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Author Topic: Code/No Code CW-Do we need it?  (Read 54362 times)
K9AIM
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« Reply #75 on: November 07, 2010, 10:06:17 AM »

I am sure that astronauts are quite busy with their training and administrative work.  I'm also sure that the majority of them aren't interested in ham radio as a hobby.

everyone is busy, but a respect for learning is rewarded.  everything is interconnected and everything you learn can end up helping you better understand problems and solutions in seemingly non-related fields.  learning binary may be somewhat easier, but learning code helps the brain, just as music has been shown to help the brain.  learning code does not really take long.  i found that out once i got over my 'this is too much of a pain to learn' initial reaction.  in the end the notion that code is a pain to learn is false, as is the idea that it hasn't practical applications in all kinds of 'modern' places.

my three cents.
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AB2T
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« Reply #76 on: November 07, 2010, 03:15:00 PM »

I am sure that astronauts are quite busy with their training and administrative work.  I'm also sure that the majority of them aren't interested in ham radio as a hobby.

everyone is busy, but a respect for learning is rewarded.  everything is interconnected and everything you learn can end up helping you better understand problems and solutions in seemingly non-related fields.  learning binary may be somewhat easier, but learning code helps the brain, just as music has been shown to help the brain.  learning code does not really take long.  i found that out once i got over my 'this is too much of a pain to learn' initial reaction.  in the end the notion that code is a pain to learn is false, as is the idea that it hasn't practical applications in all kinds of 'modern' places.

You bet we're busy!  (well, I'm not -- I took a few days' vacation, a rarity.)  You're also on target with the above statement.  Yes, it's important to learn the code.  The astronauts were no more exempt from learning the code than Barry Goldwater, who was the highest ranking ham in government at that time.  I tried to think of some excuses as to why astronauts would seek a wavier. 

Why should all astronauts get a ham license anyway?  Why can't they operate third party?  The Extra requirement is bogus (all the satellite up and downlinks are V/UHF, right?).  Something tells me that now all that is needed is a Tech. 

73, Jordan
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N2EY
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« Reply #77 on: November 08, 2010, 04:32:20 AM »

I tried to think of some excuses as to why astronauts would seek a wavier. 

Why should all astronauts get a ham license anyway?  Why can't they operate third party?  The Extra requirement is bogus (all the satellite up and downlinks are V/UHF, right?).  Something tells me that now all that is needed is a Tech. 


Part of the reason for the ham-in-space stuff is so that people can get a warm fuzzy feeling for NASA. That's not a bad thing - how else would someone not in the business get personal contact with an astronaut? Forging links with hams was just good publicity for both ham radio and NASA.

Remember that in the early 1980s there was a move to make NASA more accessible to the public, with things like the teacher-in-space flight (which ended tragically due to bad decisions about launching in cold weather).

Third-party operation would have hampered flexibility because operation would tie up two astronauts - one as control op and the other as third party. Plus many DX countries don't allow third-party communication at all.

The end result was obvious: require only a Tech for space operations. They're not going to do HF from space anyway, and the equipment in use will be low-power and carefully checked out and certified. (Probably no ham gear in use is as carefully engineered, constructed, checked, documented and certified as that used in manned space operations).

----

This may have been one of the reasons FCC was so eager to create a nocodetest amateur license. They tried in 1975, again in 1982-3, and finally succeeded in 1991. (The first two times the reaction from the amateur community was so overwhelmingly negative that they dropped the idea.)

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N4MJG
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« Reply #78 on: November 11, 2010, 04:05:21 AM »

I took it just before they drop the code and i pass it ! but i have't use since then,  need to go back and relearn it again it will take me time but atleast i can do it !!


73
Jackie
N4MJG
WWW.N4MJG.COM
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AB2T
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« Reply #79 on: November 12, 2010, 12:33:07 PM »

This may have been one of the reasons FCC was so eager to create a nocodetest amateur license. They tried in 1975, again in 1982-3, and finally succeeded in 1991. (The first two times the reaction from the amateur community was so overwhelmingly negative that they dropped the idea.)

I don't remember the reaction to the 1991 no-code Tech decision as overwhelmingly positive. Some of the Chicken Little predictions made the Book of Revelation look like a Candyland game. 

I wonder what finally got no-code through in 1991?  Who was more for it, the FCC or the ARRL?  I was first licensed in 1993 but I remember reading up quite a bit about the controversy.  The controversy was still raging when I got my first ticket.

73, Jordan
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N2EY
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« Reply #80 on: November 12, 2010, 03:30:56 PM »

This may have been one of the reasons FCC was so eager to create a nocodetest amateur license. They tried in 1975, again in 1982-3, and finally succeeded in 1991. (The first two times the reaction from the amateur community was so overwhelmingly negative that they dropped the idea.)

