[DISCLAIMER: I include myself in the New Ham category because, as I write this, I've only been licensed for a few months. Of course, these are my views that are the product of my life experience in the worlds of music, computers, and teaching. Take them with as many grains of salt as you need.]
After reading some "state of the hobby" articles on the Internet, it became clear to me that amateur radio is in a state of disruption.
In the long run and in general terms, this is a good thing, but for the short term, it can be very troubling, disconcerting, and even downright frightening for a New Ham. In this case, disruption is being caused by new (or different) knowledge and expectations that are in conflict with previous norms.
Let me explain where I'm coming from: Some of the articles I've read speak to perceptions about the demographics of the hobby, i.e. the lack of young people entering, the lack of women entering, and the overall graying of the majority.
Others point out the division between those who consider the hobby oriented toward Over The Air transmissions versus those who are interested in the interface between radios, digital modes, and the Internet = the modern view of the "Air").
These views are definitely worthy of examination because they lead one (especially a New Ham) to conclude that the current number of young people in particular who are entering the ranks of amateur radio operators is probably too few to sustain the hobby in the future as anything more than a "quaint pastime" based on the current understanding of the hobby.
Do I have an answer? Well, nobody has a crystal ball, so, no, not exactly. But this trend has appeared in other pursuits and disciplines, and quite a few books and articles have been written on the subject of disruptive processes from their perspective. Interestingly, one of the examples often cited is the story of Sony and the transistor radio in the 1950's. (see Clayton Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma)
The gist of the research points out two camps: one established camp that has gotten to where it is by following a set of carefully learned principles and procedures that made it steadily successful to the point of dominating a market, and another camp made up of newcomers who see the established camp as a limiting gatekeeper and who seek to circumvent the established gateway principles and procedures by creating new points of entry for themselves.
In the case of Sony, the cheap transistor radio was quickly dismissed by the old guard for all of its limitations (particularly its sound quality), yet, for its low cost of admission, people were willing to put up with a lesser sound experience, because they were also getting a more convenient, portable size, and cutting-edge technology. The old guard made console radios that were big, beautiful pieces of furniture that also sounded big and beautiful when listened to in the sedate parlor with the family gathered round, while the new cheap devices were out where the action was - convenient and remarkable (even with poor sound quality), and easy to afford by the young and restless market that snapped them up.
Does any of this sound familiar within the ranks of amateur radio?
When I first started listening in on amateur radio transmissions (via Broadcastify on my Android phone in late 2017), before I passed my first exams though fully engaged in the study process, I heard right off the bat:
If it weren't for the last item on that list, my listening experience may have told me to seek other avenues of learning, but hearing a couple of the "old guard" patiently and politely answering questions and encouraging the New Ham was truly special, and warmed my heart. Nevertheless, looking at that initial list, one sees a disturbing commonality: negativity toward alternate points of entry into the hobby.
Now, I'm sure that hams do not spend 80% of their QSO's trashing the inexpensive entries competing with the old guard, and that corrections to operating procedures are usually offered in good faith, but I'm also sure that there is a strong undercurrent in the hobby built of biases that favor certain approaches that can develop into distinct prejudices against other approaches. And because too many hams don't filter their comments to minimize these prejudices, the airways can often seem inordinately negative.
Fortunately, it isn't all bad. Since those negative early eavesdrops, for example, I've heard many more hams actually rooting for the success of inexpensive alternatives. I know I am.
But is that the answer?
Part 2 (coming up...)