Give techs a little taste of HF to spark that ‘Wow, that is cool!’ moment

If the ham community continues to maintain a rigid stance on the ARRL’s expanded HF petition, it will lose! The youth of today have no need for antiquated communication techniques that require they take the time to study and pass a test. Today’s world is not lacking for communication ability — quite the contrary — and today’s young folks are very adept at navigating it, and staying in touch and up to date much more than we ever were.

What about power down emergency situations? Cellular comms not reliable in disasters? The youth of today figure they will deal with that when the time arrives. Misguided? Perhaps, but that is what the ham community is up against, plus we do not go out of our way to try to improve/modernize our image much. Local nets are typically check-ins (for numbers), morning coffee, work travel hand waves, weather-at-my-house type conversations, not what today’s average youth find appealing.

Today they can pick up a cell phone and do any of those with a few keystrokes, and beyond that, no propagation concerns, noise is rarely an issue, imaging is instantaneous and unrestricted (no need for Dad’s Playboy!), and lest we forget: NO STUDY/NO TEST. Instant gratification goes a long way in selling a product.

The ham community is, in their eyes for old guys and gals who have nothing much to do, are not socially connected, are willing to work hard at making connections, and satisfied with a less than fantastic communication environment. I am not saying they or we are incorrect, just that is the state of affairs at the outset. We have yet to discuss the varied equipment and its uses, range limitations of that equipment, maintenance requirements, and on top of all of that software, connecting cables, and computer considerations. The fact that we can talk around the world no longer holds the mystique of our youth. They have been able to do that since birth, almost.

All I am trying to say here is simply this: our ham equipment is state-of-the-art, capable of doing a wonderful job when the situation allows, skill prevails, or just plain old LUCK takes over. The ham community for the most part is a melting pot of great people worldwide, and there is a self-satisfaction in accomplishing that particular DX contact, copying the satellite telemetry, or finding out how old Joe is across town. How much of that satisfaction is common knowledge to the youth of today? If we want the “Hobby” to continue and flourish, we have got to make it more appealing, open our world wider to theirs, prove the value and worth of what we do “for fun” and social connection, and introduce them to that self-satisfaction we enjoy.

There truly is hope. It is not all doom and gloom. We have a local 13-year old calling a 2m net here every Friday night. He and his dad got their ticket the same day. Hmmm, maybe that says something?

That to me appears to be the crux of our APPEAL problem. If it takes opening up a section of HF for them to experience it, then I am all for it. Allow the young folks we have the opportunity to show off to their peers, the proverbial “WOOHOO!” made that contact moment, or a “that is a station in a country far flung from here” moment! And hopefully the resultant, “WOW! That is cool” moment. If we fail to pass this on successfully then our greatest fear may become reality someday, “A world without communication!” And who among us really wants that?

Al Massaro, KF5SMH, is a special contributor to and writes from New Mexico, USA.

38 Responses to “Give techs a little taste of HF to spark that ‘Wow, that is cool!’ moment”

  • Harry K4BAD:

    I don’t have any strong feelings about this,one way or the other. With that appears to me the present way we’re doing things isn’t very effective in ensuring the growth and continued interest in ham radio.

    So I feel the ARRL plan might give the hobby a “kick start”.It may not be effective but it’s worth a shot.

    Thanks for reading.

  • KA1OWC Steve:

    Heck yes! Open it up to new people and ideas…It can only be good for the hobby!

  • K0ZZT:

    Very good idea to offer more to the starting ham Our hobby is a dying one when I go to club meetings most are retired not much young blood there so anything to get younger hams interested is a good thing! Without new blood, our hobby will die out with the current generation of hams left!

  • Ron Wright, N9EE:

    I agree with Al. One often does not know what one is missing unless one has tried it. If the Techs can get a little of the pleasures of HF then they will be more willing to up grade and be able to do more. VHF & UHF are great, but are much different form HF operation. Other modes like digital, PSK31 & RTTY and now FT8 can be exciting on HF as well as phone and maybe they will work into CW.

    Giving Techs more might not increase our numbers, but will increase operating.

  • Matt W1MST:

    Great point, Ron. Although hard for us to understand, I think there are so many techs that never even get bitten by the HF bug simply from lack of exposure.

