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Author Topic: Has It Really Become Easier To Earn A Ham License?  (Read 8855 times)
N2EY
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Posts: 3894




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« Reply #30 on: October 13, 2014, 06:11:59 AM »

The ARRL is constantly pressuring the FCC to "relax" the licensing requirements, in the interest of "rebuilding" the ranks of ham radio, since so many more are going SK then there are coming into the service.

Why do you think that? Where's the evidence?

It's FCC that has wanted to reduce the requirements. Not ARRL.


This is patently false, there are more hams now, then there have ever been in the past.

In the USA, anyway.

True, percentage wise the general population vastly outnumbers the hams in the US today. A larger percentage of hams relative to the general population was true back in the 1950's.

No, it wasn't true at all.

Here's proof:

The following numbers have been posted by W5ESE on QRZ.com and elsewhere:
 
Year    Population     #Hams  Hams as % of US Population
1913   97,225,000     2,000  0.002%
1914   99,111,000     5,000  0.005%
1916 101,961,000     6,000  0.006%
1921 108,538,000   10,809  0.010%
1922 110,049,000   14,179  0.013%
1930 123,202,624   19,000  0.015%
1940 132,164,569   56,000  0.042%
1950 151,325,798   87,000  0.057%
1960 179,323,175 230,000  0.128%
1970 203,211,926 263,918  0.130%
1980 226,545,805 393,353  0.174%
1990 248,709,873 502,677  0.202%
1997 267,783,607 678,733  0.253%
2000 281,421,906 682,240  0.242%
2005 296,410,404 662,600  0.224%
2006 299,291,772 657,814  0.220%
2008 303,000,000 658,648  0.217%
2010 310,425,814 694,313  0.224%
2014 319,071,142 724,410  0.227%

The 2010 and 2014 figures are from the US population clock

http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html

However, the total number of hams now, out numbers those of the 1950's by more than double.

True. Close to triple, actually.

More important, the percentage of the US population with an amateur license today is much HIGHER than it was in the 1950s.

The motivation of the ARRL, is purely selfish, to swell its membership. So, they apply constant pressure to "get more people into ham radio" to "save the hobby" from oblivion. Doom and gloom, scare tactics. So, the FCC relaxes the requirments, and you get what you have today.

Nope. ARRL is not doing that.

The REAL reason for the changes in requirements are to reduce the load on FCC - and because some folks protested the code tests for so long and so loudly.

In so many words, "yes" it's easier than ever to get a ham ticket.
My wife, who knows nothing of radio or how it works took a practice test for a tech license, and nearly passed it, with no study at all. That should tell you how easy it is today.

But how hard was it in the past?

Back in 1968 I passed the Advanced license tests - all of them - as a 14 year old kid. It was in the summer, between 8th and 9th grade. That was back when the tests were supposedly so much harder than today.

Nobody in my family or neighborhood was a ham. I had no Elmer except books. Electricity wasn't taught in school, let alone radio. In fact I went to the FCC office to get a General, but the FCC Examiner suggested I try the Advanced anyway. So I did, and passed.

In those days, you needed two years' experience as a General, Advanced or Conditional before they'd even let you TRY the Extra. Two years after I got the Advanced I got the Extra on the first go.

None of that was a record or even unusual.

So how hard were the old tests, REALLY?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K9AIM
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« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2014, 08:38:16 AM »


Back in 1968 I passed the Advanced license tests - all of them - as a 14 year old kid. It was in the summer, between 8th and 9th grade. That was back when the tests were supposedly so much harder than today.

Nobody in my family or neighborhood was a ham. I had no Elmer except books. Electricity wasn't taught in school, let alone radio. In fact I went to the FCC office to get a General, but the FCC Examiner suggested I try the Advanced anyway. So I did, and passed.

In those days, you needed two years' experience as a General, Advanced or Conditional before they'd even let you TRY the Extra. Two years after I got the Advanced I got the Extra on the first go.

None of that was a record or even unusual.

So how hard were the old tests, REALLY?

