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Thread: Dying UK Clubs

  1. #1

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    Default Dying UK Clubs

    As the Secretary of the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club (UK), unlike many other clubs we still survive well and provide regular training, because we not only strive to provide interesting lectures etc once a month. Also unlike many clubs we try to cover a broad range of interest, although partly due to old age few of our members ever go on air, and many are not even licensed.I always maintain many UK clubs have closed, because they wrongly devote all their activity to Amateur Radio.

    Some old timers even dare to criticise such as me. Because of being too old the clamber around on ladders to experiment with HF antennas, unlike with the majority of HF, I make numerous DX contacts using Echolink lasting up to say 20 minutes. Strangely old timers claim even using Repeaters, let alone with a PC is ‘ not really Amateur Radio ‘. Probably because using Echolink is so easy, and they prefer to treat AM as a challenge using DX on HF as a SPORT. This is in spite of the long DX QSOs only consistently possible on Echolink are surely far more effective in fostering the Spirit of World HAM Radio, then bragging about such as the few seconds contacts in contests backed up by innumerable QSO cards!

    Gordon

  2. #2
    Super Moderator 2E0FVL's Avatar
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    Gordon,
    I have just been reading a long thread on this subject on a national motorsport forum, it's not just radio related.
    Our motor club used to meet every week but it just tends to be committee meetings these days.
    Once per month we used to have a social event of some kind, talk, quiz, basic first aid etc but numbers kept dropping out of 100 members we got down to six attending the last social event, and we were giving them a free buffet!!
    Also Worthing & District ARC have moved from weekly meetings to fortnightly as numbers were dropping.
    With the motor club we sent out a questionnaire to see what peoples thoughts were, those that replied said that they can get all the information from the internet or club magazine, which seems to be the general theme on the national motorsport forum.
    So I guess we stop putting the information on the internet and get people back in the club room!!
    I will add that both of these clubs are active in what they do but just don't seem need club nights to get the info!!
    Pete - 2EØFVL
    The QRM Formally Known As M6PAP!!
    www.selseylifeboats.co.uk
    www.amberleymuseum.co.uk

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    Super Moderator G6NHU's Avatar
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    Sorry Gordon, I really disagree. Using Echolink, QsoNet etc to talk to amateur radio operators is no different (in my opinion) than going to the pub, or the radio club and talking to other radio people.

    I don't understand how a conversation via the internet using TCP/IP can be described as having a DX QSO. The distance is irrelevant, there's no RF involved so DX or local has no meaning.

    I have no problems with repeaters at all to aid mobile communications, they're an essential part of the hobby.

    Treat the QsoNet/Echolink systems as they're intended, an communications system for people who don't have the capability to transmit RF but please don't claim they're radio because they're not.

    On the subject of radio clubs - I agree that clubs are dying and that's a real shame. When I first started in this hobby, I used to go to the local radio club every week and the club was well patronised. I suspect that's rare these days though.

    A group of us locally are in the process of creating a new radio club but one which encompasses all forms of wireless - amateur, cb, shortwave listeners, anyone. I'm hoping that it'll get a lot of interest and that we'll have a fun time.

  4. #4

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    Does OFCOM or RSGB want the UK to have a future in Amateur Radio?

    This will probably seem to be a bitch or rant but it’s not meant as such.

    By trade I am a computer programmer and over 15 years (while in the USA) I was roped into help support a failing local computer club. In part the biggest problem, which it was facing, was a shift from a more technical user to home users.
    What has this to do with Amateur Radio you may be asking yourself. Well when I went to stay at my sisters over Christmas, I was introduced to her new neighbor, a retired gentleman, who was also a radio amateur. Now I have come across radio amateur before at the computer club but have never really had the time, to give it more than a nod of acknowledgement.

    My profession, has lead me to a personal interest in electronics, more towards digital, embedded, DSP. Having more time on my hands these days, talk of Amateur Satellite, new modes such as PSK31 with homebrew hardware/software etc, caught my imagination. I was told that, I am just the sort of person Amateur Radio/clubs need as they are, in a lot of areas are in serious decline.

