18,270 New Licenses Issued Through June 2010

From the July 15, 2010 issue of the ARRL Letter:

With more than 18,000 new Amateur Radio licenses issued in the first half of this year — 18,270 to be exact — 2010 is shaping up to be a banner year for Amateur Radio. So far, the number of new licenses issued by the FCC in 2010 is outpacing the January-June 2009 totals by almost 8.5 percent; at this time last year, the FCC had issued 16,844 new licenses. As of June 30, 2010, there are 694,346 licensed Amateur Radio operators in the US, an almost 1 percent rise over all of calendar year 2009. Broken down by license class at the end of June 2010, there were 16,299 Novices, 342,064 Technicians, 154,284 Generals, 60,059 Advanced and 121,640 Amateur Extra licensees .

Read complete article.

I still think we’re not doing enough to help new hams get involvedin the hobby and really learn ham radio, but I suppose that having more hams is a good thing. Despite my rant five years about leaving no ham behind, I’ve found that many new hams are either reluctant to ask for help or just want to make their own way. I haven’t figured out which it is, but I do know that few of the students in my one-day class ever take me up on my offer of help.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. I think many might be reluctant to ask for help because they don’t want to appear too ignorant. There’s lots to know but any exposure to other hams can be intimidating. Hams use a lot of jargon and most new hams have no idea what is being said. Instead of offering help it might be more effective to schedule a “Get On The Air” seminar/class/session. Just showing the uninitiated how to get on the air rather than offering undefined help would let questions and anxieties be answered in a teaching event.

  2. It seems that Hacker Spaces and the Make movement are attracting the tinkerers and experimenter folks who would be good candidates for Ham Radio but who would also be inclined to ‘figure it out myself’ types. But that probably isn’t the demographic you’re getting in your classes…

  3. Dan,
    I tend to agree. We’ve had good luck with getting people licensed lately with our 2-day Tech License Class. But that is only the start…got to get people on the air and participating in ham radio.

    Field Day was a help…especially the GOTA station (really great concept, maybe we should do it at other times of the year).

    I’ve kept an email list of all of the new hams and have been feeding them info on local swapfests, skywarn training, nets, operating events, etc. This gives them some helpful info but also keeps them in touch.

    We are trying to figure out some workshops (e.g., build an antenna) to provide some practical experience.

    Still searching for more.

    73, Bob K0NR

  4. My wife and I offer two follow-up classes after our 1-day classes.

    The first is 2.5 hours in the evening, about a week and a half after the weekend class. I bring lots of radios and catalogs and answer all questions. I explain the difference between mono and multi-band, dual receive and even tough on D-Star. I bring recently licensed hams who have acquired radios and are ‘radio active.’

    The second class, two weeks later, is all about programming their radios. I get lots of help from hams in the community – we try to have one ham per group of people with the same radio. We show them how to program a simplex and repeater frequency using their own radios. We do a quick directed net on simplex and then jump on one of the local repeaters and get them to talk to the ham community.

    Unfortunately, only 20% of the 1-day licensees elect to do the follow-up classes. I once had 18 people, but that was unusual. It’s usually 5 or 10 out of 40. The good news is that I publicize the free follow-up classes and some people take them up to a year after getting their license. They’re open to everyone.

    We also send them home with local net info and a big invitation to check in. We even have a “New Hams Net” every week where we try to get the new hams to actually press the button. “We know you’re out there listening, so we’ll take a long stand by… just press the button and say your call now!”

    For people who are willing to join our disaster comms group, we offer the loan of a dual-band radio for 3 months (until our next quarterly class). We got 13 FT-60R radios through a generous grant from a local business. I know some clubs that financed the same program through flea market donations and club-sponsored events. This overcomes one of the major problems in getting the new hams “radio active.” Most of the people who borrow the radios actually get on the air and buy or borrow radios to stay on the air.

  5. Hmm, I wonder how many of those extra new licensees are wannabee emcomm wackers?

  6. Dan KB6NU says:

    I think offering structured follow-on classes is a good idea. I’m going to have to start doing that. Jack might be right that offering some undefined help might not be the right approach.

  7. There could be some sort of practical apprenticeship. It can be hard to find an Elmer sometimes. When I was more active there were 10 grouchy lids per friendly Elmer in the local area, which chased many potential hams into computers, robots and other activities. Construction and operational procedures are what is needed.

  8. I’m one of those 18,270. Actually, I think you were there for my first contact (with K8ELR, at the Mini Maker Faire in Ann Arbor earlier this year).

    Jack is right, in that there’s so much to know, and the rules of how to communicate on the air seem so rigid (and altogether different on 2m repeaters than on HF) that it’s more than a little indimidating to look for help on the air.

    Norm’s got a great program going, there, with the followup classes. I’d love something like that in my area!

