The Sub-Hobby

It’s often been said that amateur radio is a hobby consisting of many sub-hobbies.  This is true when you consider the different modes we use (like RTTY, CW, PSK), technical endeavors like equipment design and building, special operating techniques like satellite and moonbounce, different bands each with their own characteristics and fans like LF, HF, VHF/UHF, and microwave, and activity based sub-hobbies like contesting and DXing.  It’s multidimensional and there is often overlap between the various sub-hobbies.

Unfortunately there’s a detrimental sub-hobby that’s been around a long time, perhaps as far back as when there was spark and a new mode called CW was emerging.  It’s complaining about what everyone else is doing or how they’re doing it.

I was reminded of this on an unnamed social networking site that starts with the letter F and rhymes with the word crook.  Perhaps you’ve been there.  A poster in an amateur radio group couldn’t make sense out of people sending and receiving CW using computers, and quipped that operating this way was taking the “radio out of radio”.  Never mind that you can’t do this sort of operating without a radio.  The most vocal complainers in amateur radio tend to rant about amateurs who don’t operate CW, so it was ironic that this complaint was about people actually operating CW but not in a way that the poster and others like to do it.  As expected, the discussion was lively with many people lamenting over this operating method, and a lesser few defending it.

Any time I look an amateur radio activity, I ask a few basic questions:

  1. Is someone getting enjoyment out of it?
  2. Is it not harming anyone else and not detracting from anyone’s enjoyment of the hobby?
  3. Does it positively reflect amateur radio, both within the amateur radio community and the general public, or at least not reflect negatively on the hobby?
  4. Is it spectrally and resource efficient, and reasonable from an engineering perspective?
  5. Is it consistent with the spirit and nature of amateur radio?

If you can answer YES to all of these questions, I see no reason to complain about the activity.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years about amateur radio, it’s that if you’re more concerned about what others are doing, and not what you’re doing, and having fun doing it, it’s a sure fire way to be unhappy in amateur radio.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to

7 Responses to “The Sub-Hobby”

  • Alex, g7kse:

    I like to give good and bad CW Ops the same things to complain about. It’s more of a competition, guess what that character was supposed to be? Imagine what it would be like without my trusty K3NG keyer.

    That way they’re going to need a PC and their brains to decode the code!

    Keep up the good work OM.

  • brock thomsen w6gmt:

    The grumpy old men yelling about the destruction of Ham Radio started with the move from spark gap. The AM/SBB fight was major lets not even think about the code no code fight or the class of License/ privilege battle that is still going on. This public fighting has bee a black eye to the hobby for years and has cost our group many potential good ham operators. The grumpy old ham destroying new ideas then riding off into the sunset to tell his friends how he saved ham radio from a new threat needs to stop. Ham radio was at one point a leader in new Ideas for the use of the radio spectrum this is no longer the case.

  • Stephen G0PQB:

    I am about to go on 2 metres and use a repeater equipped with IRLP to talk to my pal Doug who lives in Sacremento together with my pal Vin who lives south west of London. Doug is unable to put up an HF antenna and so this is his only means of talking outside of the USA. Who dares to say that this is NOT Amateur Radio? It is another aspect of this great hobby.


    Amen! It’s good to be serious about it as long as it’s in the scope “a hobby”. Tnx for reminding your readers of this.

    –Lenny W2BVH

  • Richard N4PBQ:

    I was working a CW operator a while back who was sending perfect code with no mistakes. We chatted for quite a while and he told me he was using a computer because his arthritis had progressed to the point where he just couldn’t operate a key anymore. I was happy he was still able to operate and he sure was easy to copy. It’s a hobby. Whatever makes it work for you is great!

    -Rich N4PBQ (soon to be AA4OO)

  • kg7owo Paul:

    I have seen this too. Mostly these are the ones who believe that if you cannot decode and send at thirty WPM by ear and with a straight key, you should not be allowed to use a radio, any radio, at all.

  • Dave Deitrick, KB8XG:

    Instead of whining about what others are doing, we should try to find out why others find what they do so interesting. Great post.

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