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Author Topic: Apprentice licensing structure  (Read 12453 times)
KD7HFT
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« on: June 25, 2010, 09:41:11 PM »

This is my first post but I wanted to throw out an idea that I think could make a significant difference in bringing new people to the hobby. For years I have tried to encourage friends and family to get their license but it's never worked. They were all excited by the idea of being able to use a radio to communicate but just didn't have the time or the desire to study. It's not that they weren't interested like us, but studying itself was the problem. My dad doesn't read well and although there are other options, he's scared of tests.

The solution that came to mind was to offer a limited apprentice license. It would allow them to operate on a limited set of bands (ie. 2m) and maybe limited power to something like 50 watts. Many states require a person to get a "trainee" license/permit and work as an apprentice before becoming an electrician, plumber, etc.. In most states these permits expire after 1-2 years and they must meet certain requirements to renew their permit such as taking a class. One solution would be the requirement to join a club and/or participate in some activity like field day. The idea is that they would eventually learn the theory and become a fully licensed ham, but it would be a learn as you go process.

Any thoughts? Is this a stupid idea?
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K6LHA
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2010, 10:22:15 PM »


The solution that came to mind was to offer a limited apprentice license. It would allow them to operate on a limited set of bands (ie. 2m) and maybe limited power to something like 50 watts. Many states require a person to get a "trainee" license/permit and work as an apprentice before becoming an electrician, plumber, etc.. In most states these permits expire after 1-2 years and they must meet certain requirements to renew their permit such as taking a class. One solution would be the requirement to join a club and/or participate in some activity like field day. The idea is that they would eventually learn the theory and become a fully licensed ham, but it would be a learn as you go process.

Any thoughts? Is this a stupid idea?

I don't think it is stupid at all.  If anything, you are getting INTO the subject and may not realize it has already been done and it was called the Novice class license...roughly a half-century ago.  For ten years there have been no new Novice class licenses granted...by law from the "restructuring" order of 2000.

Amateur radio is not a union, a guild, or a craft.  It was always a hobby activity and done without any monetary compensation for any radio communication services.  That is why Amateur radio is called "amateur."  Trying to install an apprentice-journeyman-master grading just defeats the purpose of it being a hobby.

The Technician class and General class amateur radio license tests each have only 35 multiple-choice questions.  Questions and answers are free from www.ncvec.org, the folks who make up the USA amateur radio license exams.

Nothing in any of the exams is "complicated" technically.  The only "hard" part is remembering regulations and their proper answers.  All one has to do to pass them is get over the idea that tests are so HARD that you won't pass.  A lot of these OT zombies like to make up stories of how "bad" everything was when they were young and, for some perverse reason, try to frighten away newcomers.  Those OTs are just dipsticks.  I took all of my amateur radio license exams on the same day at age 74 and passed all of them with about   95 percent correct.

I used the same mental concentration to get my first commercial radio license in 1956 at the first try, about 51 years before I took my first amateur radio license test.  It is up to the individual to have the confidence to DO IT.

73, Len K6LHA
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WX7G
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2010, 09:21:31 PM »

KD7HFT, as K6LHA points out the Novice license class had the purpose you propose. With a 20 question test, 5 wpm code test, and a one year (later two year) period before it expired permanently it was the way many of us entered the hobby. Before being phased out the Novice license went through other mutations. A simple written test and a 5 WPM code allowed kids in junior high school a way into the hobby.

The progression upwards did involve an apprenticeship as you propose. To move up to Extra class license one had to be licensed for a minimum of two years before taking the tests. If I remember correctly time as a Novice did not count towards this two year period. So, Extra class amateurs had a minimum of two years as amateurs at the technician or higher level, had to pass the General, Advanced, and Extra written tests, and pass 20 WPM receiving and sending code tests.

The present day easy-to-obtain license is the Technician class. A 35 question written test and no code test is pretty basic.






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K6LHA
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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2010, 11:06:55 AM »

... The progression upwards did involve an apprenticeship as you propose. To move up to Extra class license one had to be licensed for a minimum of two years before taking the tests. If I remember correctly time as a Novice did not count towards this two year period. So, Extra class amateurs had a minimum of two years as amateurs at the technician or higher level, had to pass the General, Advanced, and Extra written tests, and pass 20 WPM receiving and sending code tests.

