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  #41 (permalink)  
Old 12-12-2017, 11:13 AM
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The hobby is entirely what you make of it. I've been licensed since 1984 - not sure if that makes me a newbie or an old-timer (but I'm thinking the former rather than the latter). Here's some thoughts: there are plenty of frequencies, bands and modes for everyone to find an area that makes them happy. If old-man "gout" nets bother you, don't listen. Personally, I avoid repeaters (same old windbags, day in and day out) and also sideband on HF (too many "big guns" to compete with). My happy place involves chasing dx on cw, soundcard digital modes like PSK31 and RTTY, and most recently, FT-8.
Ham radio as an emergency resource is not dead - just look at the situation in Puerto Rico over the last few months. In my area, ARES is alive and well. My town has given the local ARES group a radio room / EOC and allowed placement of ham antennas on their hundred foot tower. In return, our group will provide VHF links between key buildings when needed in an emergency. No one is trying to replace the police or first responders, or has flashing lights or magnetic signs on their cars.

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  #42 (permalink)  
Old 12-12-2017, 1:00 PM
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1984? Relative newbie. I have been licensed since 1963 (age 14). First beam antenna put up on Nov 16, 1963. Remember well because 6 days later JFK was assassinated. I'm still fascinated by amateur radio. Still feel like kid (age 68) in candy store with the all the digital modes available (including CW). Amateur radio certainly not dead in Southern California.
Been a W5YI and ARRL VE for several years. Active in EMCOMM. Just echoing what everyone else already said, it's all what you make it. By the way, I stay away from the "old codger nets." Favorites, like Millrad above, are CW and digital modes.
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Old 12-12-2017, 1:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ur20v View Post
It's become obvious that reading comprehension eludes some people (*cough cough*, bill4long). I don't think amateur radio is a dying hobby, but if an outsider came across the net I was referring to, they might come away with that impression or have their preconceived notions reinforced. That's all I was conveying.
You said,

Quote:
They say ham radio is a dying hobby...I now know why
Which implies that you see evidence that it is, indeed, dying.

Pardon me if I misread your intent.
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  #44 (permalink)  
Old 12-12-2017, 2:25 PM
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Originally Posted by iMONITOR View Post
I think amateur radio is just about dead and buried in my area. Equipment is way too expensive, much of it is unnecessarily complicated. Rules and restrictions are well...too restrictive, making practical and fun use almost impossible.
This “expensive” thing seems to be a common thought…but really not so.

There is this myth of everyone in the 1960’s building a complete station from scrap parts for free. Sure, it was technically possible, and some people did do that, but not the majority. By the 1960’s most people used either a combination of home brew and manufactured radios or all manufactured radios. My first Novice station in 1967 was a home brew CW transmitter and a manufactured, second hand, receiver. Pretty typical of the time for an entry level station.

In late 1967 I had maybe $60 into the radio gear, and another $20-40 in wire antenna / keys / misc. Call it a $100 HF station. Converting 1967 dollars to todays money this is about a $730 entry level station, part of which I built myself. A person could get on the air today, at the entry level and with second hand gear, for that much, and have much more capability than I did then.

You could build a nice, but still middle of the road, Heathkit station for under $300, which would be over $2000 today. A high end Collins or Drake might cost $700, or around $5000 today. These figures are right in line with what you can do today for getting on the air.

As for the rules being too restrictive, no. The rules today are more open and less restrictive than at any time in the past. We have more legal modes, we have more legal power, we have more legal bands and frequencies, we no longer have to keep a written log of every contact, we no longer have to file for permission to operate mobile, we no longer have to change our callsign if we move location and change zones, people testing for Extra no longer have to show 2 years of active ham operation before being eligible to test for Extra, etc.

Off the top of my head I can’t think of anything major today that is more restrictive than in the past, and ham radio was been fun and practical “back then”, and still is today.

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Originally Posted by iMONITOR View Post
The internet and smart phones pretty much eliminated the need. I know they can be inoperative during certain emergency scenarios. Same goes for Ham radio.
Ham radio is a hobby, not a need. And it always has been a hobby, with some potential benefits to society. Ham radio exists for a few of reasons, it can provide an experienced pool of operators in time of need, it can provide emergency communications when all else fails, and it is a hobby that is growing in numbers that allows its participants to experiment and expand their knowledge. If these things were not things then our spectrum would have been taken and sold off decades ago.

