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Author Topic: FCC refuses to reinstate CW requirement.  (Read 17262 times)

Posts: 39

« on: February 29, 2008, 09:45:46 AM »

I'm *very* happy with this announcement:

The CW requirement kept many of us out of Amateur Radio, limiting our effectiveness as first responders.

----------- from the article
"The FCC also noted that another fundamental purpose underlying Part 97 rules is "to enhance the value of the amateur service to the public, particularly with respect to emergency communications, and that the Commission had previously concluded that most emergency communication today is performed using voice, data, or video modes, because information can be exchanged much faster using modes of communication other than telegraphy."


Dropping the CW *requirement* has enabled 8 out of 10 in my family to become licensed Technicians or Generals, and practice on the local nets for emergencies.  This literally opened the door for my kids to enjoy learning useful communications while gaining some valuable experience constructing, troubleshooting - all in an exciting & well managed environment.

---------- from the article
"Anthony R. Gordon, KG6EQM

Gordon asserts that "'the failure to keep the Morse code telegraphy requirement intact, at least as a required examination element for the Amateur Extra Class operator license, fails to take into consideration the significant national security implications that require retaining adequate examination safeguards to insure the viability that Morse code telegraphy provides, not only to the Amateur service, but the nation as well.'" Gordon argues that the requirement should be retained so that amateur operators can act as "a 'strategic reserve,'" because there is "no assurance that...voice or digital modes will even be operationally viable in future emergency communication environments.""

"strategic reserve"Huh
In our county, about 20 new first responders - Amateur operators have been licensed since dropping the CW requirement.

----------- from the article
"The FCC was not persuaded, however, that eliminating the Morse code examination element will affect national security or emergency communications. "We agree with the commenters who point out that requiring applicants to pass a one-time telegraphy examination did not and would not guarantee a supply of skilled telegraphy operators. Moreover, nothing in the Commission's decision prevents an interested amateur radio operator from pursuing Morse code proficiency.""

Doesn't that last sentence really say it all?

KJ4ADN - Bill

Posts: 0


« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2008, 02:13:52 PM »

 That's right... Bring on the Channel 19'rs... With todays inrush of new hams, ease of licensing and lack of ethics and decency is the paved road for an onslaught of poor operators, lack of operating skills, and the lack of decency us old timers remembered from way back.

 And with the lack of funds and interest, I have already seen evidence of the lack of policing on our bands, much less enforcement, and so has alot of others... Run up and done some of the bands some night and listen to the nonsense so flooding the bands with more operators that are less than diligent on upholding the morals, respect and ethics we held dear is not the answer.

 On the other hand, if more testing and training were provided to put a wall between the flood of QRM'rs with lack of ethics, more policing and enforcement were used by both amateurs and the FCC... Than yes bring on the people that truly want a home in the hobby...

Far too many people agree with me though, and far too many are experiencing the effects of lack of training, ethics, and all around good amateur practice that has been lost due to a drop in the requirements to achieve a license.

Let's drop the driving requirements, How about 13 year olds learning to drive?? No you say.... ?? There are reasons for stricter requirements, and for the amateurs that will go on and use good ethics and practice that's great...

For the channel 19'ers, well....


Posts: 0

« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2008, 06:37:56 AM »

IF the purpose of dropping the code was to in reality "Increase" the number of Amateur Ops in any massive/significant sense of the world--it flat out failed.

Per a little news blurb of the last meeting of the VECs, the number of Amateurs getting licenses was very very low in number after the initial rush. AND on top of that the number of licenses subject to expire include a an extremely large proportion of no coders who for whatever reason just flat out decided to vanish never to be heard again.

ON TOP OF THAT, ALL the Novice and Advanced holders who for reasons known only to them refuse to advance 1 license higher will also vanish when either they become deceast or let their licenses expire and let lapse beyond the Grace Period.

