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Author Topic: Writing Schematics Before Incentive Licensing  (Read 17380 times)
N2EY
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Posts: 4412




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« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2011, 04:21:33 AM »

First I must thank N2EY for going down memory lane and informing us about the history of amateur radio licensing

You're welcome. There's a lot more to it; those were just a few points.

Unlike in the old days you would also be given credit for passing the CW part of the exam even if you failed the written part of the exam. I think this was good for a year. I wonder if you know ,N2EY,when the FCC inaugurated this proceedure?

Late 1970s IIRC. You could still pass by one minute solid copy, too.

Once you pass the examination, unless the FCC has a legitimate reason to think fraud was involved,as long as you keep renewing your license,you never have to take the amateur radio  examination again for the rest of your life. This is true with most professional examinations and commercial examinations. I have always wondered how many people could pass a bar exam,medical licensing exam,commercial radio exam etc after they have been licensed for 20 or  and did not spend time re -studying for those exams.

I could pass the exams for all the licenses I hold without any preparation. In fact every few months I take an online practice exam just to be sure. My attitude is "BRING IT ON!"

Pass the code tests again? Shoot, I do that almost every time I go on the air.

btw, in some fields, such as medicine and nursing, a person has to take continuing education in order to renew their license. And the license terms are short.

Does anyone know when the FCC stopped the requirement to send CW?

1978. As I recall, it was "waived", meaning FCC assumed that if you could receive you could send.

I have heard many tales of Mr. F in NYC. Here in Philly we had Joe Welsh, known as "Joe Squelch" (but never to his face!) All business, the picture of The Man From FCC.

He's the one who couldn't read my longhand in 1968. He're another story about him:

When I went for the Extra in the late summer of 1970, the waiting room was crowded with people. At 16 I was the youngest one there. At precisely 8 AM the FCC Examiner came out and asked if anyone was there for 20 wpm code. I was the only one! So I had his full attention for the code tests.

The code machine in those days read a paper tape and changed speeds by changing drive spindles. The tapes, machine, headphones, paper and pencils were all kept in a locked file cabinet in the exam room. The Examiner set it all up and then told me I had to copy at least 1 minute solid of the 5 minutes on the test.

He started the machine and the test began. The code was loud in the 'phones and I just wrote it down in block letters. In fact it was easy - easier than copying off the air. I was getting every letter!

The Examiner came over and looked at me. Then he looked over my shoulder as I wrote, watching intently. Didn't say anything, just watching. Nothing for me to do but keep going. 

Then he went over to the code machine and turned it off. Less than 2 minutes had passed. I had never heard of The Examiner interrupting a test unless there was cheating going on. I knew I wasn't cheating, so what was up? Had he decided to pass me based on less than half the test?

"That was easy, huh, kid? he asked.

"Uh, yeah" I replied.

"It should be" he said. "That was only 13 words per minute. Here's 20!'

And he quickly switched drive spindles on the machine and restarted it. Now it wasn't so easy! The 20 lasted the full 5 minutes and I passed. Then sending and the written, and I went home to wait for the little envelope.

Had The Examiner meant to rattle The Kid? Did he want to see if I could do 13 before trying 20? Had he just forgotten? I'll never know.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2011, 08:32:25 AM »

"That was easy, huh, kid? he asked.

"Uh, yeah" I replied.

"It should be" he said. "That was only 13 words per minute. Here's 20!'

And he quickly switched drive spindles on the machine and restarted it. Now it wasn't so easy! The 20 lasted the full 5 minutes and I passed. Then sending and the written, and I went home to wait for the little envelope.

Had The Examiner meant to rattle The Kid? Did he want to see if I could do 13 before trying 20? Had he just forgotten? I'll never know.

I never experienced any intimidation or harassment under the VE system. No VE looked over my shoulder during the code exam.  Rather two VE's walked up and down the testing line as teachers would proctor a test.  The VE did tell me to leave before he graded everyone's code exam. He just told me I passed and then instructed me to go into the hallway and wait to take the written test.  Passed General that day; flunked the Advanced but passed it the next month.  Overall, a low-stress experience even for someone who's anxious by default.  In fact, the VEs would always warmly congratulate a club member who passed Extra.

