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Is it time to rename the hobby?


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I have a Jeep, and it has my call on its license plate.  In fact, I have my call emblazoned on my paddles, hats, mugs, and shirts.  My welcome mat says "NS7X QTH."  I have a hand-made southwestern silver bracelet which reads "NS7X."  A convict from the Wyoming State Penitentiary manufactured an "NS7X" western-style belt buckle for me.  I even have a seam-ripper with my call inscribed on it.  I'll probably have my call engraved on my tombstone along with some glib comment about my being on the ultimate DXpedition.  Guess I'm one of those "hot dog" amateurs you guys are so anxious to distance yourselves from.

On the other hand, I've also been a volunteer firefighter, a volunteer paramedic, and a full-time paid (ie professional) paramedic/EMS instructor for a county-wide 911 service.  Trust me on this one, the term "volunteer" is met with derision in EMS circles.  "Volunteers" are seen as inept, unpracticed, inexperienced individuals who wear bright orange jackets decorated with 37 patches and pins and proudly proclaim that "trauma makes my [you-know-what] hard."  It's a shame really, because it's the unpaid, usually rural EMT's and firefighters who perform the miracles.  But that's another rant.

My experience has been that the general public doesn't recognize the term "amateur radio operator" at all.  So I really don't think it matters one way or the other if we call ourselves amateurs, volunteers, or enthusiasts.  Most people, however, have heard the phrase "ham radio," and even have a mental image of a ham (usually involving an attic, an eccentric uncle, and about a ton of tube-type electronics which emit the same sound effects used by the 1950's SF movies.)

It seems to me any effort to change our identity from amateur to volunteer is a moot exercise when we are primarily known as hams.  But that's just me. 


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First I would like to thank all of you on this thread. This is why I created Ham Community, to create a space where we could disagree with respect and empathy. Kudos to all of you.

I also want to weigh in on a couple of points.

I actually really like @KG6TGU description of a prepper. I say this because the term does indeed have a negative connotation for many. And the way Larry puts it makes a lot of sense. Indeed, then, I am a prepper too by that definition. I have a Jeep, it has VHF and HF radios. I have a sparse go-kit in the car, and a full one at home. I also have a kit in my all-terrain motorcycle. I have enough food for several weeks and all the basic survival gear one would need to stay alive for several months. What Larry says that I like most is the notion of the Government, any government, in the U.S. or abroad, from Federal to local, cannot always be expected to show up on our doorstep in a moment's notice. Years ago I wrote a book called The Critical Century which spoke of the risks to society posed by a convergence of potential systemic failures. We really do live in a time where many of the systems we rely on are a moment away from catastrophic failure. Is it wrong to, at least, consider some preparedness?

This said, I admit that I find some prepping efforts to be a little extreme in their preparedness. Apocalyptic-scale preparedness assumes a collapse on a magnitude that presents an infinitesimally small percentage of occurrence. Preparing for something that has a .00X% of occurring is a right, but not one that I have spent time developing.

And throughout all this, we come back to the original question of this thread: what's in a name? I think we agree that the 'hobby' is about much more than emergencies, so using that term seems unfair and inaccurate. But the word amateur sends a rather clumsy message. Quick story: in high school I had a drama teacher (Ron Dobrin) who taught that there is no such thing as Amateur or Professional, only Good or Bad. You can be a high-performance Amateur; look no further than the Olympic Games. Nonetheless, the word Amateur implies sub-par performance hence my continuing belief that the instances that govern us should at least consider opening the topic up for constructive debate.

If possible, let's keep this thread on the topic of the 'naming' of the hobby. You're welcome to open another thread on prepping.

Again, thanks all; I really enjoy good discussion.

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