And if you do not think that things can get even worse for the numbers, IF the decides to mandate that ALL Amateur Radio Comminications be Digital in nature and ban all analog transmissions as they did with Spark Gap then welllll you can expect to see a huge drop in numbers.  The older group are going to say screw you FCC and quit.  The YOUTH are probably NOT going to be able to afford the High Tech radios and be put off by the high price of the hobby (much in the same way a lot of people do not play Golf because they cannot afford either the clubs, the high green fees or the Country Club dues//they are too poor).

You can expect a massive decline of Amateur Radio Licenses as time passes.  The old generation passes away and the NEW generation (who are truly NOT dedicated) just simple leave.

IN THE END, dropping the code in its entirety will mean absolutely nothing other than a 'False Hope'.

BUT THE BOTTOM LINE is simply that the FCC has made up its mind/period and no one should expect the FCC to reinstate the code UNLESS the IARU on the OFFICIAL LEVEL recommends the reinstatement of Code as a requirement of the Amateur Radio Licenses of its members. Not very much likely in my or your lifetime.

Posts: 12

« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2008, 08:25:54 PM »

Is there any evidence that new HAMs (such as myself) contribute to the already existing problems found on the air? Of course, an influx of new people is an influx of inexperienced operators.

I may or may not be typical, but I waited 30 years to get my license. I did have my commercial class license since 1979 (Jr in High School). Joined the USAF in 1980, left it in 1990 with a 4-year degree. Worked in 2-way radio for 7 years (Virginia State Police), taught college electronics part time and now work as a Manufacturing Engineer designing medical devices (as lead engineer in our R&D dept). I would bet many new Hams such as myself approach the hobby with a large degree of dignity & respect. In fact, I have yet to "speak", as I spent my time listening to others to get a feel for proper procedure (though a new FT-1802 is now on it's way!).

Based on this I would consider it ill advised to lump us new HAMs as escapee's from the "children's band". Code never kept the jerks off the bands.

Posts: 9

« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2008, 02:03:48 PM »

 If this means anything, I took the exam this morning to upgrade my license class. To my surprise, there were more VE's than actual test takers. 2 examinees vs. 7 VE's. Maybe some of VE's were just hanging out but at least 4 of them helped grade the 2 exams. Just FYI..

Posts: 297

« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2008, 03:24:14 PM »

Even after the fact, the great debate still continutes....

I griped about CW requirements and did what everyone else at the time had to do to get on HF, pass the 5WPM test.  It took me 3 tries, but I finally passed.  And for those interested, I got my start in CB.  Anyhow, this debate should be long over.  Too many arguments and heated debates.  There's nothing anyone can do about the FCC bringing back the Element 1 requirement, so why rub salt in the wound?

Just my 2 cents

73 de KB3LSR


Posts: 4


« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2008, 12:46:54 PM »

KG6EQM upgraded from Technician (No Tech Plus) to General AFTER the FCC dropped the code requirement.

Sounds like someone might have a little hypocrisy running through their veins?      

Posts: 1

« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2008, 06:15:56 PM »

Quote "That's right... Bring on the Channel 19'rs... With todays inrush of new hams, ease of licensing and lack of ethics and decency is the paved road for an onslaught of poor operators, lack of operating skills, and the lack of decency us old timers remembered from way back." End Quote.

So you're saying that the only difference between past amateurs with ethics and good operating practices was the code requirement. Without that, all that get their licenses without the code testing, are nothing more than glorified CB'ers...amazing!!! What an elitist attitude you have.

Posts: 415


« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2008, 04:22:52 AM »

John (AA5JG) wrote:  "The CW requirement didn't keep anyone out of ham radio. A CW receiving test hasn't been required for the Technician license since 1991."

But that requirement ALSO kept generations of people out of the mainstream of our hobby as well.  And I believe that keeping such an arcane and systemically discriminatory licensing requirement firmly in place for over half a century after it had outlived any semblance of usefulness will be a major contributor to the eventual demise of our Service from lack of growth.