    I thought I’d pitch in, here. As a new ham, here’s what I’d love to see:

    * Open and active clubs, with frequent meetings and/or focused meetings. If it’s just a gathering of old friends who’ve been at this a long time, it can be tough for a new guy to break in. If the meeting has a purpose – maybe a practical component where some specific equipment is discussed or where someone gives a presentation on something they’re well-versed in – that does a lot to level the field and allow a new guy to either just sit and absorb, or ask targeted questions.

    * Better resources for figuring out what equipment is necessary to get on the air on a given band, and what’s optional. Ham radio seems to be so modular that it’s hard to tell what parts you need, and what parts are included with some component. Example: most electonics come with an AC cord or a place for batteries. Having to buy a power supply separately is a little unexpected at first. Throw in antennas, and antenna tuners (and figuring out which kinds of antennas even need tuners) and SWR meters and all the rest, and a $600 radio that was pushing the budget to begin with quickly ends up being out of reach. And I’m still not sure I’ve included all the things I’ll need. (Looks like QRP CW may be the thing for me…)

    * A welcoming attitude on the air from the old hands when a new guy shows up. I see this pretty well where I am (central Ohio), and it’s awfully nice. I’ve only ever been on the repeaters so far, so it’s all local folks I’m talking to. I once caught a 2m net where they were teaching morse code – that was great!

    * Good ham radio blogs. You’re the first hit for “ham radio blog” on Google. Ever think about adding a list of links to other good ham blogs? The three you linked to on 7/17 are wonderful!

    Anyhow – just one guy’s thoughts. Thanks for your writing – I stop by a few times a week to see what you’re up to.

  9. Dan KB6NU says:

    Brian:
    Yes, that was me at the Mini-Maker Faire. In fact, it was me doing the talking. It was Jim’s QSL card, though. We were happy to be able to give you your first QSO!

    Thanks for all your comments. This has turned into a great post.

    And, yes, I realize that I’m #1 on Google. In fact, I often joke that my claim to fame in ham radio is that I have the #1-rated ham radio blog…at least as far as Google is concerned.

    Instead of having to remember to stop by, you can subscribe to my RSS feed, either directly or by e-mail. To subscribe by e-mail, go to the home page, then type your e-mail address into the text box at the top of the right-hand column.

  10. Brian,
    Dan does have a list of ham radio blogs on the right side of his blog page. He has excellent taste (but I could be biased since he has my blog listed :-) )

    73, Bob K0NR

  11. Stu W0STU says:

    Dan,
    I instruct the 2 day tech class with K0NR and have brought along about a dozen 10 to 13 year old boy scouts who have all successfully tested, with many of their parents trailing along. As a follow-on activity I conduct a weekly radio net with these boys and their parents that blends scouting and ham radio topics. The net gets them on the air applying their new skills, it promotes comfort operating with a known group, and it exposes them to more topics in amateur radio. The net invites local experienced hams to share their knowledge and experiences with these young upstarts, and the net is very popular with the boys, their licensed parents, and the old hats to boot! The experienced hams seem to enjoy the interaction with the kids and appreciate their “youthful exuberance” for ham radio.
    Further, we arranged for several of these newbies to support our small town’s not-so-small Independence Day Parade with comm support to the parade directors, complete with comm relay to emergency responders. This really exercised these boys’ (and licensed parents’) radio skills, provided a community service that was lauded by the parade organizers, and allowed the scouts to log service hours for scouting advancement. Although they are young and newly licensed, they performed spectacularly and the parade proceeded very smoothly as a result of their efforts. It gave these new hams a real hands-on experience with how amateur radio can be applied to problem solving and tactical coordination. We are providing a similar service soon to a local non-profit historical museum during the setup and conduct of a fundraising festival at the museum, coordinating sequenced activities, parking, fee collections, crowd management, and other logistics for the 9-hour event held on a large open outdoor area.
    Finally, one additional activity that is perhaps unique to this group of new operators: Nine of these boys attended BSA summer camp recently and brought their HTs with them. They self-organized an informal net to coordinate their movements and meetings between scheduled training sessions on the ~4 square mile camp area, they organized two search parties during the week to find wayward scouts, and they provided other coordinating services to their troop of 45+ members at camp that saved time and footsteps and recovered lost property. Again, this kind of hands-on, real world application really exercises their skills and builds their comfort on the air.
    While these kinds of activities may not be readily available to all elmers and instructors seeking follow-on activities to get new licensees operating, it does illustrate that with a little thought and perhaps a willingness to accept a little risk with newbies, there are lots of ways to keep new hams engaged and enthusiastic. Maybe this will give others a seed of ideas for their own unique groups and situations.
    Thanks for the blog! Nice job! 73,

    Stu / W0STU

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