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Author Topic: Writing Schematics Before Incentive Licensing  (Read 9908 times)
K2ACB
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« on: October 25, 2011, 10:41:10 PM »

I was fierst licensed in 1962 when as a very young teenager I got my Novice license. I received my General Class license the following year before my Novice license expired. When the FCC started the incentive licensing program,I think in 1968, I got my Advanced Class license. I did not get my Extra class license until 1980.


If I remember correctly before the incentive class licensing program started, the Extra Class license examination consisted of 100 questions of which 90 were multiple choice and 10 questions involved writing schematic diagrams. I think you had to get 75 percent of the answers correct to pass. I knew several high school students at the time who were able to pass the Extra class examination including the 20 WPM code test and the writing of the schematics. The high school students that I knew at the time who passed the Extra class examination all went on to careers in engineering,science and technology.

I was too young to be licensed in the early 1950's  ,and I may be mistaken on this assumption,but before 1952 all amateur radio examinations required writing schematic diagrams as well as answering questions. This ended around 1952 with the introduction of the Novice Exam, Only the amateur Extra Class examination required the writing of schematic diagrams,

I would like to know when did  multiple choice questions first become  part of the amateur radio examination format and why did the FCC end the writing of schematics for the General Class license long before they ended it for the Extra class license.

I think today if radio amateurs were required to write schematics as part of the examination process,there would be far fewer radio amateurs in this country.
73
Alan-K2ACB
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N2EY
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2011, 06:06:21 AM »

If I remember correctly before the incentive class licensing program started, the Extra Class license examination consisted of 100 questions of which 90 were multiple choice and 10 questions involved writing schematic diagrams. I think you had to get 75 percent of the answers correct to pass. I knew several high school students at the time who were able to pass the Extra class examination including the 20 WPM code test and the writing of the schematics. The high school students that I knew at the time who passed the Extra class examination all went on to careers in engineering,science and technology.

I was too young to be licensed in the early 1950's  ,and I may be mistaken on this assumption,but before 1952 all amateur radio examinations required writing schematic diagrams as well as answering questions. This ended around 1952 with the introduction of the Novice Exam, Only the amateur Extra Class examination required the writing of schematic diagrams,

Not exactly.

US amateur licensing went through a major restructuring in 1951. The Novice, Technician and Extra classes were added, and the old A, B and C licenses were renamed Advanced, General and Conditional.

All exams except Novice had multiple-choice, essay, draw-a-diagram and show-your-work calculation questions. The Novice had only multiple-choice questions. The exact number of questions, as well as the questions themselves, were kept secret; FCC issued study guides indicating the subjects to study.

The Technician, General and Conditional all used the same written exam; the only difference was the code speed and whether the exam was given by an FCC examiner.

At the end of 1952, the FCC stopped issuing new Advanced licenses, but allowed those who held them to renew and modify. In Feb 1953, FCC gave full privileges to all US hams except Novices and Technicians. This removed practically all reason to get an Extra, so very few hams did.

About 1960, FCC changed the license test format to all-multiple-choice. However, the field offices were instructed to use up their supplies of old exams first, so there wasn't a specific date when the old draw-a-diagram type exams disappeared. Since few hams tried for Extra back then, years could go by before the supply of old Extras was used up in some FCC offices.

In 1967 the FCC reopened the Advanced to new issues. This required a new written test, which was created by splitting the old Extra 100 question test into two tests of about 50 questions each. The split rendered the old Extra tests useless, so any Extra after that point was multiple-choice only.

I would like to know when did  multiple choice questions first become  part of the amateur radio examination format and why did the FCC end the writing of schematics for the General Class license long before they ended it for the Extra class license.

Multiple choice questions were part of the exam before WW2.

FCC ended the essay/draw-a-diagram/show-your-work types of exam as explained above. It was done for two reasons:

1) Grading those old-style exams required a lot of resources. The person grading had to understand the material and make judgement calls. Doing so took time and therefore money, and created a bottleneck. A multiple-choice test could be graded quickly by anyone with an answer key.

This may not sound like much but when you have thousands of people taking exams it adds up. Remember that for most of those years the exams were free.

2) The person grading could be less than perfectly objective in the grading. Bias of all sorts could creep in. A multiple choice test is, by definition, completely objective. Either you made the right choice or you didn't.


I think today if radio amateurs were required to write schematics as part of the examination process,there would be far fewer radio amateurs in this country.

Maybe. It all depends on what schematics would be required. Drawing them sure didn't stop ham radio growing from about 60,000 in 1945 to about 250,000 in the early 1960s, when the tests changed.