As an Accredited Examiner (in both the USA and Canada) as well as an Amateur Radio instructor who has helped introduce Ham Radio to hundreds of future Hams for more than 20 years, I learned long ago that, for some people, learning Morse is a "snap".  But, for others, it can be days, weeks, or even years of absolute frustration, resulting in failure after failure.  And the amount of “extra effort” expended by such folk seldom, if ever, makes any real difference in the outcome.  In fact, there are any number of widely recognized, certifiable medical conditions that can make learning Morse nigh on impossible for some otherwise “ordinary” people.

That's because proficiency in Morse is an inherent, complex, human psychomotor skill.  

That means it involves a whole host of both psychological (mental) as well as physiological (motor) skills and abilities, some of which can be "learned", but most of which are NOT AT ALL "learnable".  That is, we are either born with these abilities to learn those skills or we aren't.  And that ability to learn those skills can also be impaired by accident or disease.

Now, certainly, listening for the dots and dashes (or the entire "sound") of a Morse character is a part of that activity.  But, then there's the mental interpretation part of what those sounds mean, as well as the brain's ability to send the proper neural messages to one's hands and fingers to write down the letters and words on a piece of paper or a typewriter.  The latter activity also involves one's ability to see as well as to hear…not to mention one's ability to properly form recognizable characters on a page and/or finding the correct key to depress on a typewriter.  At least ONE of those additional skills are required in order to pass such skill tests.

And, much like those things that can interfere with an RF signal traveling down a piece of coax (like broken shielding, water in the cable, bad connectors, or a mismatched antenna), there are any number of psychomotor issues that can distort or even prevent the sound of the Morse character from being properly heard, interpreted and then correctly written down at the other end of that process.

So, as I said, because it IS such a complex, human activity, the ease of learning Morse varies widely throughout the population based on that long list of inherently human factors, many of which are completely beyond our control.  My guess is that these two facts (along with the fact that there is no longer an international requirement that they do so) were probably among the most compelling reasons why the FCC finally dropped Morse testing entirely, and with their latest decision, steadfastly refusing to bring it back.  

Call it genetics, the “way we are born" or what have you, but the simple truth is that we are NOT all put together exactly alike.  But, unfortunately, since learning Morse is a singular activity, it is very easy to view another person's ability to learn it using a sample size of one…that is, our own experiences.

Now, clearly, there ARE many people in our hobby who are just too lazy to get up off their finals to learn Morse. And that is certainly their choice.

But, for the “Morse testing forever” crowd to now lay that same judgment on folks who absolutely CAN’T learn Morse no matter how much extra effort they put into doing so is disingenuous at best and downright discriminatory at worst.  

The bottom line here is that, as much as the left-brained, engineer-types in our hobby obsessively seem to believe otherwise, we humans AREN’T all put together like our Amateur Radio transceivers that come off the assembly line with the same parts list, the same knobs on our “front panels” or the exact same genetic programming (psychomotor skills and abilities) uploaded into our “boot ROMs”.



Posts: 415


« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2008, 11:23:51 AM »

Kevin (KA2ZNI) wrote: "Far too many people agree with me though, and far too many are experiencing the effects of lack of training, ethics, and all around good amateur practice that has been lost due to a drop in the requirements to achieve a license…How about 13 year olds learning to drive?? No you say.... ?? There are reasons for stricter requirements, and for the amateurs that will go on and use good ethics and practice that's great..."

Kevin, your comments appear to be yet more "sour grapes" from the "we're being dumbed down" crowd.

Sadly, what's often left out of such bogus arguments is the fact that our whole US Amateur licensing system USED to be quite simple...that was, of course, until it was needlessly (and I say illegally) "dumbed UP" in the 1950s to justify the FCC's stupid incentive licensing foolishness.

And I've always found it fascinating that even WITH our multi-tiered, so-called "incentive licensing" system, Mr. Hollingsworth still manages to keep himself gainfully employed.

Scofflaws don't give a flying flip about rules, standards or what class of license they (or you) may happen to have.  And having more (or more difficult) licensing criteria has never EVER been a deterrent to boorish behavior.  In the end, it all still comes down to peer pressure, selective enforcement of "good amateur practice" and how WE are able to work together for the good of our Service.  

