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Author Topic: FCC License Counts  (Read 234674 times)
N2EY
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« Reply #75 on: September 15, 2011, 03:49:59 PM »

I am surprised at how many Novice licenses there still are.

Me too!

When the FCC stopped issuing new Novice licenses 11 years ago, there were about 50,000 of them. Since a license term is 10 years, and the totals don't show grace-period licenses, all of the 14,000+ in the current totals renewed since then.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #76 on: September 16, 2011, 04:16:45 AM »

I am surprised at how many Novice licenses there still are.

When the FCC stopped issuing new Novice licenses 11 years ago, there were about 50,000 of them. Since a license term is 10 years, and the totals don't show grace-period licenses, all of the 14,000+ in the current totals renewed since then.

I suspect that many Novices never really get on the air.  Walter Cronkite never went past Novice, and I know of at least one past university president (e.g. Columbia, in the 70's) who earned a Novice but to my knowledge was never active.  I suspect that the Novice was sometimes earned by administrators, noted journalists, and others in the public eye as a token recognition and promotion of ham radio.  That does not begin to explain the large number of Novices still on the books.  Furthermore, it's surprising that many Novices have renewed.  This phenomenon is quite baffling.    

-----------

OT:

When I started out as a ham, I was encouraged to go for the Tech Plus out of the box so that I could practice CW on HF and also get on the club repeater.  I followed my Elmers' advice and did so.  In retrospect, I wisely spent most of the next two years on HF and worked my code up to 20, but also kept in touch with my Elmers and other club members by FM.  The Tech Plus was a superior substitute for the traditional Novice training license.  I wonder how many new hams in the early to mid 90's were encouraged to skip the Novice given its meagre frequency allotments.  

What if the FCC abolished the Novice in the late 70's/early 80's and replaced the Novice with the "Communicator Class", perhaps also as a trial run in VEC examination?  Jim would know better, but did the proposed Communicator Class allow all of 2m and 70cm without the 5 WPM test?  If so, we might've pre-empted the early 90's no code/know code ham ideological war, or at least have muted its ferocity.  After all, time has shown that most hams start out with V/UHF FM repeater communications.  Perhaps this was already apparent by the late 70's.  If so, the FCC should have introduced the Communicator Class then rather than drag the issue out past the introduction of the VEC.  Also, the Comm. Class license would have reduced the written exams to four.  Perhaps a Communicator could've earned Novice CW HF privileges by passing the 5 WPM.  This would not have changed the existing Technician/General combined exam except that a person who earned the Communicator + 5 WPM would simply need to pass the Tech/General written exam to get all privileges above 50 MHz.

Actually, I am convinced that the FCC's gesture towards no-code licensing was an early sign that the commission desired to get out of the examination business at least in part.  That suspicion is irrelevant to the question at hand.  Still, not long after the Communicator proposal the FCC indeed turned exams over to the VEC.  One wonders.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 04:28:10 AM by AB2T » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #77 on: September 16, 2011, 10:02:28 AM »

I suspect that many Novices never really get on the air....I suspect that the Novice was sometimes earned by administrators, noted journalists, and others in the public eye as a token recognition and promotion of ham radio.  That does not begin to explain the large number of Novices still on the books.  Furthermore, it's surprising that many Novices have renewed.  This phenomenon is quite baffling.

Not IMHO. Here's why:

First off, by the 1990s the number of Novices was quite small compared to the total number of US hams. Today only about 1 in 50 US hams is a Novice. Second, many of those with Novice licenses may be members of ham families who got it to be part of the group, and hams who intend to become active once they retire/kids leave home/work lets up a little/they move etc. Reading QSTs old and new, as well as knowing many local hams, there are plenty of cases of hams who were gone from ham radio except for the license for years or decades, and then came back.

Most of all we don't really know who is on the air and who isn't.

The odd thing about the Novice today is that it conveys no test-element-credit towards upgrading.
     
When I started out as a ham, I was encouraged to go for the Tech Plus out of the box so that I could practice CW on HF and also get on the club repeater.  I followed my Elmers' advice and did so.  In retrospect, I wisely spent most of the next two years on HF and worked my code up to 20, but also kept in touch with my Elmers and other club members by FM.  The Tech Plus was a superior substitute for the traditional Novice training license.  I wonder how many new hams in the early to mid 90's were encouraged to skip the Novice given its meagre frequency allotments.