There is NO more NEW Advanced class license.  That ended 10 years ago.

There is NO "waiting period" to become an Amateur Extra class licensee.

Quote
The present day easy-to-obtain license is the Technician class. A 35 question written test and no code test is pretty basic.

There hasn't been any "code test" for No-Code-Test Technician class licenses since 1991.  Hello?  That's for the last 19 years!

Guess which class has the MOST licensees today?  Technician.  Check out the numbers...the ARRL has officially published their weekly update.  Of course, you can also go elsewhere at other statistics sites such as www.hamdata.com, but those aren't as official as the ARRL says they are official.

Good grief...all you OT zombies can talk about is about like the birth of the incentive plan era!     Grin





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AA4PB
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2010, 11:34:50 AM »

They were all excited by the idea of being able to use a radio to communicate but just didn't have the time or the desire to study.

Then amateur radio is probably not the place for them. Amateur radio has always been about and interest in radio technology rather than simply the ability to communicate with family and friends (the FCC has other services designed for that purpose). That's one reason why amateur radio has always had a test that involves at least a minimal amount of study and preparation. Another reason is that amateur radio lets you design, build, adjust, and put together your own station (unlike other services that at least require the use of FCC Certified equipment). That presumes that you have enough basic knowledge to operate a station in accordance with accepted technical standards. That basic knowledge requires some study and an exam to help to ensure that you have that knowledge.

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K7KBN
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2010, 02:19:27 PM »

... The progression upwards did involve an apprenticeship as you propose. To move up to Extra class license one had to be licensed for a minimum of two years before taking the tests. If I remember correctly time as a Novice did not count towards this two year period. So, Extra class amateurs had a minimum of two years as amateurs at the technician or higher level, had to pass the General, Advanced, and Extra written tests, and pass 20 WPM receiving and sending code tests.

There is NO more NEW Advanced class license.  That ended 10 years ago.

There is NO "waiting period" to become an Amateur Extra class licensee.

Quote
The present day easy-to-obtain license is the Technician class. A 35 question written test and no code test is pretty basic.

There hasn't been any "code test" for No-Code-Test Technician class licenses since 1991.  Hello?  That's for the last 19 years!

Guess which class has the MOST licensees today?  Technician.  Check out the numbers...the ARRL has officially published their weekly update.  Of course, you can also go elsewhere at other statistics sites such as www.hamdata.com, but those aren't as official as the ARRL says they are official.

Good grief...all you OT zombies can talk about is about like the birth of the incentive plan era!     Grin

Hello! WX7G did not say anything about NEW Advanced Class licenses being issued nowadays, nor anything about present-day code tests or waiting periods to take the Extra.  He quite correctly stated what it USED to be.

I started with Novice in 1959, moved up to Conditional, General, Advanced and Extra.  Never held a Technician license.

HFT - this is all part of the history of Amateur Radio.  The Novice-class license was the best way for anybody who was curious enough about radio to want to test the waters.  FCC, in their infinite wisdom, did away with it.  Some would say the hobby's been going downhill ever since.





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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2010, 03:35:48 AM »

With a 20 question test, 5 wpm code test, and a one year (later two year) period before it expired permanently it was the way many of us entered the hobby. Before being phased out the Novice license went through other mutations. A simple written test and a 5 WPM code allowed kids in junior high school a way into the hobby.

Sometimes kids well below middle school age would be licensed radio amateurs. There has never been a legal minimum-age requirement for a US amateur license in the 98 years since US amateurs have all needed licenses.

But the Novice wasn't just meant for young people; anybody could and did start with one. A new ham didn't have to start with Novice; lots of us did simply because it was easier to get and would get us on the air fast.

In 1967 the Novice was increased to 2 years; in the early 1970s it was made 5 years renewable.

The progression upwards did involve an apprenticeship as you propose. To move up to Extra class license one had to be licensed for a minimum of two years before taking the tests. If I remember correctly time as a Novice did not count towards this two year period.

Technician didn't count towards it either. Only Conditional, General or Advanced experience would do, or their old letter-name equivalents. In later years some foreign amateur radio license credit was accepted as well. In the early 1970s the experience requirement was lowered to 1 year and then removed entirely.

