Where are the hams?

September 10, 2012 Dan KB6NU

Ralph, AA8RK, and I drove down to Findlay, OH for the Findlay hamfest. Findlay is normally a pretty good hamfest, and it’s worth driving an hour and a half to get there. On the way down, Ralph mentioned how disappointed he was that the level of repeater activity in the Detroit area seems to just keep dropping and dropping.

That’s a puzzle to me, too. We now have more hams than ever before–over 700,000 licensed radio amateurs in the U.S.–yet no one seems to be talking to one another. This seems to be happening on both VHF/UHF and the HF bands. Aside from contest weekends, it seems that fewer and fewer hams are getting on the air. This begs the question, why don’t hams get on the air anymore?

When we got down to Findlay, I was kind of dismayed by how few people were there. I have to admit that I didn’t attend last year, but this year’s attendance was way below what it was two years ago. What has happened in the last two years that has dissuaded so many hams from not attending this hamfest?

Ham Key HK-1 PaddleFortunately, there were lots of good things to buy. There were lots of decent deals on transceivers, for example.There was also a lot of tube gear for sale and several tube dealers, oddly enough.

I managed to pick up a HamKey paddle (see right). I had seen this on my first time around the flea market, and when I asked the seller how much he wanted for it, he said $45. Since I didn’t really need another key, I figured I’d stop by the table on the way out, and if he still had it then, offer him less.

Well, when I got back there, the paddle was still there, but a different guy was manning the table. When I asked him, “Will you take $40 for the paddle?” he replied, “Well, it’s my buddy’s paddle. I’ll have to ask him.”

Then, he took a look at my name tag and did a double take. “Hey, I know you,” he said, “I read your blog all the time.”

“In that case,” I said, “will you take $35?” We both got a laugh out of that. At that point, his friend returned, and he did indeed accept my offer of $40.

So, despite the lack of attendance, I still managed to get a good deal on something. I think if more hams made the effort to show up at these things, they’d find some good deals, too. And, maybe that would spur them to get on the air more. Well, I can dream anyway, can’t I?


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