Ham Radio endures in a World of Tweets

Somehow it makes little sense that amateur "ham" radio continues to thrive in the age of Twitter, Facebook and iPhones. Yet the century-old communications technology -- which demands such commitment that you must generally pass an exam to receive a licence -- currently attracts around 350,000 practitioners in Europe, and a further 700,000 in the United States, some 60 per cent more than 30 years ago. What is it about a simple microphone, a transmitter-receiver and the seductive freedom of the open radio spectrum that's turned a low-tech anachronism into an enduring and deeply engaging global hobby?

For a start, there is that thrill in establishing a magical person-to-person long-distance radio conversation that no commodified internet communication can compete with. In a world of taken-for-granted torrents of emails, instant messages and Skype video-chats, there is a purity and a richness in the shared experience of exchanging "73s" during a live "QSO" with strangers on another continent. Why, the very "ham slang" that defines the community -- 73 translating as "best regards", and QSOs as two-way conversations -- tells practitioners that they belong to a special, mutually curious and highly courteous club. And the fact that DXers -- long-distance amateur operators -- take the trouble to acknowledge received transmissions and conversations by sending their new contacts custom-designed postcards through the analogue postal service.......

Ham Radio survives


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