We need a journal to curate technical ideas – good ones – for ham radio hobbyists. Does QST magazine still meet that mission?
Last month, I wrote about changes to content in QST magazine over the past 50 years. In doing so, I noticed a decline in commitment to good technical articles, which more than anything else, has been the QST legacy. I wondered if this was a supply issue (less writers), a demand issue (less reader interest) or a marketing issue (lack of interest in the traditional roles).
While I don’t know the answer, I had a conversation with some friends that led to one clear thought. A hobby needs someone to curate technical ideas – good ones – that stand up over time.
I still have boxes of old QST and other radio magazines that are a frequent source of information and inspiration. In fact, when I got into micro-computing in the 1970’s, my first software project was building an index database for my library. Researching topics is, of course, much easier for us today, but a lot of the information online varies considerably in quality. Good curated information is much more reliable.
A challenge with Google key words is that you must know what you are looking for. Back in the old days of paper libraries, we did something called “walking the stacks”. This means you browse and discover new things by accident, or with serendipity. QST provided tons of serendipity in its day.
My view is that a good hobby magazine should also provide many learning opportunities, at the right level for entry, on many relevant topics. We still have some of this from the ARRL, but it’s divided across four different magazines rather than the benchmark. Fortunately, we can access all four with one membership, but maybe some cross fertilization is in order.
Curate Technical Ideas – My Role, My Fault Maybe
One of my friends suggested maybe I was at fault. Instead of writing this blog, I should be writing for QST, he said. Maybe so. I could do both, if they asked me. And this is what I mean by a marketing issue. A good magazine will reach out proactively for contributions. QST has done this in recent years for antennas, but not other areas.
Sigh. In the meantime, if you want to read a really first class ham radio technical magazine, check our Ham Radio magazine 1968-1990 archives online. Yes, it’s dated. But those folks certainly knew how to curate technical ideas – good ones – for our hobby community.