I don't remember the reaction to the 1991 no-code Tech decision as overwhelmingly positive. Some of the Chicken Little predictions made the Book of Revelation look like a Candyland game. 

I wonder what finally got no-code through in 1991?  Who was more for it, the FCC or the ARRL? 

It was FCC's thing, not ARRL's and in 1990 the FCC decided to do it regardless of opposition.

A bit more history:

When Amateur Radio was first officially recognized as a separate radio service in 1927, the treaty which regulates such things required that all countries have Morse Code and written tests for all amateur radio licenses. That provision lasted 76 years, until 2003.

However, in 1947 there was a modification which allowed countries to have no-code-test amateur licenses if the license only allowed operation above 1 GHz.

Over the years that frequency was lowered until it reached 30 MHz. So it was possible for countries to have no-code-test amateur licenses for many years, but only if the licenses did not allow operation below a certain frequency.

It's also important to realize that in the past there were times when FCC took a very activist approach to amateur radio, whether or not hams wanted them to. The restructuring of 1951 and the "incentive licensing" changes of 1968-69 are just two examples.

In 1975, just a few years after "incentive licensing" went into effect, FCC proposed a license structure that was the most complicated one ever proposed for US amateur radio. It had seven license classes and two "ladders" - one for HF and one for VHF/UHF, with the full-privileges Extra at the top. Under that system, many hams would hold two license classes simultaneously (if they wanted both HF and VHF/UHF privileges but didn't have an Extra).

The HF ladder was Novice/General/Advanced and the VHF/UHF ladder was Communicator/Technician/Experimenter.

All licenses required written tests, and they would focus on HF or VHF/UHF practice depending on which ladder they were for.

And the Communicator license had no code test.

The proposal came from FCC, not ARRL or hams, and was widely opposed in the amateur community for a number of reasons. The proposal was met with counterproposals and eventually dropped.

It should be remembered that this was the peak of the CB boom, and also the time when EIA proposed "Class E" CB, which would have taken 220 from hams and given it to CB the same way that 11 meters had been taken from us 17 years earlier. (220 isn't a worldwide amateur band protected by treaty).

In 1982-83 the FCC tried again, and again there was strong opposition. This time the proposal was much simpler; just a nocodetest amateur license.

Finally in 1990 the FCC tried a third time. At about the same time there was a proposal to re-assign the 220 MHz band, or part of it to land mobile, using a new technology called ACSSB. FCC claimed that hams didn't use 220 enough to justify us having 5 MHz of prime VHF.

They also let it be known that they REALLY wanted a nocodetest amateur license. This time resistance wasn't as strong, particularly when the license was proposed as a limited-privileges VHF-only beginners license.

ARRL went along, finally, proposing a license that would focus on 220. The idea was that the band would fill up with newcomers.

But FCC saw right through that tactic, and simply dropped the code test from the Technician.

The rest you probably know.

---

Why was FCC so intent on a nocodetest amateur license?

One reason was that some other countries, such as Japan, had such licenses, and they had seen explosive growth in the number of hams.

But I think the main reason was the CB mess. 27 MHz CB had grown rapidly since its start in 1958 but was pretty much out of FCC's control. CB had become a sort of outlaw hobby radio in the late 1960s and by the 1970s was all over the place.

I think FCC thought that if they made ham licenses easier to get, a lot of CB folks would become hams and operate legally. They also hoped that many more would bypass CB completely and go straight to ham radio.

The idea was that if the CB folks were exposed to legal, well-behaved Amateur Radio, the culture would rub off on them.

How well that idea worked is debateable.

One thing that did happen was that the popularity of CB waned as cellphones and the internet became inexpensive and ubiquitous.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #81 on: November 12, 2010, 09:19:23 PM »

In 1975, just a few years after "incentive licensing" went into effect, FCC proposed a license structure that was the most complicated one ever proposed for US amateur radio. It had seven license classes and two "ladders" - one for HF and one for VHF/UHF, with the full-privileges Extra at the top. Under that system, many hams would hold two license classes simultaneously (if they wanted both HF and VHF/UHF privileges but didn't have an Extra).

The HF ladder was Novice/General/Advanced and the VHF/UHF ladder was Communicator/Technician/Experimenter.

All licenses required written tests, and they would focus on HF or VHF/UHF practice depending on which ladder they were for.

And the Communicator license had no code test.

The proposal came from FCC, not ARRL or hams, and was widely opposed in the amateur community for a number of reasons. The proposal was met with counterproposals and eventually dropped.

