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Author Topic: Why Have An Extra Class?  (Read 149246 times)
KD8HMO
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« on: August 21, 2010, 06:54:20 PM »

Im still trying to figure out why we still have an extra class license. If they are going to do away with the silly 5000 level license system, then lets finish the job. I dont see the point of taking a harder exam just to get a bit more space to operate on. All ham radio needs is a beginners license and a full license. I always have thought that having so many levels was silly. All it did was cause class warfare and confusion on the bands. When a beginner is ready to get the full license, he should be made to DEMONSTRATE that he understands the rules, equipment operation, basic antenna theory and safety. The testing that they are doing now is a total joke. If we are going to have a team of volunteer examiners, they should be examining skills, not useless tests...
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W5RB
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2010, 11:28:45 PM »

Keep studying , you can get there .
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N2EY
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2010, 04:10:35 AM »

Im still trying to figure out why we still have an extra class license. If they are going to do away with the silly 5000 level license system, then lets finish the job. I dont see the point of taking a harder exam just to get a bit more space to operate on.

Some more space, a chance at a shorter call, and full CEPT privileges.

All ham radio needs is a beginners license and a full license.

Then eliminate the General.

I always have thought that having so many levels was silly. All it did was cause class warfare and confusion on the bands.

I've never seen either as a result of the license structure.

When a beginner is ready to get the full license, he should be made to DEMONSTRATE that he understands the rules, equipment operation, basic antenna theory and safety. The testing that they are doing now is a total joke. If we are going to have a team of volunteer examiners, they should be examining skills, not useless tests...

I agree that the testing could be better. But how could such tests be conducted? How do you really go about testing skills?

The tests for commercial FCC licenses don't require demonstrating skills. So why should amateur licenses?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W5HTW
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2010, 08:03:11 AM »

I agree, I find the present license structure silly.  Incentive Licensing in the late 1960s had the goal of asking amateurs to acquire more knowledge, to become better at the hobby, to learn more about electronics and operating.  "Incentive Licensing" of today offers only the "DX Carrot" of getting a few more KHZ.  That's all it does. 

I advocate a single class of amateur radio license.  The "Extra" is no longer extra.  The 'Technician" has not lived up to the word "technician' for decades.  It is a press to tallk license, as is the Extra of today.  Nothing more. 

The current structure makes no sense.  Some guy is a General and wants to work more DX so he memorizes some more questions.  He doesn't know a damn thing more.  All he knows is he can now press the PTT button legally in a few additional KHZ. 

Dumb.  Get rid of license classes.  Totally useless.   Just have "Amateur Radio License." 

Ed
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KD8HMO
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2010, 09:42:38 AM »

How can one demonstrate?  Jeez, I read earlier where someone mentioned that he knew a general class ham that didnt know how many conductors there are in RG 58 coaxial cable...

If you want to move up to a full class license, you ought to be able to sit at an average radio like a ts-520s and show me how to tune it up and operate it. Tell me what a diple is and how it works. Show me on a chart what the bands are (make it simple). What are the rules for station ID on the air. Why should a radio be grounded? What are the most common Q signals, and what do they mean?

The FCC needs to make this into real-world testing. Not asking me in 6 different ways what "control operator" means...
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W5RB
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2010, 09:50:35 AM »

Here's where to send your suggestions . Anything else is just whining .

http://www.ncvec.org/feedback.php
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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2010, 10:30:39 AM »

How can one demonstrate?  Jeez, I read earlier where someone mentioned that he knew a general class ham that didnt know how many conductors there are in RG 58 coaxial cable...

That was me, telling about an encounter I had on Field Day. I still don't quite believe it, but it happened.

If you want to move up to a full class license, you ought to be able to sit at an average radio like a ts-520s and show me how to tune it up and operate it.

The TS-520S is a rig from the 1970s. Doesn't even have the WARC bands on it. Hardly an "average" set for 2010.

Tell me what a diple is and how it works. Show me on a chart what the bands are (make it simple). What are the rules for station ID on the air. Why should a radio be grounded? What are the most common Q signals, and what do they mean?

All those subjects are in the existing exams, or could be easily added.


The FCC needs to make this into real-world testing. Not asking me in 6 different ways what "control operator" means...

Why not? If a person really understands the concept of "control operator", those questions are easy.

You seem to want the kind of test where the would-be ham has to actually do something, or explain something, in front of an examiner. Something practical, not theoretical.

How about this: The would-be ham is given a "modern" rig, the manual for it, a 12 volt battery, a speaker, a tool kit (with VOM and SWR meter) and some wires and parts. S/he is instructed to hook up the rig to the battery and speaker, then measure out and build a simple antenna for a particular band.
And then put the rig on a certain frequency and call a particular station for further instructions.

