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Author Topic: How About A New Entry-Level License Class?  (Read 18198 times)
N2EY
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Posts: 3895




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« on: February 21, 2012, 06:11:46 PM »

Come April, it's been 12 years since the restructuring of 2000. Tomorrow it will be 5 years since the end of code testing for amateur licenses in the USA.

We now have just under 703,000 US amateurs, and are growing slowly. Almost 90% of them are either Technicians, Generals or Extras.

A lot has changed but IMHO some things still need to be fixed.
 
With the closing of the Novice to new issues in 2000, the Technician became the default entry license for most hams. The trend had been that way for years; the restructuring just made it official.

But IMHO the Technician isn't a good entry-level license at all. What we need is a "Novice for the 21st Century" license. Something that offers more of a balanced sampling of amateur radio.

The problem is partially that the Technician is VHF/UHF-centric, offering everything above 50 MHz but very little below. Which tends to push newcomers to VHF/UHF, and to cut them off from much of what ham radio has to offer.

The other part of the problem is that because the Tech offers high-power VHF/UHF operation, the Tech test is full of questions about RF safety and VHF/UHF stuff that relatively few newcomers will use. (How many new Techs venture above 500 MHz and/or run high power in the first couple of years they are licensed? )

What I think should be done is to close off the Technician to new issues and come up with a brand new license class. Call it Basic, to give it a name.

The Basic class would require a simple but comprehensive test of..well...the basics. It would allow operation on parts of a few bands with a few modes at limited power, to give newcomers a sample of what is out there.

For example, Basics might be allowed on parts of 80/75, 40, 15, 10, 6, 2, 220 and 440, plus all of the WARC bands, running CW, SSB, FM and a few digital modes like PSK31. Power limit 150 watts HF, 25 watts VHF/UHF. Vanity calls limited to 2x3s only. Basics could not be repeater control ops, club trustees, etc.

With the low power and other limitations, many of the higher-level technical, RF exposure and regulations questions now in the Tech could move to the General, and the Basic could focus more on practical-radio areas. A Basic would be much more of a "sampler" license, rather than the VHF/UHF-centric Technician.

Existing Novices and Technicians would have Basic privileges added, so there would be a linear progression up the license ladder.

The Basic exam would not be "easier" than the Technician; rather, it would focus more on what a beginning ham really needs to know.

Nobody would lose any privileges, nor would anybody be "grandfathered" to an automatic, no-test upgrade. There would still be a considerable amount of incentive to upgrade from the entry-level to General, and there would still be three levels of license open to new issues.

Why not?

73 de Jim, N2EY


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KD8HYN
Member

Posts: 22




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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2012, 11:42:38 PM »

I agree that being stuck on VHF kinda sucks, but the tech exam isn't all that difficult and general is tough but doable of course with practice.

It would've been nice as a "young tech" to have access to some more HF, but with the low cost and accessibility of VHF, particularly 2m, it was a good place to start, for me at least.

It would be nice though to see more young people get in to amateur radio, it seems that at 26 often times I'm half the age of folks I find on repeaters, not that that's a bad thing but there is often a difference in interests and hobbies outside amateur radio that can lead to a lack of things to talk about.

Perhaps lower power limits but more privileges wouldn't be a bad idea for new hams.
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73
N5RWJ
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Posts: 461




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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 09:38:14 AM »

Come April, it's been 12 years since the restructuring of 2000. Tomorrow it will be 5 years since the end of code testing for amateur licenses in the USA.

We now have just under 703,000 US amateurs, and are growing slowly. Almost 90% of them are either Technicians, Generals or Extras.

A lot has changed but IMHO some things still need to be fixed.
 
With the closing of the Novice to new issues in 2000, the Technician became the default entry license for most hams. The trend had been that way for years; the restructuring just made it official.

But IMHO the Technician isn't a good entry-level license at all. What we need is a "Novice for the 21st Century" license. Something that offers more of a balanced sampling of amateur radio.

The problem is partially that the Technician is VHF/UHF-centric, offering everything above 50 MHz but very little below. Which tends to push newcomers to VHF/UHF, and to cut them off from much of what ham radio has to offer.

The other part of the problem is that because the Tech offers high-power VHF/UHF operation, the Tech test is full of questions about RF safety and VHF/UHF stuff that relatively few newcomers will use. (How many new Techs venture above 500 MHz and/or run high power in the first couple of years they are licensed? )

What I think should be done is to close off the Technician to new issues and come up with a brand new license class. Call it Basic, to give it a name.

The Basic class would require a simple but comprehensive test of..well...the basics. It would allow operation on parts of a few bands with a few modes at limited power, to give newcomers a sample of what is out there.