What would possess the FCC to create such a hideously complex system?  Did the FCC think tha this system would better prepare hams for professional careers, or establish ham radio as a pseudo-occupation?  Was this simply a gambit to get more hams to operate 50 MHz+?  No wonder the ARRL and many hams opposed this plan.  It would have been simply unworkable.  We now know that incentive licensing has failed on multiple levels.  Did not the FCC realize even in the mid 70's that incentive licensing was extremely unpopular from the very beginning? 

So what were the code requirements for the VHF/UHF "stream"?  5 wpm for all the tests?  I can't see why the VHF/UHF stream would require anything more than that.

Also, this type of dual-level licensing system would have cleaved the ham community into two separate hobbies.  This would have been a social disaster.

This plan would have been a horrible mess for the FCC in terms of test administration (think of the added personnel needed to administer these exams).  I don't know if the FCC and ARRL were already discussing the VE program by this time.  If such a system were to go into effect, the FCC would have had no choice but to call on Congress to pass the VE system. The FCC would not have the personnel to handle this testing scheme.  After all, the VEC was a direct response to Reagan cutbacks on FCC field office personnel.  The FCC field office system could not even handle the existing testing system.

Personally I would have skipped the VHF/UHF ladder and would have gone straight to Extra.  That's just me -- I can (and do) live without these frequencies.

The idea was that if the CB folks were exposed to legal, well-behaved Amateur Radio, the culture would rub off on them.

How well that idea worked is debatable.

That idea has failed. The decline in HF phone operating proficiency after 2000 and especially 2007 is ample proof as to the folly of restructuring.  There, I said my prejudice.  The removal of all code has introduced untrained operators that disregard license sub-bands and use operating protocol adopted from CB.  However, there is more to the story of falling standards on HF.  I don't know if there is an adequate answer at this time.

Strangely, the Canadian restructuring has not, _in my opinion_ given rise to a higher level of VE lids.  Perhaps this is because the Canadians never had incentive licensing: before restructuring the rule was pass one test and the 12 wpm, and gain full privileges.  Actually, someone could get on 80m CW only with limited power after passing a 5 wpm test along with the written test (a pseudo-Novice), but I don't know how many hams took up on that option.  Interestingly, half the hams in Ontario and Quebec hold the Advanced qualification.  This is a much greater percentage than the 17 to 20% of American hams that hold an Extra.  I do not know the answer to this either.     

There must be a sociocultural reason why American restructuring has increased the number of poor operators.  I don't care, and perhaps I shouldn't: I've been off the air for two years.  Heck, there's plenty of folly in unsolicited comments but I'm happy to throw caution to the wind. 

73, Jordan     
« Last Edit: November 12, 2010, 09:24:34 PM by Jordan » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #82 on: November 13, 2010, 03:31:30 AM »

What would possess the FCC to create such a hideously complex system?  Did the FCC think tha this system would better prepare hams for professional careers, or establish ham radio as a pseudo-occupation?  Was this simply a gambit to get more hams to operate 50 MHz+? 

FCC thought it was a good idea, that's all. It was complex but not as complex as the commercial licensing of the time, which had numerous classes and endorsements.

The main idea was that hams interested in HF would take HF-centric tests and hams interested in VHF/UHF would take VHF/UHF centric tests. Hams interested in both would take both. Getting to Extra would be easier because it could be done in smaller steps.

No wonder the ARRL and many hams opposed this plan.  It would have been simply unworkable. 

Why? At the time, there were 5 license classes, all the new plan would do is add 2 new classes and some new written exams. A bit of work to set up, that's all.

Remember this was 1975, not today.



We now know that incentive licensing has failed on multiple levels.  Did not the FCC realize even in the mid 70's that incentive licensing was extremely unpopular from the very beginning?  

Popularity wasn't the issue. And if you look at how the number of hams grew after incentive licensing was instituted, it's hard to say it was a failure.


So what were the code requirements for the VHF/UHF "stream"?  5 wpm for all the tests?  I can't see why the VHF/UHF stream would require anything more than that.

HF:
Novice: 5 wpm, Basic HF test
General: 13 wpm, Intermediatel HF test
Advanced: Advanced HF test

VHF:
Communicator: No code, Basic VHF test
Technician: 5 wpm, Intermediatel VHF test
Experimenter: Advanced VHF test

Full privileges:

Extra: 20 wpm, top-level written test

Not such a problem, really. Many would have taken multiple tests at the same time to save on the fees.

Also, this type of dual-level licensing system would have cleaved the ham community into two separate hobbies.  This would have been a social disaster.

