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The Future of Amateur Radio IS with our youth!!!

The Future of Amateur Radio IS with our youth! But lets think about what youth is for a second…

In response to a The Future of Amateur Radio is with our youth . . . not! by Joe Cupano, NE2Z (because his wordpress doesn’t allow comments, unless you’re logged in as admin to his site, lol.

To that headline, I say, the Future of Amateur Radio IS with our youth!

But youth is relative. Sure, there is a definition of youth, but I argue that youth in ham radio must take it’s aged demographic into consideration. The average ham (according to ARRL/NCJ and OFCOM data) is…old. The UK its over 71, the ARRL/NCJ is 70. So what is youth relative to 70 years old? What would at 70 year old tell you?

They would say to almost everyone younger than then, even a 50 year old, that they’re still young!

But that begs the question: what is old? Unfortunately, “old” has a very negative connotation (cranky, curmudgeonly, stinky, mean, burdensome, stubborn, and tech illiterate) while the positives (wise, elder, experienced, aged (like a fine wine or whisky), and virtuous) are often ignored.

Simply put, old is not young. And based on our relativity to ham radio, and removing as much connotation and subjectivity as possible, old is aged beyond that of the average ham radio licensee, which is about 70.

Lets actually read the post and not jump to conclusions about the title (can’t begin to tell you how much that happens on my blog. If you’re a reader of n0ssc.com I probably don’t have to remind you that Millennials Are Killing Ham Radio, but maybe I should have put a “…NOT” in that headline🙃).

Joe asks,

How many times have you seen the messaging in Amateur Radio that it’s future is with the youth and how the Amateur Radio community should engage them in teaching or demonstrating technology to them?

It’s bullshit!

It’s bullshit because he believes there is a double standard (I guess) where youth are failing to show hams how to use modern technology like cellphones, social media, maker tech, and videoconferencing, and that youth have surpassed the ham radio community in technology engagement.

I’ve mulled that one over.

It must be a symptom of his tunnel vision, or something, but I fail to see both the double standard, and the fact that young people aren’t teaching old people (and in Joe’s case, specifically hams) how to use tech. This, I think, is bullshit, because old folks are using tech, and using it well enough to present themselves on Zoom meetings, create and comment on Facebook posts, make YouTube videos of their ham radio fun (some pretty great!) and even make 3D printed thingies – THANKS ENTIRELY to…

Gotcha! You thought I was gonna say youth there, didn’t you?

First of all, the fact that old people still, in fact, have a brain and can still learn, often by themselves, nullifies Joe’s premise, but secondly, people who have either helped them learn (I currently don’t know a young ham who isn’t tech support for their grandma), or have made tech generally as accessible as possible for people of all ages and levels of technology literacy in the first place. And some of those helpful people happen to be young. Some are old, too. But what’s your point, Joe?

Joe mentions the overlooked “middle child” of generations – Millennials and GenXers (did I tell you Millennials Are Killing Ham Radio?) but I feel he left his point hanging there, but contextually, I assume he believes the reins of ham radio is in their hands but doesn’t consider those people “young.” I believe this to be true, but it’s just as important to bring ham radio into the minds and hands of GenX and Millennials as it is for GenZ, and those after that when they come of age, for the same reason why it’s of paramount importance (not to mention highly desirable) to have diversity in any community of peoples.

But maybe, ham radio has always been an old person’s hobby, and that’s just the way it is. Hiram Percy Maxim apparently stated that the age of hams was a problem…in 1900s (citation needed…someone told this to me at W4DXCC and I’ve not found a source, but I believe it!)

Even if that’s the case, imagine my disappointment when the old guard dies away without doing anything to bring new blood into ham radio, resulting in international amateur radio spectrum reallocation, resulting in no ham radio for me when I get to be old. That would suck, and that’s why I am the IARU R2 Liasion for Youth and a co-founder of Youth on the Air, and a die-hard evangelist for this hobby. I don’t have the time in my 20s and 30s to operate every day, go on mega DXpeditions, contest for 48 hours straight for 12 weekends out of the year and more, and win WRTC, because I’m working over full time while still having a life with my wife, dog and two cats, friends, and family, with the world to still see. I want ham radio to still exist when I retire, dammit!

(and also to give back to the community by making ham radio a valuable STEM sandbox for young people, as it did for me!)

So I will blog during my lunch hours, I’ll travel to a hamfest to give a talk a few times a year, and I’ll join a club’s zoom to help promote youth in ham radio. What are you doing to keep ham radio existing in perpetuity?

If anything, just get on the air!