Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 339

Amateur Radio Weekly

A century of service and signals
100-year-old Ham Radio enthusiast, teacher marks milestone.
The Mountaineer

Hams are resurrecting technical ideas from the past
DLARC and 21st century tech make this possible.

ARRL confirms ransomware gang stole data in cyberattack
The organization claims the data breach affected 150 employees.
Bleeping Computer

Amateur Radio club has changed my life
Amateur Radio has honestly changed my life, I’ve friends all over the world now.
BBC News

Quisk SDR software
Controls SoftRock, Hermes-Lite, and more.

FCC enforcement actions
How likely is it that the FCC would come after me if I violate the rules?

MARSgrams and memories
Enduring legacy of military auxiliary radio in connecting families.
Southeast Missourian

The next 90 day satellite decays
List of satellites reentering Earth’s atmosphere in the next 90 days.

Super long-range Wi-Fi works at a range of 1.8 miles
HaLow standard aces a real-world test despite high interference.
Tom’s Hardware



Just give AM a chance
Late Shift POTA on 40m AM.

Demo: New WSJT-X Super Fox/Hound mode
K8R in American Samoa is the first DXpedition to use the new Super Fox/Hound mode.

I just made contact with an airplane
How about doing it while riding your Bicycle?
Mr MuDs Ham Radio Radio Time

Does a fence antenna work?
How to turn your fence into a Ham Radio antenna.

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Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth K4HCK. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at


Bleeping Computer reported on a Maine state filing by ARRL. The systems outage was caused by a ransomware attack (PDF download).

This article was originally posted on Radio Artisan.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to

Demographic Trends Facing Amateur Radio in Canada

Results from the RAC Survey 2021 and Statistics Canada

One of the pressing issues facing all amateur radio organizations in the modern world is what appears to be a rapidly aging set of participants. We mostly base this belief on various observations at in-person amateur radio activities since licensing bodies rarely ever collect or release birth dates with their license data. (Not all release actual license records themselves.) The issue is whether we are simply seeing ham operators who participate in these venue events or is the ham population actually aging as much as our eyes tell us? I present national data on the aging patterns of Canadian amateurs in addition to projections for the future. The results are sobering for they are predicated on a clear demographic pattern in the developed world itself.

“..there simply will not be enough members of these youngest cohorts to replace their current age segment even if all parties went into recruitment modes with their “hair on fire”.”

From every data source that I have seen or analyzed, the population of amateur radio licensees worldwide is substantially graying.1 RAC Survey 2021 respondents were asked what is your age group and given a choice of mostly decade-length age ranges. The 2021 Census of Canada age-by-year data were extracted from Statistics Canada and collapsed to fit the same age ranges (see Final Report). These data are presented in a population pyramid in Figure 1. The Canadian population (left) and RAC Survey 2021 of amateurs (right) add a further confirmation of this aging amateur radio population. Ham operators in the survey are far below the population at less than age fifty but increasingly over the population distribution after the half-century mark. In the sixties and above, amateur operator percentages are over double that of the population at large.

What does this population distribution comparison mean for amateur radio in Canada? There are at least two elements to the demographic equation here. If we think of amateur radio as a behavior, a hobby or a pastime that occurs over the life course of individuals, then the behavior of being a ham operator may be age-related regardless of the historical period.2 Or, alternatively, it could be an historical period behavior that is prominent during an age range (or birth cohort) of one or more adjacent periods in history. In simpler terms, is amateur radio mostly a Baby Boom-era hobby that is scheduled to recede into a much smaller pursuit? There are many behaviors that do largely fade away as the participants age through other stages of life. Some, however, begin at later stages without younger groups joining the activity until they reach that age range. I will show evidence of both through my analysis of this national Canadian survey.

This life course perspective recognizes the effects on hobby behavior that are frequently revealed by hams themselves: work, marriage, family formation, competing interests, and others. Additional investigations with relevant data are required to answer these questions. But one aspect that is critical involves the future Canadian population itself. How is it scheduled to age over the next several decades? This will indeed shape the hobby in significant ways, given current circumstances in the hobby.

