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Comment Re:What's it for? (Score 2) 89

Just "ham" will do, it's no acronym. No need to capitalize anything in this hobby.

FWIW, I'm a ham experimenter, I homebrew things quite often. Ham radio is, and has always been, about experimentation and learning/discovery- everything else is ancillary. True, the numbers have dropped significantly since the advent of the internet and web but I'd argue that many of those were the "appliance operators" who played with ham radio simply because there was no good, technical alternative.

Today, ham radio operators make up about 1% of the population in the US, Canada and European countries (my own calculations done a couple years ago). The numbers are not staggering, but the technical prowess of this small cadre of hobbyists is huge. While not all in today's ham community are experimenters, in the past not all were experimenters then. Part of the reason of the decline in the DIY movement in ham radio is the obsolescence of through-hole parts for RF circuitry. The "IF can" is one such part I've been searching for recently. Toko, the largest manufacturer of this part, discontinued the line as more and more product manufacturers moved to SMT. Granted, there are plenty of parts to make plenty of radio kits and projects - I'm just citing one example of the trend.

Your assessment of the CB-ification of ham radio is spot on. That is the moment that hams will know the end is nigh. Already with the Morse Code requirement being lifted many old-timers said it would be the death of radio. It actually allowed license numbers to swell (relatively) following that shift. Morse Code as a method of communication is not ideal, but it has its uses as a hobby. There's no need to require anyone to learn Morse Code just as there's no reason to require every would-be programmer to learn Assembly. You can operate at a higher level and still enjoy the experience.

So why is ham radio still relevant? Because society still doesn't know everything about RF and propagation. Because hams are still making discoveries. Because ham radio is one of many outlets for the hardware hacker. Because we don't know what the future holds, but hams will continue to experiment and publish their findings which can be used in industry and further research in physics, astronomy and engineering.

Sure there's market value in the spectrum that has been set aside as a non-profit playground for a bunch of amateur hobbyists, should we sell it off because it's worth money? Why not sell off the National Parks system? They're not all making money hand over fist (if at all). All that land for sale could really make a fortune for the US government. (Imagine the view on those condos peering out over the peak of every hill and dale in Yellowstone - the rent on those things could be a real goldmine!) Selling a finite resource without putting aside some for recreation, enjoyment and research is short-sighted. Financiers swoop in and pay top dollar today for a resource you can never get back. That money is squandered on bureaucracy and waste and in no time the money is gone, yet your public loss of the resource perpetuates into tomorrow. What then? To what end are we willing to sell short tomorrow's playground for today's quick cash?

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