    So I picked up a copy of the Foundation Licence NOW! And out of curiosity a copy of the Intermediate Licence, Building on the Foundation. The later was what I pretty much expected. A good general overview of the skills needed (given building modify equipment).
    Somewhere in the past I had heard about the new novice licence, which is targeted at getting a different generation involved. Upon opening, Foundation Licence NOW!, I thought brilliant, a clear basic overview, which combined with a local club/operators should get you up and running. Then quickly moved onto the Intermediate, thinking can I take both exams on the same day? (I’m not bragging, as I said before I have had an interest in electronics for a long time).

    As I was reading, Building on the Foundation, I was joined by my number one daughter (14) who really struggled at first with why I didn’t just use Skype or MSN. Being a bit techy like mum and dad, she grew a bit more interested and started flicking through Foundation Now! (Although an earlier query about European boys may have had more to do with it).

    So I ask “Do you want to do the foundation course with me”
    “No, I cannot be bothered with the Morse code thing.” She responds
    To which I respond “not any more”
    Which was quickly followed by “durrrrr….” As she passes the open book back to me.

    Being guilty of not RTFM in the past I re-read…history of morse….why it was needed…why it’s no longer needed….
    Screech of breaks, tearing of gears as I force reverse gear. “For the foundation license there is no test as such, but a suitable standard must be reached.”

    WTF?

    Why the negative reaction to Morse? It’s not Morse itself but the timing. Going back to when I was asked to help out at the computer club, the biggest problem that we faced keeping new members, was the steep learning curve in a faster paced lifestyle.

    A potential member would come in who for example, wanted to improve basic skills and how to use a word processor for the novel he was about to write. Resident experts would try to help by explaining how computers work, how to format floppy disks using the command line, then on to writing batch files for backups. All things, from the user’s perspective, had nothing to do with them. So, that was the last that they were seen.

    The first thing the club changed was with new members, was to stay on topic, as once they picked the skills they needed, some would leave, however others would look around at what others were doing and move up a stage. In 2000-ish a small group done very well for themselves commercially by teaching themselves Visual Basic for Applications, with only a little help from me and another member who, although C programmers but could help with basic fundamentals such as variables, logic operators etc. These members, would a run for the hills if programming was a prerequisite for membership.

    So why the Morse prerequisite; talking to a few amateurs the reason is “I had to bloody well learn it, so you bloody well will”. Do you use it? “No.” or “I use a computer to do the work for me” or “no PSK31 is where it’s at now”.

    Will the Morse prerequisite stop me, no, but… I don’t have a lot of spare time and… I have other interests, so it could put the license back a bit.

    My plan at the moment maybe to pick up a hackable 10m rig and experiment on the so called freeband for the following reason, given to me bay a licenced amateur. New multimode VHF/UHF rigs are expensive, you could chance you hand with old kit but…. A new all band HF rig will come in at a similar price…. For 200, you can by a new multimode 10m, you are more likely to use most voice and digital forms of comms from home and abroad. If the habit bites then go the whole hog and license up.
    In response to G6NHU, A group of us locally are in the process of creating a new radio club but one which encompasses all forms of wireless.
    Perhaps you could also try to work it as a hackers space/club as well, as it could bring in a lot of the robot/ Arduino/makers crowd.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator G6NHU's Avatar
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    Just to give you an idea of what the 'suitable standard' is.

    At a local club, as part of their Foundation training they run a Morse Appreciation session. That lasts about half an hour for a group of four and nobody has ever failed it.

    The trainer talks a bit about Morse code and what it's used for and then passes around a Morse key with a copy of the code. Each person is asked to use the key and send their name. The speed is unimportant, it's just about translating those written characters into tones.

    Then once they're all done, the instructor sends a couple of words, very slowly, allowing time for each student to look up what the letters are.

