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April 15, 2024

Kids These Days

By John Trindle

Kids These Days

Remember your parents clucking their tongues over kids these days, how wild and outlandish they were... how spoiled, how they didn't know the meaning of hard work and self-sacrifice? Remember how they were talking about YOU?

Maybe you swooned over Frank Sinatra or Elvis, or took drugs and marched for peace, or perhaps you went to discos. Perhaps you jammed safety pins through your cheeks, or got tattoos or voted Republican. Maybe you did it to bug your parents, just because it did, or maybe you did it because you could and you wanted to.

Ever find yourself talking about the Kids *These* Days, the ones who are in high school, or college, with the same attitude? Doesn't that make you feel old, and dead, and like your very own parents?

Yesterday after work, I found myself discussing music with a co-worker outside in the "smoking lounge". He mentioned his plan to purchase John Prine tickets for the weekend, and I mentioned that my daughter and her friend had gone to an all day "Lunatic Luau" concert, where the lead attraction seemed to be the band "Korn". We traded stories of concerts of the past, and he mentioned "Remember the saying, 'If it's too loud, you're too old?' Well, it's too loud."

He's under 40. I'm over 40. We're both old fuddy-duddies.

I'm involved in Amateur Radio. This hobby was very hot pre-WWII, and active post-war as well. Since about 1986 or so it has been in steady decline, if you believe the vocal participants and not the statistics. Actually, some extremists indicate it has been in decline since the late 50s, when the 11 meter amateur radio band was changed to the newly created Citizen's Band, or from various milestones in the licensing structure. I won't go into all the details of the changes, but let's compare me to my grandfather.

  1. I have my Extra Class, he went as far as Advanced. In theory, Extra is a higher level than Advanced
  2. I can send and receive 7 words per minute of Morse code on a great day. He could send 18 wpm or so.
  3. I can solder, just barely. He could build a working radio from parts. Not a kit, parts.
  4. He didn't graduate high school, but understood electromagnetic theory enough to design an antenna. I have a college degree in physics, and can barely grasp how the standard existing antennas work.

Now, there are a few reasons behind the disparity. I have other skills, and other interests, which have taken my time. But look at that first item. I have the highest achievable rating for an amateur radio operator, but I know far less than my grandfather did about the subject. And, quite simply, it's because I don't have to. The FCC now only requires 5 words per minute of code, for instance. The written exams are multiple choice, based on questions randomly selected from a published pool. You could conceivably get through General on rote memorization. Though it is a bit tougher for the Extra exam, you could still skate by without *understanding* most of the subject.

The OFs (old fuddy-duddies, of course) have been moaning about the lax requirements for a long time. The code speed requirement has dropped from 20 WPM for Extra to 5 WPM now, and that has been great fodder for "Kids These Days" speeches. Now the Fit has really hit the Ham.

Last month (July), at WRC-03 (World Radiocommunication Conference 2003), one of the resolutions was to drop the requirement for Morse Code ability when using the High Frequency (Short Wave) bands. The WRC provides guidelines to member countries for their communication regulation, so that international operation becomes possible and legal. Already, as of this writing, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands have dropped their Morse Code requirement completely. It's quite possible that the U.S. will follow in short order.

Why was Morse required? It is possible to send a message in Morse under extreme adverse conditions of weather and equipment. This makes it better than voice for emergency communications. It gets through where voice doesn't, and can be sent and understood without specialized equipment like computer modes require. However, the WRC evidently felt there was enough redundancy to make the other modes sufficiently reliable. They were under pressure from many potential operators (and more importantly, radio manufacturers) to drop the requirement and let folks who find Morse too slow and too difficult into the service.

Well, this has caused an explosion in OFs moaning about Kids These Days. "Kids These Days have it easy! They don't have to walk up hill both ways through the snow, tapping out code with a spark plug and a Model T ignition coil, and receiving the reply on their mercury amalgam fillings! They Are Not Worthy! We'll ignore them and stick to our own."

I was stunned, not the least because this snubbing fit in with my own perceptions of our service's local Elder Statesmen. Not only are the airwaves being flooded by know-nothings, but the people who still *know* things are refusing to help! How on earth will the tyros learn unless taught?

Think back before WW-II or so, or even earlier. The way a person learned his craft was at the knee of another. Sure, there were colleges, especially for scientific disciplines such as chemistry and physics. Your average electronics person might go to school, or might not. It didn't matter a whole lot, though, because once he entered the work force, he would *still* enter an apprenticeship program. Years later, after he had been entrusted with progressively more complex tasks, he could be trusted to fix your radio or wire your house. Not fresh out of school.

Same with furniture makers, painters, chefs, and most other fields. You didn't send a kid to school and expect much out of him when he got out, except the ability and desire to follow directions, and learn. Is it that way today?

Not hardly. Take the computer field for instance. A Programmer fresh out of college isn't worth spit, but he's still expected to create software that is well designed and reliable. Look how well that has turned out. Or MBAs... do smart companies expect MBAs to contribute right out of the box? I hope not, though I'm afraid during prosperous times many companies have relied on smart youngsters to the exclusion of experience. However, college is being promoted as a complete job training package, instead of an enrichment program which teaches skills important to future learning.

The Kids These Days are not only facing different requirements than we OFs did, but they are being furnished different opportunities for education. They are now expected to learn all we did, on their own, without any motivation to do so beyond their own desire for self improvement. Is it any wonder then that they have different skills, in different areas?

Get over yourselves, OFs. Take one of those ignorant Kids under your wing, and make a difference.

Article © John Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-08-25
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