I’m not much for cornball stuff. I suppose it’s because I’m a card-carrying cynic. There are exceptions to this, however. One is the quaint tradition of the weatherman who appears on NBC’s Today to extend birthday wishes to centenarians. Maybe a teddy bear lurks inside my grizzly bear persona, because I like that. Any person who survives to the ripe age of 100 deserves some recognition. The same holds true for organizations. So, I’m going to channel Willard Scott to congratulate the Radio Club of America on the 100th anniversary of its founding in New York City on Jan. 2, 1909.

Among its many functions, the RCA for the past century has served as the spiritual home to an army of amateur radio operators. I visited one last year, and it was an afternoon I will cherish forevermore. I was traveling through the South Atlantic region on business and discovered that my trek would take me near Spartanburg, S.C., the home of Harold Kinley, who has written expertly for this publication for years. Despite the fact I had served as Harold’s editor for about four years at this point, we had never met face-to-face. This wasn’t an opportunity I could pass up, so I detoured and paid him a visit. I was blown away by his workspace, which stands in clear testimony to Harold’s dedication to amateur radio.

It is this dedication that I find most interesting about amateur-radio operators. We periodically write about them and their exploits, usually when they are providing crucial service during and after a calamity. They often are the very first responders to an incident, providing valuable intelligence in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Often they are the only source of information after disaster strikes, because traditional communications infrastructure has been struck silent. I still remember well the cover story written by senior writer Donny Jackson that described the vital role hams played in recovery efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives in December 2004.

Some have expressed concern that amateur radio isn’t attracting young people as it once did, and that eventually the hobby will wither and die, unless the RCA—as well as the ARRL (founded in 1914 as the American Radio Relay League)—reinvents itself. There is validity to this, as evolution is the key to survival. But I have every confidence that the reinvention will occur. These are smart people whose intelligence is exceeded by their passion for all things radio.

Happy birthday, RCA. Best wishes for the next hundred years.

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