In fact, the FCC said as much in their Report and Order that dropped the Morse testing requirement last year, to wit:  "The record is DEVOID (emphasis mine) of a demonstrated nexus between Morse code proficiency and on-the-air conduct," the FCC observed. "As a result, we concur with the observation that maintaining the code requirement DOES NOT (again, emphasis mine) purge Amateur Radio of bad operators. Education and self-policing does.”

Furthermore, whatever "standards" and/or "incentives" the FCC MAY have established in their original incentive licensing schemes back in the 1950's and 1960's are now LONG since gone.  And they absolutely AREN’T coming back.

Those “standards” started going down the tubes when a fellow named Dick Bash started publishing books of FCC test answers gleaned from applicants immediately after they had taken their tests.

Up to that point, there were published "License Manuals" available from the ARRL and others that covered numerous broad topics.  However, one never really knew for sure what kinds of questions were going to be on YOUR exam until you sat down in front of an FCC examiner to take the test.  So, as I've said, you had to really know your stuff back then.

The Bash books changed all that.

And other FCC decisions since that time, like turning the complete responsibility for examinations over to volunteer examiners as well as publishing the various standardized question pools far and wide, made taking those exams easier and far more convenient for all of us.  

But, those changes have now all conspired to completely erode whatever license standards might have been in our Service to the point that, as I have stated in other forums, the tests today don't really measure an applicant's true understanding of much of anything, except, perhaps, how well they can take and pass multiple-choice tests based on a pre-published question pool.

For a whole host of reasons, mostly having to do with skyrocketing administrative costs and the very real threat of class action lawsuits from the disabled lobby, I predict we will eventually see a complete dismantling of the entire FCC incentive licensing foolishness, primarily because it has now defaulted to little more than a huge, systemically discriminatory FARCE.  

That is, I predict the FCC will eventually be forced to eliminate ALL their license-class and mode-based regulatory gobbledygook (as they did with Morse testing) and finally pare things down to one or two simple, written, multiple-choice tests for one or two classes of licenses.  The first will grant full operating and frequency privileges to most Hams right from the start because, by then, the FCC will also have stopped tying frequency privileges and operating modes to license class.

What's more, it is crystal clear by their actions to date that the FCC has essentially washed their hands of trying to cram rote, pseudo-learning down our throats (or up various other orifices of our bodies) one test at a time.  And, primarily because of the threat of lawsuits that it would create, I firmly believe they aren't about to take ANY of that responsibility back.  

To me, this means that the FULL responsibility for creating and upholding any "requirements" for entry and progressoin in our Service going forward has ALREADY been dumped back into our collective laps…which is where I firmly believe it should have been all along.  

Unfortunately, FAR too many Hams are still obsessively looking (in vain) for the FCC's government testing structure to keep providing such standards, even though the FCC largely abrogated that responsibility DECADES ago.  Now, the only people who genuinely CAN'T pass any (or all) of the FCC's so-called written "incentive" tests are people with genuine physical, learning or other disabilities.
I'd like to see an organization (or organizations) such as the League now step up to the plate and begin offering a series of optional certification examinations for various levels of knowledge and skills in our Service.  The League is already doing some of this with their certifications for Emergency Services and the like.  This same approach should now be extended to pick up the slack where most of the General and Extra Class theory material is targeted now.  

Morse certifications, too, at various levels and speeds, could continue to be offered over the air (as the ARRL does) or, better yet, online.  An online CW certification idea now under development by the good folks at SPAR is a superb prototype that others could also pick up and run with.

But, clearly, the Morse-testing-and-incentive-licensing-forever crowd has been doing our Service a horrible DIS-service over the years by obsessively looking to the FCC (and it's increasingly farcical testing structure) to be solely responsible for setting the standards of excellence in our hobby.  That approach simply isn't working.  It never has worked. And it certainly isn’t going to work in the future.

In fact, I believe that if most of us who have been in the hobby for more than just a few years were brutally honest, we'd admit that we've obtained FAR more learning from our post-exam, hands-on and on-air activities than we EVER did from cramming for some stupid FCC test.  To me, that gift of life-long, hands-on learning is just one of the many wonderful gifts that Amateur Radio has bestowed on each of us who genuinely live and love it.  