Statistics Canada has published age-specific population projections for the nation. These have been used to prepare Figure 2 with various projection scenarios (left) and age-specific projections from 2021 to 2050 (right). As is common, the “medium growth” scenario was selected to present the scheduled growth of age groups. Shown in the purple line (left), this set of assumptions for population growth fall in the middle of those with high-growth or slow-aging models versus low-growth or fast-aging parameters. They are generally the most reliable to use for analyses such as this.

The results in the right panel for each age group that were configured to match the RAC Survey age groups tell us that the population in Canada will grow in the middle-age categories and in the most senior ones. Those in the twenties through fifties will top the age pyramid by 2050, followed by those most senior residents in their seventies and over. The youngest population of teens (10 through 19) will be far smaller. This is a significant signal to policy-makers in Canada with two clear implications for amateur radio in Canada.

One is that the age groups of 60-80 years of age, now dominating amateur radio as the RAC Survey suggests, will simply disappear as they age-out to infirmity or becoming Silent Keys. Yet, the projected number of persons in these age groups are scheduled to actually grow in number over the forecast period.

A second implication is that teens will be a relatively scarce recruitment commodity in terms of the age pyramid. There will simply not be enough of them to replace those Baby Boomers now dominating the hobby. The much higher rates for the recruitment of younger people are significantly higher than has been the case in the recent past. Compare Figure 1 Canadian population versus estimated amateur radio population for these age groups to also see this imbalance as follows. The ratio of the population percent to the amateur operator percent tells us what recruitment improvement would be necessary to actually fit the population.

To aid in illustrating what the demographic patterns for the Canadian age structure mean for amateur radio, consider what rates of “recruitment” would be necessary to simply replace the current share of licensed hams by age group. I’ve summarized a simple table (Table 1) of this “additional recruitment success” that would be needed to just maintain what we have today in Canada for those below age 50.

While it would only take recruiting 1.5 times the current number in the age 40 range, it becomes increasing more challenging as each age group gets younger. For those in their thirties, when typical family obligations are most demanding, it would require 4.6 times the current number to be recruited base on the future population projections for this age segment. The dramatically higher rates are for those in their twenties (16.7 times) and teens (20 times) make it simply unfeasible to realistically believe that current methods of age-specific recruitment will come close to securing these levels of required newcomes into the hobby. To repeat, in practical terms, there simply will not be enough members of these youngest cohorts to replace their current age segment even if all parties went into recruitment modes with their “hair on fire”.

Demography can be destiny. But it does not have to be so.

Understanding Ham “Careers” and Recruitment into the Hobby

While the population demography reflects a challenge for the future of amateur radio in Canada, it is important to more fully understand how the hobby is pursued over the ham’s “career” as a licensed amateur operator. There is a notion, perhaps rooted in the Baby Boomer and preceding generations, harkening back to the emergence of amateur radio itself, that young people get exposed to amateur radio, get licensed and continue their amateur radio careers in a continuous fashion. (For more and an empirical investigation, see Howell 2021) This would make the teen years the principal period in the life course for recruitment into the hobby. In the survey, however, there is only modest evidence of this pattern.

RAC Survey 2021 participants were asked how many years they had held a license as well as have been active in the hobby. The graphic in Figure 3 displays histograms of the frequency of hams in each year bin. On the left is length of holding a license (tenure). The right panel is the same display except for years of activity. The average years of license tenure is about 26 while 22 is the average of years active. The variation in each measure is about the same, a standard deviation of around 17-18 years. The experience levels among Canadian amateurs are lengthy but it is also quite variable.

There are two things to hold out as important from this graphic. One is that survey responses bunch around newcomers (or zero to 4 years) or 25-30 years of holding a license. Activity is about the same pattern except the bunching of respondents is not as pronounced as license tenure. The “careers” of activity in amateur radio tend to vary quite a bit. A second is that these two variables are not linked to the same amateur. How many have activity periods that last for most of their license tenure? What lengths of active periods characterize Canadian hams?