For example, Basics might be allowed on parts of 80/75, 40, 15, 10, 6, 2, 220 and 440, plus all of the WARC bands, running CW, SSB, FM and a few digital modes like PSK31. Power limit 150 watts HF, 25 watts VHF/UHF. Vanity calls limited to 2x3s only. Basics could not be repeater control ops, club trustees, etc.

With the low power and other limitations, many of the higher-level technical, RF exposure and regulations questions now in the Tech could move to the General, and the Basic could focus more on practical-radio areas. A Basic would be much more of a "sampler" license, rather than the VHF/UHF-centric Technician.

Existing Novices and Technicians would have Basic privileges added, so there would be a linear progression up the license ladder.

The Basic exam would not be "easier" than the Technician; rather, it would focus more on what a beginning ham really needs to know.

Nobody would lose any privileges, nor would anybody be "grandfathered" to an automatic, no-test upgrade. There would still be a considerable amount of incentive to upgrade from the entry-level to General, and there would still be three levels of license open to new issues.

Why not?

73 de Jim, N2EY



Jim, I agree , your proposal is much better than what we have now. The question is how much phone band width ? I fear repeated QRM attacks, by disaffected Hams?
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 09:42:26 AM by N5RWJ » Logged
N2EY
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Posts: 3895




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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 12:04:10 PM »

The question is how much phone band width ? I fear repeated QRM attacks, by disaffected Hams?

The HF privileges (all modes, not just 'phone) would have to be less than current Generals have, yet enough to be useful.

How about:

All of the WARC bands CW/data/phone

1/2 to 3/4 of the General 'phone bands on 40 and 15.

General CW/data on 80, 40 and 15 (same as current Novice/Tech, plus data allowed)

A bit more of 10 meters - say 28.1 to 28.6

The big limitations are no 160 or 20, no 75 phone, no high power, and a limited choice of data modes.

At the same time, there would be few or no privileges above 470 MHz for Basics. They would have access to all of 6, 2, 222 and 70 cm, but at low power (25 W?).

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N5RWJ
Member

Posts: 461




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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012, 12:15:20 PM »

The question is how much phone band width ? I fear repeated QRM attacks, by disaffected Hams?

The HF privileges (all modes, not just 'phone) would have to be less than current Generals have, yet enough to be useful.

How about:

All of the WARC bands CW/data/phone

1/2 to 3/4 of the General 'phone bands on 40 and 15.

General CW/data on 80, 40 and 15 (same as current Novice/Tech, plus data allowed)

A bit more of 10 meters - say 28.1 to 28.6

The big limitations are no 160 or 20, no 75 phone, no high power, and a limited choice of data modes.

At the same time, there would be few or no privileges above 470 MHz for Basics. They would have access to all of 6, 2, 222 and 70 cm, but at low power (25 W?).

73 de Jim, N2EY

Jim, I would think some phone band width ,on 75 meters is a must? It's here you find Elmer's and the spirit of Ham Radio?
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 05:25:20 PM by N5RWJ » Logged
AB2T
Member

Posts: 246




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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2012, 12:23:33 PM »

Jim, I agree and have agreed for years that an overhaul of the licensing system is necessary.  I have suggested a plan similar to yours on QRZ.  The answer from most "General and up" hams was a resounding NO.  The Technician is not an entry level license, as you well note.  Still, as I have learned the hard way through online questions I have posed, licensing is one of a few most sacrosanct topics in American amateur radio.  Ironically, I am convinced that one of the few ways in which American ham radio has survived without even greater acrimony is through an adherence to an anachronistic and ill-contrived licensing system. Suggestions on how to rationalize the current system only create ill-will and are always counterproductive.

At this time it would be best to simply permit Technicians to operate all amateur data modes within their HF CW sub-bands.  Data is the new CW.  There are new hams that are interested in code, certainly.  However many new hams are experimenting with data first or alongside experimentation with sideband.  A ham should not have to upgrade to General to begin learning about data.  

The current Technician HF plan is a relic of the old licensing days.  We "older" hams needed those bands to learn CW and upgrade.  Newer hams may use the Technician portions of 80 and 40 for CW, but most use just the 10 SSB sub-band.  Maybe the Technician 80 and 40 bands would be used more often if data were permitted.    

73 es SK CL, Jordan
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W8MW
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Posts: 326




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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2012, 01:57:39 PM »

it would focus more on what a beginning ham really needs to know.

Way too practical.  But of course I'd love to see that.  I am an older operator lucky enough to have entered the hobby when elmers were within walking distance and readily available.  They were the source for what beginning hams really needed to know. 

The test prepared you for nothing.  It was full of blah, blah, blah technical stuff that meant zero to a beginner.  It was nothing but a hurdle, a hazing ritual you had to endure so you could get back to actually installing and operating an amateur station. 