I have heard however that some FCC examiners were intimidating.  Supposedly the long-time examiner at Varick St. NYC was quite harsh (mildly sadistic?) with examiners.  Others have related stories of sarcastic FCC examiners. If anything, the VE system converted the testing system into a more congenial and less stressful environment.  Maybe this contributed in small part to the sharp rise in passes after the establishment of the VE system.  I've never met a VE who's interested in harassment or hazing.  Rather, I'm convinced that most VEs want hams to pass their exams within the ethical framework provided.  Also, the conversion to a ham created and supervised _volunteer_ system removes any of the tedium of the civil service.  

73, Jordan
  
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 08:37:01 AM by AB2T » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2011, 10:02:02 AM »

I never experienced any intimidation or harassment under the VE system. No VE looked over my shoulder during the code exam.  

I've never heard of such a thing either.

I do not know whether the FCC Examiner was trying to intimidate or harass me, or if he just forgot to change the speed spindle.

Doesn't matter anyway. I passed.

If anything, the VE system converted the testing system into a more congenial and less stressful environment.  Maybe this contributed in small part to the sharp rise in passes after the establishment of the VE system.

Was there a sharp rise in the pass rate in 1983-84? I've not seen evidence either way.

One things Ido know is that improving access to exam sessions is a Good Thing.(btw, in the late 1970s the FCC had a program where they would send examiners to hamfests, club meetings, etc. if requested and if a minimum number of examinees would show up. IMHO that was the best system).

It should be remembered that the VE system was forced upon us by FCC, not ARRL or any ham group. It was done primarily to save money, because FCC's budget wasn't expanding to cover all the things FCC was charged with doing. The VE system replaced the examiner and test preparation jobs with unpaid volunteers.

73 de jim, N2EY
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K0OD
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« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2011, 12:17:48 PM »

Quote
"Does anyone know when the FCC stopped the requirement to send CW?"

I had to send in 1977. Some young woman handled that part of the test and I was told that by then most examiners didn't know Morse but had some training in recognizing decent code. (how did that work?)

My license had expired so I took all exams up through Extra that day. As a novice I had a pretty good straight key fist even though I went to electronic keyers just after the earliest models become available. Have to brag that everyone in the crowded testing room seemed in awe of my 20+ wpm code. As I recall I only had to send a few seconds, not a full minute, before she moved to the next applicant.

Come to think of it, that was probably the last time I used a straight key!
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N2EY
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« Reply #19 on: October 27, 2011, 02:39:16 PM »

I had to send in 1977.

You were one of the last, then.

However, note this:

Back when we had code testing by VEs, they were allowed by FCC to permit various forms of "accomodation" in giving the code test.

For example, a person could use a typewriter, watch a flashing light rather than listening to a sound, use headphones, an unusual tone, Farnsworth or non-Farnsworth timing, etc. in the code test. (Of course most of these had to be arranged ahead of time).

The VEs could also allow the use of a sending test in place of the receiving test!

All gone now, of course. But it was part of the rules.

As a novice I had a pretty good straight key fist even though I went to electronic keyers just after the earliest models become available.

You might be surprised at when the first electronic keyers appeared.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W3HF
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« Reply #20 on: October 27, 2011, 06:32:43 PM »

Back when we had code testing by VEs, they were allowed by FCC to permit various forms of "accomodation" in giving the code test.

For example, a person could use a typewriter...

Back when my son was practicing for the CW test (in late 2006, just before it was eliminated), he used a computer program to learn. It would create the CW, he'd type what he heard, and then the program would "grade"  his copy.

We discovered a few days before the test that he could copy perfectly when typing, but would get all confused if he tried to write it out by hand. I called the VEs, and they said I could bring a PC for him to use, as long as there wasn't any sort of auto-correct being used (and obviously no code-copying program). So I brought a laptop, set him up in NotePad and left the room.

I was told that all three VEs stood behind him during the test and watched him as he copied. They didn't even give him the fill-in-the-blanks test, but immediately passed him for 100% perfect copy for the five minutes.
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K0OD
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« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2011, 07:23:58 PM »

Quote
You might be surprised at when the first electronic keyers appeared.

