Amateur Radio is Not for Talking

When the topic of ham radio comes up with normal people (that is, non-hams), I usually get asked the question “Who Do You Talk To?” I always come up with some vague and lame answer like “people all over the world” that gets me by.

I finally figured out what the problem is: amateur radio is not for talking to people. At least not for me. If you just want to talk to someone, there are much better ways to do it, such as the telephone…or Skype.  There was a time long, long ago when one of the hooks for ham radio was “you can talk to a family member” when telephone service was not available or too expensive. Those days are gone. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the hook was often “make mobile phone calls via the repeater autopatch.” That was cool stuff that mere mortals could not do.  With everyone and their dog now having a mobile phone, those days are gone, too.

So where does that leave us? Back where we started: the Universal Purpose of Amateur Radio is to have fun messing around with radios. Of course, this takes many different forms: public service, emergency communications, chasing DX, chasing counties, competing in contests, building kits, running QRP…to name just a few.

Now you will hear actual conversations on the ham bands but if you listen closely they usually have a radio underpinning to them. Hams are always talking about their equipment, signal strength, why their antenna is so great, why their antenna fell down, etc. It is kind of like making a telephone call where you talk about the quality of the phone line, the type of telephone being used and potential improvements to your home phone system.

Wait, you say, what about those guys on 75 Meters every evening talking about their medical conditions and complaining about the government? Aren’t those guys actually talking to people?

Those guys — I can’t explain.

73, Bob K0NR

5 Replies to “Amateur Radio is Not for Talking”

  1. You explained those 75 meter guys. They, apparently, enjoy talking about their medical conditions and complaining about the government. So, they’re having fun. 🙂

  2. I do think that, in part, the talking can fall under ‘to have fun messing around with radios’. A friend of mine in real life, despite both of us having each other on Windows Live, Facebook and several other instant messengers (and frequently communicating with each other via such mediums) do regularly talk over Amateur Radio simply because, to us, it’s novel and there is that fun of simply messing around with and learning about radios.

  3. Good point! The fact that shortwave radio in some sense has been replaced by satellites, internet and digital communications is as relevant as the replacement of horse transport by cars, sail boats by motor boats or bicycles by motor cycles. People still ride, sail and bike for a lot of reasons.

    In addition to “have fun messing around with radios”, I would add the fun of mastering something which is more difficult than the modern version.

  4. Sverre, when I say “have fun” I mean that in the broadest sense. It might be more accurate to say “getting satisfaction and enjoyment”…which includes your idea of mastering something more difficult.

    Bob K0NR