Simple - just solder some connectors to the various wires, make a dipole or ground plane, plug it all in and go on the air.

I'd like to see such testing, too. But it will never happen, for two reasons:

1) There's no way of making such a test truly objective.

2) People will want disability waivers.

You can try, though. Tell NCVEC and FCC and see what they say.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4PB
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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2010, 11:16:44 AM »

How about "Novice" and "Full"? In order to qualify to take the exam for "Full" you must have been a "Novice" for at least two years and show proof of on-air activity during that time (log book, QSL cards, etc).

"Novice" would have a 200W power limit and be required to stay at least 10KHz away from the band edges. Other than that they'd have priviledges on all bands and all modes.

A "Novice" would expire after 5 years and not be renewable. You could apply for a new "Novice" after a 5 year lapse of no license.
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AB2T
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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2010, 02:13:22 PM »

I agree with W5HTW.  One license. 

All bands, all modes right from the start.   

Two tests: one regulatory, one technical.  Both should be at a much more stringent level than current entry level standards.  Both elements must be passed for the one license.  Pass either one and get a two year CSCE, or get them done all at once.

Lifetime licensing for new tickets.  One time vanity fee (prorated for current vanity call holders at time of the final renewal).   

I like AA4BP's call for a new Novice Class, but I don't know if it'll work out.  How about a compromise: for the first five years new licensees are explicitly restricted to 200W on phone.  Afterwards, full legal limit.  This rule would be hard to enforce but would force new operators to hone their operating skills instead of relying on brute force.   

License class has no bearing on operating courtesy or technical skill.  I agree that we need to move beyond this issue.  It's fun to see how things could pan out, however.

73, Jordan
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AA4PB
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« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2010, 03:13:59 PM »

My thinking with the Novice is that with only one permanent license class you will always have a bunch of new "fully licensed" operators who have zero practical or on the air experience. You have that to some degree now when someone who is good at book study and taking exams walks into the exam with no license and out with an extra. You could minimize that with the proper test type but I seriously doubt that the FCC is going to permit anything other than a multiple-choice test because of the ease of administering them. The novice entry would be another way to at least partially ensure that people have some practical experience before getting full privileges.
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N2EY
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2010, 03:29:35 PM »

One license. 

All bands, all modes right from the start.

The problem with that approach is that the tests must cover all that info up-front.

 
Two tests: one regulatory, one technical.  Both should be at a much more stringent level than current entry level standards.  Both elements must be passed for the one license.  Pass either one and get a two year CSCE, or get them done all at once.

I really like the idea of splitting the regulations from the technical testing. That way, someone can't pass by being really good technically but ignorant of the rules, or the reverse.

The problem with "much more stringent than the current entry level" is that it could cut down on the number of new hams by making the initial investment of study much greater. The entry testing would have to be at least equal to the General level, if not more.

One of the biggest reasons the Morse Code test was eliminated from the Tech test in 1991 and from all US amateur license tests in 2007 was the argument that it cut down on the number of people becoming hams. Raising the written test requirements for the entry level would face enormous opposition.

 Lifetime licensing for new tickets.

How do we get SKs out of the database if nobody tells FCC they've gone to the Big Shack In The Sky?

In Japan, operator licenses are "for life", and their database is full of obviously inactive operators. (Japan has four classes of license, and they differentiate between the for-life operator license, and the station license, which must be renewed annually.) Japan keeps birthdate info on all operators, and operator licenses are automatically cancelled at the age of 120. FCC has birthdate data on some but not all operators, so that wouldn't work here.

  One time vanity fee (prorated for current vanity call holders at time of the final renewal).

I agree that it doesn't make sense to have to pay a fee to renew a vanity call. I mean, does it cost FCC anything more to process a vanity call renewal?

However, if licenses are for life, the vanity call program will eventually become a moot point because most vanity calls will belong to SKs that haven't been reported. FCC is very strict about paperwork requirements for cancelling licenses due to death. (I think they've been pranked in the past.)

It seems to me that the best scheme would be 10 years renewable, same as now, but make the vanity fee only at the initial issue.

And while we're at it, how about automatic renewal with modification?   

for the first five years new licensees are explicitly restricted to 200W on phone.  Afterwards, full legal limit.

Maybe. I think it would take more than that.

The big problem I see with the one-class systems is that they either raise the entry ante too much, or lower the overall standards too much.

One of the biggest successes we ever had was the old Novice license, back in the 1950s and early 1960s. (Our numbers grew from 100,000 to 250,000 in the first dozen years after that license was created. Imagine that kind of growth today).

The key to the success of the Novice was that it was an easy-to-get license with limited privileges that focused the newcomer on the basics. Nobody had to start with Novice, but tens of thousands, if not more, did.

