Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another year closer to old-fartdom

It's my birthday. I'm now 56. So forgive me if today's post is a journey into old-fartdom.

I'm old enough to remember when children's TV presenters were respectable, well-educated role models who spoke correctly and wore smart dress. The men wore jackets and ties. Then the trendies and the politically correct brigade took over and decided that these role models were too middle class. So these presenters were replaced by younger people in casual clothes, who talked in the vernacular and didn't present anything too challenging. I often wonder if changes such as this - which were also reflected in the teaching profession - are responsible for the lack of aspiration of many young people today?

The June issue of RadCom arrived today. It contains a letter from a gentleman with an M3 callsign who complains that too much of the content is aimed at "engineers and people who have been in the hobby all their lives." He hints that he may not renew his subscription if so much of the content is beyond his understanding.

I'm not an engineer, and although I have been in this hobby now for over 40 years I started off knowing as little as this M3. When I first joined the RSGB RadCom was more like a learned professional journal. There was nearly always one major constructional project ongoing (remember the G2DAF transceiver?) plus several pages of the late lamented Technical Topics looking at different types of circuits and antennas. I didn't understand much of it, but I tried, and sometimes I succeeded and learned something. Most of what I know about radio today I learned from RadCom and other RSGB and ARRL publications. (I've probably forgotten most of it again, but that's another matter entirely.)

Now I'm all for encouraging new people into the hobby, and you'll never hear me complaining about no-code hams. The use of morse code is not compulsory so I see no reason for continuing to require a knowledge of it before being granted an amateur radio license, any more than people should be required to know how to use PSK31 or SSTV. But ham radio is a technical hobby. It isn't CB. It isn't for people who just want to talk to other people by pressing a PTT, without understanding how their voice gets from A to B.

If we have got to the stage where people who have got an amateur radio license complain that the national radio society's magazine contains too much technical material, perhaps the dumbing down of the hobby in order to attract new people has gone too far. Perhaps people are being encouraged to become radio amateurs whose needs would have been satisfied very well by CB.

I hope that the RSGB will not be tempted to dumb down RadCom to the dire level that has been reached by the ARRL's QST.
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