    That's it. Job done. Nobody fails. It's an 'appreciation' and an understanding why Morse is still used, nothing more.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by G6NHU View Post

    That's it. Job done. Nobody fails. It's an 'appreciation' and an understanding why Morse is still used, nothing more.
    Can I ask why bother testing for it at all? Having spoken to a couple of people today (before reading your responce), the thing that put them off, was having to learn a new language as well as a new form of communication. As well as, if you do not have any electronics experience, a lot of other things.


    No disrespect intended but wouldn't the time be better spent on ergonomics for example?

  7. #7
    Super Moderator 2E0FVL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1ABM3 View Post
    Can I ask why bother testing for it at all? Having spoken to a couple of people today (before reading your responce), the thing that put them off, was having to learn a new language as well as a new form of communication. As well as, if you do not have any electronics experience, a lot of other things.


    No disrespect intended but wouldn't the time be better spent on ergonomics for example?
    My guess is because it exists in the hobby as does electronics but I wont be touching that either, but guess we should know about it!
    Other sensible thoughts/reasons are available!!
    Pete - 2EØFVL
    The QRM Formally Known As M6PAP!!
    www.selseylifeboats.co.uk
    www.amberleymuseum.co.uk

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1ABM3 View Post
    Does OFCOM or RSGB want the UK to have a future in Amateur Radio?

    This will probably seem to be a bitch or rant but it’s not meant as such.

    By trade I am a computer programmer and over 15 years (while in the USA) I was roped into help support a failing local computer club. In part the biggest problem, which it was facing, was a shift from a more technical user to home users.
    What has this to do with Amateur Radio you may be asking yourself. Well when I went to stay at my sisters over Christmas, I was introduced to her new neighbor, a retired gentleman, who was also a radio amateur. Now I have come across radio amateur before at the computer club but have never really had the time, to give it more than a nod of acknowledgement.

    My profession, has lead me to a personal interest in electronics, more towards digital, embedded, DSP. Having more time on my hands these days, talk of Amateur Satellite, new modes such as PSK31 with homebrew hardware/software etc, caught my imagination. I was told that, I am just the sort of person Amateur Radio/clubs need as they are, in a lot of areas are in serious decline.

    So I picked up a copy of the Foundation Licence NOW! And out of curiosity a copy of the Intermediate Licence, Building on the Foundation. The later was what I pretty much expected. A good general overview of the skills needed (given building modify equipment).
    Somewhere in the past I had heard about the new novice licence, which is targeted at getting a different generation involved. Upon opening, Foundation Licence NOW!, I thought brilliant, a clear basic overview, which combined with a local club/operators should get you up and running. Then quickly moved onto the Intermediate, thinking can I take both exams on the same day? (I’m not bragging, as I said before I have had an interest in electronics for a long time).

    As I was reading, Building on the Foundation, I was joined by my number one daughter (14) who really struggled at first with why I didn’t just use Skype or MSN. Being a bit techy like mum and dad, she grew a bit more interested and started flicking through Foundation Now! (Although an earlier query about European boys may have had more to do with it).

    So I ask “Do you want to do the foundation course with me”
    “No, I cannot be bothered with the Morse code thing.” She responds
    To which I respond “not any more”
    Which was quickly followed by “durrrrr….” As she passes the open book back to me.

    Being guilty of not RTFM in the past I re-read…history of morse….why it was needed…why it’s no longer needed….
    Screech of breaks, tearing of gears as I force reverse gear. “For the foundation license there is no test as such, but a suitable standard must be reached.”

    WTF?

    Why the negative reaction to Morse? It’s not Morse itself but the timing. Going back to when I was asked to help out at the computer club, the biggest problem that we faced keeping new members, was the steep learning curve in a faster paced lifestyle.

    A potential member would come in who for example, wanted to improve basic skills and how to use a word processor for the novel he was about to write. Resident experts would try to help by explaining how computers work, how to format floppy disks using the command line, then on to writing batch files for backups. All things, from the user’s perspective, had nothing to do with them. So, that was the last that they were seen.

