A Few Interesting Ham Radio Blogs

One of the recent trends on the Internet is the use of Weblogs (commonly called “blogs”). Some of these are on-line journals; some are related to a particular topic or point of view. I’ve spent some time searching for ham radio related blogs and have come across these:

Let me know what you find out there in the blog-o-sphere.

Bob K0NR

Some Amateur Radio Statistics

Just how many FCC licensed amateur radio operators are there in the United States? More importantly, what percentage of the US population does this represent and how does it stack up to other activities?

According to data that Joe Speroni AH0A collects from the FCC records, there are 661,272 amateur radio licensees in the US (as of 20 Nov 2005):

Extra Advanced General Tech Novice Total
107,177 74,351 135,023 317,839 26,882 661,272

The Novice license is only a small slice of licensees these days, but the Technician license represents almost half of the radio operators. Extra Class licensees are about 16% of the ham population.

According to the US Census Bureau, the population of the US is roughly 297,728,533, plus or minus a few! A little math tells us that approximately 0.22% of the US population has an amateur radio license. The ARRL (The National Association for Amateur Radio) has approximately 152,000 members, which represents 23% of the US radio amateur population.

The CTIA says that there are 199,209,271 wireless (“cell phone”) subscribers in the U.S. This means that cell phone users outnumber ham radio operators by 300 to one. It wasn’t that long ago that handheld cellphones didn’t exist, so the only people with portable wireless devices were ham radio ops, police officers, firefighters and the occasional construction worker. The widespread adoption of mobile phones represents a dramatic shift in the world of wireless comms.

Let’s take a look at some other hobby and recreation activities. Fishing is one of the most popular sports in America. The American Sportfishing Association estimates that there are 44.2 million people in the US that participate in recreational fishing.

According to an Outdoor Industry Association report, there are 15.1 million people in the US that participated in birdwatching (2004 data). From the same report, 4.7 million people were active in snowshoeing, a small but fast-growing winter activity. Hiking had 75.3 million participants while backpacking (hiking with an overnight stay) had 13.3 million. In terms of participation, birdwatching is 22 times more popular than ham radio (and this assumes that all licensed hams are active). Even snowshoeing wins out over ham radio by a factor of 7.

By any measure, ham radio is a small niche hobby.

Where to find information on D-STAR

I’ve posted a few things about the D-STAR digital radio standard for ham radio. If you want to find out more about it, check out these links:

The QST Product Review section from June 2005:
(ARRL membership required…….what, you are not a member????)

Also, the ICOM web site:

The forums on ICOM’s web site

The Texas Interconnect Team (K5TIT), a group that is active on D-Star

Amateur Radio Today Video

This is a video that was released some time ago with some great coverage of ham radio emergency service. After hurricane Katrina hit, I was checking out the ARRL web site and came across it. It has some great footage from the Hayman Fire, the largest Colorado wildfire in recorded history. This was close to home as I had helped out with comms for that fire and had been on standby to evacuate my home.

From the ARRL web site ( http://www.arrl.org/ARToday/ ):

Amateur Radio’s public service story–now available on video!

Narrated by former CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, KB2GSD, Amateur Radio Today showcases the public service contributions made by hams throughout the country.

Highlights include:

  • ham radio’s response on September 11, 2001
  • ham radio’s part in helping various agencies respond to wildfires in the Western US during 2002
  • ham radio-in-space educational initiatives

Across Lake Michigan on 146.52 MHz

Last July, my wife and I were walking along the beach on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Ludington State Park to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. While we waited for the lighthouse to open, I was listening to 146.52 MHz on my VX-2R handheld radio. I heard a signal coming through which turned out to be W9ZL calling. This was a special event station, so I figured they were operating from one of the lighthouses or other location close by.

I wasn’t sure where W9ZL was located but I soon found out that it was the Fox Cities Amateur Radio Club operating at AirVenture, the famous Oshkosh, Wisconsin experimental aircraft show. Of course, this was on the “other” side of Lake Michigan, and significant distance into Wisconsin. I worked W9ZL using just 2 watts from the little HT. Later, I calculated that the distance of this QSO was a little over 100 miles, about 60 miles across Lake Michigan and another 40 miles across land. Not too bad for VHF QRP (with FM) !!!

The special event certificate is shown above left. (Click to make it larger.)