So, I firmly believe we need to now STOP pleading for "Big Brother FCC" to set our standards.  That is, we need to STOP asking the FCC’s testing structure to be the grown-up version of the Boy Scouts where we all ”earn” enough “merit badges” to be promoted into the next higher “class”.  

Rather, the licensing structure for the Amateur Service should simply be making sure new applicants know enough “rules of the road” and electronic theory so as to not become a hazard or a nuisance to themselves, their neighbors or others on the bands.  Anything beyond these precepts simply invites more snobbery.  And, I think most of us would agree that we already have FAR too much of THAT in our Service already.

But, once newcomers ARE licensed, I believe WE then have an obligation to encourage them to partake of our own alternative learning systems…systems that encourage and share FAR more self-teaching and learning than what any stupid, FCC-imposed "incentive" test could ever hope to do.  

That is, rather than obsessively wasting our energies trying to maintain largely bogus (and therefore highly discriminatory) government-imposed examination "barriers" to full participation in our Service that do absolutely nothing but keep people out, we now need to open our doors wide to ALL newcomers and then begin taking far more of the responsibility for correctly "Elmering" them into our ranks.



Posts: 139


« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2008, 11:20:20 AM »

I am a brand new ham, just got my Extra license on Monday April 14. My 18 year old boy took the exam with me mostly as a favor to me. He had not studied anything and passed the Tech exam. He thinks ham radio is "soooo old school" with the availabilty of cellphones and wireless Internet, VOIP etc. I hope to get him on the air and convince him otherwise.

The hobby is in grave danger. There is simply not enough new blood. Take a look around. The average age is going up. Bad sign for survival of the species.

One reason I joined and roped my son in is to help save the wonderful tradition of ham radio. First thing I did is join the ARRL. Despite its bloated staffing and ponderous "dinosauric" character, it gives us a voice in Washington DC and is a guardian of our spectrum rights. Do I like the ARRL? Not especially, but they are a strong bodyguard to fight off the spectrum grabbing thugs who think we have waaaay too big a slice of the pie.

I have a deep and abiding respect for CW ops, especially those who can copy 35 WPM while reading their morning paper. I don't, however, think that CW should be a licensing requirement. I can copy CW, but so slowly that I'd probably never have reached Extra ever, no matter how much I practiced. That barrier to the higher levels of licenses kept me out of the hobby. Our spectrum space is now extraordinarily valuable and in the target sights of various lobbyists representing interests adverse to ham radio. We need to remove barriers to entry into ham radio. CW requirements have kept lots of otherwise competant people out of hobby, people who would be good operators on all other modes.

Do I feel I deserved an Extra license with no CW? No, in fact I do not. I'd be happy if Extra required CW and gave licensees some exclusive CW band segments. However, making CW a requirement for all classes above Tech is simply irrational and needlessly exclusionary.

Asbestos/Nomex in place, ready to be flamed... AF6IM listening.

Posts: 268

« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2008, 12:27:01 PM »

When I was a 5 wpm Novice, I was pretty sure that I was incapable of reaching the 13 wpm required for General.  However, after about 500 QSOs--2 or 3 a night for about seven months--I breezed through the code test without any additional study.  After a thousand or so additional QSOs over the next two years, the 20 wpm exam was not a major problem.  I just had to learn to write down what I had been copying in my head.  

By the way, which functions would you like to see the "bloated" ARRL jettison?

Neil N3DF

Posts: 139


« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2008, 12:46:56 PM »

Perhaps I gave up on CW proficiency too soon, but the fact that I was discouraged and stayed out of ham radio means that others likely did the same thing. Ham radio needs more members or it will lose clout. Do you dispute that? CW is a barrier to entry and removing it has brought in new members, like me and my son. I might revisit CW. I sure admire those who can do it well and your story has given me some optimism.