THAT was a big reason why it was so strongly opposed. Plus the fact that it came so soon after IL.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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AB2T
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« Reply #83 on: November 13, 2010, 03:20:14 PM »

What would possess the FCC to create such a hideously complex system?  Did the FCC think tha this system would better prepare hams for professional careers, or establish ham radio as a pseudo-occupation?  Was this simply a gambit to get more hams to operate 50 MHz+? 

FCC thought it was a good idea, that's all. It was complex but not as complex as the commercial licensing of the time, which had numerous classes and endorsements.

The main idea was that hams interested in HF would take HF-centric tests and hams interested in VHF/UHF would take VHF/UHF centric tests. Hams interested in both would take both. Getting to Extra would be easier because it could be done in smaller steps.

Do you have the QST citations for this NPRM?  I can't seem to find information on this in the online QST archive.  I'm sure that the online FCC NPRM record system does not go back this far.  I'd like to research this further.

Also, this type of dual-level licensing system would have cleaved the ham community into two separate hobbies.  This would have been a social disaster.

THAT was a big reason why it was so strongly opposed. Plus the fact that it came so soon after IL.

This regulation was proposed during the discussion of part 95 licensing deregulation (I believe CB was finally deregulated in 1976).  I suspect that the dual licensing system was a way to move some CBers to VHF/UHF (I believe this was already mentioned on this thread) and integrate them through a separate licensing stream.  This might have appeared as a barely veiled patronization of CBers.   

Even if the V/UHF stream tests were significantly easier than the HF stream tests, many operators would get "stuck" in the V/UHF stream and never get on HF.  Not a good idea from a ham radio socioanthropological standpoint.  Then again, a number of no-code Technicians didn't get a General or Extra until 2000 or 2007.  Nevertheless, this 1975 proposal is a case of "separate but equal", which in itself is always a faulty and prejudiced premise.

This proposal also reeks of elitism, which isn't helpful either.  Unless the V/UHF exams were of equal rigor to the HF exams, then classist and elitist accusations would certainly appear.

I believe the FCC had good intentions in continually testing ham skills.  However, this move was a bit over the top and certainly dangerous to the hobby in retrospect.  The old IL system was manageable and served most hams well.  Heck, even towards the end (the VE era) certain tests could be "skipped".  I passed the 20 before the 13 and wrote the General, Advanced, and Extra under the 20 CSCE.  I suspect that complications such as these were one impetus for restructuring.

It is interesting how prejudices are coming to the fore now the licensing structure has been radically simplified.  I suppose that any decision in the ham radio community will inevitably be met with some classism, regardless of direction.  As mentioned, many of us are guilty of this classism -- certainly I am.  It is important to try to put this aside after two major restructurings.  Yet, the pecking order is certain a pre-human trait.

73, Jordan
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 03:24:39 PM by Jordan » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #84 on: November 13, 2010, 04:22:54 PM »


Do you have the QST citations for this NPRM?  I can't seem to find information on this in the online QST archive.  I'm sure that the online FCC NPRM record system does not go back this far.  I'd like to research this further.

Go to the online archive and search by issue. IOW don't enter any keywords, just choose QST 1975. You'll get every article, and the titles will make it obvious.

I'll look through my stacks but the above way is quicker.


Also, this type of dual-level licensing system would have cleaved the ham community into two separate hobbies.  This would have been a social disaster.

THAT was a big reason why it was so strongly opposed. Plus the fact that it came so soon after IL.

There was also the fact that under the proposal some existing hams would have lost privileges of both frequency and power.


This regulation was proposed during the discussion of part 95 licensing deregulation (I believe CB was finally deregulated in 1976).  I suspect that the dual licensing system was a way to move some CBers to VHF/UHF (I believe this was already mentioned on this thread) and integrate them through a separate licensing stream.  This might have appeared as a barely veiled patronization of CBers.   

Even if the V/UHF stream tests were significantly easier than the HF stream tests, many operators would get "stuck" in the V/UHF stream and never get on HF.  Not a good idea from a ham radio socioanthropological standpoint.  Then again, a number of no-code Technicians didn't get a General or Extra until 2000 or 2007.  Nevertheless, this 1975 proposal is a case of "separate but equal", which in itself is always a faulty and prejudiced premise.

This proposal also reeks of elitism, which isn't helpful either.  Unless the V/UHF exams were of equal rigor to the HF exams, then classist and elitist accusations would certainly appear.

Maybe. But it would be a simple matter for the VHF/UHF tests to be as rigorous if not more so than the HF tests. They would just deal with different subject material.

For example, the VHF/UHF tests could go into real depth about modes like TV and wide FM, satellite comms, tropo, meteor and auroral propagation, klystrons, magnetrons, TWTs, etc.