73 de Jim, N2EY

first, those exams took focus and interest and an investment of time on your part to pass.  that is a big difference than what it takes to get a CB license.  besides, if they weren't that hard in 1968, why make them any easier now?  are you arguing that we toughen them up to 1968 levels or higher?

second, what a 14 year old kid can do is not a way to measure how high the bar is for the average Joe.
there are probably a few 14 year old kids in baseball that have thrown an 85 mph, and maybe even a 90 mph, fastball. 
but, is that any way to measure how easy it is to do for the average adult?

edit: you suggest above that a 14 year old passing the Advanced was not unusual.  well it certainly wasn't usual either, and at least 99% of the hams I've  met have been adults.   when I did it with the easier multiple choice Advanced in 1977 after just turning 15, the FCC examiner did look bemused when he told me I'd passed (I attributed his bemusement to my age, though i may have looked even younger than i was).  I am no genius but I am a good test taker and book learner.  And i was really committed to passing it.  the prior month at age 14 I when i passed the General, the FCC examiner had encouraged me to take the Advanced even though I was hesitant to do so because I had not prepared fpr the Advanced.  I failed, but not by a lot.  i hated failing a test, and saw the Advanced was within reach, so a month later I came back after studying and passed.  (i remember a lot of stuff about tubes from the exam, such as pentodes LOL)


« Last Edit: October 13, 2014, 08:54:58 AM by K9AIM » Logged
N2EY
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Posts: 3894




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« Reply #32 on: October 13, 2014, 01:27:48 PM »


Back in 1968 I passed the Advanced license tests - all of them - as a 14 year old kid. It was in the summer, between 8th and 9th grade. That was back when the tests were supposedly so much harder than today.

Nobody in my family or neighborhood was a ham. I had no Elmer except books. Electricity wasn't taught in school, let alone radio. In fact I went to the FCC office to get a General, but the FCC Examiner suggested I try the Advanced anyway. So I did, and passed.

In those days, you needed two years' experience as a General, Advanced or Conditional before they'd even let you TRY the Extra. Two years after I got the Advanced I got the Extra on the first go.

None of that was a record or even unusual.

So how hard were the old tests, REALLY?

73 de Jim, N2EY

first, those exams took focus and interest and an investment of time on your part to pass.

So do today's exams - for someone who is new to amateur radio.

besides, if they weren't that hard in 1968, why make them any easier now?  are you arguing that we toughen them up to 1968 levels or higher?

I'm just saying that they weren't all that hard back then either.

I'm saying that they may have SEEMED "harder" back then, for a whole bunch of reasons. And since we don't have the actual tests, we can't really compare.


second, what a 14 year old kid can do is not a way to measure how high the bar is for the average Joe.
there are probably a few 14 year old kids in baseball that have thrown an 85 mph, and maybe even a 90 mph, fastball. 
but, is that any way to measure how easy it is to do for the average adult?

Baseball and a radio license exam are two completely different things.

My point is that some folks talk and act as if the old exams were equivalent to an EE degree or something. They weren't! Nor did they require all sorts of advanced math or electronics. (At least not in the USA).

edit: you suggest above that a 14 year old passing the Advanced was not unusual.  well it certainly wasn't usual either, and at least 99% of the hams I've  met have been adults. 

Well of course - think about why.....

A person is only a teenager for a short time, but they're an "adult" for decades.


 when I did it with the easier multiple choice Advanced in 1977 after just turning 15, the FCC examiner did look bemused when he told me I'd passed (I attributed his bemusement to my age, though i may have looked even younger than i was).  I am no genius but I am a good test taker and book learner.  And i was really committed to passing it.  the prior month at age 14 I when i passed the General, the FCC examiner had encouraged me to take the Advanced even though I was hesitant to do so because I had not prepared fpr the Advanced.  I failed, but not by a lot.  i hated failing a test, and saw the Advanced was within reach, so a month later I came back after studying and passed.  (i remember a lot of stuff about tubes from the exam, such as pentodes LOL)

I had one BIG advantage as a beginner: Ignorance.

I was too young and stupid to know that the exams were "hard". Or that it was supposed to be a long and difficult journey to get to Extra. So I just went and did it. By the time I found out how "hard" it was....I'd been an Extra several years.