Hams who are in the most senior age groups report years of license tenure suggesting that the teen years were when they became licensed. Moreover, a large number of them say they have been “active” all of their licensed years.3 This notion, however, does not fit many respondents in the survey. The latter are large enough to beg the question of how valid is this traditional idea with which we often characterize all amateurs. Like many stereotypes, there are significant popular examples that fit but it also mischaracterizes a larger share of ham operators.

We have visualized this linkage through a scatterplot of ham radio activity by license tenure with age groups identified (see Figure 4). A scatter plot is an X-Y plotting of individual data points along the data values of each variable. The age group for each survey respondent is shown by a distinct color.

There are no respondents above the line in this plot since activity is predicated in this survey upon holding a license. The diagonal line of hams reflects those who have been active their entire careers in ham radio. Only among those in the most senior age groups (e.g., 70 and over) supports the commonly held pattern of getting licensed at a teen or young adult and staying the course. There are many of these amateurs but they are far from being the dominant group.

The large number of data points moving away from this diagonal (toward the lower right) reflect hams who got licensed and have not been “active” nearly as long as those on the straight diagonal line. The most senior groups reveal many who were not licensed early in their lives but significantly later. Thus, these data illustrate that our conventional image of the amateur who gets licensed early in life and maintains that hobby activity throughout is largely a stereotype that nevertheless fits a smaller share of the population. These patterns of activity are directly pertinent to policies for recruitment into the hobby. They illustrate clearly the significant market for late-in-life hams. See Howell (2013) for another U.S. survey with data on late-in-life ham operators.

To further illustrate inactivity over the ham’s career, Figure 5 uses box plots of the simple difference between years licensed and years of activity (i.e., years licensed – years active). It’s broken out by age group. Box plots show the data around the center point of the median at the middle of the box. In this case, zero provides a bounding so that there is only one end of the distribution of survey respondents.

These data are highly skewed toward higher periods of less activity (“inactivity”). The median lines in the boxes are barely visible. There is a trail of hams who report a growing gap of inactivity as age increases. Some get licensed but drop out of the hobby, at least for some periods of time. For example, for the most senior group, some have been licensed-but-inactive for 40 or more years. Over their license tenure, a significant group of hams fall away from practicing the hobby.4 This licensed but inactive segment represents a ripe market for recruitment back into amateur radio activities. I will note in passing that we do not have any consensus for what “active” in the hobby means.


These results describe an emerging demographic shift in Canada that will affect the amateur radio hobby.  There will simply not be enough younger people to replace those Baby Boomers now dominating the hobby. But what is the fundamental reason behind these population projections leading to fewer younger people in the decades ahead? It is now something unique to Canada but common to all developed countries. In Figure 6, I’ve reproduced a graph showing the total fertility rate (TFR) over time among a number of countries. This was recently published in the highly respected demography journal, The Lancet. The gray line at the fertility rate of 2.1 is the replacement level for a given population. High income countries include Canada, the U.S. and the UK, among others. They have been below replacement level since around 1980. Thus, the issue of why official Canadian population projections show that younger age groups will be diminished in the near term is due to this falling total fertility rate among high income countries around the world.

Returning to the issue of these demographic patterns for amateur radio, the rates for the recruitment of younger people to achieve mere replacement are significantly higher than has been the case in the recent past. This should not be misconstrued to suggest that it would be a waste of time to expose young people to amateur radio as a recruitment method. It may well be an incubator effect of planting the seed that will be sown later in the life course. The short-term efforts should not ignore middle-age prospects for the hobby. They have three key characteristics that make them prime targets for marketing. One, they tend to be “empty nesters” without dependent children. Two, they are at or near their peak-earning years with perhaps the highest discretionary income they will ever have. Three, they have more time on their hands for the pursuit of hobbies. The demographic fact is that there will also be more of them in the near term for effective recruitment into the hobby.

These results encourage strategic and efficient methods for RAC and its membership clubs and associated organizations to reach both the youth population as well as later-in-life adults. Demography does not have to be destiny if these actions are taken soon. But it will be if heads are placed solidly into the sand.