  • Mark Booth W5PYN:

    Boy oh Boy, Al, you are from my home state. we are second to last in education, 3rd from the top in DUI’S and today have been named the 2nd most stressfull place to live in the entire nation. Wonder why? Just read your post and you shoud start to look at and really read the history of this great hobby. we are amateurs in name only. Just because we do not get a paycheck does not mean we are not good at what we do.Have you ever tuned in to a cw contest? Think all those stations are practicing?Cw is as viable a mode as any, if you are not able to learn it, fine, stay out of the cw bands.
    When your cell phones fail and your beloved internet goes down, remmber a litle problem called Katrina. We were the only thing left. Some folks like to go boating, some learn to sail, be a sailor. It is the best of both worlds.
    Just my 2 cents after 55 years in this great occupation.
    Maybe you should join a local ham club,might learn something.

  • Bob WA3LWR:

    I have instructed free Technician Class, Ham Radio Classes, for several years and while the majority of students ae over 30, there are usually a few younger ones. Not as many as when I was a student, but that was fifty years go! Being able to do some HF long distance communications is an excitement that many students would love. Echolink gives a student a taste of it and that excites many too.
    The majority of hams seem to be over fifty, if one looks at a club meeting. We need young blood and this could help accomplish it. Give it a try, what do we have to lose?

  • Brian KA3CTP:

    Oh, who cares the radio manufactures need to sell more HF rigs, so it will pass. We older amateurs will suffer the gooberization of the HF bands. Couldn’t they just wait till we become SKs before they destroy the HOBBY.

  • Terry, W0TLC:

    Unfortunately attitudes like W5PYN are what will kill this hobby.

  • Robert KB6QXM:

    Can we figure out another way to increase usage of our allocated bandwidth without giving away something for nothing?

    I am all for more involvement in the hobby, but to keep on lowering the license standards just to get more numbers and participation in the hobby.

    You would not want your physician to have less requirements to be able to treat your illness because the requirement to be a physician was too difficult?

    What happened to the “work for something” principle?

  • Mark Booth W5PYN:

    Thanks Robert. I wonder how much traffic W0TLC has passed? Not much i would guess. You are the problem Tery, just go away.

  • john k0ip:

    This won’t work, its a proven fact if you have no stake in what your doing you are just a bystander.

    Back in the olden days, Oh’ yes the olden days when those that were really interested learned CW and had to use it. Ok, maybe that CW was a waste ? (NOT) However those poor soles they had one year to move on from that CW Novice license. Move your ass or lose it. OH my golly that wasn’t fair. I’m sure some slackers didn’t make the grade. People actually had to learn something ? Apply a little effort. Holy SH- “dit dit”- “dah”.. what did all this accomplish ?? , a generation of hams that actually operated on the air, put up antennas, knew why there was a red & black wire and they were a happy lot . Now, well the new generation, they must be a lazy bunch, there are 400 thousand of them, most of whom had the last 10 years to upgrade when conditions were good. Did they upgrade, Those that were interested did the other 99% set, and tried to program their HT. Does it take a genius to get a general license ?? Really , it might take a few minutes several night a week the next month. reading a book. DID they do it, Hell NO. They are really just not interested and “I” would need a radio, and antenna, a strange concept since my cell phone does it all plus Angry Bird..

    to be clear, the ARRL proposal gives 35% of 80 to Techs, 42% of 40 meters, and 61% of 15 meters. unless my math is wrong, which is possible, that’s a fair chunk.
    Tell you what, how about a NEW license class, the Novice ?? (quaint) it has a two year expiration.. YES 2 years and I consider that generous,
    we give then the ARRL proposed spectrum, but like in the Olden days we give them 2 years to get off their dead “back side” and upgrade. No renewal, no second chance.

    FYI, I take NO responsibly for my bad English or Grammar.. k0ip

  • john k0ip:

    I forgot, 10-4 gud buddy

  • Kevin, K4IVE:

    Giving away privileges with no commitment in time and effort is always a losing proposition. Sure, the goobers will trash the 40m and 75m phone bands for a while, then wander off to the next fad that catches their short term fancy…

    They won’t stick around because they didn’t have to study and pass a difficult test to get the privileges in the first place… The band authorizations are OK the way they are and it is not at all difficult to pass a General Class Exam if even a moderate amount of study is done. I really don’t want them on the HF bands with greater than 5 watts unless they have put some effort into EARNING those privileges.

  • Mark Booth W5PYN:

    Thanks my friends, best 73.

  • Bruce (K9ICP):

    I do agree that we need to do more to attract and retain new young hams. Individuals get into the hobby for many reasons. Some of these reasons may be far different than we had when originally licensed. Providing more opportunities for technicians to operate HF does merit consideration. However, does it really address the board issues.

    We currently have a lack of Elmers willing to promote and support new hams getting started. Without this support providing HF operations will have minimal impact. It’s important to the hobby for participants to be competent as well as have fun. In addition, I don’t believe we do enough to showcase our digital modes which might attract the younger people.

    I agree that we have an image problem in general that needs to be addressed. However, simply offering HF privileges to technicians isn’t going to change this. In fact, it may make everyone more frustrated do to poor operating skills and more interference.

    We are fooling ourselves to think there is a quick, one size fits all answer. I am unwilling to assume that all young people totally reject our hobby. Ham licensure continues to grow, but we need to promote its diverse use and recognize it may not be for everyone. We each need to be accountable to challenge misconceptions about the hobby. I hope a boarder approach will be considered by the ARRL going forward.

  • Gregg KW7XT:

    As a relatively new Ham radio guy (over 55 by the way) I think opening it more is good to try and even more so follow up with operating classes for new Hams once they get their license. I really have not done much other than phone on the HF bands but I find it difficult to make contacts. Seems like one has to spend hours to make a few contacts and talk over the air. I think some help in this area would be good for new Hams as well as all the digital protocols.

  • Ed KG5DGI:

    Another relatively new HAM operator, with 80 in the rear view mirror, and proud to be a member of “The Club”. One problem facing a newly licensed Technician, is generally a lack of knowledge of the large variety of HF avenues to strive for. I have the advantage of a very proficient EMCOMM Elmer, so have presented to me the many different methods to learn. A printed and comprehensive list of what is “out there” for the beginner to strive for, is an enticement of sorts. As to the comment above, of few contacts, there are a number of consistent nets, particularly emergency practice nets, that cover both voice and digital, to promote proficiency. A listing of those would also be useful.

  • Robert Galyan KE0QAH:

    Loosing up some would also attract some more of us “elders” who dont have the memory capabilities we once did. I dont know any elder extra’s that didn’t get there ticket a long time ago.

    Im up there, and would love to do some SSB and CW, but hey, I cant remember all those things required to pass.

    So, how do you get new blood, young and old, yet still keep the respect the Extra’s deserve?

  • Ted NA7ID:

    Unless the FCC dedicates more resources to enforcing existing operating rules I see the expanded spectrum proposal moving the hobby toward the CB world. Look at the blatant violations taking place now with little if any enforcement. I don’t want there to be a too easy path for privileges on the amateur HF bands. I don’t want them to become CB equivalents.

  • Tom Beard WA4ZOF:

    At the same time why not open up the Extra segments to those of us who have obtained the Advanced class license but just not able to pass the code element.
    All in all I think anything to build the ranks is better than sitting on our backsides watching the world go by..

  • Henry KZ5AJ:

    More popularity and greater numbers almost always results in lower quality. I don’t see this improving Amateur Radio.

  • Gregg KW7XT:

    I can understand the points on both sides of the discussion. I certainly don’t want it to become a free for all on the airwaves, but would like to see the hobby keep growing. There needs to be some knowledge and discipline involved and better enforcement as suggested. One is after all setting up a relatively high powered station(with amp)and one is expected to do it correctly with damage to others. I still think operation classes are important. Perhaps going form 3 license categories to 2 might be considered – combine Tech and General levels in some way that adds to the current base of Tech knowledge? Keep Extra where it is?

  • Gregg KW7XT:

    Correction without damage to others

  • Rick, AA3C:

    I don’t have any huge heartache in allowing Tech’s digital privileges since most modes use narrow bandwidth and unintended inteference be relatively small. However, expanding their phone windows is not something I agree with, at least not to the extent proposed.

    Passing the General isn’t very hard especially since there is no code requirement anymore, where as that could be a minor stumbling block in the past. (It kept me from getting Extra as I was just too slow though CW still intrigues me.) It was the excitement and anticipation of getting on the phone bands during Sweepstakes Contest weekend that got me to upgrade. By giving HF phone privileges “for free”, I don’t see any incentive to learn and advance.

    I do find the ‘lack of Elmers’ reasoning interesting since the kind of people I’m assuming that this expansion is designed to attract are fluent in social media. There are plenty of sites out there where questions can be asked, assistance asked for, etc. Sure the personal touch would be the ultimately goal and most useful but the initial contact through social media could break the ice if the newb is too shy to chat in person.

  • john k0ip:

    Hi, thought I should check back and see if anyone called me names. No such luck..

    I would like to add several comments , not necessarily about giving away more privileges, but what appears the total lack of interest in our hobby by the typical (not all) technician operator. It appears to me the most of the 400 Thousand, got a ham ticket for EMCOMM type stuff, for their church or some other organization.

    There was a big influx around our town with the HangGlider Pilots. (Cheap radios was the draw). And lets not forget the prepers, planning for Armageddon. And of course, ONE DAY ham license cram courses, they really help, with a promise of wonderment and reward.

    What do all these people have in common, They really don’t have any interest in the traditional ham radio. Most will never join a club. Most will never operate/own a radio. How can they get an Elmer setting in a dark room. Someone mentioned things like FaceBook, etc. I guess it’s an option, but going to a club offers a lot more..

    So now I will sing to the choir:

    The key benefit of joining an amateur radio club is to mingle with other people who have the same interests and have a good time exchanging information and experiences relating to amateur radio. And, it’s not only amateur radio, per se, but also an open door to many related and non related activities.
    Keep in mind that the greatest benefit of joining an amateur radio club is Personal contact with other folks with your same interests, Secondly is ready access to experienced technical information, references and learning experiences. The more you pursue and interact, the more you get out of your membership. And that translates to a chance to nurture and grow your knowledge and radio horizon.
    Where else could you find: HF guys, satellite tracker , APRS trackers , repeater builders, weak signal VHF types, QRP guys. Those who’ve rolled their own radios, feed line and antenna’s, & those who seemed to have bought just about every radio ever made. The CW guys, Contest nuts. and more.

    Now the $64 question ? what’s it called… a CLUB..
    A club a place to try out and expand your radio horizons at the gatherings. Field Day is an excellent time to pitch in and set up an HF station. Helping at the repeater sites, or just being there . knowledge can rub off, Club’s offer programs at meetings that explain all sorts of Ham’y things.

    NOW the ONE BIG PROBLEM, Getting these guys to attend a club meeting, Younger folks just don’t join organizations , they just don’t ! You can offer all the help you want but if the “horse Won’t Drink” , That’s the end of discussion.

    Our Club has many Elmers listed on our roster. Along with phone and email contact info, Elmers are everywhere, Here’s the biggest problem: Even though some Elmer might say they are mind readers, BUT They are NOT !

    Free spectrum is NOT the answer..
    if their only interest is an HT, in a glass box, that says “break in case of emergency” they have NO interest in the traditional Ham Radio. They won’t drink.

    Why don’t all us old guys, set back and relax, work some DX , maybe a bit of contesting, Go to the club breakfast and meetings and just enjoy what we have. Enjoy the friends we actually interact with , in person. (in person, a strange concept, possibly something leftover from the 50’s ?)

    We are probably NOT going to change anything

    However, if you old guys want a little off the wall humor see this ,

  • Mark Booth W5PYN:

    Yep, I am an “old timer” but I do agree with Nick. You can not give this up for free.
    Liscense should be earned, not bought, not given, earned.
    But tech changes us and so should the questions on the test,we are no longer in the pi-network 6146 era. It is a wonderful new ara.But Hams are Hams and we will always lead the way, just do not forget our past.
    best 73.

  • Larry WB8LBZ:

    If you are a Tech and want HF voice, take the test. If you are an Advanced and want the Extra frequencies, take the test. Something given is not cherished as is something earned. If you want it, take the test.

    73, Larry WB8LBZ
    El Paso, TX

  • Larry - WB8LBZ:

    From the ARRL Letter, 30,000 licenses last year. Time for the General class and Extra class hams to get in gear and mentor new hams. Don’t miss a great opportunity.

    73, Larry WB8LBZ
    El Paso, TX

  • Robert KB6QXM:

    @Larry WB8LBZ-If you look at the theory of the new Extra Class, it is basically the same as the old Advanced license element. In the days of the 20 WPM Extra, the written element was pretty simplistic, as the majority of the electronic theory was taken in the Advanced element. When they made the Advanced class license obsolete, they moved the theory over to the Extra element. Do I want to upgrade my Advanced license and be put in the same bucket as No-Code Extras. No thank you. I will be an Advanced class ham till I am a SK. Small, but proud group!


  • john k0ip:

    end of transmission

  • john k0ip:

    Hi, thought I should check back and see if anyone called me names. No such luck..

    I would like to add several comments , not necessarily about giving away more privileges, but what appears the total lack of interest in our hobby by the typical (not all) technician operator. It appears to me the most of the 400 Thousand, got a ham ticket for EMCOMM type stuff, for their church or some other organization.

    There was a big influx around our town with the HangGlider Pilots. (Cheap radios was the draw). And lets not forget the prepers, planning for Armageddon. And of course, ONE DAY ham license cram courses, they really help, with a promise of wonderment and reward.

    What do all these people have in common, They really don’t have any interest in the traditional ham radio. Most will never join a club. Most will never operate/own a radio. How can they get an Elmer setting in a dark room. Someone mentioned things like FaceBook, etc. I guess it’s an option, but going to a club offers a lot more.. (continued)

  • Rob N4HHH:

    Let the Techs into the HF band. There are lots of old timers that can’t even program a codeplug to use on Digital radios. They should test the influx of users on Brandmeister Digital VHF and UHF and test their computer knowledge. That’s where the problem is. Talk about all the people that need to be assisted on how to use their radios. Just check Facebook and look at all the DMR Facebook groups. What a mess.

