[originally from QST/Jan. 2011, reprinted with permission of the author ]

I have, at last, identified the one glaring difference between my generation of Amateur Radio experimenters and the current batch of 2-meter obsessed appliance operators.

In OUR day, it was our job to CREATE emergencies. The new Emcom oriented hams are intent on “fixing” emergencies.

It’s all so clear now. And the solution to this sad, current state of affairs is on its way!

How many of our “Emcommers” ever stuck a screwdriver into a wall socket when they were toddlers? Precious few, I’d venture to bet.

How many ARES members in their youth set the carpet, the ceiling, or the family cat on fire while attempting to build a Tesla coil or Jacob’s Ladder in their bedroom? Nary a one, I dare say.

Far too much amateur radio “promotional” literature is wasted on trying to portray amateur radio as civilized, safe, or useful. I say, let’s put the mad scientist back into ham radio where he belongs!

Take a look around you? How many people do you see of the younger generation? And I don’t mean the under 55 crowd.

We say we want young blood in the hobby, but do we mean it? Look at what we have to compete with…paintball, bungee jumping, body piercing, extreme skateboarding.

What do all these activities have in common? They scare the tar out of you! That’s what!

When’s the last time you got a good scare out of amateur radio? Shucks, you have to really work at it to even get a tingle out of it these days. Something is very wrong with this picture.

On the exceedingly rare occasion when a youngster DOES deign to darken our doors, we generally drive him away with all kinds of excruciatingly boring things like club politics and repeater reports. Shucks, that stuff even bores the snot out of me, and I’m an old geezer!

I don’t know about any of you, but despite my decrepit old age, I lucidly remember what it was like to be a teenager. It was the smoke and flames and Moonbounce that attracted me to the ham radio in the first place. If I was a teenager investigating the hobby nowadays with its current emphasis on homeland security and similar useful- but-dull activities, I would have taken up the daring world of stamp collecting instead. At least there was the danger of getting a paper cut.

It’s obvious our “youth recruiting” efforts are not working, because we never see any of them show up more than once. Statistics across the board bear this out.

We’ve done a pretty good job of scaring kids out of ham radio. It’s about time we scared them back INTO it!

Ham radio needs to sizzle, crackle and bang!

Not to mention, SMELL! How many of this new generation of even know what Ozone smells like?

Come on people! Let’s have some action! We’ve put a lot of emphasis on responding to emergencies. We should at least devote an equal amount of time to generating them. Lots of hams get some sort of vicarious thrill following emergency responders to some disaster site. Once in a while, they should be coming to OUR doors!

My dad understood this, even though he wasn’t a ham. He was a helicopter design engineer in what is now Silicon Valley, in the very infancy of helicopter flight. He’d regularly come home with pieces of helicopter rotors that had embedded themselves in the walls of the hangar, or other such informative artifacts.

“Well, THAT one didn’t work so hot,” he’d calmly announce.

It was a scary business, even if you weren’t actually flying them yourself.

We radio amateurs DO have the capacity to compete with paintball and skateboards. If we have the will. We just need to get back to the scary stuff of radio. The fun stuff.

I want to leave this hobby with my eyebrows smoldering and my ears ringing.

I think our kids want to enter it the same way.

Just ask them. I have.

Figured it out
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