1.For other data on the aging ham operator population in the United States and the United Kingdom, see or

2.The “life course” is the routine and mostly orderly progression of the transition of individuals among various recognized stages of life. The broadest definition is “The entirety of individual’s life from birth to death and the typical set of circumstances an individual experiences in a given society as they age.” (Source:

3.This question wording leaves the definition of activity up to the respondent. I’ve asked many hams what being “active” in the hobby means. I received a wide-ranging variety of responses that do not identify a singular coherent defining concept.

4.In analysis not shown, there is virtually no distinction in reported inactivity during the amateur career and current RAC membership. We cannot determine whether past membership patterns is linked to periods of inactivity during the full period of license tenure.


Frank M. Howell. 2013. “Survey of Members 2013.” ARRL Delta Division Report. Online resource:

Frank M. Howell. 2021. “The lost Tribe, the Pied Piper and the Executive.” The Spectrum Monitor October, 7-12. Available for download as a PDF here.

Frank M. Howell and Scott Wright. 2021.

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Are you trying to pickup your CW speed….here is some info.

Giving it all you've got but you seem to be held at a CW speed between 10-13wpm....what's happening? First off there is nothing wrong and this is normal even better if you're ready to jump to the next step in learning CW. Here is the thing as you improve and your CW speed picks up the time it takes to recognize each letter speeds up as well.  When you are in the the 10-13wpm bracket your time to acknowledge the letter collides with the next letter coming at you. This is what hampers you from getting to the next CW milestone. So what to's now time to move to the next level of CW and that is instant character recognition or ICR as it is called. Did you know most of you at this very point in time can have code sent to you at 38wpm and you can decode it!! WHAT you say.... have I been drinking, most of you if I sent  "CQ" at 38wpm you would know what I was sending. How about "73" again most of you would understand at 38wpm what I was sending to you. When both CQ and 73 were sent at that speed you knew it because you were practising ICR. At that speed, you were not hearing C and then Q and putting it together but you knew the sound of CQ or 73. This is what ICR is all about. Knowing the sound of each letter (later you can dive into words and phrase sounds) It's important to not just skip to common CW QSO phrases and words, I say this because to instantly know the letters and number is important for copying call signs, QTH's and names.  How does one start up the ICR ladder of code, well it's very fast and easy and I  mean fast. You need to speed things up so you're only able to hear a sound and not dots and dashes. Just like CQ at 38wpm, you hear the sound, not each letter or the dots and dashes that represent each letter. At first, your brain is going to wonder what you are up to as it is used to only working at 10-13wpm and the method used to convert dots and dashes to letters or numbers. Now it's a rhythm your brain is being exposed to.  I started by using a program where I could control the letters I wanted to know the rhythm of and start with easy ones to start tuning the grey matter. Look at a program such as MorseCode World that allows you to practice letters of your choice at the speed of your choice. At the website click on CW generator. Once there enter the letters/numbers you want to learn. Now click on Morse controls button and set your speed. The letters I  started with were E, T, C, I, K, M, and O. I entered each letter 8  times and then on the next line 8 of the next letter. See below: E E E E E E E E T T T T T T T T C C C C C C C Set the speed at 18-20wpm and hear the rhythm of the letters and not dots and dashes. I enter about 3-5 letter groups and give it a go for a few days. Now don't write down what you hear but just go over it in your mind what letter it is. Then change it up by mixing these letters up and try again, don't look at the page of letters and don't write it down.  Just listen to the sound and in your head say the letter. Your brain will start to pick up the new challenge you are giving it and yes when you hit H,5, S or B and 6 your brain will reply "Say what" BUT your brain is very powerful and soon will pick up these letters and even when you send H, S B, 6, V and 4.  As with anything you learn, it is a journey and just remember to always enjoy it and never forget how far you have come along. Enjoy your next adventure of ICR.

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

More about the original W2LJ

This is going to be a long post. In our last episode, I was telling you all about the musings and thoughts I have had about the original W2LJ ...... who he was and what he was like.  The experience I have had over the past couple of days has just been amazing and more than I could ever have hoped for.