Ham radio has always been a fringe thing, not main stream. And it has always been primarily an older mans game. I used two terms there intentionally, “older” and “man”. Females in the hobby are a definite minority, active females even less common. And middle aged and above tend to have more free time and more disposable income. Retire people have more time to devote to the hobby. While younger working people are at work during the day the retired are on the air. Always has been that way, or at least as long as I can remember, anyway.

T!
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Old 12-12-2017, 3:47 PM
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Token has shown the facts and explained them in really easy to understand language.
Should anyone step in and try to say his post is flawed, then they are trolling.
So many members have shown proof that amateur radio is NOT dying, but going on with many new operators every year.
As many posted, it's what an operator puts into the hobby.
Sure it could be an expensive hobby, but again, it's what you put in to it.
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  #46 (permalink)  
Old 12-12-2017, 6:42 PM
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The number of licenses is definitely up, but that number is not indicative of the number of ACTIVE hams. I haven't been licensed that long compared to a lot of people here (coming up on 24 years), but all I can do is compare the on-air activity over that time.

HF activity is way down, except on contest weekends, and repeater usage is almost zero compared to what it was in the past...at least here in Southern California. We have some major high level repeaters here in SoCal, which in the past, you could barely get a word in edgewise. Now they sit idle the majority of the day, with just a few calls here and there. The new DMR networks...eh, I personally wouldn't consider them to be all that busy.

I think a lot of the increased numbers are the prepper-type folks who want the license so they can hop on the repeaters when the world comes to an end.
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Old 12-12-2017, 6:48 PM
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Originally Posted by alcahuete View Post
I think a lot of the increased numbers are the prepper-type folks who want the license so they can hop on the repeaters when the world comes to an end.
I think that's a valid point.
Two of my staff have amateur licenses, although they are not active. It was partly the "challenge" of doing it (not hard), and partly the "end of the world" thing you mentioned. I don't think they'd be able to effectively operate a radio in that sort of situation, though.

So, out of an office of 12 people, 3 of us hold valid amateur licenses, Was 4 until one of them retired. But then again, I'm in the telecom field, so this isn't an abnormal ratio.
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Old 12-12-2017, 7:01 PM
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Amateur Radio's demise has been prophesied since the spark for ever crowd lost that battle.
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  #49 (permalink)  
Old 12-12-2017, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by alcahuete View Post
The number of licenses is definitely up, but that number is not indicative of the number of ACTIVE hams. I haven't been licensed that long compared to a lot of people here (coming up on 24 years), but all I can do is compare the on-air activity over that time.

HF activity is way down, except on contest weekends, and repeater usage is almost zero compared to what it was in the past...at least here in Southern California. We have some major high level repeaters here in SoCal, which in the past, you could barely get a word in edgewise. Now they sit idle the majority of the day, with just a few calls here and there. The new DMR networks...eh, I personally wouldn't consider them to be all that busy.

I think a lot of the increased numbers are the prepper-type folks who want the license so they can hop on the repeaters when the world comes to an end.
This has been beat to death in these and other forums. There is not any way to "prove" the number of active hams. Some people think there are fewer active hams, some people think it is more by number but a smaller percentage of the licensed hams. I lean towards the later. There has always been a large percentage of inactive hams, I was inactive myself for more than 10 years after school and during military service. Even if only one in three hams today is active that still equals more active hams than all licensed hams (even if ALL the licensed hams then were active, which they were not) in the "hay day" of ham radio, the 1950's to early 1970's.

And then you have to define "active", is the guy who fires up a hand held once a week active? In my opinion, if ham radio activity is actually in decline (and I do not, in general, think so) it is going to be because of this misguided, but seemingly growing, trend of thinking "all I need for ham radio is a hand held". That is not the case, and never has been. Sure, you can just own an HT if you want, but you are missing the vast majority of what ham radio is about.

Want a possible indicator of the trend of active hams? Look at the number of ARRL members. Last year it was 172,000. 10 years before that it was 148,000. ARRL membership is not free, and generally you have to want to be a member. People getting a license for prepping purposes generally don't bother to join the ARRL. For several decades this membership has run a bit less than 25% of the total ham licenses. The percentage of licensed hams who are ARRL members has been on a steady decline for a long time, but the raw numbers are still generally going up. So a smaller percentage of hams, but still larger numbers.