73 de Jim, N2EY

I had an Eldico EE2 I bought used around 1960 for about $15. It probably dated to about 1954 and used four 6C4 triodes as I recall. The distinctive and rarely heard sound of an electronic keyer was quite a status symbol then, at least in my mind. I never liked bugs and never got the hang of using one.

Which was the first commercial electronic keyer? I know that one called a Mon-Key was popular from about 1948.  

I couldn't find a photo of my model online, but here's the Eldico EE3, a later (and smaller) model:
http://w1tp.com/5640.jpg

============
Whoops. Just found some info on my EE2 keyer. Amazing how few of them survive.
Contrast the hefty cost of electronic keyers with the buck a surplus J38 straight key sold for then.  
:
http://radiopics.com/Accessories/Eldico_EE-2.htm
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 08:57:27 PM by K0OD » Logged
AB2T
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« Reply #22 on: October 29, 2011, 02:32:06 PM »

For example, a person could use a typewriter, watch a flashing light rather than listening to a sound, use headphones, an unusual tone, Farnsworth or non-Farnsworth timing, etc. in the code test. (Of course most of these had to be arranged ahead of time).

I distinctly remember that my Novice test (ARRL/VEC) was Farnsworth, 600 Hz.  I don't remember my Elmers or the examiners offering any choice other than whatever came down from on high (i.e. Main Street, Newington.)

You might be surprised at when the first electronic keyers appeared.

73 de Jim, N2EY

When did separate keyers and paddles come into vogue?  When rigs started to have built in keyers?  I've tried the early keyer/paddle combos, and I found the sending action to be nowhere near as comfortable as some of the better-made paddles today.

73, Jordan
« Last Edit: October 29, 2011, 02:33:43 PM by AB2T » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #23 on: October 29, 2011, 03:15:58 PM »

For example, a person could use a typewriter, watch a flashing light rather than listening to a sound, use headphones, an unusual tone, Farnsworth or non-Farnsworth timing, etc. in the code test. (Of course most of these had to be arranged ahead of time).

I distinctly remember that my Novice test (ARRL/VEC) was Farnsworth, 600 Hz.  I don't remember my Elmers or the examiners offering any choice other than whatever came down from on high (i.e. Main Street, Newington.)

They didn't have to offer a choice. But you could request accomodation ahead of time. (The key was to contact them well ahead of time, and offer alternatives and support ("I'll bring my own typewriter")


You might be surprised at when the first electronic keyers appeared.

When did separate keyers and paddles come into vogue?  When rigs started to have built in keyers?  I've tried the early keyer/paddle combos, and I found the sending action to be nowhere near as comfortable as some of the better-made paddles today.

Electronic keyers (meaning devices which generated both dots and dashes electronically rather than mechanically or electro-mechanically) began to appear just after WW2. Of course there was a period of development until various issues were worked out. And of course it took a bit of selling to get hams to accept a device that was as complex as a small receiver and still needed a paddle device.

By the late 1950s there were dependable commercial keyers available, using tubes. The 1960s saw transistors replace tubes, and in the late 1960s ICs replaced transistors. Then came processor-based keyers.

Paddles were a different issue. Most hams are not machinists, and cost was a big concern. So a lot of paddles were homebrewed from whatever was available. One common method was to mount two inexpensive straight keys back-to-back. Another was to hack up a WW2 surplus J-36 bug, which was sad because the same could be done without ruining it for bug use. (One reason J-36s are rare and prized by collectors is that so many were hacked up by hams).

By the 1960s there were machinist-hams who made really sweet paddles, and were requested to make copies by friends. It turned out that there was a market for them.

Rigs with built-in keyers didn't really become popular until the 1980s or 1990s. 

Fun historical fact: The parts house Digi-Key got its start in 1968 by selling small quantities of RTL logic ICs and similar parts to hams by mail for construction of simple keyers. (See QST, April, 1968 cover article.) Hence thoir company name.

As the technology changed they expanded their inventory. The rest is history.