Before the Advanced was closed to new issues at the end of 1952, it required a year's experience as a General or Conditional or their old letter-name equivalents. When the Advanced was reopened to new issues in 1967 the experience requirement was removed.

Those old experience requirements, and the number of license classes with increasing privileges, weren't meant to force people to start at the very bottom and work their way up. Tey were only ever applied to the full-privileges license of their times, and existed because FCC thought that it was a good idea for hams with the highest class of license to have at least some experience as *radio amateurs*.
 
But it's been more than 35 years since any US amateur radio license has had an experience requirement, and I don't think they will ever come back.

So, Extra class amateurs had a minimum of two years as amateurs at the technician or higher level, had to pass the General, Advanced, and Extra written tests, and pass 20 WPM receiving and sending code tests.

2 years at a General or higher level, actually.


The present day easy-to-obtain license is the Technician class. A 35 question written test and no code test is pretty basic.


Yes, it is. The requirements today are such that bright elementary-school children, whose ages haven't even reached double digits, have earned US amateur radio license tests.

I recently had a conversation with a General class licensed radio amateur who did not know how many conductors there were in ordinary coax (RG-8). (After all, there's no question about it on the test.) This amateur is an adult who has been license several years and is on the air quite a bit.

If you look back 30 years, you'll see that the requirements for an FCC-issued amateur radio license have been gradually but steadily reduced over that time. Each change was small, but the overall effect was large. 

So I ask you:

At what point do we stop removing license requirements?

73 de Jim, N2EY
« Last Edit: June 28, 2010, 04:32:01 AM by James Miccolis » Logged
WX7G
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2010, 09:05:08 AM »

Jim N2EY I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "At what point do we stop removing license requirements?"

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N3DF
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2010, 11:05:40 AM »

The Dayton Hamvention offers a one-day course followed by administration of the Technician class test.  It's hard to imagine any lesser investment in time and effort that would be meaningful as far as licensing. 

The Technician and General class licenses are within the reach of motivated high school (and some younger) students. 
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Neil N3DF
N2EY
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« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2010, 04:18:29 AM »

For years I have tried to encourage friends and family to get their license but it's never worked. They were all excited by the idea of being able to use a radio to communicate but just didn't have the time or the desire to study.

Then when and how would they operate?


It's not that they weren't interested like us, but studying itself was the problem. My dad doesn't read well and although there are other options, he's scared of tests.

The problem is that being a qualified radio amateur requires learning some things - many of which aren't on the tests.

The solution that came to mind was to offer a limited apprentice license. It would allow them to operate on a limited set of bands (ie. 2m) and maybe limited power to something like 50 watts. Many states require a person to get a "trainee" license/permit and work as an apprentice before becoming an electrician, plumber, etc.. In most states these permits expire after 1-2 years and they must meet certain requirements to renew their permit such as taking a class. One solution would be the requirement to join a club and/or participate in some activity like field day. The idea is that they would eventually learn the theory and become a fully licensed ham, but it would be a learn as you go process.

Any thoughts? Is this a stupid idea?

1) An unlicensed person can participate in Amateur Radio if there is a licensed control operator present and in control of the station. This is analagous to the apprentice situation, where the apprentice must work under the supervision of a licensed plumber, electrician, etc.

Last weekend we had unlicensed people making QSOs on Field Day - with a control operator right there, supervising. So the apprentice idea already exists.

2) International and FCC regulations require that the control operator of an amateur radio station be licensed, so you can't get around at least some sort of test.

3) The Technician license requires passing a 35 question exam with a 74% or better grade. The questions are all multiple choice and available free-for-the-download.

4) Being a licensed radio amateur means being allowed to set up your own amateur radio station and put it on the air without any supervision. Common sense and regulations say that some basic knowledge of Amateur Radio is needed before a person is allowed to do that. Things like where the band edges are, what modes and power are allowed, how to identify, etc.

A few other radio services, such as CB and FRS, do not require licenses. In those services, the users are limited to very low power, channelized radio sets which must meet specific FCC requirements, and which do basically one thing with no user adjustments.