If only one in four hams today is active, and half of the licensed hams were active in 1970 (and it was not that large a percentage then), there are still many more active hams today than then.

You say the bands are dead. In my area (a bit north of you) local 2 meter and 70 cm simplex freqs are as active as I have ever heard them, APRS, digital modes, and weak signal work is up, repeater activity is down somewhat. When I point south the LA area machines sound less active. The HF bands are a bit dead, but that always happens at solar minima, and this is a particularly bad solar cycle. I do not think it is any less active than last null in the cycle was. But that is unprovable opinion. The only hard indicators, such as raw numbers of ham licenses and ARRL membership raw numbers, are undeniably up.

T!
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  #50 (permalink)  
Old 12-13-2017, 12:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post

Want a possible indicator of the trend of active hams? Look at the number of ARRL members. Last year it was 172,000. 10 years before that it was 148,000. ARRL membership is not free, and generally you have to want to be a member. People getting a license for prepping purposes generally don't bother to join the ARRL. For several decades this membership has run a bit less than 25% of the total ham licenses. The percentage of licensed hams who are ARRL members has been on a steady decline for a long time, but the raw numbers are still generally going up. So a smaller percentage of hams, but still larger numbers.
Can't say that's a good indicator at all. The percentage has been near the same forever. It's actually on a decline now, as you mention. Could be any number of reasons as to why.


Quote:
You say the bands are dead. In my area (a bit north of you) local 2 meter and 70 cm simplex freqs are as active as I have ever heard them, APRS, digital modes, and weak signal work is up, repeater activity is down somewhat. When I point south the LA area machines sound less active. The HF bands are a bit dead, but that always happens at solar minima, and this is a particularly bad solar cycle. I do not think it is any less active than last null in the cycle was.
Although it has been a while, I don't remember the last solar cycle being like this at all. 20m is really unaffected, and 40/80 actually improve generally during the low cycle. Those seem dead too, at least compared to what they used to be.

The repeaters are definitely dead from here down to San Diego. Nothing but the occassional net and short QSO. When I'm doing computer work or such, I generally have 16 repeaters in my scan list, and I can literally go hours without hearing anything but the time check and CW ID on any of the repeaters. They used to be packed. Has everyone just moved to DMR hotspots? I have no idea. But the bands are definitely dead down here.

Make no mistake, I don't see ham radio going away anytime soon. But it certainly isn't what I remember it being over the last 20+ years.

P.S. I'm actually out in the Mojave Desert as well. I just say LA because nobody knows where the hell the mojave desert is. ha ha!! I'm in the Lancaster area.
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  #51 (permalink)  
Old 12-13-2017, 8:48 AM
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Tuned across the 20 meter and 40 meter bands yesterday evening. Dead, dead, dead.

One CW CQ (some guy in 7 land) and that was it.

I certainly *hope* it was conditions that was the problem.
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Old 12-13-2017, 8:59 AM
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What scares people off are the snooty cliques. You get a club or a defacto one that hangs out on a repeater or certain frequency that feels they have problem with somebody new but wont tell them what they do not like about them and even ignores that new person.
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Old 12-13-2017, 9:45 AM
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Originally Posted by alcahuete View Post
Can't say that's a good indicator at all. The percentage has been near the same forever. It's actually on a decline now, as you mention. Could be any number of reasons as to why.
Like I said, there is no way to prove it, but ARRL membership is probably the only “number” you can point to that might even remotely suggest relative ham activity. Very, very, few of the inactive hams I know are members, and a fair percentage of the active ones, although by no means most of them, are.

That decline in percentage of hams (who are ARRL members) has been going on a long time, I would say well over 20 years. But it is very slow decline, and has been on about the same curve a long time. However, like I said before, although the percentage of licensees who are ARRL members is indeed slightly down, the raw number of hams who are ARRL members is up. If the number of ARRL members is in any way linked to the number of active hams that would indicate an upwards trend in active hams.

But again I will ask, what would be considered “active”?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcahuete View Post
Although it has been a while, I don't remember the last solar cycle being like this at all. 20m is really unaffected, and 40/80 actually improve generally during the low cycle. Those seem dead too, at least compared to what they used to be.
This is, without a doubt, the worst solar cycle I have experienced in my 50+ years as a ham or listener. 20 meters is a shadow of its possible conditions, even for a cycle null. 40, 60, 80, and 160 meter conditions have actually improved, however I find more and more that people are not as interested in those bands. They want long DX, and even when very good 40 and 80 can’t hold a candle to 20. So I think this is driving down general casual HF operations, even when the band is indeed good. This same thing happened in the last couple of solar cycles, but this does seem to be more pronounced. I hear otherwise active new hams say things like “I am going to wait until the cycle improves to get on HF” or some similar nonsense.

