Last weekend, my wife Kate (KB1OGF / VA3OGF) and I attended the annual Dayton (Ohio) Hamvention.
The Hamvention is, by far, the largest Amateur Radio gathering in North America, if not the world. The some 500 volunteers of the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) do an absolutely wonderful job of putting on this yearly "granddaddy" of Ham radio shows, and my continual praise goes to all of them for the outstanding work they do in support of the hobby.
During the show, I could usually be found helping out at the AMSAT booth. But, occasionally, I wandered off to "politic" for AMSAT with some of Ham Radio's "movers and shakers". I also spent about 45 minutes being interviewed by Ted Randall live on on his QSO Radio show. While I was being interviewed about my (and AMSAT's) various Ham Radio-related activities, the show was being broadcast over two international shortwave stations....one in Monticello, Maine (WBCQ) with 50,000 Watts of power as well as a new 100,000 Watt station in Lebanon, Tennessee (WTWW).
Clearly, Dayton offers Hams a chance to get "pumped up" about the future of our hobby.
But, all the same, while this year's Hamvention attendance was up some 20 percent over last yar (to over 25,000) the telltale signs of the eventual demise of our hobby were still very clearly on display for all to see.
First, the ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator folks have published some recent data that clearly shows that the number of newly licensed Hams in the USA continues to decline from its peak in the 2007-2008 time frame. While that decline is not (yet) steep, the overall trend is still very clearly downwards.
Second, while standing at our AMSAT booth, I couldn't help but again notice the overwhelming number of graying and balding heads (not to mention expanding waistlines) of the (predominantly male) attendees. The number of people in electric "scooters" (the scooter concession occupied fully one quarter of one of the large exhibition areas!) was at an all time high. And, sadly, while there were a number of "under twenty somethings" wandering about, they were vastly outnumbered by us aging "oldsters".
As I've said, because our licensing system is on a 10-year renewal cycle, I fear that we are poised for a steep decline in our numbers as time goes on. And the demographics of the crowd at Dayton was simply more evidence of that notion.
Clearly, decades of "eating our young"...caused by our collective insistence on keeping such arcane "hazing rituals" as Morse code tests and stupid "Incentive Licensing" nonsense firmly in place LONG after they had outlived any semblance of usefulness...are now starting to come home to roost in the form of a continually aging (and dying) Ham population.
Or, to put it another way, it would now appear that we are finally reaping what we, ourselves, have very clearly sown.