I wouldn't eliminate any functions to reduce ARRL "bloat", I'd just do what they do now with less money and less people. Non profit hobby associations inevitably get bloated, happens to the best of em. If there is enough money coming in, it gets spent. Pretty soon even the assistants are hiring assistants. Do you think the ARRL is a highly efficient organization? I like what they do, I just think it could be done more efficiently and with greater agility.

At least I joined the ARRL and encourage others to do the same. Isn't that a whole lot better than griping while I am reaping ARRL benefits without paying for them?


Posts: 268

« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2008, 07:11:41 AM »


I would like to see more hams, but I am less interested in the tally of licensees than in the number of active hams who are active on the air, participate in a club and read at least one of the monthly ham magazines.  They don't have to be CW ops, just active in some facets of the spectrum of ham activities and modes.

Yes, I think joining ARRL is better than only carping about it.  When in the Northeast, I recommend a tour of ARRL headquarters.  I took the tour one morning last fall and was impressed by the people, their work and their dedication to amateur radio.  I bought a brick for the "Diamond Terrace" and dedicated it to my late father, who was a ham and long-time ARRL member.  In the afternoon, I was a guest operator at W1AW.

I think the League, by and large, does a good job and that QST is now better than it has ever been before.

Neil N3DF

Neil N3DF

Posts: 550


« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2008, 08:40:09 AM »

> Perhaps I gave up on CW proficiency too soon, but
> the fact that I was discouraged and stayed out of
> ham radio means that others likely did the same
> thing.

I would say so. Few hams (except in the very early
days) started out in the hobby intending to become
CW operators.

But in the days when the Novice license was the
principal entry point into the hobby, that was the
mode permitted to you below 30 MHz.

If you use it on a regular basis, you can't help
but improve. And the better you become, the more
fun it is. For making long distance contacts,
it offers many advantages.

> Ham radio needs more members or it will lose
> clout. Do you dispute that?

Yes, I do dispute that. There are nearly 3 times
as many hams now as when I passed the Novice exams
(1975). There are almost as many hams in the USA
as there are in the whole rest of the world.

Most new licensees I know are at middle age or
older. But that was substantially true in 1975,
too, although there were more younger people
getting into it back then. So I think we are as
much in danger of  "running out of hams" as we
are of "running out of Social Security recipients".

Numbers of US population and the number of
hams at the start of each decade from 1930.

Year_Population__# Hams__Growth Rate
1930 123,202,624 19,000
1940 132,164,569 56,000 +194%
1950 151,325,798 87,000 +55%
1960 179,323,175 230,000 +164%
1970 203,211,926 263,918 +15%
1980 226,545,805 393,353 +49%
1990 248,709,873 502,677 +28%
2000 281,421,906 682,240 +36%
2008 303,000,000 656,680 -3.8% (est. population)

> First thing I did is join the ARRL. Despite
> its bloated staffing and ponderous "dinosauric"
> character, it gives us a voice in Washington DC
> and is a guardian of our spectrum rights. Do I
> like the ARRL? Not especially, but they are a
> strong bodyguard to fight off the spectrum
> grabbing thugs who think we have waaaay too big
> a slice of the pie.

Joining the ARRL is a good thing.

The League probably does alot of things that you
are not yet aware of, but will come to appreciate
as you become a more experienced ham. Their
product reviews are detailed, technically, (and
are expensive to produce, requiring skilled
technical personnel and a well-stocked electronics
lab). And you may enjoy using the incoming and
outgoing QSL bureaus, the awards programs, and
on-the-air contests.

I think the dangers to our frequency allocations
are overblown. Particularly at HF, the value of
the spectrum has declined over the years. In
1979, we received 3 new HF bands (the "WARC
bands" - 30, 17, and 12 meters). More recently,
5 channels on 60 meters were granted to us (on
a secondary basis), and shortwave broadcasters will
be vacating 40 meters by the end of next year.
When I was first licensed, LORAN dominated the 160
meter band. Now, that is gone completely, and 160
meters is much more useful.

At least at HF, our allocations are more likely
to expand than contract.

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