73 de Jim, N2EY



[/quote]
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KD6NIG
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« Reply #33 on: October 13, 2014, 02:07:20 PM »

I'm more afraid of the State of California giving drivers license examinations in 50+ languages than I am of Ham Radio license tests getting easier.

I just really hope when its all said and done, that they remember what the shape of a stop sign is and what a red light means.

I can turn past a LID on the bands.  I don't know if that idiot in front of me, behind me, or anywhere near me on the freeway knows what they are doing, and they can end my life.
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K9AIM
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« Reply #34 on: October 13, 2014, 02:24:48 PM »

Quote from: N2EY
I had one BIG advantage as a beginner: Ignorance.

I was too young and stupid to know that the exams were "hard". Or that it was supposed to be a long and difficult journey to get to Extra. So I just went and did it. By the time I found out how "hard" it was....I'd been an Extra several years.

73 de Jim, N2EY

 Smiley  i might have thought the Advanced was too hard, since my uncle who was an EE and had been a ham all the way back in the 1920's held the Advanced.  Because they did not grandfather former Class A top licensees into the new Extra that was created in the 50's, he held the Advanced when I got into ham radio.  what saved me from thinking it was unattainable was that the FCC examiner encouraged me to try the Advanced exam after I had passed my General a month earlier. (even though i failed i had come close to passing and so now knew it wasn't that hard ;-)  like I said, one month later I passed and became an Advanced

i guess that is why it is so much easier to learn when young -- we have far less preconceptions

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W9FIB
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« Reply #35 on: October 15, 2014, 05:23:22 PM »

What makes it hard for some people is the loud group of people telling them the tests are so hard. Another reason why kids have an easier time. They have not had the crap fed to them that the tests are hard.

But to some that say it was so hard...maybe you didn't put in enough effort to learn the material and find the exam easy.

There is no good gauge to measure with here. The tests, and the idea of them being easy or hard, is simply the opinion of each test taker. I found CW very difficult, yet I found the theory very easy. And that was when I was still working as a mechanic for farm machinery and tractors. Later I went and got my electronics degree. But again that was simply my experience...and therefore my opinion.
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K1ZJH
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« Reply #36 on: October 16, 2014, 09:18:04 AM »

Yes, it has... I had my First Class Radio Telephone when in High School, and my 2nd Class when in Jr. High. The theory was a breeze, bu the CW kept me back from becoming an Extra until the 1980s, when the 20 WPM CW exam was simplified and became a multiple choice.  That eliminated the need for solid copy over a 60 second period.

I never regretted learning the code, and DX and CW go hand in hand at my QTH.  I wish I was better at CW. But, I never felt "entitled" to the point where I would have wanted the CW requirement to be eliminated, just for my benefit.

The current exams require a lot of memorization for what is trivia--current regulations that can change at a moment's notice.  A good knowledge of electronics and how things work is universal, and doesn't change at the stroke of a pen. The hobby is less technical, and more rules orientated.

Pete
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W1IT
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« Reply #37 on: October 18, 2014, 07:53:53 AM »

Here's the British Radio Amateur's Examination that I took and passed in December 1971 at the age of 14. It was my second attempt; I had failed on my first attempt a few months earlier.


There was also an age limit: A UK ham had to be at least 14 years old. This was a PITA. I became interested in ham radio at age 12, but had to wait two years ... by which time I had mostly lost interest, unfortunately. The British age limit has since been removed, I believe.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY



Martin, I took the US Extra test August 1964. The examiner was an FCC proctor . Engineer? Any way, 150 questions, and ten sheets of white paper. About 100 questions multiple choice. The rest, you drew circuits. I recall one was an absortion wavemeter. Another FM detecter. They were looking for a ratio and/or discriminator circuit. Tubes of course.
The questions required mathematical ability at least to advanced grade nine.
You needed to solve for the quantity they requested.
Example: A vertical monopole is being supplied with 10 amperes of radio frequency energy at 3.9 megahertz.
If the base impedance is 50 ohms resistive, what power is being supplied.
The required equation was P = I (squared) R. I in amperes.
So you solve by basic substitution. Yielding  100x50 = 5,000 watts. Cheesy
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #38 on: October 18, 2014, 03:08:32 PM »

