Amateur Radio Ranks Are NOT Shrinking

Apologies To Ham Operators
Two weeks ago, Microwaves & RF, a magazine I frequently reference here, published an article titled, “Amateur Radio Ranks Are Shrinking.” Well, we all know this just isn’t true, and a number of hams quickly set the editor, Jack Browne straight.

Yesterday, Browne published the retraction below. Browne says, “In fact, the number of ham operators is growing and the membership in the ARRL is strong.” While the first part of that statement is certainly true, I still don’t think ARRL membership is as strong as it should be, but that will be the topic for another blog post.

Thanks, Jack, for the clarification!

Jack Browne
October 7, 2010

Two weeks ago, in this column, a statement was made that the ranks of amateur (ham) radio operators were shrinking. As it turns out, the number of licensed amateur radio operators is growing in the United States, as in membership in the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). The comments on shrinking numbers were based on a misleading report from an industry company newsletter. In fact, the number of ham operators is growing and the membership in the ARRL is strong, as pointed out by a multitude of responses from spirited ham operators. My thanks and appreciation to all those who wrote back and helped to correct erroneous reporting at this end.

Further details on the growth numbers can be found in the Editorial for the October issue of Microwaves & RF, which indicate growth from 2008 to 2009 and from 2009 to 2010. Regarding the number of e-mails that came as a result of that “shrinking” report, it points out that the amateur radio community is not only growing, but a vibrant group, unwilling to sit back passively when misrepresented in the press. It is a group that understands fundamental RF communications and appreciates the elegance of making a direct connection with another operator. It is also a group that may prove vital to this nation’s security one day as an emergency communications network, should a severe national crisis occur.


  1. Ned WB4BKO says:

    I’ve seen he latest tallies from ARRL about the hobby’s growth and I think it’s grand The great concern I have is why are radio club memberships dwindling. I presume it has something to do with the active lives most people lead.

    Our club membership has dropped drastically and many club meetings are attended by perhaps only a dozen members. Very little new blood coming in. Seems as if most members are dying off and there are no eager new faces filling the voids. Can you shed some light on this dilemma?

    I belong to a club in Ocala, Florida (Friendship ARC) which consists primarily of retirees. It really is nice because our monthly meetings are at 1 PM. Allowing me to go shopping and getting home before it gets dark.

  2. Dan KB6NU says:

    I don’t think it’s just ham radio that’s experiencing this. About ten years ago, a political scientist and professor of public policy at Harvard, Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone. The book’s website notes:

    Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.

    In a sidebar, is the factoid that over the past 25 years, club membership has dropped 58%.

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