Fed up?

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Fed up with amateur radio?

I have never ceased to be amazed by the number of newly licenced folk who have given up the hobby claiming to be fed up with it. A visit to almost any club will reveal that lots of people have been members in the past but have drifted out of the hobby.

For most of us our interest waxes and wains over the years but for me, it has never been entirely dormant. Amateur radio should be a life-long challenge but as with so many other hobbies, a certain level of proficiency is required before the full enjoyment of the hobby can be gained. Today’s amateur might not be getting sufficient training to enable that full enjoyment to be realised.

The entry route is very different from the one that I took in the 70s – and so it should be, things have changed a lot in that period of time. But something seems to have been lost along the way. I’m not sure that I know what it is, but in a hobby with so many facets perhaps we should be encouraging people to try out many aspects and then to get proficient at them.

Some clubs have risen to the challenge. Stockport for example runs a “skills group” meeting every other week. At this meeting people are encouraged to try various different aspects of the hobby. PSK31 and RTTY have been tried and the idea overall seems to get some sort of skills transfer from the more experienced to the less experienced members of the hobby. Only time will tell if this is a success but it is an interesting approach.

Specialisation is, for me, the most rewarding way of getting the most out of our diverse hobby. Over the years I have specialised in many aspects of the hobby, starting with low-bands DXing, then satellites, then EME, then contests and on it goes. I prefer to be the master of one aspect rather than a radio “Jack of all trades”. Mastery has its own unique satisfaction. I like to spend a while concentrating on just one aspect of the hobby. For example two years ago I spent a whole year experimenting on 10MHz. It was great fun and I learned a lot about this interesting band. The previous year I set my self the target of working 100 countries on each HF band 80-10m but in a serial way so that I put all my efforts into just one band at a time – again it was great fun. Each band needed a new aerial and set of operating skills. This specialisation soon puts you head-and-shoulders above the hit-and-run generalists, you will learn a lot and over the years there will never be any need to get fed up – there will always be a new challenge for you to address.

Here are some suggestions of things that deserve some time and effort:

bulletlow band DXing – 160/80/40 (pick just one band and become an expert)
bulletdigital modes – really easy these days – try for a PSK31 5 Band DXCC
bullet10MHz – get that CW going and try this unique band – discover its daylight DX potential that few are aware of
bulletEME “moonbounce” – somewhat easier than it used to be but still a real challenge
bulletMeteor Scatter – this is one I have never tried. Must give it a go soon!
bulletSatellite operation – DXing from anywhere. Well worth the effort with lots to learn.
bulletContesting (single band) – not as easy as you might think.

Those of us that have done some or all of these things have to play our part. Clubs come in here for this is where new and old amateurs should be able to meet. Do we encourage the newer members or despise their lack of knowledge? Once a new amateur gets separated from other amateurs it is most unlikely that their interest will grow. They need to be nurtured and shown that there is so much to gain from the hobby. Most older amateurs will have had a mentor who helped them into the hobby and then supported their early steps. These days we attend a course, get a licence, get a radio and make contacts. There is no-one there to guide us so we are unlikely to discover the richness of the hobby.

Time is approaching for a New Year Resolution. If you are already licenced, think about specialising for a while. If you are an old hand, think about how you can get someone else interested in the life-long challenge that is amateur radio.

Post Script

The Churn Factor

In the mobile phone industry a key parameter for the operators is called Churn. This is a measure of the turnover of customers. Just getting new subscribers is not enough, you have to keep hold of them. This is applicable to amateur radio too. We are often focussed on the numbers of new licencees without any consideration being given to those leaving the hobby. Clubs that I have spoken at have often remarked that people do the novice exams and pass and then are never seen of heard of again. Why is that? Maybe some research needs to be done in an effort to see how much churn there is in the hobby? Retaining people is as important as getting new recruits!


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