73 de jim, N2EY
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AB3MO
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« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2011, 06:50:50 AM »

Getting a Novice or Conditional class license and living more than 125 miles from a quarterly examination test site often meant waiting as much as six months to have the exam graded and a call sign, if successful, issued.
-
What a wonderful change, and advance, the new VE/VEC license testing system is!  It took the VEs longer to grade three exams than it did for me to take them. I couldn't believe that i had my new call sign in a WEEK!  I figured that at least two weeks would elapse.
Dave, AB3MO
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N2EY
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« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2011, 07:02:12 AM »

Getting a Novice or Conditional class license and living more than 125 miles from a quarterly examination test site often meant waiting as much as six months to have the exam graded and a call sign, if successful, issued.

Six months? More like six to sixteen weeks - still a long time.

Here's how it went for me:

1) Find volunteer examiner (hardest part)

2) Set up time for code tests

3) Pass code tests. When passed, volunteer examiner writes letter to FCC asking for written tests.

4) Wait six to eight weeks for FCC to process request

5) When envelope arrives, set up time for written test.

6) Take written test; volunteer examiner sends to FCC for grading.

7) Wait six to eight weeks for FCC to process. If you passed, license arrives, if not, go back to 2) and do the whole thing over again.

What all that did was to encourage most hams to over-prepare for the exams so they'd be sure to pass on the first go.

btw, the distance was 125 miles until 1954, 75 miles from 1954 to 1964, and 175 miles after 1964. Routine Novice and Technician were all by-mail from 1954 onwards.

What was really tough were those who lived just inside the distance. 125 miles isn't much today but in the pre-Interstate times such a trip could be quite a journey.

What a wonderful change, and advance, the new VE/VEC license testing system is!  It took the VEs longer to grade three exams than it did for me to take them. I couldn't believe that i had my new call sign in a WEEK!  I figured that at least two weeks would elapse.

The access is sure a lot better!

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K2ACB
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« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2011, 11:42:06 PM »

I don't know about the Technician and conditional class licenses. However in 1962 I sent away for my novice license. That exam was given by mail. there was also no requirement how old the examiner was who administered the code test and the exam. He or she just had to have a General or higher class license.

I was first aquainted with Amateur radio at the age of 10. My late father ,who was an attorney had a friend,a fellow attorney,who had been in the US army.  signal corps during world War 2. this gentleman who is a sk.may have been licensed before the War.

Anyhow,he lived out on Staten Island in New York City. My parents decided to visit him and his wife.We went from Manhattan,where I grew up to his home. I remember he had a large antenna on his roof and a room full of what we would call today boat anchor equipment. The year was 1958.

When we were at his home he went on the Air and made a contact on AM. I was fascinated at the time that people could talk over far distances to each other via short wave radio. Before I left his home he gave me as a gift a hand key and a book about amateur radio.

It was four years later when i was able to get my novice license. i had a friend at the time who was my age. One day in the fall of 1962 he told me that he had bought a record to learn CW and a book ,either ARRL or Ameco, I don't remember which one or maybe it was both . The book was a study guide for the novice license. Maybe someone can comment about these books and which was better or they were both the same.

He had seen the CW key I had in my room that I received from this radio amateur 4 years earlier and that I had spoken to him at one time about amateur radio. This friend told me that all we had to do was to write to the FCC for the novice license which was only twenty multiple choice questions of which you had to get 15 questions correct to pass.

He also said to me that he had a 16 year old friend who had just passed his general license and he was now qualified to give the novice license.

We sent away together for the novice license. In a few weeks, i don't remember how long it took to get the test from the FCC,but i don't think it was more than three or four weeks, I received the test in the mail.

About two weeks later we visited his 16 year old friend who was also in high school. He gave us both the CW test.We did not even open up the envelope with the test. After sending for 5 minutes at 5 wpm he told my friend he passed the CW test.My friend took the written portion and also passed. He told me I should further study the code because i did not know it well enough. I should call him in two weeks and he would re-administer the code test and if I passed I could take the written part of the exam.

I think if he went by the rules he should have told me I failed and opened up the written part of the exam and sent it back to the FCC telling them I failed the CW portion of the exam. I then would have had to send away for another exam. However we were kids and why make me do this .

