" or "extra lite" license. They wouldn't speak to the new hams on the air, and in many cases they would deliberately interfere with them on the air. It got so bad that many new hams would work to get their license, spend $1,000 or more on equipment, get on the air, then sell their equipment again a few months later. They had lowered the code requirement to 5 words per minute by the time I got my Extra, and there were people in my own local club trying to belittle me. I did eventually give it up totally about 5 years ago, selling my own gear as well.
    • I got my tech and my general in July 2010, and my extra a few months later. I have seen NONE of this.

      I've experienced the community as tremendously positive, supportive, and encouraging. Sure, I've had encouragement to learn CW -- which I'm working on -- but only as a "here are some other great things you can do if you take this step." Not a grousing, grumpy sort of thing.

      I know there are that sort of people out there. Maybe the locals in Kansas are friendly. Maybe the thousands of QSOs (conversations)

    • As an "old timer" I really think that stinks. I would hope that such behavior is in the minority. While I personally feel that CW (code) isn't useless in today's world (in an emergency it may be the ONLY way to get a message though) use of code shouldn't be forced upon those coming into the hobby. I would say let them discover it for themselves. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of the available HF spectrum is reserved for CW (actually low bandwidth communication that includes many digital modes) so the FCC still conside

  • Surely the increase is due in no small part to Leo Laporte and the HAM Nation podcast [twit.tv]?

    It's my first and only exposure to anything HAM.

  • survivalists (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:22PM (#38139740) Journal

    Not the backwoods, redneck kind, but a lot of young modern geeks, are quietly investing in what is considered classic survivalist preparation. Two big factors are: (1) How to sustainably generate power sans the grid, and (2) how to communicate over distance when the networks are down. I think you're seeing an uptick because of a reduction in confidence that society will hold together. Not necessarily resigned to collapse, but taking reasonable precautions.

  • I've seen a lot of comments here ask "why bother, given the Internet?" That attitude kept me away from ham radio for years, too. I wrote up a bit about what changed my mind:

    http://wiki.complete.org/WhyAmateurRadio [complete.org]

    And here's a page with some information on how to get started:

    http://wiki.complete.org/GettingStartedWithAmateurRadio [complete.org]

    I also recommend some books and exam practice sites on that page.

    Incidentally, another aspect of amateur radio is packet radio - AX.25, which is a networking protocol similar to, but distinct from, the TCP/IP stack. Guess which OS has the best support built into the kernel? I've had a lot of fun with packet, both in its traditional and APRS (positioning beacons) forms.

    http://wiki.complete.org/PacketRadio [complete.org]

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury