You’ve probably run into this situation…some of the more experienced radio amateurs commenting about how so many of the newer hams are incompetent. “Yeah, they’ve dumbed down the FCC exam, so now anyone can get a license. Back when I got my license, I had to copy Morse Code in my head, design a triple-feedback-loop vacuum tube amplifier and recite the Gettysburg address backwards in front of an FCC examiner.”
A while back, I wrote about the time when a newbie on an email list asked a simple electronics question and got this reply: Not to pick on you, but is there any requirement these days to have a basic knowledge of electricity and/or radios to get a ham license?
Often this shows up as an elitist attitude of If you don’t pursue the hobby my way or at my level, then you are doing it wrong.
Since amateur radio consumes most, but not all, of my hobby time, it is easy to lose perspective on this. And, yes, I am sure I have complained about clueless newbies and LID operators from time to time.
It’s interesting to put the shoe on the other foot and think about activities that I pursue with much less time and intensity. In other words, think about activities where I am not that experienced and certainly not an expert.
For example, I enjoy fishing but I am really not that skilled at it. For me, fishing is just an excuse to sit next to a stream and enjoy the scenery. If I catch fish, that is a plus (but I always throw them back in anyway). When I encounter Real Fisherpersons, they are usually friendly and helpful, passing along a few tips on what they using for bait, etc. Sometimes I will encounter That Fly Fishing Guy that looks down his nose at any form of fishing that does not meet his high standard.
I also enjoy photography. I have a decent Canon DSLR camera with a few lenses and I manage to capture some reasonably good photos that way. (This probably has more to do with the quality of the camera than the photographer.) My interest is mostly to capture experiences and events in my life and create photos that I can use in my various writing activities. But I know a number of people that are infinitely more skilled than I am. They are generally very helpful and I usually manage to learn something from them. Come to think of it, I have not encountered very many condescending photographers — most of them have been very helpful. Maybe I have just been lucky.
Although it’s a cliche, Life is Too Short. There are so many things we can choose to do with our time and, really, so little time to do it. People must make choices about how deep they get into any activity, all while balancing family time and demands at work. It shouldn’t surprise us when some people choose to be part-time hams and don’t aspire to be the expert in all things radio.
And the final point is, if you think you have something to offer to the newbies, make sure you come across as helpful and make sure it looks like you are having fun. Being the Old School Grumpus will not attract people to your favorite activity. Having fun and inviting them in will!
73, Bob K0NR