Of course drawing a schematic is one thing; understanding it is another.

btw, I got my Novice in 1967 (age 13), Tech and Advanced in 1968 (age 14), and Extra in 1970 (age 16). Would have gotten Extra earlier but for the 2 year wait. Got the Advanced in the summer before I started high school; the Extra in the summer between 10th and 11th grade. None of them were all that hard.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K0OD
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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2011, 07:58:09 AM »

Quote
"Would have gotten Extra earlier but for the 2 year wait. "

Forgot about the 2 year wait before a ham could take the Extra class exam. New hams should realize how difficult the Extra was in those days. One minute of 20 wpm CW PERFECT, drawing schematics and two years in the hobby. That was at a time when many new hams were children and just getting to a test site was difficult, often requiring taking a day off from school.   

OTOH, I never knew anyone my age then who had an Extra.

Hams who wanted to pass the 20 wpm CW test had few study options then other than on-air operation. There were code records (which were memorized quickly), and later tapes, and costly Instruct-o-Graph machines (some ham stores rented them out by the week). Modern software/internet methods are so much better.

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KG6AF
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2011, 09:07:05 AM »

New hams should realize how difficult the Extra was in those days.

No, not really.  As a long-time ham, I enjoy reading N2EY's descriptions of how tests were given before I was licensed.  But few things are as uninteresting or off-putting to a new or aspiring ham as hearing about how things were back in the day, when you had to answer essay questions and walk 30 miles in the snow to get to an exam.  At VE sessions we occasionally get someone who's disgruntled at having to wait a week for their new license to appear in the FCC database, and I launch into a speech about how we had to wait 6 weeks to get our Novice license in the mail.  Then I realize that I sound like Grandpa Simpson, and I shut up.   
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W5ESE
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2011, 09:39:51 AM »

I have a few copies of the study guides the FCC prepared.

I picked up the 1976 versions at the FCC office in Houston,
and requested the 1980 version by mail.

I scanned them and created pdfs, which are available at:

http://sites.google.com/site/arsw5ese/home/fcc-study-guides
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K0OD
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« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2011, 10:09:47 AM »

Quote
"and walk 30 miles in the snow to get to an exam."

Ha! Glad you asked! Smiley I almost mentioned that I took a bus downtown to take my general test when I was about 13. Definitely remember waiting in numbing cold for the public bus (school buses didn't run that late) after high school radio club meetings.  Rain and dark and yes snow is higher when you're 13. (cue violins)

What I remember most about being a junior high ham was how much of a struggle it was to buy ANYTHING. 6146's cost $5 each. It's not like any of us kids had spares sitting around! And I was luckier than many. At least St Louis had two good ham stores then.

--
Anyone know Grandpa Simpson's call? You KNOW he must have one. 
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KG6AF
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« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2011, 12:05:36 PM »

Anyone know Grandpa Simpson's call? You KNOW he must have one. 

I'm not sure, but Principal Skinner is WA3QIZ:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fo-W1wDXHA
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N2EY
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« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2011, 12:53:45 PM »

Quote
"Would have gotten Extra earlier but for the 2 year wait. "

Forgot about the 2 year wait before a ham could take the Extra class exam.

It was reduced to a year in the early 1970s and then completely eliminated about 1975 or so.

I remember going home from passing the Advanced in the summer of 1968 and making a calendar for 1970 so I could figure out, to the day, when the 2 year wait would be over. I was at the first test session after that date.

New hams should realize how difficult the Extra was in those days. One minute of 20 wpm CW PERFECT, drawing schematics and two years in the hobby.


Actually you needed 1 minute or more of solid legible copy (100 characters) and you sent until the examiner told you to stop. FCC only supplied a straight key, too.

Schematic drawing was gone by 1967.

Time as a Novice or Technician did not count towards the 2 years; only General, Conditional and Extra did.

Also: No CSCEs, no partial credit, no do-overs. You had to pass ALL the requirements for a given license at the same exam session. Usually you got the code first, and if you passed you got the written. Fail the code and the exam session was over - go home and don't come back for at least 30 days. Pass the code and fail the written and the exam session was over - go home and don't come back for at least 30 days.

There was also a time in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s when FCC charged for the exams - pass or fail. At one point the fee got as high as $9. That may not seem like much but adjusted for inflation it was over $50 in today's money.

That was at a time when many new hams were children and just getting to a test site was difficult, often requiring taking a day off from school.