    I think having more techs on HF would spark more local HF communication. When the bands are dead no one uses them. This will not be a situation where it will be like CB. I have to tell you, they still have to have a license. The real issue is no one is interested in answering outdated questions about CW that frankly many are not interested in using that anymore.

    I can tell you, they start using HF, they start joining clubs then they can always upgrade later. Isn’t it a hobby or is it a club that people want private communications? Open the floodgates and have fun.

    Want to hear what Just listen to 7.200 on Saturdays when the bands are good. These are your licensed Generals and above. Those are the people you need to worry about and this captain dave?? Hmmmm

    And to all those folks that say no to this. Extras and Advanced Hams?? Where are you? Help the Techs, encourage them to join. I go to several hamfests and no one is pushing techs to upgrade. The clubs are filled with older hams and it feels like a retirement home at times. Let the young hams have fun. Enjoy life, its very short for some.

  • Steven M1HHR:

    I am from the UK and listen to your users all the time and the chap above is correct. The Captain Dave and 7.200 are really bad in your country. Our users would not put up with that. I have made friends with many from your country who are technicians. Great guys!!! In our country we encourage the use of HF bands with all our lower tier licenses. The chaps who are in this class are nice and respectful. It almost sounds like the extra call hams in your country are a little enraged because thy had to take a test. Don’t be that way!! Sounds like a bunch of children or batty old women fighting over tea recipes. Let your lower tiered hams use the radio. In our country its about the power levels. Our lowered tiers have to use QRP. That would be something you all could look at but all you Generals and above don’t be childish and jealous because they wont have to take multiple tests. You might find that you can make lots more friends. Isn’t that what its about??

  • David WB4ONA:

    Hah! LET THE NOOBS use HF. They’ll encounter the same draconian local “laws” (from HOA’s, Municipalities etc.) that STOP Hams from putting up HF antennas. Hopefully, they’ll REAR-UP in a big way against these local Fascists. Too bad the ARRL threw U.S. Amateurs under the bus when it comes to legislation pertaining to this very important issue. Shame on you ARRL.

  • Larry WB8LBZ:

    We have provided opportunities for local hams to get active. 2 VHF/UHF FM local nets for the newly licensed hams to get active. We also have a 75, 10, 6 and 2 SSB nets during the week. Getting them licensed is the easy part, keeping them interested and licensed is the challenge. We have a few new hams building antennas and getting active. I can’t wait for Field Day I’ll put them in front of a radio and let them talk.

    73, Larry WB8LBZ
    El Paso, TX

  • Dennis KA8SAW:

    As an older ham, who has both taken and failed at some point, one of five exams, (plus 3 code exams, I failed the 20wpm exam), yeah, give the no-code Techs a portion of HF. I mean, what the hell, when I took my novice test and (god forbid) 5WPM word test, all you could do with that was use CW around the world. I studied, practiced, and up-graded to General skipping over the Tech portion. I sat and took my Advanced exam and passed it, I took and passed my Extra but failed the 20WPM requirement (at the time). See where it got me? I’m sure that there are some Gents/Ladies out there who WORKED for their ticket and to me this proposal seem like a slap in the face to those of us who did.

    Yeah, go ahead good buddy, give the privileges away; and watch the Amateur Radio “hobby” go the way the “Citizen Radio” went. Yes, I remember when you HAD to be licensed to use CB, and it was only 5watts.

    So let’s open up HF.

    KA8SAW Dennis

  • Frank Ke4ppr:

    I was a ham for many years. Problem was, couldn’t have any conversations with many folks locally. All high powered, 80 meters guys trying to talk over one another. These are the Extras you all say had to take the harder test. Most of my buddies are dead now. I can barely hear anymore.

    Let the kids use the bands. They will learn and grow up. Ham radio is self policing. I can buy a radio from Amazon without a license and key up all day long if I wanted to. At least they are getting licensed. I remember back in the day, you had to show your license to buy a radio. I am 84 years old. Don’t have long. Lots of us old-timers won’t be using it soon. Give them a taste of HF and they will use it. I had many fun times talking on 10 meters to those folks who we call Techs. Nice guys… I agree with N4HHH, 7.200 has tons of generals and above who treat ham radio like it was a game of cat and mice with the FCC. And yes, who is this Captain Dave guy?? What a mess. Let the kids use it for Christ sakes!!

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