Radio Games (

In HamRadioNow Episode 178 (Radio Games, embedded below), my partner Jeff AC4ZO and I banter about the concept of “rebranding” ham radio contests to make them more attractive to young people. My suggestion is to call them Radio Games, an allusion to Video Games, of course, which attract young people like crazy.

About this point in this article, I’d be disappointed if a few of you readers didn’t go nonlinear, considering this idea to be:

  1. fully baked, and
  2. the end of Amateur Radio as we know it

So if you actually watch the show, you realize that the idea isn’t even half-baked. It hasn’t even hit the oven. It’s fodder for a TV show conversation (makes a good radio show if you just want to listen to it) listen to it

And you’ll notice we wander around the point so much that you may think we’ll never actually make it. But we do. Then it’s off to other stuff. Some of you will like it, some of you will hate it, and that’s show biz.

But while the idea is far from mature, I’m serious about it in some fashion.

I think there’s little argument that we need to attract many more young people to ham radio, people in their teens, twenties and thirties. And I think what what attracted us old farts (I’m 65, and in a couple weeks I’ll hit my 50th year of hamming) isn’t attracting young people today. Not many, anyway. Something about ham radio has to change.

I don’t know what that is. Nobody knows for sure, or we’d be doing it (and once again leading us all to the End of Amateur Radio As We Know It). But for sure it’s not One Thing. It’ll be a lot of things, some little and some big.

One of those things might be figuring out how to make ham radio interesting to some of the people who love video games. They’re mostly young. Many have an interest in technology. And if we got just a small fraction of them, we’re still talking about thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Our contests are a starting point. Just changing the name to (or adding the name) Radio Games isn’t going to fool anyone. But it seems to me that integrating the elements of radio that we know – the vagaries of propagation, the competition for contacts, the reality of having to make something work with your own hardware and skill – to the aspects of video games that they know, might be an interesting mix.

For me, this is just fodder for my TV show and a column here on I’m sure not going to be the one doing it. I’m not a contester beyond making a few random contacts now and then, and I’m not a gamer. Which just may mean I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that wouldn’t be front page news, either.

But it is something to think about, maybe to talk about. First-class video games are multi-hundred-million dollar epics. The biggest probably involve more money than all of ham radio worldwide. They blow Hollywood out of the water. But a Ham Radio themed game doesn’t have to be the biggest and best. I guess I’d just hope that if someone develops one, it isn’t lame. But everybody’s a critic, and no matter how good it is, someone will call it lame. So I’m not going to worry about it.

Here’s the show. The most perceptive (or maybe just cynical) among you will recognize this column as just an excuse to get people to watch the show. You’d be right. And… sorry about the distorted audio. I did figure out what was happening.*

73, Gary KN4AQ

*What was happening to the audio? Google’s Chrome browser was grabbing the Windows Record Level setting and cranking it up so it could hear me say “OK Google” to initiate a voice search. That happened ever time I opened a tab with Google’s search page in it (and that’s where new tabs defaulted, so if it happened a lot). Later, I found a setting to turn “OK Google” off, but not one to tell Google to leave my audio alone, period. If I initiate a Google Hangout,  Google grabs it again. Grrr.

Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, is the host of If you enjoy this and other HamRadioNow programs, help keep them 'on the air' with a contribution. Contact him at [email protected].

6 Responses to “Radio Games (”

  • Ve4Cor:

    I’ll have to watch the show later, but
    I think we need more ham presence in all these zombie and post apocalypse movies/tv shows. A little more focus on the emergency use in these and maybe some kids will get interested.
    All it would take is a good full episode of walking dead focused on some Hams saving the day, of course they’d need to be portrayed by some handsome lad(I’ll make sure I’m available for filming) and you’ll see rigs and study guides flying off the shelves.

  • peter kg5wy:

    I don’t think a the ham radio hobby should be referred to as a GAME.
    If this word doesn’t attract young people, what WORDs would be used next?

  • Gary KN4AQ:

    peter kg5wy: I’m not suggesting we refer to ALL of Ham Radio as a game. Just CONTESTING. I re-read my column to see if I left the wrong impression, and right up there at the top I said,

    “…Jeff AC4ZO and I banter about
    the concept of ‘rebranding’ ham radio
    CONTESTS to make them more attractive
    to young people.”

    I even had the word “contests” in bold. The TV program itself (which I’m guessing you didn’t watch or listen to) certainly never left the impression that we call ALL of Ham Radio a game. Just contests.

    If I understand the rest of your comment correctly, you’re worried that if “game” doesn’t attract young people, we will just keep plucking trendy names out of the headlines until something clicks? And of course that strategy will never work, because we’re just fine as we are? And all we will succeed in doing is further damaging Ham Radio’s reputation and credibility with each attempt? I must admit that’s not the first objection I expected to hear.

    What’s missing from your comment, Peter, is any idea of what we SHOULD do. I don’t mind criticism of my ideas or my programs. Actually, I encourage it. But I do call out criticism that doesn’t include substance. So I challenge you (or anyone else) to spend the 30 minutes or so that it takes to explain what it is you don’t like, and just the broad strokes of what you’d do instead. Maybe you can do it here on, or we can discuss doing it in an episode of

  • peter kg5wy:

    Well, you might say that I am old school…Old fashion.
    I would like to see Ham Radio stay as it was. Many of today’s changes to the hobby don’t agree with me. In many ways I see a departure from the stability, friendliness, terms and in some cases the regulations.
    These changes may be due to social media.
    I am HF/CW and that’s all.

    It is difficult (in my opinion) to encourage younger folk to take interest in the hobby because most youngsters have their nose into I-phones, I-pads, and very instant gratifications. A contest first requires understanding and adhering to regulations. It is my opinion that a young person be licensed for a while before introducing him/her to a contest.

    I don’t have any instant answers or solutions. We all think differently. Are ideas and decisions are directed to a wide audience with varied ideas.
    If the word GAME attracts young people, then so be it.
    I hope this helps.

  • Frank ON6UU:

    Hamradio is not a game, that’s for sure ! But it is a good idea to do something with young people and promoting amateur radio !

    Maybe it would be a good idea to invest more in HAM apps for smartphones.
    What I also see is lesser and lesser kits available. ( I wish Heathkit still existed !!! ) I see kits but many with a price of a factory build device, thus making it not interesting. Others are difficult to build or not suitable for fresh starters. The introduction of SMD is ok but makes it even more difficult for some.
    When I was at school the school had a amateur radio station (the electronics lab held one 🙂 ), I don’t see that anymore… Some promotion there could also do the trick.
    When young people hear what a amateur station costs ( just to begin with) they tend to say…”but many of these things you do I can do via Skype, sms and the internet on my computer and it does not cost me anything extra”…

    Another good one could be to stop asking taxes from amateurs and make exams free of charge to begin with.


  • ka0tud Andy Gabbert:

    Interesting, an eye opening video.

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