It’s been well over a year since my post, “Ham Radio is Dead, Long Live Amateur Radio!” What has changed since then? Well, no sooner that post was out the pandemic descended upon us and in my opinion it was a good thing — for Amateur Radio.
First it forced older Hams to “level up” on current state of the art in technology. Radio clubs conceded that the closest experience they were going to have to face-to-face meetings for some time required the Internet with many older hams learning to use web teleconferencing technology.
When you are someone whose profession has you use web teleconferencing solutions every day, your leisure time activities become dystopian when that technology is required to engage the community in a meaningful way compounded by the sessions run and used by those new to the technology. I’ll contain my frustration to club meetings where people fail to mute their audio when not talking or stop video when doing other activities in front of the screen. My favorite is when people fall asleep and are snoring (I will screen shot that) and someone has to call them on the phone to wake them up. I also need to add not knowing how to setup co-host and smoothly transition to the list.
Imagine if UHF SSTV caught on way back when and being pushed to spend on that tech for a face-to-face meeting. Chills.
When the Networks fail … not!
I heard about a number of Emergency Service Radio organizations waiting for the collapse of the Internet with all the work from home (WFH) going. I guess they did not bother checking (nor had the clearance) to chat with the critical infrastructure services teams at the EOCs some of these organizations co-habitat at hospitals to know the contingencies in place the telcos had at the ready.
The Art of Community
With face-to-face meetings, people tend to sit in their usual spot talking to the usual people. Side conversations go on some times interrupt to the point of interrupting the meeting. If your new to Amateur Radio and shy your sorta feel you are only getting a glimpse of things at a club meeting as your drift towards the back of the roof. What is interesting with web teleconferencing adoption, attendees are in the same “front of the room” seat as everyone else delivering a roundtable experience drawing out more comments and activity from members.
For clubs who argue about a few bucks change in membership fees, it is a strange psychology that having to go through the “significant” expense (cough) of a web teleconferencing account that members are encouraged to maximize it by spawning off subcommittees for other activities.
Social RF distancing
For some the calendar year is marked by family birthdays/anniversaries, religious observations, and Field Day. As fun as Field Day can be out in the wild it can end being the same few people putting in the most heavy lifting in the prep and setup and the many showing up for free food (if they did not donate) and socializing.
The pandemic was a good motivator for Hams to re-think club operating events and the many options club members could engage. While many clubs were holding their breath for Field Day rule changes, other clubs either put extra planning in a pandemic compliant site and/or embraced remote technologies where club members could remote in over the Internet to a central club operating site.
Stuck with you
For clubs whose demographics have contributed to their activities slipping to Bingo night at the community center I hope the pandemic has been a wake up call for those who have not become silent keys. Evolve with the changes adding tangible value to your membership or expect to go quietly into that good night.