DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

Back to the Future

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 65 from the DX University™*

One of the perennial issues involving Amateur Radio is invigorating our hobby/service by attracting new and younger enthusiasts. Fourteen years ago, I asked “What do we do to attract new hams to the service?” My interpretation of the answer was “we do very little.” Did we advertise outside of the ham radio world? I asked. “No, it’s too expensive.” “Do we survey young folks to find our common interests?” “No.” At the time we were doing very little. We were trying to increase ARRL membership through advertising aimed at newly licensed hams. To me that seemed like preaching to a choir of diminishing size. It still does.

Then along came The Big Project, an ambitious and well-intentioned effort to introduce school-aged children to the wonders of Amateur Radio. What became of that? At the time, it seemed like a very aggressive effort to do what we always do: Try to sell the younger generation on what we loved so much about Ham Radio when we were their age. “Surely, they would love the hobby as much as we did fifty years ago” I said. Does that work? Apparently not. (There are some interesting and successful projects involving robots and other electronics learning that are popular among youngsters.) Part of the problem is that communications simply doesn’t invoke the same intrigue and adventure that it did fifty years ago, and the part that does intrigue them doesn’t interest us. To us Ham Radio is different, but talking spontaneously around the world doesn’t impress young folks anymore.

In the meantime, society has moved ahead. Have we? Not so much. We like Ham Radio the way it was. Other than peripherals, much of the new technology that has been developed has been termed “not ham radio.” Why? Because it involves the Internet. If it involves actual communicating with anything related to the Internet, “it’s not ham radio.”

Now, we have HamSphere. HamSphere is simulated Ham Radio using the Internet. Certainly that’s not ham radio. No, it isn’t by our classical definition, but it is something in which younger people have shown an interest. They are interested in ILRP and Echolink linked radios, too. Recently held was the Internet equivalent of the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) called the ETRC 2014 (European Radiosport Team Championship). Interestingly some of the most progressive Ham Radio personalities are introducing these technologies to young people, aiming at integrating their interests into our legacy delights. Maybe we can integrate our different interests.

We’re so stuck in the past that even remote control operation worries us because “it gives [some of] us a propagational advantage!” Horrors!! What that seems to mean is that somehow DXing among the old guard is seen as a competitive sport that requires a level playing field, even on the largest geographic scale. Can any DXing program – with competitors living all over the globe –really be a competitive sport? The current introduction to the DXCC program states: “Individual achievement is measured by working and confirming the various entities comprising the DXCC List. This is the essence of the DXCC program.” Clearly, DXCC progress measures our individual achievement. If there is competition it must be defined locally, not by rules.

In his report to the Programs and Services Committee for the July ARRL BoD meeting, the DXAC Chairman added that “some distance limitation should be included for the remote station.” According to sources, this wasn’t really discussed, but there it is. The distance rule was added to the original DXCC rule after a month or two, and it stood for over 40 years. It was changed because the world changed. Going back to our beginnings in this area would be a major mistake.

I grew up in an era of Ham Radio that was really fun. It was simple and concise for me, and it will never be quite the same. And why should it?  We live in a world that has changed. Get over it. Let’s help create a new legacy for younger enthusiasts, one that actually interests them. Let’s integrate!


*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Read additional thoughts on these topics in the coming week at www.dxuniversity.com.