With that said, 40, 80, and 160 still seem to be getting good use, and 60 meter activity is possibly higher than I have ever seen it.

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Originally Posted by Boombox View Post
Tuned across the 20 meter and 40 meter bands yesterday evening. Dead, dead, dead.

One CW CQ (some guy in 7 land) and that was it.
Odd, I was on 40 last night, and there was quite a bit of traffic. I would not say the band was packed, but spinning the dial tuned across many conversations, not bad for a Tuesday night. I did not check 20, but it would not surprise me if it was dead, the 3000 km MUF was well below 8 MHz last night.

Right now, before sunrise local time, I am looking at 40 and 80 meters on a waterfall, using a suboptimal antenna (antenna is actually a VHF-Lo ground plane on the roof of the building).

On 40 meters there is a lot of CW activity in that band, a couple dozen QSOs at least, FT8 looks very active, there is some JT65 (although less than the FT8), and there are a good dozen plus voice conversations going on between 7125 and about 7210 kHz, above 7210 kHz I see no SSB, but that might be because of the BC stations hammering that freq range.

On 80 meters I see a couple dozen SSB signals from 3600 to 4000 kHz, mostly 3800 and up. CW activity on the band looks good below 3600 kHz, but not as active as 40 is. For some reason I do not see the FT8 or JT65 activity as high on 80 as it is on 40, there is some present, but not as much as on 40.

160 an 20 meters also show some activity right now, 160 will die after sunup but 20 will pick up.

T!
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  #54 (permalink)  
Old 12-13-2017, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by alcahuete View Post

The repeaters are definitely dead from here down to San Diego.

P.S. I'm actually out in the Mojave Desert as well. I just say LA because nobody knows where the hell the mojave desert is. ha ha!! I'm in the Lancaster area.
I know where the Mojave Desert is as I frequently transit the Highway 14 corridor.

The Hauser Peak (146.730) repeater seems to be fairly active as is the Keller Peak repeater. I can work the Hauser repeater from my home QTH down below in the N/E San Fernando Valley.

But generally, except for nets or special events, overall repeater traffic that I hear seems to have declined over the years. I offer no explanation except, possibly, cell phones.
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Old 12-13-2017, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Token View Post
Odd, I was on 40 last night, and there was quite a bit of traffic. I would not say the band was packed, but spinning the dial tuned across many conversations, not bad for a Tuesday night.
Proving once again that making broad statements about the lack of activity on the amateur radio bands based on observations from one location is foolish and, frankly, narrow-minded. There is more to amateur radio than just what one individual hears.
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Old 12-13-2017, 1:00 PM
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I (personally) don't think Ham radio is dying as much as people are claiming it to be. Its a lot easier nowadays to get licensed and you could get a great entry level radio really cheap. One bad part about really cheap radios are that the general public can easily pick up these radios and abuse the ham bands, mistaking it to be for CB radio, "toy radio", or an FRS/GMRS radio. So there is a good and bad side to making things more affordable and easier to get, but people that don't understand that you have to have a license to use certain types of radios in certain bands. So the statement "ham radio is dying" I don't think is a correct statement, although with frequencies like 7200 KHz and 14313KHz, it does seem like the band is being abused.
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Old 12-13-2017, 5:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by token
But again I will ask, what would be considered “active”?
Personally, I would consider it to be somebody who has exercised their privileges say within the last 1-3 months. That would make them active in my eyes.

I would be willing to bet that on any given day in the country, less than 5% of the hams are actually active and on the bands. There is no way that number is close to 10%. I can almost guarantee that. I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say it's barely 10% over a given year. Let's even go all-in and say that the number is 50% over a year...350,000-ish hams...almost triple the ARRL membership. A 50% participation rate in a hobby is pretty bad, no?
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Old 12-13-2017, 5:59 PM
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The repeaters are definitely dead from here down to San Diego. Nothing but the occassional net and short QSO. When I'm doing computer work or such, I generally have 16 repeaters in my scan list, and I can literally go hours without hearing anything but the time check and CW ID on any of the repeaters. They used to be packed. Has everyone just moved to DMR hotspots? I have no idea. But the bands are definitely dead down here.
They may be dead where you are out in the desert, but San Diego's repeaters are active all day long seven days a week.