Amateur radio isn't like that at all. We're operators, not users, and there's a need for a certain level of knowledge before letting someone be the control operator of an amateur radio station.

----

What *could* be done is to create a new license class with a simpler test. The test would be simplified by reducing the privileges. For example, if the new license class (call it "Basic") allowed only low-power operation, it might be possible to remove the RF exposure safety questions. With fewer bands and modes, the "Basic" would need fewer band-edge and mode questions. This is how the old Novice worked. But the idea of a no-test license isn't going to fly. FCC has had too much bad experience with that.




73 de Jim, N2EY
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KX8N
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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2010, 09:56:21 AM »

Like Jim said above, your friends and family can already get on the air and see what it's like for themselves, as long as you are sitting next to them operating the radio.

What I've found in my own experience is that friends and family will act VERY excited when you approach them about getting a license. But down inside, they aren't. If they want to talk to each other, all they have to do is pick up a cell phone. We've all got our reasons for being a ham. My reason is that as a kid I was amazed by listening to AM broadcast stations coming from thousands of miles away at night. To me, it was magic. When I found out you could talk to people that far away (or farther, of course), I knew I wanted to pursue that, so here I am with an Extra class license.

Someone above mentioned that there are more Tech licenses than any other class. If that's true, there's probably a good reason for that, too: Generally speaking, people get their Tech license, talk to some people on the repeater, get bored, and give up. Using Tech privileges on FM is easy. There's no big financial investment, and no real antenna to worry about. $100 2M radio, and you're off and running.

Fortunately, I knew what I wanted out of amateur radio, and I wanted is SO badly that I used my time as a Tech to continue to learn so I was prepared when I became a General. I saved, got a decent used HF rig, a modest antenna (the best I could do, since I live in an apartment), and worked the world. The problem with getting other people involved is that they are usually talked into getting a license, without having goals of their own. Even if their goal is to work chaps on the local repeater, that has to be something inside driving them to do that.
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N2EY
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2010, 02:53:40 PM »

What I've found in my own experience is that friends and family will act VERY excited when you approach them about getting a license. But down inside, they aren't. If they want to talk to each other, all they have to do is pick up a cell phone. We've all got our reasons for being a ham. My reason is that as a kid I was amazed by listening to AM broadcast stations coming from thousands of miles away at night. To me, it was magic. When I found out you could talk to people that far away (or farther, of course), I knew I wanted to pursue that, so here I am with an Extra class license.

I think the basic difference comes down to whether someone wants to use radio as a means to an end, or wants "radio for its own sake". The former will probably not be interested in becoming hams; the latter may be.

Except possibly for emergency communications, "radio for its own sake" is what amateur radio is all about today.

Someone above mentioned that there are more Tech licenses than any other class. If that's true, there's probably a good reason for that, too: Generally speaking, people get their Tech license, talk to some people on the repeater, get bored, and give up. Using Tech privileges on FM is easy. There's no big financial investment, and no real antenna to worry about. $100 2M radio, and you're off and running.

That may be true in some cases, but I think there's a lot more to it.

First off, the Technician offers *all* amateur radio operating privileges above 30 MHz, and has done so for decades. If someone's interest in radio doesn't include HF, why bother to go beyond Technician except to get a vanity call and/or be a VE?

Second, the Technician is the easiest license to get (just a 35 question test) and there's no requirement to upgrade in any particular time period. I know plenty of active Technicians who will get around to upgrading "someday". Meanwhile it does the job for them.

There's also what we used to call "honeydew hams" (not a derogatory term in any way) around here.

From the mid-1970s into the 1990s, I knew a considerable number of folks who got licenses in order to use the local repeaters for personal communications. Often whole families got licensed for this reason, equipped their vehicles and homes with rigs, carried HTs, etc.

Sometimes these hams became interested in other aspects of amateur radio - and sometimes not. In any event they caused our numbers to grow considerably during the time period cited.

Personal communications while mobile was not a minor thing back before cell phones were small and inexpensive. We got a considerable number of hams this way - but not anymore.

Fortunately, I knew what I wanted out of amateur radio, and I wanted is SO badly that I used my time as a Tech to continue to learn so I was prepared when I became a General. I saved, got a decent used HF rig, a modest antenna (the best I could do, since I live in an apartment), and worked the world.