In my Google search, I had mentioned that Ed and Norma had a daughter. I also saw in the Google results that his daughter has a Facebook page. Not totally sure that I would be addressing the right person, I decided to send a Facebook message, anyway. I introduced myself and explained why I was contacting her. After all, I didn't want her to think that some creepy stranger from out of left field was contacting her for nefarious reasons. Lord, knows, we have enough of that, these days. Between scams, phishing and other evil intentions, I wanted his daughter to know this was harmless.

I didn't know what to expect, or even if I would ever get a reply. What happened next was one of the most gracious and kind exchanges from Carmen, Ted's (as he preferred to be known) daughter, and his grandson, Jon. Two of the most remarkable people who I am so glad to know, and will be eternally grateful to.

Carmen answered me via e-mail. (I have their permission to post - I would never do that without their consent):


Yes, I am the daughter (and only child) of Edward (Ted) Roscoe Swoffer who was a ham radio operator since adolescence.  He was born and brought up in Walnut Grove, Minnesota one of eight children. He signed up for duty in World War !! And served on submarine duty (Peto and the Albacore).  The Albacore was torpedoed shortly after he got off to marry my mom.  He studied Electrical Engineering at Penn State and worked for Singer Link in Binghamton for many years.  He and my mom (Norma) were amazing grandparents to my three children and I am so grateful.

My father was very quiet and humble, never boasting of his many accomplishments.   He was not very social, although well liked by all.  I am not sure what all those letters mean concerning his equipment etc.   I do have many of his postcards from far and near and would be glad to send you one.  Let me know if you have further questions and let me know your address if you want one of his postcards from other ham operators.  I donated a Morse Code machine and some other stuff to a local museum called Tech Works.

I look forward to your response!


Wow! I was floored! I was hoping for some kind of response and was so glad to receive such a warm and welcoming one!

I had cross posted to the site hoping that other folks who might have known Ted would offer some tid bits about him. His grandson Jon replied there:

Hi Larry – Thanks so much for your post and your curiosity. Ted Swoffer (“Pappy” to his grandkids) was my grandfather. He was a great one. So much I could share with you about him. He started building radios as a kid in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, had multiple tours of duty in the pacific theater in WWII as a radio/sonar guy aboard two USN submarines (USS Albacore and USS Peto), and after the war graduated from Penn State with an engineering degree. Joined Singer Link in Binghamton, NY as an aeronautical engineer, working on flight simulators for several warbirds. While I spent much of my childhood being fascinated with his many hobbies, he was a quiet man. And amateur radio remained something that he did by himself. Perhaps that’s why nobody else in the family continued the craft. I think he would be so pleased to know that his call sign lives on through you.

And Jon also sent me an e-mail:

Hi Larry - attached is a wartime photo of Ted Swoffer.  Also attached is a picture of a collage of post cards to W2LJ from all over the world that I made a few years ago.  

I’ll look through other things to see if I have any other W2LJ stuff I could send you

And also from Jon:

Larry - thanks for sharing!  Very cool to see the W2LJ license plate.  

Ted was a Morse coder like you.  You two would have had a lot in common. 

And here's the photos that both Carmen and Jon sent.


Ted, the original W2LJ was an amazing man! And to borrow a radio term, I found some resonance between him and my own Dad. Both faithfully and bravely served in the Armed Forces during WWII. While Ted was a Navy sonarman, my Dad's first assignment with the Signal Corp was a detachment to the joint British/American team that was developing enhancements to radar. Unlike Ted, my Dad never went on to getting an Amateur Radio license. Perhaps that skipped a generation and was my destiny.

Carmen also informed me that her Dad was a CW man. Yay! I was elated to find that out. It makes me feel like i'm somehow carrying on his legacy, even though I never knew him. I did mention to Carmen and Jon that I wished I had known Ted back in 1978 when I was studying for my own Novice license and beyond. I know in my heart of hearts he would have been a fantastic Elmer, and boy, I could have used one back then.