Getting to a test site was easy for me. Mile walk to 69th Street Terminal, quick ride on the Market-Frankford El, two block walk to the Customs House at 2nd & Chestnut. Philly FCC office was on the 10th floor. No big deal for a 14 year old in those days. Worst part was the heat and humidity in those pre-AC days. Snow would have been welcome.

But no sane kid would dare to take a day off from school for an amateur radio exam. We knew better than to even ask. Permission would never be granted and all we'd do is make ham radio look bad. Playing hooky would be even more of a disaster.

Plus the FCC Examiner would take one steely-eyed look and say "Why aren't you in school, kid?"

What we had to do was to wait for summer vacation, the Christmas holiday, or a no-school day that didn't close the FCC office *and* fell on an exam day. Those were few and far between.  

What all those requirements and restrictions did was to cause us to be overprepared for the tests. We learned stuff backwards, forwards and sideways to be sure. Read the LM and Handbook over and over until we could almost recite it.

The actual test wasn't all that hard when we finally got to it.

OTOH, I never knew anyone my age then who had an Extra.

Nor I. But even back then (late 1960s-early 1970s) I knew of younger hams with Extras - one as young as 12.

Hams who wanted to pass the 20 wpm CW test had few study options then other than on-air operation. There were code records (which were memorized quickly), and later tapes, and costly Instruct-o-Graph machines (some ham stores rented them out by the week). Modern software/internet methods are so much better.

Yes and no. There was and still is W1AW code practice and bulletins, which are of known speed and duration, always fresh and new. Those lucky enough to have a buddy or family member who also wanted to be a ham often learned by sending to each other, which if done right is IMHO the best way.

For me the route to 20 per was easy:

1) I had only CW gear, so all my operation was code.
2) I got into NTS traffic handling early on, which meant learning not only speed but accuracy - sending and receiving.
3) W1AW as mentioned above. When I could do an 18 wpm bulletin solid I was ready for the General and when I could do a 25 wpm code run solid I was ready for the Extra.
4) ARRL Sweepstakes, Field Day, CD Parties.

IMHO the main problem with "modern" methods is that there's quite a bit of difference between perfect code from a machine in a controlled environment and real live code from a receiver.  

btw, when I went for the 13 wpm the first time, I failed receiving. Not because I didn't know the code well enough but because The Examiner couldn't read my parochial-school Palmer Method longhand well enough to find the required 65 consecutive legible characters. (They didn't ask for clarification nor let you clean up your copy; the original had to be legible to the examiner as written).

So I went home and taught myself to block-print Signal Corps style at 30 wpm. Went back after the required 30-day wait and passed. From that day to this I only use longhand when specifically required or requested.

The plain truth is that I and others were too dumb to know it was "hard" and too stubborn to think we couldn't do it.

So we just went ahead and did it.

73 de Jim, N2EY

 
« Last Edit: October 26, 2011, 01:10:12 PM by N2EY » Logged
K0OD
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« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2011, 02:59:05 PM »

I've been updating my ancient knowledge of licensing because my son's playing with the idea of getting a Tech license. Surprised to learn that it's even possible nowadays to retake the multiple choice test at the same session if time and the VE crew allow. [do you pay each time?]

 
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W0DV
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« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2011, 05:36:15 PM »

hehe, another thread based on who walked to school in 10 feet of snow, bare foot, and up hill both ways. I've seen many of these sort of threads on QRZ as well. I was first licensed in 1994 (KB0PTV). I wasn't trying to prove anything, I just thought it would be a fun hobby so I joined the ranks. I was ignorant of the debate involving "how hard the test was 40 years ago". After I started posting in the QRZ forums, I was quickly educated Smiley.  From my standpoint, I couldn't care less how hard the exams were. No amateur radio exam could come close to the exams I took while going through electronics school 30 years ago. Going to school generally has a purpose, to get an education, to obtain a decent job, and provide for your family. Amateur Radio? aaahh welll, it's a hobby! lol. I know that our government wants to keep Amateur Radio alive. If the powers that be paid any attention to the  attitudes often expressed in forums such as these, Amateur Radio will be dead, no one will bother.
When I was growing up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, I didn't say to my dad..."hey dad, why don't we harvest our corn the way they used to 50 years ago! It's not fair that we have better machinery to do the hard work for us."

I feel like such an aweful slob Smiley
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K2ACB
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« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2011, 08:10:45 PM »

I must make some comments here.

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

I was 14 when first licensed as WN2DZW when I got my novice license at the end of 1962. I was 15 when I received my General Class license ten months later in 1963. My call then changed to WB2DZW. In 1996,the first day of the vanity call sign program i changed my call to K2ACB.ACB are my  initials.