What the old Novice did was to steer newcomers to a few bands and modes to get started. The rig-makers and article-writers produced lots of simple, inexpensive, easy-to-use gear and articles aimed at the Novice. It was not unusual for a Novice to get started with homebrew, kit or converted surplus gear costing very little, and a simple homebrew antenna. The Novice subbands were usually busy, yet the newcomer with a simple setup could hold his/her own because everybody else had a pretty simple setup too.

We could have something similar to that again updated, of course.

IMHO, today a lot of newcomers today are overwhelmed by the wide selection of rigs, bands, modes, antennas, etc., and the high cost and complexity of new stuff.

Today we have the Tech as the default entry-level license. The problem I see is that it offers too much VHF/UHF and not enough HF/MF, and the testing covers a lot of subjects but not in any depth. Why not a more-balanced entry license?  

At the same time, the Extra is now the only license now available to new issues that gives full CEPT privileges. That tells you something about how the US license requirements compare with world standards. And remember that the ITU-R treaty includes testing standards for amateur licenses.

How about this:

1) Three license classes - Basic, Intermediate, Full. Change the names if you don't like them.

2) Basics get a few modes in a few bands, and low power. The Basic tests are very simple, and focus on the regs and basic theory. IOW, a 21st century Novice. The idea is that Basic is easy to get and offers a variety of HF, VHF and UHF modes and bands. Low power means no RF exposure questions. Basics have no vanity calls, can't be VEs or repeater control ops, etc.

3) Intermediates get more modes, bands and power, but not everything. Intermediates have some vanity calls and can be VEs for Basic and Intermediates. Intermediate tests are much more involved than Basic.

4) Fulls get the whole shebang. Equivalent to the Extra.

The purpose of the three levels is so that the steps between them aren't too big. At the same time, the added privileges match the additional testing.

5) (Optional) Require new hams to spend a certain amount of time at each level before upgrading.

----

If you REALLY want to stir things up, add this feature: All existing licenses would have their terms extended to 10 years from the enactment of the new structure. However, they would become nonrenewable. IOW, all existing hams would have 10 years to retest and earn one of the new licenses, or go off the air.

(Of course that paRT would never fly - but imagine the excitement...)

73 de Jim, N2EY (not a vanity call, btw).

 


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N2EY
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2010, 03:35:10 PM »

I seriously doubt that the FCC is going to permit anything other than a multiple-choice test because of the ease of administering them.

Not only that, but a multiple-choice test is completely objective. Each question has only one right answer, and it's right there on the paper. There's no judgement on the part of the examiners.

There's also the fact that the GROL and Commercial RadioTelegraph license tests are multiple-choice, and I doubt FCC would approve a different test method for hams.

I agree with the idea of a 21st century Novice, too.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K4DPK
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« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2010, 05:32:06 PM »

Study harder next time.

Phil C. Sr.
k4dpk
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AB2T
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Posts: 246




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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2010, 06:08:45 PM »

The problem with "much more stringent than the current entry level" is that it could cut down on the number of new hams by making the initial investment of study much greater. The entry testing would have to be at least equal to the General level, if not more.

One of the biggest reasons the Morse Code test was eliminated from the Tech test in 1991 and from all US amateur license tests in 2007 was the argument that it cut down on the number of people becoming hams. Raising the written test requirements for the entry level would face enormous opposition.

Well, any re-restructuring will eventually run up against this problem.  I think that a truly comprehensive technical exam would glean questions from the old Advanced, various Extra test incarnations, and maybe even the GROL.  Inevitably such a test would be rejected because many would consider it too difficult.  Then again, the Canadian Advanced test is at that level, and I don't think there have been any challenges to the Canadian Supremes on it.  Then again, in Canada one can get all bands, all modes on HF at 250W with a Basic license.     

I agree that it doesn't make sense to have to pay a fee to renew a vanity call. I mean, does it cost FCC anything more to process a vanity call renewal?

However, if licenses are for life, the vanity call program will eventually become a moot point because most vanity calls will belong to SKs that haven't been reported. FCC is very strict about paperwork requirements for cancelling licenses due to death. (I think they've been pranked in the past.)

It seems to me that the best scheme would be 10 years renewable, same as now, but make the vanity fee only at the initial issue.

And while we're at it, how about automatic renewal with modification?

All great ideas.  It would cost the FCC nothing to do auto renewals with upgrades, address changes, etc.  The FCC might save an odd dime or two with one-time vanity fees.   

1) Three license classes - Basic, Intermediate, Full. Change the names if you don't like them.

Or even License 3, 2, and 1 respectively.  There's less chance of people crying elitism if the word "class" isn't used and the subdivisions don't have names.