As I said before, this was an amazing experience. I got to double dip! Not only did I learn so much more about this amazing man who originally held the callsign W2LJ, but I was also able to meet and converse with his daughhter and grandson - two of the most kind, warm, and friendly people you'd ever want to know. Thanks so much, Carmen and Jon! I can only hope that my Amateur Radio career would make Ted proud that W2LJ lives on.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 338

Amateur Radio Weekly

AllStarLink version 3 beta
The next generation of AllStarLink repeater and hotspot software.

A Ham Radio smartwatch.

My first, easiest (and last?) SOTA
If you spotted a couple of weirdos on a hilltop with a big antenna yesterday, this is what was going on.
Ian Renton

Reducing QRM from a portable solar panel system
It is not the solar panel itself that produces the radio frequency noise, but rather the charge controller attached to it.

Venturing into the world of AllStarLink
Setting up a Raspberry Pi based AllStarLink hotspot.

Ham Radio 101 basic set-up
The equipment list will be geared for either home or portable operation for digital net operation.

What you should know before buying a Motorola radio
Things that you as a Ham should know before buying a used device.

TetraPack presentation at HamRadio 2024
Dive into the new features revealed in the latest project update.

Field Day photos
Conejo Valley Amateur Radio Club shares photos from Field Day 2024.
Conejo Valley Amateur Radio Club


Friedrichshafen Ham Radio Expo 2024 walk-through
14 minute tour of the main hall.

The antenna that took 7.200MHz by surprise
Buddistick Pro antenna for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation.

A look at my mobile Ham Radio setup
Installing a Radioddity DB25-D into a 2018 Ford Escape.

Testing VHF/UHF antennas with the NanoVNA
We look at the 3 antennas supplied with the Tidradio H8 handheld VHF/UHF Ham Radio.

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Age Patterns in Operating Activities Among Canadian Amateurs

Results from the RAC Survey 2021

In a previous blog post, I showed the popularity of some 39 specific operating activities among Canadian hams using the national RAC Survey 2021. There were very small age differences in the average total number of activities. However, there are indeed clear age patterns in specific operating activities. This article presents those patterns as well as in the overall themes of operating.1 There are telling distinctions in these age-related operating preferences, ones that will likely follow the hobby over the next few decades.

Age Group Patterns in Specific Activities. Age differences occur in the adoption of some of the newest technologies emerging in the hobby. It is not surprising to the reader that this was by younger hams. Conversely, some long-standing activities with traditional appeal hold lower levels of engagement by younger amateurs. The line charts in Figure 1 compare a set of traditional activities with more recently-emerging ones, like digital data modes, that have become much talked about in the hobby. These represent some key age patterns in the RAC Survey of 2021.

Using traditional voice modes, whether SSB, AM or FM, has been a staple of ham radio for decades as has the original transmission mode, CW. Both are used at lower rates among young Canadian hams while they reach their respective zenith among the most senior group. Comparing this top panel with that on the bottom, there is a corollary with digital modes and mobile or portable operations. Younger hams say they do these activities at higher rates than older hams. The trend, like the comparable ones in the top panel, are mostly continuous and downward.

Chasing DX becomes more appealing during middle age and continues until senior status. The same is true for HF rag-chewing. These two activities may well typify many senior hams to the extent that these survey results reflect the country’s population of amateurs. By sharp contrast, it’s the data modes of all stripes, including satellites (including ARISS), drone operations, and telemetry that have higher participation rates among younger age groups. If it’s portable and digital, these younger hams are more likely to report that they are doing it.

This begs the question of Elmering activity. There is a higher percentage of teens that report this activity of coaching other hams than any other single group. But this age group is a small sample size (n=8) so it’s not a reliable estimate. The more conservative interpretation is that Elmering is mostly for those successively older in age. Peer teaching by young hams, however, is a clearly desirable goal.2 This survey just did not capture it due to the lower response rate among younger hams.