It's important to understand the times, too. The Novice of 1975 was extremely HF centric, offering almost no VHF/UHF. The repeater boom was coming on strong, the first synthesized amateur VHF FM rigs were appearing, and amateur satellite comms were becoming a big thing. This was long before the internet, PCs, cellphones and cheap long distance, so these were all a big deal.

Here's another factor:

In 1957, the USSR stunned the world by orbiting the first manmade space satellite. For the next couple of years, the USSR filled the history books with space firsts - first animal in space, first man in space, first woman in space, first space probe to the Moon and another planet, etc. Back then the USA prided itself on a long list of firsts and fastests, particularly in aviation, science and electronics, so this was a very big shock. Eventually the USA caught up and surpassed, culminating with men on the moon.

But the initial shock had far-reaching effects, in such things as science education in the schools and amateur radio. IMHO it's not a coincidence that the first incentive licensing talk from FCC came in 1958, just after Sputnik.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japanese electronics began to appear in the USA in a big way. They had made inroads into the consumer electronics field as early as the 1950s, but by the 1970s their stuff was getting really good - and it wasn't just in the consumer field.

Japan also had the most radio amateurs in the world, surpassing the USA in the mid-1960s and growing at an incredible rate. Nearly all of these hams held the 4th class license, which had no code test and limited, low-power privileges, but their numbers were impressive. The FCC must have wondered why the USA couldn't do the same thing.

So it may have been a concern of FCC that the American electronics industry wasn't keeping up with Japan - and neither was American amateur radio.


I believe the FCC had good intentions in continually testing ham skills.

But they weren't! Most US licenses have always been renewable. Many hams haven't been tested in decades. For example, I passed the Extra in 1970 and haven't taken an FCC amateur radio license exam since (except for practice exams online). I could have simply put the license in a drawer and renewed it as needed and I'd still have the same privileges without learning a thing.

However, this move was a bit over the top and certainly dangerous to the hobby in retrospect.  The old IL system was manageable and served most hams well.  Heck, even towards the end (the VE era) certain tests could be "skipped".  I passed the 20 before the 13 and wrote the General, Advanced, and Extra under the 20 CSCE.  I suspect that complications such as these were one impetus for restructuring.

Not really. VEs do most of the work anyway.

The impetus for restructuring IMHO was to reduce the admin work even more and to put an end to the anticodetest petitions and proposals.

The main point in all this is that many of the changes over the years were driven by forces outside amateur radio. Often the wrong folks were blamed, too.

Take the VE system - totally an FCC invention. FCC did it to save money, because the Reagan Administration wanted less regulation and provided less funding, precisely when all sorts of new communications technologies began to appear. (Just because somebody invents a new technology does not mean FCC gets more money to figure out how to regulate it!)

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #85 on: November 13, 2010, 04:36:16 PM »

Do you have the QST citations for this NPRM?  I can't seem to find information on this in the online QST archive.  I'm sure that the online FCC NPRM record system does not go back this far.  I'd like to research this further.

The NPRM number was Docket #20282.  I don't know how to get a NPRM from that far back, so I'm relying on secondary sources.

The only ARRL periodical archive article I could access on the issue was the "It Seems to Us ..." president's editorial. 

Baldwin, Richard, W1RU, "FCC Docket 20282 (It Seems to Us...)", QST, July 1975. 9, 56. 

For ARRL members: http://p1k.arrl.org/pubs_archive/67805.  For some reason I can't access p56 directly -- Jim probably has it in his dead tree archive.   

Mr. Baldwin notes in the first half of his article that a good number of Technicians in 1975 never upgraded after the Technician.  He contends that this is not necessarily because they wanted to give up HF privileges but because they could not write the General for a number of factors.  This, I suspect, was the ARRL's main reason for opposition.  The dual track system would have created a class of amateurs forever closed off from HF.  A reasonable position.

Also note this succinct explanation of NPRM 20282 from a syndicated column, "The Wayback Machine", by Bill Continelli, W2XOY.  reprinted in "The Coastside Communicator" vol. 36, no. 8, 5 - 6.  http://tinyurl.com/39et4yh  Accessed 13 November 2010.

Bill notes some interesting points about this proposal:

Advanceds, Extras, and Experimenters would all be permitted 2 kW on their designated frequencies.  Novices could run 250W, Generals/Technicians 500W.  At least a more complicated system brought more power.

First, Conditionals and Technicians would lose the ability to renew.  According to Bill, around 90% of Technicians at that time earned their ticket through mail testing.  I can see the FCC's point given concerns about fraudulent mail testing.  Still, perhaps a number of hams would not could not travel to a FCC field office or hamfest (was this still true in 1975?)  Would the FCC want to re-examine all of these candidates?