In New York City in the early 1960's  the local FCC office was located in downtown Manhattan near lower Broadway. Today that area is known as SOHO. I think they were located at Greenwich Street  Maybe it was also Varick Street. Iam not certain.it was many years ago.  I  know the FCC offices in New York City were located at Varick Street in Manhattan the 1970's and 1980's.

Anyway the man who gave the amateur radio exams as well as the commercial radio tests was named Charlie Finkelman or Finkelstein. He was a gruffy guy whom if I remember correctly often had an unlit  cigar in his mouth  when he gave the exams and wore suspenders. However i am not certain about that. I know he gave examinations in the New York FCC office for many years at least well into the 1970's and perhaps into the early 1980's.

It was not difficult to get to the FCC's offices in New York City in those days. New York City has always had a very good public transportation system ,especially its subway system. If you could get to a subway stop, any place in the city near a subway line was easily accesible.It was quite easy for teenage kids from the city to get down to the FCC to take both commercial and amateur radio examinations. I even took my Mosley Classic 3 element beam home on the subway with some friends. I bought it at Barry Electronics in Manhattan in 1964. 

Besides the Extra class exam which was the old exam with 100 questions including 10 schematics diagrams,several teenagers I knew between the ages of 15 and 17 also went down to the FCC offices and passed both the first and second class commercial radio license exams.How hard it was to pass these exams in those days, I don't know. I never tried. those teenagers i knew at that time who did get the Extra Class exam and also the commercial radio exams prior to incentive licensing  all studied engineering when they went to  College. I was a social science major.

I was never that technically proficient. It took me 8 attempts to pass the General class examination. I failed the code 5 times at 13wpm and the theory twice but on my eighth attempt I passed my General class examination. I still had two months to go before my Novice class license expired. At that time the Novice class was not renewable and if you did not get a higher class within the year you lost all your priveleges. I do not remember if there was a grace period where you did not lose your call sign if it expired after the one year period for a Novice license. I know I did not want to get the Technician license and by passed it for a General Class license.I wanted to also operate on HF and you could not do that with a Technician class license in those days.

When the incentive licensing program started  it took me three attempts before I passed the Advanced Class examination.I got through those examinations by perserverance more than technical proficiency.

In 1980 the Extra Class examination was only 40 multiple choice examinations.The FCC had also made the CW part of the examination much easier. After incentive licensing I went down once to take the Extra Class examination. At that time you had to copy for 5 minutes 20 wpm including numbers and punctuation. Punctuation counted as two letters, The tape machine sent letters ,numbers and punctuation at random.  If you did not get 100 characters in a row correct you failed. It was only 65 characters  for the Genral exam. I never came close to passing the CW part of the Extra exam on my first attempt soon after incentive licensing began.. I waited 11 years until they made the exam much easier including the CW part of the exam before I took it again.  By that time they actually sent a regular qso for 5 minutes and asked questions like in what city did the sender live,what was his first name and what was his antenna. You had to get seven of the ten questions correct to pass the exam. Under this stystem even if you did not copy correctly every letter,number or punctuation mark correctly it was still possible to easily guess a persons city ,name or antenna if you copied most of the qso correctly. 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?

Another important factor as to why I passed my Extra class exam in 1980 was that I had heard that the FCC in the New York office only had two or three Extra class examinations. If you went down and took the examination more than three times you were certain to get the same examination again.
There was also no limit at least in New York to how long you could sit for the exam.If you got there early you could sit for the exam until just before  the FCC offices closed for the day.

The first time i took the Extra Class examination I was told i failed it by only a very few questions. At that time you had to wait a month to take the examination over again if you failed. I have a friend of mine who took his xtra class exam 9 years ago under the auspices of the VEC examiners. He was told he failed the exam right after taking it by one question. The VEC examiners asked him if he wanted to take the test immediately agai. He said he did. A new test with different questions was given to him. This time he passed. In the old days he would have had to wait a month.

In my case I spent several hours taking my Extra class exam the first time. I tried to memorize as many questions as I could. When I found out I failed I started to write down as many of the questions I could remember. I then used various study aids to look up the answers to those questions.

When I went down the following month to retake the Extra Class examination,much to my delight I was given the same exact test I had failed the previous month. I new at that time there was no way I was going to fail that exam again. I have never taken an amateur radio exam under the auspices of VEC's I understand now the test answers are given in a pool of over 400 questions divided into several categories and that the test questions are generated at random by a computer each time you take the test.