That trend was in place in the 1980s. It got a big boost in March 1987 when the Tech/General written was split in two parts. Novices couldn't use 2 or 440, Techs could use both - and that's where the repeaters were.

In the bad old days most hams started as Novices on HF CW - usually 80 or 40 meters - with simple gear. Just getting on the air was a serious project. Usually the new ham went through several steps: build/buy HF receiver with simple antenna, learn code and theory (with practice oscillator, key and some books), put up better antenna, pass license tests, build/buy transmitter while waiting for license, get on air when license arrived. A lot of practical radio that wasn't on any test was learned in the process. Until the 1970s the Novice was a short-term one-time upgrade-or-leave-the-air license, so newcomers had a big incentive to get everything ready before the license arrived.
 
What if the FCC abolished the Novice in the late 70's/early 80's and replaced the Novice with the "Communicator Class", perhaps also as a trial run in VEC examination?  Jim would know better, but did the proposed Communicator Class allow all of 2m and 70cm without the 5 WPM test?

I don't think so. The Communicator was first proposed in 1975 and was a companion to the Novice, not a replacement.

we might've pre-empted the early 90's no code/know code ham ideological war, or at least have muted its ferocity.  After all, time has shown that most hams start out with V/UHF FM repeater communications.  Perhaps this was already apparent by the late 70's.  If so, the FCC should have introduced the Communicator Class then rather than drag the issue out past the introduction of the VEC.

I have to disagree on all counts.

The 1970s were the peak of the cb boom, and most hams then were trying to prevent ham radio from becoming like cb. Besides the clear memory of the loss of 11 meters, there were proposals to turn 220-225 into a new cb band as well ("Class E").

Hams of the day saw any proposal to make licenses much easier to get as the road to turning ham radio into cb - and a very bad thing. It didn't take much of an imagination to envision huge numbers of cb folks getting Communicator licenses and bringing the cb culture with them. The number of US hams was growing very quickly in the 1970s and 1980s, too.

the Comm. Class license would have reduced the written exams to four.  Perhaps a Communicator could've earned Novice CW HF privileges by passing the 5 WPM.  This would not have changed the existing Technician/General combined exam except that a person who earned the Communicator + 5 WPM would simply need to pass the Tech/General written exam to get all privileges above 50 MHz.

Actually, I am convinced that the FCC's gesture towards no-code licensing was an early sign that the commission desired to get out of the examination business at least in part.  That suspicion is irrelevant to the question at hand.  Still, not long after the Communicator proposal the FCC indeed turned exams over to the VEC.  One wonders.

The original Communicator proposal was 8 years before the VEC system. The two were driven by very different things. The Communicator was part of a "two-ladder" 7 license class system proposal that would have made things even more complex. The VEC/QPC system was budget-cutting, pure and simple, with the side benefit that it put Dick Bash out of business.

All ancient history now. By 1990 the cb boom/fad was over. In fact, around here I see more cars and homes with ham antennas than with cb antennas, and it's been that way for years.   

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W5ESE
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« Reply #78 on: September 16, 2011, 10:38:25 AM »

In the bad old days most hams started as Novices on HF CW - usually 80 or 40 meters - with simple gear. Just getting on the air was a serious project. Usually the new ham went through several steps: build/buy HF receiver with simple antenna, learn code and theory (with practice oscillator, key and some books), put up better antenna, pass license tests, build/buy transmitter while waiting for license, get on air when license arrived. A lot of practical radio that wasn't on any test was learned in the process. Until the 1970s the Novice was a short-term one-time upgrade-or-leave-the-air license, so newcomers had a big incentive to get everything ready before the license arrived.

Describes me to a tee. Although I passed the Novice exam near the end of 1975, I didn't make my first contact until August 1976.
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AB2T
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« Reply #79 on: September 16, 2011, 05:10:41 PM »

" It didn't take much of an imagination to envision huge numbers of cb folks getting Communicator licenses and bringing the cb culture with them"

Yes, because empiricism supports it.  Looked what happened with the codeless tech license.

73s John AA5JG

I have a very strange hypothesis that I've been thinking over for many years now.  Perhaps I have mentioned it here before; my apologies also to those who have thought similarly.

The introduction of a no-code test in 1976, 1991, or today would not make a difference with regard to CB lingo on the air.