I did something similar, way back in the late 1960s. Part of the incentive was the nonrenewable 1-time-only 2 year Novice license. Upgrade or leave the ham bands was a big incentive!

The problem with getting other people involved is that they are usually talked into getting a license, without having goals of their own. Even if their goal is to work chaps on the local repeater, that has to be something inside driving them to do that.

I agree 100%! Without that "radio for its own sake" drive, why not just email or phone?

It's a lot like transportation.

If you want to get from, say, New York to LA the fastest way, a commercial airliner is almost always the answer. Most people would say they "flew" from one city to the other, when what they mean is that they rode in an airliner.

But if you pilot a small plane over the same route, you'll have a completely different experience. It will probably take longer and cost more - and for many people, it won't be worth the time, money or effort. But for some, it would be.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K4DPK
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« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2010, 08:36:29 PM »

The way I see it, folks need to realize that not everyone wants to be a ham, and not everyone in the country should be a ham.

The original tests were set up so anyone who really desired to get a ticket could.  Now they've been "simplified", and if you don't get a license, it's because you don't want one.

Don't blame it on the test. 

Phil C. Sr.
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KB1SF
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2010, 06:11:27 AM »


The original tests were set up so anyone who really desired to get a ticket could.  Now they've been "simplified", and if you don't get a license, it's because you don't want one.

Don't blame it on the test. 

Phil C. Sr.
k4dpk

Sorry, Phil, but your sweeping statement that, "the original tests were set up so anyone who really desired to get a ticket could", implies a flawed premise that's clearly based on your own personal experiences.
 
The truth is that this arrogant (not to mention horrifically myopic) statement completely ignores the infinite complexities of the human condition.  Indeed, for DECADES, a systemically discriminatory Morse test…an arcane licensing requirement that long ago outlived any regulatory need whatsoever…has kept thousands…if not HUNDREDS of thousands of people out of amateur radio over the years. 

Certainly, it IS true that for the last decade or so, proficiency in Morse has not been required for an entry level license in our Service.  But, by keeping a Morse testing requirement in the mix well into the 21st Century for higher class licenses, our regulators simply gave newcomers to our hobby the opportunity to start at the bottom of the licensing ladder…and stay there.  That's because a significant number of those poor souls couldn't "do Morse" well enough to pass a clearly operationally baseless test for Morse in order to obtain a higher class license in our Service. 

As a result, we will never really know how many potential hams took one look at our arcane testing requirements for a higher class license in our Service over the years and then "voted with their feet" by taking their budding technical and communications talents elsewhere LONG before they ever tried to obtain even a Novice or Technician license.

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 25 years now, I learned long ago that, for some people (like me and perhaps yourself) learning Morse was relatively easy.  Indeed, for some, it's a "snap".

But, for many others, it can be days, weeks, or even years of absolute frustration, resulting in failure after failure.  And I always wondered why the amount of “extra effort” expended by such folk seldom, if ever, made any real difference in the outcome.  Through my professional work in the helping profession, I've since learned that 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 during a Morse exam.  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, finding the correct key to depress on a typewriter, or even verbally speaking the character to an examiner.  At least ONE of those additional skills is required in order to pass such psychomotor 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, typed or spoken at the other end of that process.

So, as I have 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 I've mentioned, many of which are completely beyond an individual's control to influence.  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 back in 2007. 

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, very easy to view another person's ability to learn it (or not learn it) using a one's own experiences with it.

Or, to put it another way, those who arrogantly declare that, "The original tests were set up so anyone who really desired to get a ticket could" or "I learned Morse and so can you" are simply basing their assertions on that same, horrifically narrow, "sample size of one".

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

But, for the crowd who got their advanced licenses in our Service under the "original tests" 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 brain's “boot ROMs”.

73,

Keith
KB1SF / VA3KSF
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K4DPK
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« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2010, 06:25:43 AM »

The way I see it, folks need to realize that not everyone wants to be a ham, and not everyone in the country should be a ham.

The original tests were set up so anyone who really desired to get a ticket could.  Now they've been "simplified", and if you don't get a license, it's because you don't want one.

Don't blame it on the test. 

Phil C. Sr.
k4dpk
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