Second, an Advanced class operator or an Experimenter operator could upgrade to Extra by taking the 20 wpm only.  An Advanced could skip 4B, and an Experimenter could skip 4A.  This means that there were strictly three written exams for each class. 

Also, Advanceds would receive all Extra phone frequencies.  The only difference between Advanced and Extra would be the Extra CW subbands and full VHF/UHF for Extras.  I suspect that most HF operators would be happy to have full phone and would simply forget about taking the 20 wpm.   

What a mess.  I would've done the same and went straight to Extra.  In fact, it would've been slightly easier with this plan.

73, Jordan
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 04:39:06 PM by Jordan » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #86 on: November 14, 2010, 06:06:06 AM »

The NPRM number was Docket #20282. 

For some more info on all this, take a look at QST for February 1975.

Starting on page 56 is an article "A Tribute And A Challenge", about the past, present and future of ham radio. Note that the article is highlights of a speech given at the QCWA convention by FCC Commissioner Robert E. Lee. (no, not *that* Robert E. Lee!)

Then on page 76 is an article in "Happenings" about docket 20282, including the NPRM. It refers to earlier articles as well.

Couple of points:
- 20282 was the result of a whole raft of proposals that got RM numbers and comments. I count 35 different RM numbers!
 
Only one of those proposals was from ARRL (RM-1535).

Two were from CB groups (RM-1841, from the United CBers of America, and RM-1991, from the US Citizens Radio Council).

Two were from amateur radio clubs (RM-1976, Edgewood Amateur Radio Society and RM-2162, Falmouth Amateur Radio Association).

Two were from groups of unknown interest (RM-1805, Radiotrician Confederation, and RM-2053, Hercules Radio and Recording Studio).

One was from a group with no name (RM-2284, from "S.E. Green et al)

The other 27 were from individuals.

This was long before the internet, ECFS, or PCs, so all those proposals and comments were the result of individuals and groups doing a lot of typing, copying and US mailing.

- The NPRM was a conglomeration of ideas from the various RMs and comments, plus FCC's input.
- Because of publication lead times, all this was actually going on in 1974, less than 5 years after the full force of incentive licensing.

Mr. Baldwin notes in the first half of his article that a good number of Technicians in 1975 never upgraded after the Technician.  He contends that this is not necessarily because they wanted to give up HF privileges but because they could not write the General for a number of factors. 

Not exactly.

What he wrote was that the step from Novice to General was too big for a number of hams, who wound up as Technicians. To fully understand the situation, it's important to know how it all worked back then.

In those days the Novice was a 2 year nonrenewable license whose test was normally done by mail. (Before 1967 the Novice was only good for a year).  The 1975 Novice had very restricted privileges, almost all of them HF, and no 'phone at all. 5 wpm code, simple written test.

The Technician back then was a 5 year renewable license, also normally tested by-mail. It gave only UHF/VHF privileges and was meant for experimenters. It was NOT intended by FCC to be a step between Novice and General. 5 wpm code, same written test as General and Conditional.

What happened to some hams is that they'd get a Novice license but did not upgrade to General or Conditional before the license ran out, for a number of reasons:

1) Couldn't get the code speed up to 13 wpm
2) Couldn't get to an FCC office and was too close for a Conditional
3) Other reasons (school, work, illness, family responsibilities)

So they'd get a Technician, often by-mail, and operate VHF/UHF. But since the VHF/UHF of those days had very little routine CW operation, they'd soon find themselves in a bit of a pickle because upgrading to any other license would require 13 wpm code. That would mean putting down the microphone and studying code until they could pass the test (no code waivers until 1990).

Of course not all Technicians of that era were in that situation. Many had no interest in HF, preferring repeaters, satellites, and other VHF/UHF operation. Even then, it was often much easier to put a ham station on VHF/UHF than on HF, because the antennas are much smaller (and look like TV antennas) and the equipment prices kept dropping.

This, I suspect, was the ARRL's main reason for opposition.  The dual track system would have created a class of amateurs forever closed off from HF.  A reasonable position.

But Technicians had been closed off from HF since the creation of the license 24 years earlier.

Nobody would be "forever" closed off - all they'd need to do is pass the exams for the other license ladder.

Also note this succinct explanation of NPRM 20282 from a syndicated column, "The Wayback Machine", by Bill Continelli, W2XOY.  reprinted in "The Coastside Communicator" vol. 36, no. 8, 5 - 6.  http://tinyurl.com/39et4yh  Accessed 13 November 2010.

Bill notes some interesting points about this proposal:

Advanceds, Extras, and Experimenters would all be permitted 2 kW on their designated frequencies.  Novices could run 250W, Generals/Technicians 500W.  At least a more complicated system brought more power.