Martin, I took the US Extra test August 1964. The examiner was an FCC proctor . Engineer? Any way, 150 questions, and ten sheets of white paper. About 100 questions multiple choice. The rest, you drew circuits. I recall one was an absortion wavemeter. Another FM detecter. They were looking for a ratio and/or discriminator circuit. Tubes of course.
The questions required mathematical ability at least to advanced grade nine.
You needed to solve for the quantity they requested.
Example: A vertical monopole is being supplied with 10 amperes of radio frequency energy at 3.9 megahertz.
If the base impedance is 50 ohms resistive, what power is being supplied.
The required equation was P = I (squared) R. I in amperes.
So you solve by basic substitution. Yielding  100x50 = 5,000 watts. Cheesy

I think the comparison might be a bit different if you compare the Extra of the 1960s to the Extra of today. Mind you, I don't know for sure, because I haven't done my Extra yet -- and when I do, I have promised to do it without looking at any of the questions from the question pool beforehand.

As you can see, the 1971 British ham test that is in my original post requires math, the drawing of circuit diagrams, etc.

Although there is no Novice license nowadays, one way to phrase the question would be: Is it easier to get a Technician today, than it was to get a Novice a half-century ago? I'm not sure. Admittedly there was a code requirement -- but 5wpm didn't seem to be a major barrier to would-be hams back then.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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W8JX
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« Reply #39 on: Yesterday at 10:02:21 AM »

Sadly, today a ham ticket is turned into a high dollar CB for many. It is possible to get a ticket today without learning anything other than memorizing practice exams for multiple guess questions. They commercialized it for equipment sales/profit and sales boomed for a bit and now market is getting saturated.  See a lot of changes in rules in 45 years as a ham and mostly for worse.
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W9FIB
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« Reply #40 on: Yesterday at 01:46:59 PM »

Sadly, today a ham ticket is turned into a high dollar CB for many. It is possible to get a ticket today without learning anything other than memorizing practice exams for multiple guess questions. They commercialized it for equipment sales/profit and sales boomed for a bit and now market is getting saturated.  See a lot of changes in rules in 45 years as a ham and mostly for worse.

What is worse for some is better for others. It strictly a matter of one's opinion.
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K2GWK
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« Reply #41 on: Yesterday at 02:12:35 PM »

Sadly, today a ham ticket is turned into a high dollar CB for many. It is possible to get a ticket today without learning anything other than memorizing practice exams for multiple guess questions. They commercialized it for equipment sales/profit and sales boomed for a bit and now market is getting saturated.  See a lot of changes in rules in 45 years as a ham and mostly for worse.

I really doubt it had anything at all with radio equipment sales. I am sure that the internet had the most effect on testing. Face it, one can communicate world wide on the internet. One can even have a video conference with someone on the other side of the world via Skye, no license required. While it is true that Amateur radio can operate off the grid in times of emergency I am sure the  average young person could give a crap less. While I agree the technician test has gotten easier, I don't think the general or extra has gotten extremely easy. I would love to see how many extras who got their license 25 to to 30 years ago could pass the extra test today without studying. I am guessing it would be a fairly low number. I also don't understand what the big deal is about drawing schematics for an exam is. You either know the material or you don't. I also disagree about the changes in amateur radio all being bad. I think someone has to have an terribly pointy head to make that claim. Look at all the wonderful technology that has been developed by Hams. From SDR's to amplifier technology and everything in between, hams have been involved in the development of technology for well over 45 years.

I also don't buy the crap about new hams making bad operators. I spend enough time on 20, 40 and 80 meters to tell you who the bad apples are and how long they have their licenses. Take a look at the FCC site to see who are getting the fines and take a look at how long they have been around. I see very few new Hams getting violations.

I think the biggest problem in amateur radio today is the self serving older hams with the "I have had my license for 40 years so I am better than you" attitudes. I know there are tons of great Hams out there who are willing to respect, share and nurture the new guy and try to give something back to the hobby. Unfortunately it is the Hams who think Amateur Radio is less better off today that give our hobby a bad name. They should open their eyes look in the mirror and realize they are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The good old days are right now, like it or not.
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