Two weeks later using the record and an ameco code practice key i bought I called him to come over so he could again administer the CW portion of the exam. he told me he was now busy with a school project and he could not give me the CW portion of the exam for at least another two weeks.

I did not want to wait the two weeks or longer until he was ready to give me the CW portion of the exam again. I called up my father's friend who lived on Staten Island who was still an active ham. i think he had an Advanced license. I asked him if he would give me the exam. He said if I could get out to his home he would be happy to give me the Novice exam.

At this time I was old enough to travel myself by subway and the Staten Island ferry and bus from my home in manhattan to his home. I went out to his home the following weekend.He first administered the CW part of the exam. he told me i passed. I still had the unopened envelope from the FCC since it was never opened during my first cw exam. I think I had the test exam at this point for over three weeks. I wonder if the FCC had any time limits on how long you could keep a novice exam and higher exams before you would have to send them back. If you kept an exam for three or more months would it have become invalid.?Maybe the FCC had no rules about this. Anyone want to comment.

After I passed the CW portion of the exam he opened up the envelope and administerd to me the written 20 multiple choice novice exam. after i took the exam he went over it and told me I passed. He would take care of all the required paper work.

In a few weeks, I am not sure but I think it was between four to six weeks, I received in the mail my novice license,WN2DZW.

I had a radio license but I had no equipment. i also knew if i did not get a higher class license within a year my radio license would expire. I was in my second year of high school. My high school had an amateur radio club led by a regular high school teacher. The school also had a club station and equipment. I lament today that most high school radio clubs and a lot of college and university stations have had their club station licenses lapse a long time ago or are inactive today.

I joined the high school amateur radio club and met a fellow student who was a member of the club. He told me he had just gotten his General class license. He wanted to buy the Heath DX60  and matching receiver. Hre had a used Heath DX20 and a Hallicrafters SX110 receiver. he would sell his station to me for $100 and also help me set up the station and put up a dipole on the roof of my apartment building  with another friend of his in high school who was also a radio amateur.

I agreed to this deal. At that time a novice could only use CW on the bands that were allowed .He had to be crystal controlled and could not use a VFO. He could run no more than 75 watts. The  heath DX 20 was an ideal transmitter for those requirements.

I got on the air the second month after i received my novice license. every month after i got on the air i went down to the FCC offices in manhattan and tried for the general class license. i never wanted the Technician license. I failed the 13 WPM code test  five times and the theory twice. On my eighth attempt I passed the General Class license. i was 15 years old and had two months to spare before my Novice license expired.

Several people around my age whom I knew or met ,including the friend at the time who coaxed me into studying and sending away for the Novice class license together, never progressed past getting a novice license. When the year was up,they lost their license.

 
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AB2T
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« Reply #27 on: November 01, 2011, 12:23:40 AM »

I don't know about the Technician and conditional class licenses. However in 1962 I sent away for my novice license. That exam was given by mail. there was also no requirement how old the examiner was who administered the code test and the exam. He or she just had to have a General or higher class license.

I was first aquainted with Amateur radio at the age of 10. My late father ,who was an attorney had a friend,a fellow attorney,who had been in the US army.  signal corps during world War 2. this gentleman who is a sk.may have been licensed before the War.

Thanks very much for the story!  I should be very grateful that I was a teenager in the mid 90's.

My Elmer did me a good turn by telling me not to aim for the "codeless license" (this was 1993, just after the no-code Tech began.)  He insisted that I get a "proper" Novice.  In retrospect, this was a GREAT idea.  I played the code tapes, listened to CW on my shortwave radio, and tapped out messages on an oscillator attached to a rusty J-38 from my WW II vet uncle.  In fact, my Novice journey wasn't that much different than the experience of decades of previous Novices.  I failed the 5 wpm the first time, but passed the Novice written.  Came back the next month, wrote the Tech and passed the 5 wpm.  13 years old at the time.  Two years of practice on the Novice bands, and I finished up all the testing two summers later.  My ham story isn't that much different than decades of other teens who became hams early on only to become lifelong operators.

