Return of the Vanishing HAM’s

Return of the Vanishing HAM’s

I recently found a short blog post from years back when I had a Blogspot / Blogger account. We were just starting Resonant Frequency at that time so it has been a few years. I read an article written by Tom Barlow N8NLO “Top 25 Things Vanishing From America”. In that article one of the things that would disappear was Amateur Radio. I do not really remember the constant of that article and attempts to find if keeps leading me to an old Yahoo! Blogging site that is no longer in business.

I have seen several places recently where it is mentioned that Amateur Radio is dying and brings up the oldest argument of all. “The average Radio Amateurs is 60 to 70 years old and there are not enough new operators coming in to replace them as the go silent key”( I thought the code less license was supposed to keep that situation from occurring?)

This article came out around 2008 and it put forth the same argument that I have been hearing since I got Licensed. Here I’ve bring together some materials that are responses to that article. The conversation is still a valid one. Sorry if its a bit of a mess. At the end there is a letter from Maj. Pat McPherson from the Salvation Army Team Emergency Network responding to that article when I ask him about it.

Share and Enjoy

I had an article come across me desk the other
day that brought a lot of valid points back to mind.
The article was written by Tom Barlow N8NLO for a
website called Wallet Pop. I find that it is a pretty good
read. Going over and check it out when you get a few minutes.

Re: [CQ-Contest] Top 25 Things Vanishing From America

To:CQ-Contest@CONTESTING.COM, ku8e <>
Subject:Re: [CQ-Contest] Top 25 Things Vanishing From America
From:Julius Fazekas <>
Date:Tue, 22 Jul 2008 05:44:04 -0700 (PDT)
I thought the number of new US licenses was up slightly in the past year... 

Although, judging by the regional hamfests and Dayton I've attended lately, 
it's not the youth of America getting tickets. There are a few, but nothing 
like in the 70s.

The kids coming in seem to be treated as royalty and are provided with much 
Positive feedback. It's nice to see some becoming avid contesters too!

Hams may be on the decline in NA, but seem to be doing well in Eastern Europe 
and parts of Asia.

Aging is definitely an issue that dogs many of the hobbies that were once 
popular in the US today.

Julius Fazekas

Tennessee Contest Group
Subject:Re: [CQ-Contest] Top 25 Things Vanishing From America
From:Dave/KA1NCN <>
Date:Tue, 22 Jul 2008 06:42:20 -0700 (PDT)
The actual article:

does not seem to come to any specific conclusions about the number of 

Instead it makes a more political statement that "As cell phones and the 
Internet siphon off much of what once attracted people to amateur radio, the 
nation's ham radio population is graying rapidly. Given the cash value of the 
radio bands allocated to amateur radio, there will be relentless pressure on 
the government to take back those bands so they can be sold. All these elements 
speak to a long, slow diminished of a pastime that began with Marconi."

Let's take the statement one sentence at a time:

>>As cell phones and the Internet siphon off much of what once attracted people 
>>to amateur radio, the nation's ham radio population is graying rapidly. 

Maybe cellphones and the internet siphon what attracted the baby-boomers to 
radio.  But the people entering radio now are probably not looking to replace 
their cellphones.  Usually they are interested in intellectual and technical 
challenges, emergency communication, competition, etc.

>>Given the cash value of the radio bands allocated to amateur radio, there 
>>will be relentless pressure on the government to take back those bands so 
>>they can be sold.

There have *always* been interests that wanted to take away our bands. This is 
what makes such "pressure" relentless.  Nevertheless, the league and others 
have always stood up for our allocations.  So, by the same token, our "support" 
of radio has been relentless, too.  In fact, since hams support radio for the 
love of the game, rather than for the money that comes from it, our support 
does not waiver with economic conditions (i.e. changing "cash value") or 
political fortunes.  

>>All these elements speak to a long, slow diminished  of a pastime that began 
>>with Marconi.

This is a very vague statement.  At some level, we can all agree with each 
other that the world is slowing down and at some point in the future the world 
will end.  So what?  Does that mean that the world is vanishing from the 


Major Pat McPherson Responds to Vanishing HAMS

Here is the response from Major Pat McPherson with SATERN on the article about the vanishing amateur radio service.

Subject:[satlist] My response to the statement, “Amateur Radio Is Vanishing.” {01}
Date:Tue, 15 Jul 2008 14:53:25 EDT
To:satlist List Member

The more complicated the technology, the more likely the downfall in disaster. High tech communications, while useful and now almost universal are the most fragile networks that fail during catastrophe.

There will always be a need for can-do people going in after a disaster and resetting things up to expedite the response logistically.

After Katrina, Congress intimated one thing that went right was amateur radio’s emergency response. They included a number of groups that sent trained personnel to the affected area or helped receive and pass emergency and logistical information to the rest of the world via high frequency amateur radio from their homes.

These included ARRL (National Association for Amateur Radio, ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services), SHARES (Shared Resources – Function of the Federal National Communications System), MARS (Military Amateur Radio System), SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network), HWN (The Hurricane Watch Net), National Hurricane Center amateur radio operators, the Maritime Mobile Network and a host of other groups including regional groups such as RACES and SKYWARN, plus local amateur radio clubs and operators.

All jumped in to help via High Frequency Amateur Radio. It is a truly resilient network of pre-trained, skilled folks who take seriously their role.

SATERN, which is one group I work with, is comprised of folks from all of the areas above, but beyond that, there were a huge number of amateurs all over America and other countries, on our frequency assisting us and that is why the amateur system works and also why the groups I alluded to earlier garnered great results from their specific members. These groups all train regularly and network. When disaster occurs, they are ready.

SATERN helped call in emergency responders to rescue people in New Orleans. It took on the role of helping people locate loved ones in the disaster area and fulfilled the task by finding 25,508 people, who could not be located by cell-phones, land line phone, local email/Internet communications, which were all down. The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Center in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, received during some days, over 5,000 calls requesting help in the health and welfare amateur radio system set up to accommodate Katrina.

On the SATERN frequency, it appeared that the entire nation was standing by to help and that is why it worked. All trained, amateur operators, from all organizations, waiting to relay, take and pass information, help in anyway needed to get the job done. The SATERN net ran for 20 days straight during Katrina and Rita.

“When All Else Fails, Amateur Radio!” That is the mantra for hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have protected our country’s and communities safety for over a hundred years.

When all else fails, is entirely appropriate considering the fragility of every communication device. That is why it takes the can-do spirit of the radio amateur to go back in after catastrophe and get the job done, when all else fails.

That spirit will never vanish, and I suspect that High Frequency Ham Radio, which is our basic tool won’t be obsolete either.


Patrick E. McPherson WW9E
National Director

Ok, that’s what I have. More than anything else I wanted to preserve this because information is beginning to disappear from the Internet Archive. I also wanted to illustrate that this is a constant conversation in the Amateur radio community and probably will be. We need to make sure we are bringing the new folks in. here is strength in numbers. Once they’re we need to try to keep them in.

Thank you for your time

Share and enjoy.

Richard KB5JBV

About the Author

Richard KB5JBV has been an Amateur radio operator since 1988. He has held positions with the America Radio Relay League including but not limited to Assistant Section Manager, Official Observer, Official Relay Station, Official Emergency Station, ARES Emergency Coordinator for Kaufman County Texas, Volunteer Examiner and Technical Specialist in the North Texas section.

Richard has also served as RACES assistant radio officer for the city of Mesquite, Tx. and among numerous other duties Including club president for the HAM Association of Mesquite Texas.

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