    The first thing the club changed was with new members, was to stay on topic, as once they picked the skills they needed, some would leave, however others would look around at what others were doing and move up a stage. In 2000-ish a small group done very well for themselves commercially by teaching themselves Visual Basic for Applications, with only a little help from me and another member who, although C programmers but could help with basic fundamentals such as variables, logic operators etc. These members, would a run for the hills if programming was a prerequisite for membership.

    So why the Morse prerequisite; talking to a few amateurs the reason is “I had to bloody well learn it, so you bloody well will”. Do you use it? “No.” or “I use a computer to do the work for me” or “no PSK31 is where it’s at now”.

    Will the Morse prerequisite stop me, no, but… I don’t have a lot of spare time and… I have other interests, so it could put the license back a bit.

    My plan at the moment maybe to pick up a hackable 10m rig and experiment on the so called freeband for the following reason, given to me bay a licenced amateur. New multimode VHF/UHF rigs are expensive, you could chance you hand with old kit but…. A new all band HF rig will come in at a similar price…. For 200, you can by a new multimode 10m, you are more likely to use most voice and digital forms of comms from home and abroad. If the habit bites then go the whole hog and license up.
    In response to G6NHU, A group of us locally are in the process of creating a new radio club but one which encompasses all forms of wireless.
    Perhaps you could also try to work it as a hackers space/club as well, as it could bring in a lot of the robot/ Arduino/makers crowd.
    Not sure why your hung up about the morse aspect, there is no pass or fail, its more a demonstration and you have a go, I wouldn't call it a test. Its only in the book as a historical hangover because there is a very vocal CW following in Amateur Radio (some say that voice isn't proper ham radio (because at one time you needed to pass it to get an A class licence) but there you go). CW is just a different mode and you don't have touch it once licensed.

    As for clubs dying we had this discussion on a local repeater the other night, a lot the clubs have an ageing membership, back in the 70's in the UK this was also very true, most people had been radio operators during WWII so there was a danger of Amateur Radio literally dying off. Then a film and a song called Convoy was released (a British mickey take called Convoy GB was also released as a record) that spurned interest in AM CB radio. In 1981 FM CB radio became legal and it took off (helped by TV shows like the Dukes of Hazard).

    The CB boom brought new blood into Amateur Radio, but that was back in the 80's. Sure there has always been interest but not a big enough one. As an end note to that, CB radio is pretty much a minority interest nowadays surpassed by the internet, Amateur Radio is a different animal (In the united States Amateur radio is very buoyant with lots of interest)

    The problem is though the majority of Amateur radio users are age 40+ which a big chunk over 50, yes there are younger hams but not enough. The person I was talking to the other night on 2m is under 40 works full time, married with kids and is passionate about radio. He has tried some of the local clubs and in his words "they don't want to do nothing other than have talks/lectures" whereas he is more into operating portable.

    Funny enough we do have a club on the edge of my area called Cambs Hams, its not a traditional club and they organise a lot DXpeditions.

    What I would say is don't freeband, its not legal. Yes we have had to do illegal stuff like CB radio and Pirate Radio in years gone by. But there is a legal allocation for CB radio and Pirate Radio brought in Commercial and Community Radio (slightly off topic but there is no justification for Pirate Radio these days and its often linked to organised crime).

    Your daughter showed a spark of interest, that should have been nurtured, an interest in Amateur Radio can help with her educational needs as it covers maths and so on.

    I think we need a different tack though as despite having record population figures the UK does have a declining birthrate, so in 30 years time there could be very few people who are involved in the hobby.

    I would like to see more school radio clubs, as far as I'm aware (and if I'm wrong and someone else knows different then please say) you need a full licence holder to get a NOV so a Club Call sign can be issued. The problem would be getting teachers qualified so the club could run and you would need more than one in case the licence holder moves on (putting the club into jeopardy).

