Dear Mr. Browne, Your on-line editorial in the September 23 Microwaves & RF Update e-newsletter, "Amateur Radio Ranks Are Shrinking" (visit www.mwrf.com) had faulty data or biased observations. The numbers of FCC-granted amateur radio licensees have been in a sort of stasis since their peak of 737,938 on July 2, 2003. As of Sept. 24, 2010 the total was 3,847 short of that peak, representing a -0.52 percent change. The source is www.hamdata.com, a privately run web site that takes its information from daily downloads of the FCC database for radio amateurs. The total number of granted licenses had increased over the past 12 months by 7,256. It might be possible to describe amateur radio demographics as evolving over the last decade. This is principally from the continual rise in population of the so-called no-codetest Technician class created in 1991. This class has constantly increased in numbers to reach 354,665 by Sept. 24, 2010, 49.1 percent of all licensees.
Socio-politically, amateur radio is split into two groups: HF-centric and the liberal or local operators. The HFcentric group may be said to be the older, graying licensees as described in your editorial. Local (and liberal) radio amateurs are generally more technically minded and are less obsessive about their radio hobby activity.
As to your statement "a good number of RF microwave engineers learned their love of radio technology through the care and feeding of a ham radio," I must differ. If these types of licensees learned any "love of radio technology" it was limited to HF and its relatively simpler lumped-constant circuitry. In general, they are lost when it comes to the distributed-constant structure of today's microwave components.
In summary, the US amateur radio license numbers are increasing, not decreasing. The largest increase among classes has occurred in the Technician class, now considered an entry-level license. Few Technician class licensees care to upgrade to higher classes; they seem to prefer their radio hobby as a social contact device. That class now represents 49 percent of all licensees.
For more facts, see the editorial, "Ham Radio Is Alive And Well," on p. 17.
Leonard H. Anderson,
Life Member IEEE
Managing Partner of PINETREE
Sun Valley, CA 91352-4236
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