First, Conditionals and Technicians would lose the ability to renew.  According to Bill, around 90% of Technicians at that time earned their ticket through mail testing.  I can see the FCC's point given concerns about fraudulent mail testing.  Still, perhaps a number of hams would not could not travel to a FCC field office or hamfest (was this still true in 1975?)  Would the FCC want to re-examine all of these candidates?

Second, an Advanced class operator or an Experimenter operator could upgrade to Extra by taking the 20 wpm only.  An Advanced could skip 4B, and an Experimenter could skip 4A.  This means that there were strictly three written exams for each class. 

Also, Advanceds would receive all Extra phone frequencies.  The only difference between Advanced and Extra would be the Extra CW subbands and full VHF/UHF for Extras.  I suspect that most HF operators would be happy to have full phone and would simply forget about taking the 20 wpm.   

Yes, those are all true. I was mistaken earlier, there would be no additional written for Extra.

Couple more points:

- Under 20282, hams who weren't extras would lose some privileges and gain some. Whether that was good or bad depended on what a ham valued. The General who valued power more than spectrum would lose, for example, while the Advanced who valued 'phone subbands more than power would gain.

- Under 20282, a ham could reach Extra by either ladder - or by both. There would also be Extras who had gotten theirs "the old fashioned way" (like me). So you'd have HF-ladder Extras, VHF-ladder Extras, both-ladder Extras, and old-way Extras. All with the same privileges!

- In 1975 the ARRL conducted a survey of ALL their US members by mail. The survey asked a lot of questions about license structure and the results were published in QST (July 1975, pages 49 and following). They got back 56,000 replies, which was about a 56% response ratio. That survey was a powerful tool in deciding what to do.

- In the event, small parts of 20282 eventually wound up being enacted:

1) The Novice became a 5 year renewable license with 250 watt input power
2) Technicians got Novice HF privileges
3) By-mail exams were phased out by increasing the number of FCC exam opportunities. Only the Novice remained as normally by-mail.
4) The Conditional was phased out by renewing all Conditionals as Generals.

What a mess.  I would've done the same and went straight to Extra.  In fact, it would've been slightly easier with this plan.

It was about that time that the experience requirement for Extra was dropped, so that someone could go from no license to Extra in one test session.

Yes, it would have been a mess.

---

It would be interesting to see what was actually proposed in all those 35 RMs. I find it very interesting that the CB and non-amateur groups got into the act.

The main point is that FCC was proposing a nocodetest US amateur radio license in 1975. Why they did so is left for the reader to determine.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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« Reply #87 on: November 14, 2010, 05:40:36 PM »

- In 1975 the ARRL conducted a survey of ALL their US members by mail. The survey asked a lot of questions about license structure and the results were published in QST (July 1975, pages 49 and following). They got back 56,000 replies, which was about a 56% response ratio. That survey was a powerful tool in deciding what to do.

The July 1975 survey is fascinating.  The survey suggests that a good number of hams were indeed not averse to the dual-track system.  Many also agreed that conditional testing was suspect.  In sum, many hams thought that operators needed more training.  However, overall support for the FCC dual-track plan appears to be quite divided, with an apparent split down the middle.  I suspect that the survey message was "change is needed, but this isn't necessarily it."

One aspect of the survey that's somewhat disturbing is the relatively high number of operators that thought that an "easier" (no code) class would bring in "undesirable" operators.  This is a standard trope that has also appeared in 1991, 2000, and 2007.  At all these junctures hams have thought that any loosening of standards would result in poor operation.  I've openly admitted that the new system is a bit too lenient and has encouraged less than stellar operating practices (especially open disregard for band privileges).  But then again, I got my 20 with a multiple guess, so I'm low(er) on the totem pole myself.

At every change there will be those that predict chaos. 

73, Jordan
« Last Edit: November 14, 2010, 05:42:12 PM by Jordan » Logged
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« Reply #88 on: November 15, 2010, 06:56:37 AM »

One aspect of the [July 1975] survey that's somewhat disturbing is the relatively high number of operators that thought that an "easier" (no code) class would bring in "undesirable" operators.  This is a standard trope that has also appeared in 1991, 2000, and 2007.  At all these junctures hams have thought that any loosening of standards would result in poor operation.  

I'm not sure why you say it was disturbing that a high number of hams thought doing away with the code requirement would result in a drop in the quality of operating practices?   Afterall, doesn't learning to communicate via code yield a natural respect for protocol and brevity?  Also, keep in  mind that CB was growing at that time and CB operators were no-code op.s that exhibited some serious operating deficiencies relative to hams.  The tone & language they used was (in general) much less professional than hams and they also had a significantly higher incidence of breaking the limits which they were licensed to follow (maximum power, etc.).  