2) Basics get a few modes in a few bands, and low power. The Basic tests are very simple, and focus on the regs and basic theory. IOW, a 21st century Novice. The idea is that Basic is easy to get and offers a variety of HF, VHF and UHF modes and bands. Low power means no RF exposure questions. Basics have no vanity calls, can't be VEs or repeater control ops, etc.

Maybe it'd be a good idea to add AA4PB's idea and make the Basic a 5-year license (should be renewable, though).  That might get people to upgrade a bit faster.

5) (Optional) Require new hams to spend a certain amount of time at each level before upgrading.

This is a very good idea that should be reintroduced.  I got my Tech+ at 14, spent two years there, and went from Tech to Extra in four or five months.  I passed the 20 (at the bare minimum, very close call) and then furiously memorized my way through the General, Advanced, and Extra because I wanted to get the final ticket before the code credit expired.  I didn't learn anything at the time.  Anything technical that I now know I've learned over the years. 

Maybe Basic ops should wait two years before sitting for the Intermediate.  Intermediate ops should wait one year before sitting for the Full.

If you REALLY want to stir things up, add this feature: All existing licenses would have their terms extended to 10 years from the enactment of the new structure. However, they would become nonrenewable. IOW, all existing hams would have 10 years to retest and earn one of the new licenses, or go off the air.

Wayne Green proposed just that in one of his 73 editorials.  Yeah, expect a massive mutiny.  Though, I must say that studying for the Canadian license series has been a great technical refresher for me.  'NSD called for retesting for the same reason: he felt that most hams that got their tickets long ago had either forgotten their theory or cared little about new technologies. 

73, Jordan AB2T (IS a vanity call)

« Last Edit: August 22, 2010, 06:28:22 PM by Jordan » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2010, 04:45:06 AM »

Well, any re-restructuring will eventually run up against this problem.  I think that a truly comprehensive technical exam would glean questions from the old Advanced, various Extra test incarnations, and maybe even the GROL.  Inevitably such a test would be rejected because many would consider it too difficult.  Then again, the Canadian Advanced test is at that level, and I don't think there have been any challenges to the Canadian Supremes on it.  Then again, in Canada one can get all bands, all modes on HF at 250W with a Basic license.

The question is, what level should the *entry* license be? If entry is made too difficult, you get fewer newcomers.

Full privileges is a different thing.

I'm aware of how Canada does it - including that they still have Morse Code testing. The question is, would US hams accept a license with a no-homebrew requirement?    

  It would cost the FCC nothing to do auto renewals with upgrades, address changes, etc..

There was a time when you could renew and modify at the same time regardless of where the license was in its term. I went several years without renewing because of address changes.

Or even License 3, 2, and 1 respectively.  There's less chance of people crying elitism if the word "class" isn't used and the subdivisions don't have names.

No matter what you call them, *some* people will object and cry "elitism", "barrier", etc.

It's what people do.

5) (Optional) Require new hams to spend a certain amount of time at each level before upgrading.

This is a very good idea that should be reintroduced.  I got my Tech+ at 14, spent two years there, and went from Tech to Extra in four or five months.  I passed the 20 (at the bare minimum, very close call) and then furiously memorized my way through the General, Advanced, and Extra because I wanted to get the final ticket before the code credit expired.  I didn't learn anything at the time.  Anything technical that I now know I've learned over the years. 

Maybe Basic ops should wait two years before sitting for the Intermediate.  Intermediate ops should wait one year before sitting for the Full.

The only experience requirements that ever existed in US amateur licensing since FCC has existed have been:

1 year for Class A Advanced (before 1953)

2 years for Extra, which was reduced to 1 year and then eliminated in the mid 1970s.

Reintroducing such a requirement after 30+ years may be a bit of a challenge...

If you REALLY want to stir things up, add this feature: All existing licenses would have their terms extended to 10 years from the enactment of the new structure. However, they would become nonrenewable. IOW, all existing hams would have 10 years to retest and earn one of the new licenses, or go off the air.

Wayne Green proposed just that in one of his 73 editorials.  Yeah, expect a massive mutiny.  Though, I must say that studying for the Canadian license series has been a great technical refresher for me.  'NSD called for retesting for the same reason: he felt that most hams that got their tickets long ago had either forgotten their theory or cared little about new technologies.

Ol' Wayne didn't originate that one, it's been around for a long long time. There's little chance FCC would go for it, because it would create a mountain of admin work for them.

'NSD called for retesting for the same reason: he felt that most hams that got their tickets long ago had either forgotten their theory or cared little about new technologies.

Classic pre-internet troll, that one. When you see something like "most long-time hams forgot the theory" , it's usually an admission that the person saying it is the one who has forgotten it - if, indeed, they ever knew it in the first place.

Personally I'd just take the new tests and be done with it.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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