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Author Topic: UK Amateur Age Limit  (Read 6315 times)

Posts: 1299

« on: August 08, 2013, 06:00:46 AM »

I was looking through my childhood correspondence (sent from boarding school in England, to my parents in France) and found a letter from the late 1960s bemoaning that I would not be eligible to take the UK Amateur Radio test or get a UK license until reaching the age of 14.

As a matter of interest, when was that age barrier abolished? (According to the British Ofcom website, nowadays, "anybody, regardless of age, can obtain any class of Amateur Radio Licence, as long as they have passed the relevant examination"). Does anyone know what was the rationale for the age rule, apart from a blanket distrust of child operators? Apart from anything else, it must have been a major problem for the physics teacher who ran the radio club at my school, since it presumably made many members of the club ineligible to operate the school's ham station because of their young age.

If I wanted to stretch a point, I might even argue that the age limit could have been part of the anti-science, anti-"trades" attitude prevalent in parts of the British ruling class at that time. Some people argue that this attitude hobbled the UK, while in America, people like Steve Jobs were active in their local ham radio clubs as children (not that I've ever seen evidence that Jobs did much in ham radio) and science and engineering were (and are) prestigious professions. Surely ham radio served as a gateway for developing an interest in science, however you look at it.

I know that some of the above is perhaps tendentious, but maybe it will provoke some interesting replies.

What happened in my case is that upon reaching the age of 14 a couple of years after writing that letter to my parents, I did indeed take the test (and pass it with flying colo(u)rs) but ironically had largely lost interest in ham radio by then as the teenage hormones started kicking in.

So in a way, I blame the UK regulations of the time for the subsequent 40-year gap until I started becoming interested in ham radio again recently. At age 12, I was a fanatical would-be ham -- for the late 1960s, in the days before geeks became high-tech heroes, I was a really boring child, interested in almost nothing except radio and space travel! But there was no possibility of getting on the air because of the age limit. Two years later, the opposite sex, music, and other distractions were paramount! During the "A" level years I started out with Math(s), Physics and Chemistry and then after a year, switched to English, History and French. My life could have been very different if I'd stuck with the sciences -- not necessarily better or worse, but different for sure.

As far as I know, there was no age limit for ham radio in America in the 1960s so it might have been different for me if I had been living there. My family did indeed live in America during my childhood but it was for less than a year. That is when I became interested in ham radio, and then tried to pursue the hobby upon return to Europe.

Looking at my decades-old British pink City & Guilds exam-pass certificate, I can see that they prominently printed my date of birth at the bottom of the page. You can see the certificate here (in a fit of Internet paranoia, I have redacted most of the personal information):

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 06:42:25 AM by KB1WSY » Logged

Posts: 585


« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2013, 05:22:12 AM »

It was abolished sometime in the 90s with the start of the then new 'novice' licenses. I was the junior commitee rep for my local club, looking after the welfare of those too young to take the RAE, who were taking the novice license. These were the original 2E series calls.

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