Long before Facebook and other Internet-based social networks, amateur radio served as a means of making new acquaintances, but with one major difference. Almost anyone can visit Facebook; those operating an amateur radio must be licensed and knowledgeable in the workings of the radio. Unfortunately, this early form of wireless communications has a shrinking fan base, as noted in an opinion piece in the most recent newsletter from Anatech Electronics. Not only is the ham-radio user base shrinking in this country, but the average age is creeping higher with the "greying" of ham radio license holders.
A good number of RF/microwave engineers learned their love of radio technology through the care and feeding of a ham radio. Romanticized by Hollywood in the wonderful 2000 film "Frequency," starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, ham radios have long served as a form of at-home classroom on radio technology and signal propagation. But that thrill and mystery of reaching someone new across great distances using radio waves has been replaced by the certainty and predictability of cellular networks and Internet social networks. And no doubt, a declining amateur radio population is an early sign that RF and microwave engineers may be harder to find in the years to come.