Ham radio licenses are at an all time high, with over 700,000 licenses in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Ham radio first took the nation by storm nearly a hundred years ago. Last month the FCC logged 700,314 licenses, with nearly 40,000 new ones in the last five years. Compare that with 2005, when only 662,600 people hammed it up and you’ll see why the American Radio Relay League — the authority on all things ham — is calling it a ‘golden age’ for ham. ‘Over the last five years we’ve had 20-25,000 new hams,’ said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group. While the number of licensees has grown considerably over the years, we realize that these numbers include some who are no longer active in Amateur Radio. A recent survey of ARRL members, however, indicates that more than 80 percent of those responding are active.
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There are some interesting comments in the parallel thread on Slashdot, one of which says that after about a thirty-year period in which they were, computers aren’t interesting any more as a hobby. The attention of tinkerers is now turning to hardware, and amateur radio is a great domain in which to play with hardware. I think there are a lot of younger hams that grew up understanding software quite well, turning this expertise into some kind of career, but then discover the analog world of radio and find it fresh and worthy of study.