Saturday, October 21, 2006
My lovely wife Linda is fond of saying that I procrastinate to which I always counter that this is a false belief. The fact of the matter is that I am putting off procrastinating! Always have and always will. Be that as it may, I am here now and have few things to write about amateur radio and particularly amateur radio in the Pittsburgh area.
One of the more dramatic happenings in Pittsburgh area hamdom in the month of September was the announcement that this years Butler FM Association hamfest would be the clubs last. I don't have a current update on this but that last that I heard on the air was that the it was a very contentious and hotly debated subject at the last club meeting. For the reason that the club will no longer sponsor and carry out the annual event visit the club's web site and download the September edition of their NEWS LETTER which covers all of the gory details.
Now let me put my editorial hat on and make a comment on this situation. The reason that this may be the last hamfest held by The Butler County Amateur Radio Association is a microcosm of one of the serious problems with the hobby today that being a lack of participation by members of local clubs.
I have always been of the opinion that in any organization less than twenty five percent of the members do about ninety five percent of the work that keeps that organization functioning. This is not something particular to amateur radio I'm sorry to say. I find this rule of mine holds true at work, church, hobbies and just about any other institution where more than three or four people band together with a common cause.
I have never sat down and tried to figure out just where the critical mass occurs that a group or club is formed and the tipping point happens where you exceed some magic number that causes a fairly heavy work load on the those that started the ball rolling and want to see it grow and prosper. These new members don't intentionally join to bring the organization down, far from it. They share your common interests is whatever it is was that caused the group to be formed in the first place and while their interest and passion for the subject may not be the same as yours they look to learn and benefit from the common pool of knowledge provided by joining.
Where problems arise is when things get beyond the “just talking” stage and meetings are planed along with the creation and maintenance of other resources and events. These things take time and in some cases money though in the case of hobby activities the main requirement seems to be involvement with time and labor. As the group grows these things become even more of a needed commodity which initially may be fulfilled by new members as there is an enthusiasms for the activities upon joining the group. This however doesn't last and after a period of time interest wanes and as it does my 25/95 rule seems to take effect. How long this condition lasts depends on how many bodies comprise the twenty five percent and how often demands are made on their time and talents. It might take years for things to reach a breaking point as appears to be the case with the Butler hamfest. It can also be a much shorter duration depending on circumstances.
I will be honest and tell I'm not sure just what the answer to this problems it. I know there are only so many hours in a day and in our modern society there are numerous demands on our time. Amateur radio is a hobby that has been greatly diminished by computers and the Internet. I'm not quite sure where the generation after mine lost the fascination with radio and the ability to speak with someone on the other side of town or the other side of the world with a box in your home and nothing connecting you and the far off party other than the atmosphere. If you look at the numbers like median age of those that are currently licensed though it is clear to see that has become the case. Likewise there seems to be a loss of interest in learning about electronics and building equipment from scratch. I think this goes along with the fact that in general our young people have lost interest in the sciences and engineering. I may be painting with too broad of a brush here but I'm just comparing what I see now to the time when I was a teenager.
I was going to write more about things going on in ham radio but I think I will stop here and post this to the blog and then ponder the other things that I wanted to talk about. Those of you who read the blog on a regular basis I thank you for your patients and I will try to post a little more often. Best of 73's.