Ham Radio – The Next Big Twitch Craze?

    Digital technology comes in waves, with new devices created weekly. Older technology has retained its relevancy despite this, and statisticians Clear Sky Institute reckon there’ll be over 760,000 amateur radio operators by 2020. A technically demanding hobby with a great amount of depth, amateur radio operation has a huge crossover with gaming, and Twitch, through a communal love of retro technology and the steampunk imagery often evoked by both radio operation and the latest AAA title games.

    What’s driving the charge?

    Radio equipment is easily obtained and affordable; ham radios are continually updated with regards to technology, and the cost of parts makes them accessible to the average person. Furthermore, according to the ARRL, the test required to obtain a license is relatively cheap at $15, making it straightforward to get on the airwaves. All in all, this makes for great viewing for anyone with a basic technology setup. Add in monetization on YouTube and Twitch and you have an immediately profitable platform where hobbyists are concerned. However, the affordability and simplicity of getting online is not the sole driving factor behind the amateur radio resurgence.

    Appetite of the public

    Retro video games and technology is big news at the minute – even the New York Times have reported on the appetite of gamers and the public for rehashed older titles. This is further evidenced by the re-release of classic titles. World of Warcraft is set to release it’s classic mode in August 2019, and older Blizzard titles have already been released to retro gurus GOG Gaming to add to their stable. Radio fits in with this old-school vibe – think the cassette and radio sets in Bioshock – and helps radio enthusiasts to enjoy new found fandom as a result. Gamers are increasingly looking for nostalgic twangs in the age of micro transactions and unfinished games laden with DLC – amateur radio enthusiasts offer a little window into the past for that purpose.

    A similar audience and expectation

    Twitch has proved an excellent platform for amateur radio users due to the similarity in platform. Amateur radio is a hobby. People will spend dozens of hours speaking to nobody in particularly, just for the fun of hearing another frequency, picking up a bit of information, or exchanging a brief conversation or call sign with another person halfway across the world. Similarly, many Twitch streamers do their work for fun, streaming games and interacting with close friends or a small audience to relate their experiences. Similar expectations and experiences of the hobbies are a good pull for enthusiasts in both past-times, and offer a sense of similarity that benefits their comfort and longevity in the scene.

    Amateur radio is alive and kicking. Digital, DAB, and other non-AM/FM/MW band using technologies have taken precedence, but a niche continues to work away, keeping the old traditions alive. In Twitch, amateur radio enthusiasts have found a great platform on which to express themselves, and the perfect audience to speak to.


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