I feel bad for today's beginners who don't have access to a helpful, locally accessible elmer.  We know it's possible for someone to pass all the tests up to extra and still know nothing about station building and on air operating.   The missing elmer element is a fact of life these days and many beginners would benefit greatly if the amateur license exams dropped the esoteric RF engineering content and focused on real world, practical material. 

73 Mike
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N2EY
Member

Posts: 3895




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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2012, 03:02:08 PM »

Jim, I agree and have agreed for years that an overhaul of the licensing system is necessary.  I have suggested a plan similar to yours on QRZ.  The answer from most "General and up" hams was a resounding NO.  The Technician is not an entry level license, as you well note.  Still, as I have learned the hard way through online questions I have posed, licensing is one of a few most sacrosanct topics in American amateur radio.  Ironically, I am convinced that one of the few ways in which American ham radio has survived without even greater acrimony is through an adherence to an anachronistic and ill-contrived licensing system. Suggestions on how to rationalize the current system only create ill-will and are always counterproductive.

I disagree!

First off, I don't think we need an overhaul of the system. All we need are some relatively-minor changes.

The answer one gets to questions often depends on exactly how those questions are posed, what alternatives are offered, and what follow-up is done.

It's important to ask *why* an idea is opposed, and what would make it more appealing. It's also important to include reasonable detail of the idea, but not a rigid, unchangeable one.

At this time it would be best to simply permit Technicians to operate all amateur data modes within their HF CW sub-bands.  Data is the new CW.  There are new hams that are interested in code, certainly.  However many new hams are experimenting with data first or alongside experimentation with sideband.  A ham should not have to upgrade to General to begin learning about data.

The problem with that idea is that it doesn't go far enough. Part of the idea is to offer a sampler of bands and modes, and having no HF 'phone other than 10 meters isn't going to do that. 

The current Technician HF plan is a relic of the old licensing days.  We "older" hams needed those bands to learn CW and upgrade.  Newer hams may use the Technician portions of 80 and 40 for CW, but most use just the 10 SSB sub-band.  Maybe the Technician 80 and 40 bands would be used more often if data were permitted.

Maybe. But IMHO the better solution is not to patch up the Tech, but rather to reinvent the old Novice for the 21st century.     

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AK7V
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Posts: 251




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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2012, 04:23:58 PM »

I don't like the "all of the WARC bands" part.  Allow a limited portion of the WARC bands for the "Basic" license. 
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N2EY
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Posts: 3895




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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2012, 05:00:04 PM »

I don't like the "all of the WARC bands" part.  Allow a limited portion of the WARC bands for the "Basic" license. 

The problem is that the WARC bands are already narrow. 30 meters is only 50 kHz, while 17 and 12 are only 100 kHz.

How much of each band would you give Basics?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2012, 06:31:35 PM »

I disagree!

First off, I don't think we need an overhaul of the system. All we need are some relatively-minor changes.

The answer one gets to questions often depends on exactly how those questions are posed, what alternatives are offered, and what follow-up is done.

It's important to ask *why* an idea is opposed, and what would make it more appealing. It's also important to include reasonable detail of the idea, but not a rigid, unchangeable one.

I respect that you are interested in reform.  I would not oppose any of the reforms you have suggested, since I have made similar suggestions myself.  Every proposal you have made here and elsewhere is reasonable and thought-out.

I also agree that responses to proposals are heavily dependent on the way in which the proposal is phrased.  Telephone political polls often yield quite divergent results to the same question even if the question is phrased slightly differently at two different points in the survey.  The same phenomenon is also central to psychometric test design, in so far as the presentation of multiple but slightly rephrased questions counters examinees who try to give what they perceive to be the "best" answer to each question.

Loosely defined boundaries, open-ended proposals, and studied rephrasing offers some critical response, but only if the respondent is genuinely open to change.  A good number of hams are not willing or able to discuss certain aspects of the hobby.  This is value-neutral.

Every person to some extent is motivated by egoism.  Not necessarily egotism, which is an exaggerated sense of self.  Rather, most decisions have an element of self-interest.  After having spent quite a bit of time on ham radio fora, I have found that the following subjects are most closely bound to egoism: licensing, discussions of the value of equipment collection, the way in which hams view the hobby as a community or conglomeration of individuals, and operational motivations (i.e. why do some prefer contesting, others DXing ... &c).  All of these have an egoist investment, particularly if there is a conscious or subconscious "norm" within the hobby that people with certain qualifications, equipment, perceived operating proficiency, or preferences for certain activities are more influential or powerful than others.  I have unintentionally made some hams quite angry with my questions. 

I must've been dropped on the head as an infant, because my egoism does not align with most hams I have encountered.  Still, the prevailing winds in ham radio have rendered discussion of certain points pointless.  There is no way to rephrase topics which bear a certain import and an expected response.  Licensing is one topic which is impermeable in this respect.

