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Re: [CQ-Contest] ....youth in contesting

To: cq-contest@contesting.com
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] ....youth in contesting
From: David Gilbert <xdavid@cis-broadband.com>
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2016 20:39:13 -0700
List-post: <cq-contest@contesting.com">mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>

Well, if things were all rosy as you imply we wouldn't be having these discussions and you wouldn't have to work so hard to draw a handful of youngsters into the hobby. The reality is that the average age of active hams is increasing quite rapidly ... at least 1 year for every 2 years that passes from what I can tell from the available data. It's not difficult to see where that trend is headed.

As I said before, I am still very interested in ham radio, and particularly contesting. But at least I recognize it as a legacy fascination, and in my case it now does indeed share time with other online pursuits. I find it odd that so many hams haven't even noticed that their primary communication medium for discussing ham radio topics isn't even ham radio any more ... it's these reflectors!

Ham radio in the U.S. pulls in maybe a few thousand new hams each year, most of which don't stick. That number is a small fraction of one percent of the number of youngsters who get drawn into competitive video games, most of whom stick around for years. And it has nothing to do with short attention span or instant gratification like somebody else just posted ... that's a trite generalization that simply makes folks who don't understand what's going on feel better by berating the youth.

Yes, it's challenging to try to navigate the vagaries of propagation, but those of us who have been in the hobby for a long time were raised within that dynamic. Now it's about as interesting to the average person as studying ocean currents to see if you can get a message in a bottle to land on a distant shore. Why would they bother other than for shear curiosity, and even then why more than once?

This discussion started about contesting, though ... not ham radio in general. And my point, which I firmly believe, is that radiosport takes a back seat in appeal to several online competitive venues that are every bit as difficult to master but offer more breadth and more dependability. If I want to test my skill or straegy against somebody else (that's what competition is all about), I don't necessarily want to have the result so heavily influenced by factors beyond my control ... such as propagation or the ability of someone else to outspend me on antennas. Online contests are visually stimulating, incredibly nuanced, fast paced, give immediate feedback, and most importantly ... pit one player (or group of players) directly against another player (or group of players) with actions that can be taken and countered. AND ... for the most part, everyone's hardware affordably puts them on equal footing.

Of course you don't have to agree with any of this, but the numbers prove you wrong. Tell you what ... let us know the number of young people you attract to your event. I'll compare that to the number of teenagers in Winnepeg and Framingham (I'll make some assumptions based upon population). Then come back in a year and tell us how many of those teenagers at your event still have a demonstrable interest in contesting (license, guest op a year later). I can virtually guarantee that the numbers will be starkly trivial compared to the number of video game players in both of those cities, none of which will have needed an event to perk their interest.

I'm not trying to be snide here, but folks like you are exactly why we sound so out of touch to today's young people. It's because we are. With very few minor changes in scoring rules, contests today are pretty much the exact same activity as they were 80 years ago. You don't think anything needs to change, and maybe it doesn't ... but if it doesn't it won't exist much longer. The demographics don't lie, and time will do its job. We'll just ride it out and enjoy it while it lasts.

Dave   AB7E

On 3/24/2016 4:09 PM, Gerry Hull wrote:
Lloyd and Dave,

First, let me say that I disagree with you all.

The amateur radio population in the US is at an all-time high.  Yes, many
of these new hams are V/U types.
Part of the problem is we do not elmer them in HF operating.

- Many new hams hang out with like-minded V/U repeater ops, a natural
thing.  However, they soon tire
of this, often because GMRS and cell phones offer much the same
functionality of what V/UHF FM does.  Often,
these new hams let their license lapse.

Let me ask you a question:  If you are interested in technology, and are a
contester, why hasn't all of the other
technology around you taken you away from contesting/ham radio?  Why, I bet
it's because contesting, and HF ham radio are  as compelling now as it was
when those technologies did not exist.

HF./Shortwave radio is as compelling now as it was when Marconi first
spanned the Atlantic.  Yep, there is the internet and ubiquitous
communication everywhere on earth.  Why haven't we all given up and gone to
internet communications?
Because, for many reasons, we find the challenge of taming the sun and
electromagnetic waves exciting.

For me, all the new technologies ENHANCE my experience in HF Radio, they do
not detract from it.   I love software and
computers and networking and the internet.  But I still love the hobby I
started in 40 years ago.

Luckily their are exceptions to disprove your theory on young hams.

If you come to Dayton this year, you'll meet Marty, KC1CWF.   Marty got his
general by age 13.  The first time I met Marty was at the New England
Division ARRL Convention last summer.  Marty had signed up to operate the
special event station at the convention.   He sat down and I watched him
work at 150 Hour on SSB!    After his operating, I asked "Who is your dad,
what is his call?"  No, his dad was not a ham.  Neither was his mother (she
is getting her license because of her son).
Where did he take a class?  Nowhere.  Completely self-taught.  From the
internet and books.  He is one to watch -- we will see him in the records
in years to come.    Marty was part of our team at K6ND in ARRL DX SSB M/2
this year -- and we will be in the top 3 or 4.  He made a great

Matt, KC1DLY, 16 in less than a year, worked DXCC with a long wire in his
attic in CT.  He has his extra.

