The rise of internet streaming and digital DAB radio have created huge competition for traditional radio broadcasters. Despite this, amateur radio is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, with professional organization, the National Association for Amateur Radio, noting a 1% growth in amateur radio enthusiasts last year. While this seems minor, it demonstrates a reverse of a shrinking trend, and gives an insight into what is a curious but popular past-time.
The growing popularity of amateur radio can, in part, be attributed to reduced barrier to entry. New amateur radio sets are coming down in price and have added functionality, while also remaining user friendly. Furthermore, there’s set to be a greater range of options for those looking to enter the scene. The AARL are hopeful that the FCC will open up a new 40Hz bandwidth for amateur radio usage, leading to a greater level of opportunity for new and old enthusiasts alike.
The retro vibe
Retro is back in style again. This ranges from fashion and aesthetics, through to technology such as photography, which, according to Digital Trends, is experiencing a renaissance. Arguably, this is a recoil to the convenient world of today, where people are after something more tangible. Radio harks back to the earlier part of the 20th century, and can provide a window into the past, with a lot to be learned along the way.
Amateur radio has more to offer than a window into the recent past, however. The practice is fighting some of the biggest battles occurring at the moment in the world of privacy and the right to communicate. In April 2019, British IT paper, The Register reported that radio advocates in the USA were fighting back against potential rulings by the FCC that would block certain wavelengths under the pretenses of national security. Privacy and online agency are two of the most hotly debated topics on the modern web and globally. Amateur radio is helping to provide an extra vanguard against the gradual erosion of those digital rights.
Ham and amateur radio is a real and engaging hobby. Quite apart from being a niche interest, evidence suggests that it is continuing to have a wide reach, and more and more people are engaging with it every year. Tying together old world themes with modern relevancy, amateur radio will continue to feature, despite the digital landscape taking over.