In my case it really doesn't matter.  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. In my case I would have to study a lot if I was required to take the Extra class exam over again and probably the general as well..

Finally I also remember that on one of the eight occasions that I went down to the FCC offices in New York City to try for my General Class license Mr. finkleman or Finklestein actually failed someone who had passed the 13 wpm receiving code test . He failed him for the sending part of the test. In those days at the New York FCC offices you took the test and sat at these old student school desks. Attached to each desk was a straight key. If you wanted you could use a bug such as a vibroplex keyer instead of the straight

Mr Finkleman or Finklestein would give you a passage to send. I think he made people send less than a minute and accept for this one incident I never saw anyone fail the sending part of the exam. In this incident the fellow used the straight key attached to the desk. Mr Finkleman or Finklestein asked him to send several times. On each occasion he told the fellow he could not comprehend anything he sent. after the fellow sent the same thing three or four times and Mr Finkleman or Finklestein still could not comprehend what the fellow was sending He told him to go home and to come back again when he had learned how to send CW properly. I don't think that ever happened very often. Today to get an amateur radio license you don't even have to know CW at all. 

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

7Alan-K2ACB



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AB2T
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« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2011, 09:30:55 PM »

4) ARRL Sweepstakes, Field Day, CD Parties.

What's a "CD Party"?  Civil Defense?

73, Jordan
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N2EY
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« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2011, 03:33:02 AM »

4) ARRL Sweepstakes, Field Day, CD Parties.
What's a "CD Party"?  Civil Defense?

Communications Department.

They were quarterly contests for all ARRL appointees and officials. I was an Official Relay Station (ORS) so I participated. They were eventually phased out (sigh).

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2011, 03:42:17 AM »

Surprised to learn that it's even possible nowadays to retake the multiple choice test at the same session if time and the VE crew allow. [do you pay each time?]

Why the surprise? It's been that way for decades. Yes, you pay each time.

The reason for the old wait-30-days-to-retest rule was that the FCC didn't have many different versions of the written tests. (With the primitive level of word-processing available, it had to be that way). The entire question pool wasn't all that big. If they allowed people to try again at the same session, that fact would have gotten out because within a few tries you'd get the same exact test again. In fact it eventually did, by means of Dick Bash and his (in)famous books.

Today, the question pool for each test is more than 10 times the number of questions on the test. Software allows a huge number of tests by randomly picking questions from the pool. The chances a person will get the exact same test, or even a similar test, twice, is extremely small. So there's no need for the 30 day wait any more.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2011, 03:59:54 AM »

I couldn't care less how hard the exams were. No amateur radio exam could come close to the exams I took while going through electronics school 30 years ago.

Nor were they as "hard" as the tests I took in EE school 40 years ago. Nor should they be.

IMHO the old tests weren't really all that "hard" if you knew the material. 

btw, if you went to electronics school 30 years ago but got your amateur license in 1994, you had formal electronics training first. A lot of us did it the other way around. 

Going to school generally has a purpose, to get an education, to obtain a decent job, and provide for your family.

Right. Amateurs are mostly self-taught, on their own time, which makes it a different game entirely.

Amateur Radio? aaahh welll, it's a hobby! lol.

I see that "it's a hobby" phrase all the time, but the folks who use it rarely say what that actually means. Often I get the idea that they're saying it means we shouldn't have any standards or requirements, because we're not being paid.

I say that we need standards even more because of that.

I know that our government wants to keep Amateur Radio alive.

I wonder about that sometimes.

I see a lack of enforcement of FCC's own rulescausing the amateur radio service to lose quality. I see things like BPL and noisemaking electronics being allowed, even though they chew up our bands with QRN. I see CC&Rs and highly restrictive ordinances against amateur radio antennas becoming more and more common, while the government washes its hands of the issue. (Why is a satellite TV dish antenna on the front of the house worthy of federal preemption protection, but a wire dipole in the back yard not?)

When I was growing up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, I didn't say to my dad..."hey dad, why don't we harvest our corn the way they used to 50 years ago! It's not fair that we have better machinery to do the hard work for us."

Ah, but that farm was a commercial operation, not a hobby.

Nobody is saying we should go back to the way it was 40, 50, 60 years ago. Not at all. But we are saying we should remember how it was - how it really was.

What would be really neat IMHO is if somebody could set up a "traveling road show" that would go to hamfests and conduct "reenacted" license tests the way they were done back-when. They'd have no legal importance, of course, but you'd get a nice certificate if you passed. It would be interesting to see who could and could not pass the old tests!

73 de Jim, N2EY
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