Kids Day is NOT the way to introduce teenagers to contests.  Teenagers
today are VERY sophisticated.   The way you hook teenagers is to have them
are part of REAL teams in REAL contests.. 2nd ops, multiplier hunters,
runners.  They will rise to the occasion.   They will eat up a M/M!  It's a
good bet that many tech teenagers can whip your station networks and
computers into better shape than most of us could.

We need HF/Shortwave ambassadors in Amateur Radio.... and who could be
better ambassadors to HF than contesters?
We live and breath HF every day.  We are experts at propagation, station
building and operating skill.

I not only believe this, I'm putting my money where my mouth is:  Actually,
my club and friends clubs are.
April 2nd in Winnipeg, MB and April 10th in Framingham, MA, we will be
putting on an event called "Discover the HF Experience".   In MB, this is
sponsored by RadioSport Manitoba, co-ordinated by Cary, VE4EA, and in MA by
the Yankee Clipper Contest Club, Port City Radio Club, and Framingham ARA.,
co-ordinated by myself.

At Discover the HF Experience, we will have talks about Bands and
Propagation, Buying your first HF Radio, Building Simple Antennas, Chasing
Awards, How the Internet enhances the HF Experience, and, yes, An
introduction to RadioSport (by K1DG).

A key factor at our event is OPERATING.  We are planning to have 4 remote
HF stations available at the event.  These will range from simple,
residential stations with 100w and wires to contest superstations with 30+
antennas and KWs, to DX locations.  At each station will be an elmer, to
help non-hams, V/U techs, and old timers, if thy are interested, to make HF

Operating remote may raise some people's feathers.  However, to new people
in this hobby, it's a natural fit.  It also allows us to demonstrate
without the physical limitations of the exhibit location.

We hope to work a lot of you on those weekends -- stop by and chat with
some of these ops.   In MA, we will be using the special callsign K1K from
all US-based remotes.

73, Gerry W1VE

On Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 2:38 PM, Lloyd Cabral <KH6LC@hotmail.com> wrote:

       I'll have to agree with you on every point here.      You've pretty
much laid it out.
For the past 6 years we've been having groups of kids over for the January
Kid's Day event.      We do it multi-multi style and make a big party out
of it.
We get a few kids who come back year after year so we're doing something
Still, out of those dozens of kids that have come through here, exactly
one has gone
on to get his license.      What happened to ham radio clubs in the High
I'm at the point where I truly believe if we stood at the Mall handing out
ham radio
licenses we wouldn't get any takers.      So yes, we should enjoy our
hobby while we
can because unless it morphs into something completely different I can't
see it lasting.

  73 & Aloha,  Lloyd


Dave Gilbert wrote:

I enjoy contesting, but it's a legacy that isn't going to successfully
compete for attention among anything beyond a very small percentage of
today's youth.  Most of the young ops at Field Day or contest stations
are only there because of some family connection, and most of those
don't last.  Even the great majority of new hams the ARRL likes to tout
as evidence of a growing base don't stick with the hobby ... if they
did, we wouldn't be having these discussions.  I do think that
contesting is drawing a growing percentage of hams, but the base is
getting old fast, and from my perspective here are some of the reasons:

1.  Ham radio is expensive, especially of you actually want to be
competitive instead of just participating.  Rigs and antennas cost far
more than a decent computer or smart phone, both of which offer far more
effective communication and opportunities for competition.

2.  Ham radio requires antennas.  They are physically obtrusive and
often create conflict with neighbors.  Hardly anybody has to fight to
get connected to the internet.

3.  Ham radio is real time and unreliable, subject to the vagaries of
propagation and activity on the other end.  Applications like Twitter,
Facebook, and online forums (like this one) are precise, dependable, and
"sticky" (you can read and answer at your convenience).  Online game
competition against real opponents from around the world is available
around the clock every day with virtually no waiting.

4.  Ham radio requires a license, one which many of us perceive as
relatively easy to get but which isn't needed at all for any other
pursuit.  It's a roadblock with no particular advantage to the user ...
it's not like it keeps LIDs off the air.

5.  Almost any video game out there is more immediate with more intense
real time competition than ham radio contesting has.  You compete
directly against opponents who can counter your moves almost instantly,
and you see the result of that interaction immediately. The breadth of
"weapons", each with their own effects and deficiencies, is probably an
order of magnitude greater than available to a contest operator.  The
required strategies for success vary with every match and every
opponent, and often change significantly on the fly.  Radiosport has
nothing that even comes close to it (and if you try to tell me that
breaking a pileup qualifies you are really out of touch).

I honestly hope that radiosport hangs around for a while ... it's fun
for me and I have a lot of money invested in it.  But it needs to change
if it's actually going to draw new people to the game. I've tried to
come up with the idea of a contest format that would capture some of the
real time features of a video game, particularly the ability to directly
and immediately counter (either by action or by score) the actions of
another contester, but so far I haven't come up with anything.  But if
you think something like that isn't relevant, picture how attractive a
video game or smart phone app would be if you simply sent messages to a
bunch of other users with no effect on what they did and you had to wait
days, weeks, or months before you saw whether or not you sent more than
they did.

Ham radio simply doesn't have the fascination for anybody today that it
did for us ... and if we were young again in today's world it wouldn't
for us either.  If we want to change the demographics of our hobby, our
hobby is going to have to change.  It's as simple as that.

Dave   AB7E
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