A strikingly age-graded activity is CW operating. Up to the age of 49, CW use is lower than 20 percent, or one-fifth of the full survey respondents. This increase to almost one-third for those in their fifties, and increases to a majority among those eighty or over. While there is anecdotal evidence that CW interest and practice is growing among younger groups in Canada and the U.S., this new data on activity participation casts a pall on any broad generalizations from those “feel-good” media stories. CW operation does appear at-risk of becoming more of a niche activity over the next couple of decades based on these demographic patterns.3

A final traditional activity, the restoration of classic radios, seems very fitting to be something that connects a younger period in life with an older one. This trend is found in the top panel but just not as dramatic as one could expect. It rises past ten percent during the fifties, increasing until the seventies among survey respondents.

Age Patterns in Themes of Operating. Because a number of these activities appear to overlap, such as DXing and Contesting or Public Service and Emergency Communications, I created summaries of homogeneous operating themes from them (see full report for details).  These are illustrated in Table 1.

Because of the concern about age in the amateur radio space, I have constructed line charts by age group for these themes of operating activity in Figure 2. I separated more conventional activities into the left panel and newer activities in the right (except for Mentoring). There are clear age patterns in these graphs. They tend to confirm the age patterns in the individual activities but they give a broader picture to the overall patterns.

Younger hams tend to be engaged in QRP portable activities as well as digital modes more than older operators. They tend to not get involved in competition, in contrast to much social media to the contrary. In addition, younger hams do not report traditional building activities or operations (CW) nearly as much as middle-aged or more senior amateurs. These are important findings for they fly in the face of some contemporary thinking by many in amateur radio.

The activities of competing against other hams as well as traditional experimental work and operations do not go above average activity levels until these hams reach age 50 and above. Traditional activities remain at these levels by age group. Competition tends to trail off after age 80, a result also observed in twenty years of U.S. ARRL Sweepstakes Contest data (Howell and Wright, 2021). They tend to be average or below in QRP portable activities and digital mode operations.

In the right panel of Figure 2, mentoring is something engaged in by all age groups above the average score with the exception of the twenty-year-old group. Younger operators report much higher participation in remote control operations as well as satellite work. Balloon operations are the third above average activity for younger operators. Super HF band work is above average for those from the twenties until the seventies. For the most senior hams, no activity reaches an average score except mentoring.


The findings shown here for younger hams versus those in the older Baby Boomer generation are much talked about in amateur radio. These national survey data from Canada confirm some of those observations but in specific ways. Younger hams are engaged much more in computer-based digital and portable operating activities that are newer developments in the hobby. The converse is true for more senior hams who say they operate in traditional ways but not as much digital or portable. The practice of CW mode is a rather clear example. Only some 15 percent or thereabouts of younger operators use CW while over 40 percent do among senior hams. Note that these are patterns for which some individual exceptions on the margins can also be true but the overall patterns remain. There is a clear age-graded transition afoot in behavioral practices within the amateur radio hobby.

Age-graded activities identify sectors of the hobby that may grow or decline in the future. Advocacy and Elmering can perhaps change those patterns but these baseline data are important to benchmark such future impacts. The irony is that the very activity of Elmering exhibits these same age-graded patterns: senior hams engage more in coaching than do younger hams. Thus, will relative youth reject advice to engage more in traditional operating activities when they themselves tend to embrace newly-emerging ones? Comparisons of the 2021 survey with another in the future will tell the tale of such potential change.


Frank M. Howell and Scott Wright. 2021. “Generational Change in ARRL Contesting: The Pending Demographic Cliff Ahead.” Retrieved at


1. The full report of my analysis, along with data from Statistics Canada and ISED, is published on the website as Operating Patterns Among Canadian Amateurs: Results from the RAC Survey 2021. Please see that report for details of this national survey of Canadian hams.

2. In Appendix B of the full report at, there is a chart (Figure B2) illustrating that participating in organized youth training activities (JOTA, YOTA) kicks in during the late twenties, peaking during middle age. Thus, the youngest hams do not appear to be engaged in peer teaching per se but younger adults do get involved in increasing proportions until their fifties.

3. Evidence from 20 years of the ARRL Sweepstakes Contest participation appears in Howell and Wright (2021). These results show a clear parallel of an incipient CW contesting decline in the ARRL Sweepstakes CW Contest.

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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