    I can't see full licence holders from the community getting involved here, lots of difficulties and pitfalls, so maybe the RSGB and Ofcom need to come up with a licensing structure for schools. There are the odd School club about but they are far and few between.

    Something else that happened this year is Ofcom gave approval for exemption for the Air Cadets radio course, so they don't have to do the Foundation course. This is a move in the right direction (although a lot of adult instructors in the ATC are anti ham radio and prefer to mess about with licence free PMR).

  9. #9

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    In running a Google search for anything related to our club I was amazed to see a link to this Thread, so someone must have though the subject important as do I. Hence the reason why I have sought to resurrect it.

    The adverse comments by some long standing Gs only go to prove my point, ‘ if it is easy ------- then it cannot be true Amateur Radio ‘ In other words I suspect such folk are keen sport enthusiasts, and therefore constantly seek to use Amateur Radio just as another Macho Sport. That is to brag about obscure contacts they make, albeit such as in Contests only lasting a few seconds. Likewise though Morse does have great advantages in breaking through the ever increasing QRM of HF, to me it is rather something of an unnecessary outdated Macho mode of communication, or something to brag about that needs a special skill of its own.

    Me being a sociable guy, I like to talk at lengths especially to complete strangers the other side of the world in places that I would no longer ever be fit enough to travel. But I never did have much interest in any sort of sport, possibly due to being mainly educated at a boarding school, where numerous silly sports were mandatory. So I do not have the slightest urge to brag about the long contacts I am able to make with other HAMs on such as Echolink, though I know of many folk who do find my recordings of QSOs of interest such as at http://www.sigord.co.uk/QSOS/HTMLmenu.HTM

    In my attempts to foster HAM Radio I always like to concentrate in trying to convince the fast army of Mobile Phone and Internet users of the challenge rather that the ease of HAM Radio. But as I posted before, to me the future of HAM Radio does not entirely rely on using it as a Sport, but in fostering the Sprit of communicating properly with others around the world. However I suspect the reason why especially among us ‘reserved ‘ Brits, many HAMs do not want to have long QRM free QSOs with others especially miles away, is because as of necessity with any long conversations, they are reluctant to divulge to many personal details about themselves!

  10. #10
    Super Moderator pmh's Avatar
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    I think there is a general decline in many areas.

    Our gun club meets at a cub hut, and they have seen a noticeable decline of cubs in recent years.

    There are probably many reasons: schools reducing sports, more varied telly channels, the Internet, games consoles, very very cheap consumer electronics, etc, etc.

    When I was at college, one lecturer used to write on the blackboard whilst beep beeping what he was writing in morse code.

    These good old eccentrics just aren't around anymore.

    I read a recertification but article on an RSGB meeting which shows the average age of enthusiasts to be around 65.

    If this is the case, there are problems a foot.

    The only way to resolve this is to go out into the world and promote the activity. Local schools through science lessons, local scouts, etc, are a couple of ways that spring to mind, but not so easy in a world that is suspicious of everybody.

    Challenging times ahead.

    Kind regards,



    Phil

  11. #11
    Super Moderator 2E0FVL's Avatar
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    Our club has doubled in number since Sept last year under a new committee and new ideas such as online banking and new website and a very keen training team!!
    Members can get involved with giving talks of up to an hour about other hobbies or passions they have even work one guy works for the Highways Agency and even managed to have a vehicle at the meeting for us to look at, it works well, the club has a laptop, projector and screen and a few members have done and others are doing talks.
    Some weeks someone will bring some kit they have just got hold of or they want checking over, we have an antenna at the club room so not a problem getting on the air.
    We meet every week and average 20 members each meeting one week was 32!
    Maybe something for other clubs to think about.
    Pete - 2EØFVL
    The QRM Formally Known As M6PAP!!
    www.selseylifeboats.co.uk
    www.amberleymuseum.co.uk

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    Super Moderator pmh's Avatar
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    That's good to hear. Keeping people interested will keep them coming back.