I remember passing the Novice written and being told, "just write the Tech test now and get on the air."  I'm glad I waited the extra month and entered the hobby with the intent to operate HF CW.  I did get a HT a year later, but FM never interested me much.  If I went "codeless", I never would have started out with CW, the mode I now enjoy most.  I also probably would not have passed the Extra two years later. 

I also should recognize the many experienced hams who were very patient with my lid-fist 10 wpm contacts.  Often the hams would ask my age.  Then they would encourage me to keep making contacts and disregard errors.  Some were very happy that a teen was on CW, as not a few were concerned that CW was dying out!  Fortunately, CW is making a small resurgence.  However, I don't know if CW is meeting its "replacement rate".

I'm happy that I had a "traditional" Novice experience.  I would not have had this experience if I waited much longer to get my license.

73, Jordan 

 
 
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N2EY
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« Reply #28 on: November 01, 2011, 04:31:33 AM »

I don't know about the Technician and conditional class licenses.

The Novice and Technician were given at FCC offices from 1951 to 1954. In 1954 FCC made all routine Novice and Technician exams "by mail", in large part to ease the workload of FCC offices.

Conditional was a General given by mail for folks who lived far from an FCC exam point, were shut-ins or were disabled. Requirements same as General, just by-mail.

Until the early 1950s there was a rule that if a by-mail licensee moved closer to an FCC exam point, s/he had 90 days to retest in front of an FCC examiner or lose the license. That rule went away about 1954.

However in 1962 I sent away for my novice license. That exam was given by mail. there was also no requirement how old the examiner was who administered the code test and the exam. He or she just had to have a General or higher class license.

I have a 1962 ARRL License Manual. According to the FCC regulations of the time, in 1962 the person giving the written test had to be at least 21 years of age. The person giving the code test could be any age. (They didn't have to be the same person). But the person giving the written test and signing the application had to be at least 21.


One day in the fall of 1962 he told me that he had bought a record to learn CW and a book ,either ARRL or Ameco, I don't remember which one or maybe it was both . The book was a study guide for the novice license. Maybe someone can comment about these books and which was better or they were both the same.

He had seen the CW key I had in my room that I received from this radio amateur 4 years earlier and that I had spoken to him at one time about amateur radio. This friend told me that all we had to do was to write to the FCC for the novice license which was only twenty multiple choice questions of which you had to get 15 questions correct to pass.

He also said to me that he had a 16 year old friend who had just passed his general license and he was now qualified to give the novice license.

We sent away together for the novice license. In a few weeks, i don't remember how long it took to get the test from the FCC,but i don't think it was more than three or four weeks, I received the test in the mail.

About two weeks later we visited his 16 year old friend who was also in high school. He gave us both the CW test.We did not even open up the envelope with the test. After sending for 5 minutes at 5 wpm he told my friend he passed the CW test.My friend took the written portion and also passed. He told me I should further study the code because i did not know it well enough. I should call him in two weeks and he would re-administer the code test and if I passed I could take the written part of the exam.

I think if he went by the rules he should have told me I failed and opened up the written part of the exam and sent it back to the FCC telling them I failed the CW portion of the exam. I then would have had to send away for another exam. However we were kids and why make me do this .

The 16 year old friend broke the rules by giving the written exam to the other Novice. He may have realized that, and then didn't want to take a chance by doing it again for you.

Two weeks later using the record and an ameco code practice key i bought I called him to come over so he could again administer the CW portion of the exam. he told me he was now busy with a school project and he could not give me the CW portion of the exam for at least another two weeks.

I did not want to wait the two weeks or longer until he was ready to give me the CW portion of the exam again. I called up my father's friend who lived on Staten Island who was still an active ham. i think he had an Advanced license. I asked him if he would give me the exam. He said if I could get out to his home he would be happy to give me the Novice exam.

At this time I was old enough to travel myself by subway and the Staten Island ferry and bus from my home in manhattan to his home. I went out to his home the following weekend.He first administered the CW part of the exam. he told me i passed. I still had the unopened envelope from the FCC since it was never opened during my first cw exam. I think I had the test exam at this point for over three weeks. I wonder if the FCC had any time limits on how long you could keep a novice exam and higher exams before you would have to send them back. If you kept an exam for three or more months would it have become invalid.?Maybe the FCC had no rules about this. Anyone want to comment.