I am convinced that some ex-CB ham radio operators, and even some hams not from a CB background, consider radio lingo a marker of a certain clique.  The use of "QSL?" for "okay?", "copy" for "yes", "my QTH is" rather than "I'm here at ..." etc., marks a person (from their perspective) as a member of a certain in-group within the ham radio community.

For others, the use of CB lingo also serves as a filler for a limited vocabulary. Cursing also supplements a weak vocabulary, but at least CB lingo carries less stigma, social opprobration, and skirts the part 97 obscenity rules.  Yes, this is a prejudiced position.  However, it is well known that an intelligent and well-spoken person does not need to use lingo to hold a conversation.  Rather, he or she speaks on the radio in the same manner as speaking in person.  Indeed, intelligent hams often operate repeaters or HF phone ragchews in this manner.  

I don't know if all operators can be held to the same level of eloquence or conversational skill.  That's why I wonder if it's futile to constantly remind certain hams that CB lingo is verboten.  Rather, many hams will have to tolerate some lingo, so long as it isn't 10-codes or Smokey and the Bandit.  It's not possible for every ham to be a Demosthenes.  Other hams shouldn't force the lingo issue in some cases, especially if the operator in question is a short fuse.  If someone is using lingo, simply do not contact him or her.

CB lingo is grating, I'll admit.  Still, it is better than sparking anger in other hams who might not be able (or willing) to use conversational English and "plain expression".  CB lingo is much easier to tolerate than cursing.

  

 
  
« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 05:22:05 PM by AB2T » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #80 on: September 18, 2011, 04:40:39 AM »

The introduction of a no-code test in 1976, 1991, or today would not make a difference with regard to CB lingo on the air.

Maybe - or maybe not. Cb is certainly not as popular nor as visible today as in, say, the 1970s.

The issue isn't so much the lingo as the the culture/values, and what they represent.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #81 on: September 18, 2011, 11:12:06 AM »

The introduction of a no-code test in 1976, 1991, or today would not make a difference with regard to CB lingo on the air.

Maybe - or maybe not. Cb is certainly not as popular nor as visible today as in, say, the 1970s.

The issue isn't so much the lingo as the the culture/values, and what they represent.

A discomfort with "radioese" and a jaded intolerance to jamming are two reasons why I haven't been on a repeater in 15 years.  Even so, in the coming month I'll have to do some outdoor demonstrations of 2m FM as part of an attempt to start a radio club.  I'd rather do a demonstration of HF, but space limitations rule out effective antennas.      

The other ham I'm working with is professional and well-spoken.  I just hope that in the course of our public demonstrations there is no jamming or obscenity on the repeaters we choose to work.  A part of me doubts that we'll get through a few hours of demonstration without encountering these behaviors.  I think to myself: would I want to be a ham after hearing the lewd language on repeaters?  This is why I have retreated entirely to HF CW.  But I must also remind myself that for most people, ham radio is now V/UHF FM.  I am quite saddened to think that the public face of ham radio has been reduced to the inanities often heard on repeaters.

73, Jordan      
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 11:14:11 AM by AB2T » Logged
KG4NEL
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« Reply #82 on: September 19, 2011, 07:07:52 PM »

But would you please explain what motivation a tecvh-savvy 20 or 30 year old of TODAY...you know those persons who now routinely use I-Pads and I-Phones, and who "tweet" regularly via such things as Twitter and Facebook...are going to have to want to join our ranks when they get to be 40 or 50 years old...particularly when all we still insist on offering up as our "mainstream" modes of communication are Morse code, SSB and analog FM voice?

As a 25 year old and regular Facebook user, my motivation was probably not that much different than yours - the ability to experiment with radio for radio's sake, never knowing who's going to come out of the noise at the end of the CQ, talking with someone halfway around the world with nothing but the ionosphere between our antennas.   

I'm sure it's shunned upon, but my first exposure to radio was through CB. I quickly grew tired of the behavior and legal limitations, though - went to a Field Day site of a local club, and was instantly hooked. I was much more active as a Tech on 6 meters SSB than I ever was as a General, and the first year or so of Extra...from 2004 to 2008 I was basically off the air as college got in the way of ham radio Cheesy

Quote
And while all such data is, admittedly, anecdotal, nevertheless, it suggests to me that our hobby simply isn't attracting today's youth in the same numbers that it was when you and I first got our licenses.  And it's those people (us aging oldsters) who now make up the bulk of the population of the hobby.