    Long time since I visited Chichester, nice part of the world. Also went to the museum at Tangmere, not sure if it is still there.

    Kind regards,



    Phil

  13. #13
    Super Moderator 2E0FVL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmh View Post
    Long time since I visited Chichester, nice part of the world. Also went to the museum at Tangmere, not sure if it is still there.
    Phil
    Museum still there few of the displays have changed in the last few years, so maybe worth another look.
    I actually live in what was an RAF house on the airfield!
    Pete - 2EØFVL
    The QRM Formally Known As M6PAP!!
    www.selseylifeboats.co.uk
    www.amberleymuseum.co.uk

  14. #14

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    Our local club, Salop Amateur Radio Society, meets weekly, on Thursdays.
    On average, we get 10-12 people per week, and, every month or so, one of the 'senior' members gives a talk on a technical issue, or, an area of interest.
    During the summer months, we run a few 'Fox hunts'. This is a good chance for newer qualified amateurs, to get along, learn something new, whilst socialising and having fun. We also run a couple of 'social' events with a neighbouring club, and an annual 'quiz night'.
    However, to my knowledge, we only have one member under 35, everyone else being over this age, myself included.
    In my humble opinion, as mentioned above and elsewhere, the RSGB need to be promoting ham radio at school level. Many schools organise a contact with the ISS, and this is quite exciting for some. But, and it is a big but, it is not the 'be all and end all' of ham radio.
    Interestingly, a recent edition of RadCom, showed some stats, and tables, which outlined the average age of 'newbies' into the hobby. I cannot recall the exact numbers, but, they claimed there were sufficient numbers of 'younger' (i.e. under 30's), taking up amateur radio.
    Our club is undergoing some changes. The car park we used has been removed, to make way for houses, our mast and beam need re-locating, and, we have already had our storage shed re-located. The actual building we have our shack in is a 50's bowling and social club, in need of some renovation. The removal of the car park has meant that a few of our members with disabilities, have difficulty accessing the facility, due to the longer distance required to walk into the building.
    That, coupled with ever increasing costs of living, ease of access to communications using computers etc, means that numbers are slowly declining.

  15. #15

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    I have been browsing through this thread I started some time ago, that seems to have created quite a lot of interest. Being at the age of 81 now and in no state to maintain massive antennas to embark on HF, I am therefore quite content to remain at the Foundation stage able to QSO with locals on VHF and repeaters etc. But still being the secretary of our club I like to do my best to promote AR.

    It seems to me the future of AR lies with trying to relate to the younger generation. But not what appears to be mainly the retired able and willing to spend hours struggling to have DX QSOs on HF for a few seconds, just to receive a pretty QSL card and a Log entry such as in contests. I suggest probably much to the horror of old Gs, then as I do we should rather try to appeal to the massive numbers of young mobile addicts. I therefore try point out to them that contacts with local HAMs can be as clear as using a mobile, such as using repeaters similar to those needed by mobiles. Repeaters I believe were in fact first used a long time ago by Radio Amateurs long before the advent of mobile phones. I also point out a little VHF handheld can cost a lot less than a smart phone, and unlike mobiles you can talk as long as you like for free so long as you abide by the conditions of the license.

    The fact that that you can be heard by probably by a few others should not worry many avid mobile users to judge by the way they chatter on their mobiles while out in public in the street, bus or train etc. To judge by the lack of activity on VHF simplex, I hardly think we need worry about the simplex which I suspect many mobile users would prefer, ever becoming over crowded. If you listen into all our local repeaters at http://rilges.org.uk/liveaudio.asp it demonstrates my point. In fact I established with those responsible for our GB3HE we need no longer concern ourselves with the ancient ritual for VHF, that repeaters are primarily intended for mobiles only to make initial contact, before moving onto a simplex. In fact long QSOs and NETS take place on these repeaters.

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