There was no set time, but I suspect that if you'd kept the envelope for much longer the FCC would have written you asking for it back.

 

After I passed the CW portion of the exam he opened up the envelope and administerd to me the written 20 multiple choice novice exam. after i took the exam he went over it and told me I passed. He would take care of all the required paper work.

In those days the person giving the written exam wasn't supposed to look at it, just administer it and certify that the person taking the test didn't cheat. But many of them would look over the test anyway.

Some time between 1962 and 1967 the FCC changed the by-mail procedure. First, they changed the Conditional distance to 175 miles. Second, you could no longer send away for a license packet yourself. Instead, you had to find a volunteer examiner, and s/he would first give you the code tests (sending and receiving. When you passed them, the volunteer examiner would send away to FCC for the written exam. This new procedure meant that the FCC didn't even get involved until after a prospective ham had found a volunteer examiner and passed both code tests.

Once the volunteer examiner sent in the request for the written test, the FCC would process the application and then send the test envelope to the volunteer examiner, not the prospective ham. They would then set up a time for the written exam, and when it was done, would send it away to FCC for grading. You'd then wait for the envelope from FCC. A small envelope was a good thing, a big envelope was a bad thing. The small envelope was your license, the big envelope was instructions and paperwork on how to do the whole process again.

The revised process slowed things down but meant less work for FCC. It also meant tighter control over the process. It seems to me that FCC was getting concerned about rule-bending and -breaking in the by-mail process, and sought to tighten it up. The Novice wasn't their biggest concern, because it was only good for a year and couldn't be renewed, and had very limited privileges anyway. A Novice who didn't know the code would not make any QSOs anyhow, except on 2 meters.

In 1967 the Novice term was doubled to 2 years, because it was felt that too many Novices were dropping out. I got one of the first 2 year Novice licenses, but resolved to get my General within a year - and did. In fact I got the Advanced. IMHO the real problem many hams faced was that they had a hard time getting to an FCC exam session, and lived too far from an FCC office. The 175 mile rule meant 175 miles "air-line", not driving, so it could be a very long trip. The VE system of today offers much better access and is a big improvement over the old system in that respect.

In a lot of ways the old Novice was a really good introduction to ham radio. The restricted bands and modes meant that the test could be very simple and yet still be effective. More important, the limited privileges meant that a Novice could use very simple equipment and still be at the same level as other Novices.

I think we need something like the a new Novice license for the 21st century. The Technician doesn't do the job well; its test is too complicated with rules and regs, and the privileges are all over the place. Why not a license with simple test and limited privileges?
This would not only help new hams, it would encourage rigmakers and article-writers to design and produce simple equipment for the new hams, just as the rigmakersof old did for Novices. Today, a new ham is confronted by a lot of complicated gear just to get started.

73 de jim, n2EY
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K0OD
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« Reply #29 on: November 01, 2011, 08:42:22 AM »

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The Technician doesn't do the job well; its test is too complicated with rules and regs, and the privileges are all over the place. Why not a license with simple test and limited privileges?

Having crammed for the Technician last week with my son and passed it easily twice in practice versions I'm in good position to comment. (leave aside that I've been licensed since the 1950s!)

You're correct, Jim.  The Tech material is overly broad. Perhaps that's unavoidable given that techs can operate many modes on bands from 80 meters to microwave. One of my practice tests asked about the 23 cm band. I doubt that a tenth percent of hams ever make a contact on 1296!

When I took my novice in '57 we mastered a few simple things... 75 Watts, crystal control, one year and generally one mode. and don't kill anyone. Oh, there was that pesky Morse stuff! Everything in those study guides was and still is useful.

The modern Technician pool of about 370 questions touches on satellites, traffic handling, contesting, remote operation, and telemetry. Who needs to know about repeater offsets for obscure UHF bands that have no repeaters in most of the country?

I instructed my son to use his very limited study time to focus on things all hams must know: equipment and antenna safety, identification, interference reduction, and the basics of making a contact. In his case, he already knew the electronics theory. He briefly skimmed most of the fluff material and that was enough (probably barely enough!) to pass.

Jeff K0OD 
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