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Nostalgia – A Two Edged Sword

We have all seen all manner of nostalgia – olde TV and Radio broadcasts, old music, faded old black and white photos showing those great olde days of yore…

Sure, everyone was younger and much more of their lives existed in the future than in the past and everything was relatively new and exciting, and now this is less the case, so it is understandable to have fond memories of what came before…

But you have to understand that you are looking at all this thru rose colored glasses. The good stuff is invariably in sharper focus than the bad stuff. Yeah, there was the post World War II optimism and a sense that the U.S. had emerged from it as the World Power, but there was also a lot of hypocrisy and don’t forget about Polio!

There is always a place for nostalgic sentimentality in our lives. It is the way that we are wired. But taken to extremes, it gets people completely stuck in the past and lost to any possible future.

I see this often in Ham Radio. The demographics of this hobby are a bit unusual – a small “bump” in adolescents, and a much larger bump in the 50-80 age range (not to mention that over 95% of Hams are guys). This skewed demographic is, no doubt, a large contributing factor in the general topics of conversation on many of the bands. There are many more discussions of Prostates than there used to be on the bands, if you get my point.

Vintage radios can be great fun, but there are some poor souls out there that have taken to clutching to their vintage radios as if that is the only way to go. Some of the old stuff was great – beautifully engineered, built like tanks, relatively easy to repair – a marvel of that age in engineering. But a lot of the olde stuff was, face it, not very good. Whether you needed to invest in a drawer full of crystals, or expected your radio to wander all of the band as it warmed up, they were not great radios then, and they certainly aren’t now!

All hobbies have people who maintain its history, and you can see it with maybe 1% of the computer hobbyists out there, but they are in an extreme minority. Most computer hobbyists look much more intensely into the future than into the past, and I hazard to guess, that is how to tell the difference between a hobby that is alive and vital, and one that is sick and waiting to die.

Amateur Radio Operators were at the forefront of the technology in the previous century. Creating new ideas and expanding old ideas in ways never before imagined. We still have some people in this hobby, trying to do the same, but I fear that too many of us are too busy polishing our olde Astatic D104 microphones, to try something new.

The next time you see some new technology, before you pronounce that you’re “too old for that nonsense”, look into to your inner “14 year old”, what would he have made of all these wonders. Remember the glee he would have felt, the recognition of some new magic of technology, and how he would have assaulted it until he had mastered it!

This hobby is not for technophobes, still pining for vacuum tubes and cat whisker detectors. It is for the dreamers of what can be done…

Celebrate the past, live in the present and dream of the future!
-Your [Cranky] Editor-

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