One of the natural barriers restricting the legal movement of CB ops into ham radio were the written and code exams. Given that the privileges allocated to hams allowed operation at power levels and frequencies that could lead to far more public, military, & international grievances than CB privileges did -- hams were naturally wary to make the gate into ham radio easier for any citizen to pass through.  The process of earning a ham license (learning code, basic electronic and radio theory, and standard operating protocols) tended to create a better 'class' of operator than did the no code, apply-and-get-it, CB license.

I am not the best judge, as I was largely QRT for 30 years between 1978 and 2008, but it sure seems to me that ham radio has moved toward CB in terms of the quality of general operational practices I hear on the HF bands.  So maybe those 1975 hams who suggested dropping the code requirement would bring in undesirable practices were right ... or ... maybe I am just stuck in the 'good-ole-days' syndrome?  

In any event the no-code era is (unfortunately) here...  
 
« Last Edit: November 15, 2010, 07:02:24 AM by Robert Johnston » Logged
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« Reply #89 on: November 15, 2010, 11:59:49 AM »

One aspect of the [July 1975] survey that's somewhat disturbing is the relatively high number of operators that thought that an "easier" (no code) class would bring in "undesirable" operators.  This is a standard trope that has also appeared in 1991, 2000, and 2007.  At all these junctures hams have thought that any loosening of standards would result in poor operation.  

I'm not sure why you say it was disturbing that a high number of hams thought doing away with the code requirement would result in a drop in the quality of operating practices?   Afterall, doesn't learning to communicate via code yield a natural respect for protocol and brevity?

I completely agree with all that you write.  CW is both a communications mode and an art.  Learning the code requires discipline and effort.  The time investment also ensures that (most) CW operators will act courteously both out of respect for others' reputation and their own.  No one ever "masters" CW.  It is a lifetime avocation.  This is the beauty of Morse, and you and I know this from experience.  I am off the air due to circumstance.  However, I will surely re-enter on CW and not on phone for these reasons. 

 
Also, keep in  mind that CB was growing at that time and CB operators were no-code op.s that exhibited some serious operating deficiencies relative to hams.  The tone & language they used was (in general) much less professional than hams and they also had a significantly higher incidence of breaking the limits which they were licensed to follow (maximum power, etc.).  

One of the natural barriers restricting the legal movement of CB ops into ham radio were the written and code exams. Given that the privileges allocated to hams allowed operation at power levels and frequencies that could lead to far more public, military, & international grievances than CB privileges did -- hams were naturally wary to make the gate into ham radio easier for any citizen to pass through.  The process of earning a ham license (learning code, basic electronic and radio theory, and standard operating protocols) tended to create a better 'class' of operator than did the no code, apply-and-get-it, CB license.

I also agree.  I suspect that the pending deregulation of CB prompted the dual track system as a means to adsorb "honest" operators from 27 MHz.  The V/UHF track did not require anything more than 5 wpm, and granted satisfactory privileges (particularly 6 and 2 meters) with the Technician.  Yet, this system would have sent the wrong message.  This restructuring would suggest that a number of  CBers (most likely attracted to the lower code requirements and the proposed 220 CB band) would become sequestered on V/UHF and gain second class status.  Indeed, even today those who wrote the "old tests" before 2000 consider new hams, especially new Extras, as suspect.  Imagine if this discrimination were institutionalized!  This would have been socially disastrous to the hobby.  Thankfully, this legislation did not come to fruition.

I am not the best judge, as I was largely QRT for 30 years between 1978 and 2008, but it sure seems to me that ham radio has moved toward CB in terms of the quality of general operational practices I hear on the HF bands.  So maybe those 1975 hams who suggested dropping the code requirement would bring in undesirable practices were right ... or ... maybe I am just stuck in the 'good-ole-days' syndrome?  

In any event the no-code era is (unfortunately) here...

Again, I am not on the air.  I have not operated HF phone since 1995, so I must rely on others' evaluation of the current situation (a necessarily hazardous proposition).  Nevertheless, if indeed the current "pulse" is correct, operating standards on HF phone have deteriorated after the restructurings.  I have not noticed any difference on the CW sub bands. 

I hope "older" operators (i.e. licensees before 2000) do not patronize the new operators.  Yes, we have new Technicians that are operating illegally on HF phone and Generals that disregard band privileges.  Chides and anger towards these operators is the worst policy.  We need to be Elmers and not scolds.  Many of these operators do have a CB mentality and use CB language.  Our task is to steer them towards being responsible members of the ham "guild".  We need to instil pride in skill and achievement.  To do otherwise will ensure that a number of new hams will continue to operate poorly and/or disregard license privileges.

73, Jordan     
 
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