It is better then to simply put one's hand to the key and soldier on rather than give any of the above any thought.

73 es SK CL tu e e, Jordan (done with ham forums)
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 06:37:34 PM by AB2T » Logged
N3DF
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Posts: 252




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« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2012, 06:09:17 AM »

I'm thinking more like 75 watts input, crystal-controlled, on slivers of HF cw bands (except 20m), one-year, non-renewable. 
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Neil N3DF
N3OX
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2012, 07:14:06 AM »

I'm thinking more like 75 watts input, crystal-controlled on slivers of HF cw bands (except 20m), one-year, non-renewable.  

That's out of touch with modern ham radio.  75W INPUT?  c'mon.  We have meters on the output now Smiley

I think that some very tight restrictions would be useful, but I think it needs to reflect modern technology and especially modern operating practices otherwise it's not a very good introduction.

Techs already have SUBSTANTIAL CW privileges, wonder how many are using it? (I asked over in the CW forum)

Quote from: N2EY
The problem is that the WARC bands are already narrow. 30 meters is only 50 kHz, while 17 and 12 are only 100 kHz.

How much of each band would you give Basics?

None.

Two bands.  20m and 40m.  Maybe less frequency range than the General, but still in a meaningful portion of the bands.  Power limit 50W PEP to discourage the purchase of ANY type of amplifier, especially CB type junk, and to discourage "all knobs to the right" operation.

I think one of the biggest problems I see for people getting started today is that they think you have to buy too much stuff to set up an effective station.  They think you need an "all band antenna" and a tuner and then when that system sucks and they have a hard time making contacts, they start shopping for an amplifier.  If they're lucky at some point they learn the lesson about how bad their antenna really is but by the time they bought the amplifier, they're working the world with 100W ERP from their awful antenna and then they think everything works great Cheesy

I see tight band restrictions as an important aspect of the old way of getting into ham radio... I suppose that when Novices of old built their first transmitter, there's a good chance it was going to cover one or two or three bands.  That simplifies antenna choice greatly.    These days with modern operating practices and the availability of relatively inexpensive used and new HF radios of many sorts, we have to face facts that most people are going to have an all-band radio.

But if we could give something to put the constraint back, I think that would be useful.  But it needs to be good allocations where people can learn that 50W to a good antenna can get good reports around the country and can work the world.  40m/20m would allow a mix of daytime and nighttime operation throughout the entire sunspot cycle (even more important with  the predicted weak cycle, of the utmost importance if some of the more dire predictions for a cessation of sunspot activity beyond Cycle 24 turn out to be correct)

20m and 40m would allow people to try out a variety of different activities: ragchewing, contesting, and DXing.

=============

Now, I do see the value of allowing the Basic licensees on the WARC bands.  They're friendly and valuable bands.   But I really do think that there's a strong disadvantage to trying to plan for too many bands.  

Maybe 40m and 17m should be the two bands instead of 40m and 20m.

If the sunspots were not such a factor on 15m I would push for 40m and 15m as the two bands, because 15m is a fantastic band and the harmonic relation between 40m and 15m means slight mods to a 40m dipole or vertical will make a pretty good 15m antenna.  But it goes too flat in the doldrums.  17m is okay.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
AK7V
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Posts: 251




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« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2012, 08:21:26 AM »

I don't like the "all of the WARC bands" part.  Allow a limited portion of the WARC bands for the "Basic" license. 

The problem is that the WARC bands are already narrow. 30 meters is only 50 kHz, while 17 and 12 are only 100 kHz.

How much of each band would you give Basics?

73 de Jim, N2EY


I'd err on the side of no WARC access for "Basics."  I wouldn't want to see the WARCs become over-crowded with newbies.  I'm only a CW op, so I don't know how things work on phone, but I've always been accustomed to finding new hams on 15, 40, and 80 meters, and that works for me.

Give them some CW, digital, and phone space on those bands, with limited power.  That will whet the appetite.  40 and 15 meters are a great combo -- one dipole will work reasonably well.  That's how I started.

No point in giving a true newbie too many options.  How many freshly minted basics will be trying their 40m dipole on 30m because it's "close" and damaging equipment, heating coax, etc.  I like N3OX's idea.  Make it simple, equipment-requirement-wise, but allow them to try all the modes and have a shot at DX.
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AG8K
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« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2012, 08:56:31 AM »

I'm thinking more like 75 watts input, crystal-controlled, on slivers of HF cw bands (except 20m), one-year, non-renewable. 

I remember being very happy when I got my novice license with just a few crystals.  I was KN5IHO.  With its restrictions it shows that a person really wanted to be a ham.

Tom
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