I live in the middle of San Diego and I monitor repeaters from the border north to Carlsbad and from the coast east to the mountains and I'm always hearing someone talking. There are occasions where I end up turning the radio down because there's so much chatter.

The San Diego Amateur Radio Council (SANDARC) has fifteen listed member clubs and all maintain repeaters, most of which are used on a daily basis.

I attribute this difference to population density. There are 531 active amateur radio licenses in Lancaster vs 3906 in the City of San Diego. Because of the constraints of searching within the FCC data base, this figure do not cover other cities within the areas nor does it include unincorporated areas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcahuete View Post
Personally, I would consider it to be somebody who has exercised their privileges say within the last 1-3 months. That would make them active in my eyes.

I would be willing to bet that on any given day in the country, less than 5% of the hams are actually active and on the bands. There is no way that number is close to 10%. I can almost guarantee that. I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say it's barely 10% over a given year. Let's even go all-in and say that the number is 50% over a year...350,000-ish hams...almost triple the ARRL membership. A 50% participation rate in a hobby is pretty bad, no?
I think your figures are on the low side. Based on my experience since I was license seven years ago, amateur radio, at least where I live is very active to the point where I hear the same call signs day in and day out.
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Old 12-13-2017, 7:20 PM
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They may be dead where you are out in the desert, but San Diego's repeaters are active all day long seven days a week.
I'm down there regularly, from Temecula south to San Diego, up to LA. While they are still somewhat active (as one would expect out of one of the largest cities in the country), they are nothing like they used to be, say back in the late 90's, early 2000's. Keller Peak...eh. Santiago Peak, CLARA, Palomar, etc., nothing like they used to be. You used to hop on the CLARA repeater or KPRA and it was busy almost 24/7. You could get on at 3AM and there would be plenty of people on. Could barely get a word in on CLARA almost all day.

For example, I have been listening to KPRA Keller Peak for the last hour, during the start of the evening commute. Not a single call. Nothing but time checks, CW ID, and two people kerchunking the machine. That's it......for an hour. That's one of the highest coverage machines in Southern California. 10 years ago, there was absolutely zero chance that this would be true. Yay!! 1h19m in and another voice ID for the repeater. 1h25m and another kerchunk.

There are people here who would say it's foolish and narrow-minded to make such claims based on this small observation. I'm monitoring several high level machines right now in the most populous county in the United States, and there is NOTHING going on. No activity at all. Of course, repeaters aren't everything, but then where has everybody gone? Have they all moved to HF? All moved to digital? Highly doubtful that everybody has moved to other bands and modes. And this is not a small snapshot of what is going on. It's every day like this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by k6cpo View Post
I think your figures are on the low side. Based on my experience since I was license seven years ago, amateur radio, at least where I live is very active to the point where I hear the same call signs day in and day out.
That actually kinda makes my point. They are the same people/call signs regularly.....a small number of active folks.
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Old 12-13-2017, 8:39 PM
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Originally Posted by W9BU View Post
Proving once again that making broad statements about the lack of activity on the amateur radio bands based on observations from one location is foolish and, frankly, narrow-minded. There is more to amateur radio than just what one individual hears.
I understand your position -- location (for example, latitude) can indeed make a difference in HF reception.

But my general observation (my first comment in this thread) is based on monitoring the HF ham bands for over 30 years from the exact same location. There is overall less activity. Whether that means the hobby is slowly declining, or whether it's just horrible conditions over the past couple years, I don't know. Right now, I think it's a combination of both. But that's just a guess.

RE: apparent lack of ham interest on 40 and 80 meters (as Token mentioned here): if that's the case, it's pretty sad, as I recall hearing guys in 2002 working the other side of the world long path on 80, and as recently as 2013 hearing US hams on 40 working Indonesia and Japan. The lower bands are indeed capable of DX.

And then there's the middle band, 30 meters, which is also capable of DX.

Either way, whether the hobby is 'declining' or not, it's obviously no reason for hams to give up. Like Coyote Frostbyte mentioned, there are plenty of opportunities to try new things. SWL is basically dead but I still tune the SWBC bands. You never know what you'll hear if you stop tuning.
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