Another hobby of mine is high-end audio, and there a funny thing is happening - a lot of people my age are discovering how good vinyl records can sound! LP sales, while still a tiny fraction of music sales, are on the rise. We're not buying them for nostalgia, as we weren't around then. The appealing characteristics of vinyl - the tactile feel of the turntable, having large physical media, the sound - are just as appealing to future generations as it was to you guys originally. Same thing with ham radio; the appeal is there, if people are interested.
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N2EY
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« Reply #83 on: September 23, 2011, 03:42:30 AM »

Updated numbers from:
http://www.arrl.org/fcc-license-counts

the number of current unexpired FCC issued amateur licenses held by individuals on September 21, 2011 was:

Novice:            14,834    (2.1%)
Technician      341,321  (48.8%)
Technician Plus         0    (0.0%)
General          159,690  (22.8%)
Advanced         58,235    (8.3%)
Extra              125,517  (17.9%)

Total              699,597

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #84 on: September 23, 2011, 09:05:05 AM »

Updated numbers from:
http://www.arrl.org/fcc-license-counts

the number of current unexpired FCC issued amateur licenses held by individuals on September 22, 2011 was:

Novice:            14,834    (2.1%)
Technician      341,368  (48.8%)
Technician Plus         0    (0.0%)
General          159,711  (22.8%)
Advanced         58,235    (8.3%)
Extra              125,539  (17.9%)

Total              699,687

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #85 on: September 24, 2011, 11:53:49 AM »

Updated numbers from:
http://www.arrl.org/fcc-license-counts

the number of current unexpired FCC issued amateur licenses held by individuals on September 23, 2011 was:

Novice:            14,818    (2.1%)
Technician      341,410  (48.8%)
Technician Plus         0    (0.0%)
General          159,724  (22.8%)
Advanced         58,218    (8.3%)
Extra              125,562  (17.9%)

Total              699,732

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W9KEY
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« Reply #86 on: September 25, 2011, 06:50:18 AM »

So, we will probably hit 700,000 in October?  wow.  Jim, do you know what the total was in October 1976?  that is about when I got my Novice (one of the last "N" issues)...

I will probably try to upgrade to Extra this Winter and drop out of the ranks of the Advanced.  For me I have found ham radio is especially attractive in the colder months (when I spend less time out and about)
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N2EY
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« Reply #87 on: September 25, 2011, 02:08:20 PM »

So, we will probably hit 700,000 in October? 

Maybe. The numbers wander up and down in the short term but the long term trend is up.

do you know what the total was in October 1976? 

No.

I do know that in 1970 the total was 263,918 and in 1980 it was 393,353. (per W5ESE)

It has been over 11 years since the Novice and Advanced were closed off from new issues. I wonder how long those licenses will stay on the books.

GL on the Extra. It's really not that hard if you do a bunch of practice exams.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W3HF
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« Reply #88 on: September 25, 2011, 05:45:16 PM »

...do you know what the total was in October 1976?...
Not exactly, but the Winter 76-77 Callbook says 305,590. The press deadline was probably pretty close to October.

Data from other callbooks (dated from 1960 through 1997) is posted at www.qsl.net/w3hf/LicenseStats.htm
(Note that the links on that page to my old web site are broken.)
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N2EY
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« Reply #89 on: September 25, 2011, 06:20:50 PM »

Data from other callbooks (dated from 1960 through 1997) is posted at www.qsl.net/w3hf/LicenseStats.htm

Wow! Great stuff!

However, it should be noted that the Callbook totals include all station licenses - clubs, repeaters, military, second-station licenses, etc. They also seem to include some if not all licenses that are in the grace period. (That's why the 1997 total exceeds 700,000).

The totals from ARRL are individual operators only, and do not include grace-period licenses.

---

It's interesting to note that in the 37-year period documented there were periods of rapid growth, no growth and even decline. For example, from 1960 to 1964 the numbers grew from 225,000 to 268,000+. Growth of 43,000 in less than 5 years! But the next 43,000 (to 311,000)
took more than a decade.

Rules changes had a big effect, too. For example, in 1984 the license term was changed from 5 to 10 years, which means that from 1989 to 1994 there were no expirations at all.

Interesting stuff. Thanks!

73 de Jim, N2EY


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