Mike WA4D's "MEWCOMM" blog and Twitter commentary is one which I typically don't agree with. His position on matters relating to amateur radio are highly representative of a mindset which pervades the hobby, and which I believe is ultimately counter-productive to the hobby's evolution. I will use Mike's writings as proxies for opinions held by others, so apologies to Mike in advance; this is not intended to be a personal attack at you. To be fair; I like and agree strongly with Mike's perspectives on politics and foreign policy, but his judgmental attitude towards no-code hams (i.e. those who have not learned Morse Code or "CW" in the parlance) happens to be a perfect example of why amateur radio is failing to attract young people into the hobby. A sampling of Mike's comments include:
- People who don't know how CW "are not real hams".
- Removal of the CW testing requirement was equivalent to "affirmative action" or a "back door".
- CW defines the "soul of the hobby" and "defines what a real ham is in the 21st century".
Mike recently wrote that no-code hams "know not of the 'thrill of recognition'", which I infer to mean that they're not real hams because they're never experienced the "satori" moment of completing their first Morse Code contact. Having experienced the "thrill of recognition" for CW and other modes I can say that while the satori moment for CW is indeed exciting, it's no stronger or more "real" than the satori moment I had when I made a 10,000+ mile contact using JT65A on HF at 50 watts of power into a hand-made antenna cobbled from $2.00 worth of spare parts and wire. I remember both experiences equally well, and yet the JT65A contact is more memorable (and a source of greater pride for me) because I did it using a new (at the time) mode on jury-rigged hardware. But following Mike's logic I guess this wasn't a real accomplishment because it involved use of a computer, and at the time I didn't know how to send & receive CW..?
Amateur radio is a "big tent" hobby which offers something for everyone. If the hobby were healthy, growing, and not in danger of obsolescence I would say "Live and let live" and be done with it. But opinions such as "people who don't know or use CW are not real hams" are too prevalent among a majority of hams, with the end result being that bright young people who might want to explore amateur radio's application to computers and digital communication are scared away by older hams who insist on defining "real radio" in terms that they can understand.
The danger is that, as older hams pass on and are not replaced by younger hams, we will reach a point where the government decides that amateur radio spectrum can be put to better use. ARRL or not, the ham population will be too small to defend our allocation, and combined with decreasing relevance and value to emergency communications we will eventually lose our spectrum. Proficiency in CW and adherence to traditions will not solve this problem and help us keep our spectrum. The only solution is to open our minds, embrace change, and get over this self-defeating need to hold up 100+ year old technology as the gold standard against which new technology must compare.
The crux of the problem is that the prevailing majority has defined amateur radio and its reverence of traditions as an immutable core. This is horribly wrong and ultimately self-defeating. We should instead be seeking ways that encourage the applying of amateur radio to new technologies, and in doing so continuously finding new relevance and recruiting new hams. "Real hams" are those that are creating innovative technology which applies amateur radio to technology, such as Chris K6DBG's hack that converts a Wi-Fi router into an APRS receiver. Speaking the "language" of Morse Code isn't proof of technical ingenuity, doesn't prove that a ham is innovative or intelligent, and arrogantly judging hams based on their ability (or not) to use CW drives away new recruits and will NOT save our hobby.