There’s an interesting discussion ongoing on some of the amateur radio blogs (including this one) about how an analysis of the number of searches in Google using the term “ham radio” is trending. No doubt about it, if you simply look at the graph, it shows the hobby I love so much–and that I fully credit for getting me into a career in media–is trending more and more southward:
This could mean a number of things:
— People are getting their info about ham radio in other ways besides searching for that specific term on Google.
— They are searching for info on the hobby using other keywords, such as “amateur radio.”
— Nowadays, people search initially for information on a subject and then, if they find what they seek, they bookmark it/make it a favorite and don’t search anymore on Google.
— As we have gotten more sophisticated in how we use the search engines–often merely using the address bar in our browsers to type in odd terms that more closely match what we are seeking–the big, all-inclusive search terms are not used so often.
— Interest really is declining.
You know what my heart tells me. Licensing backs me up in that belief. We have more licensed amateurs in the country now than ever before in the 100-year history of the hobby. My sense is that the hobby is vibrant and growing, and, before you slap on me me that “rose-colored glasses” brand, be aware that I am pretty good at looking at things such as reliable research data realistically.
On the other hand, I still believe it behooves those of us active in the hobby, those who want to see it continue to grow, expand, and become even more exciting and diverse, to be evangelistic about it. We have to do what we can to recruit potential hams into our little “cult of the airwaves.”
That was one reason I wrote the book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO. I want people to understand that the hobby can be much more than sitting in a basement sending Morse code or trying futilely to hit repeaters with a handheld and a rubber-ducky antenna. As with most technology, our avocation has dramatically changed, and for the better. It offers so much to younger people who have grown up with cable, satellites, computers, and smart phones. True, those folks might think amateur radio is still what their weird uncle used to do in his back room with all that spittin’ and sparkin’ radio junk. We need to make them more aware of what the hobby is these days. And make sure they know that it absolutely can lead to a career in a technical field, including computers, communications, engineering, meteorology, media and more.
We won’t panic about that trend line. We will continue to do what we should be able to do best: COMMUNICATE!
Don Keith N4KC