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Author Topic: Why are you so mad?  (Read 5005 times)

Posts: 42

« on: March 24, 2007, 05:58:00 AM »

I've spoken to a lot of Hams who are really upset with the FCC's decision to eliminate CW as a requirement for General and Exam class licenses. I recently took, and passed my written General test, and have most enjoyed HF voice. My question to all the CW ticket holders is, why so much hostility (for lack of a better term at the moment) toward this decision?

Posts: 103

« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2007, 08:14:01 AM »

I say that many of us aren't MAD, but rather, DISAPPOINTED in the decision.  I'm sure that somewhere out there you'll find someone who is genuinely mad, but I think those hams are few and far between (thankfully!).

It mostly stems from the belief that eliminating the code requirement will "dumb down" Amateur Radio. (can you imagine Alex Trebek trying to change the format of "Jeopardy" to something similar to "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader"?  Many hams think eliminating code testing did just that.)

I also believe that many hams who learned the code are/will be resentful of those who do not have to learn the code now for the same operating privileges.

As for me, I have mixed feelings.  I think the code should have been kept for the Amateur Extra class license.  But opening up the HF bands to non coders was not a bad idea in my book!

I'm still pretty new to amateur radio and I've got a lot to learn.  I did spend 11 months learning the code and passed the test last June.  But I learned the code because I wanted to try my hand at CW, not because I wanted a General ticket (although the upgrade was only logical if you're learning the code anyway).

My $0.02.  Others may feel differently.

Scott kc9hoz

Posts: 1146

« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2007, 08:35:16 AM »

The only place I have seen any kind of anger or disappointment is right here on  I have never heard anything on the air one way or the other.  Maybe I only QSO with the well-adjusted hams :-).

But, about CW...

If you haven't learned it yet, you should give it a try.  When I got licensed again three years ago I had no intent in operating CW.  SSB and maybe AM was the only way for me.  This may stem from the fact that 40 years ago I was a Novice and CW only.  And, back then getting voice privileges was something to seek after and I never did due to college and other distractions.  So, I think I saw my opportunity to finally operate voice.

However, just this year, January, I got interested in CW again.  It was all about CW being in the news, that is, the FCC cancelling the testing requirements.  So, I started listening to the CW bands with the plan to at least get my speed back up to what it was as a Novice.  Well, I fell in love with CW and with a few exceptions of some mobile SSB work some evening 80 meter nets, I am all CW.

I am not planning to abandon SSB or other modes for CW but right now I am still on upward learning curve.  On a good day, I am 20 wpm with good copy (approximately).  

So, I say give it a try.

Posts: 14443

« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2007, 09:36:29 AM »

I've been a ham for a fairly long time (since the late 1950's). I think many people just don't like any kind of change. It's the old "it's always been done that way so why do we need to change it" attitude. The first time I saw it was when SSB started to creep into the ham bands. A lot of AM phone guys were furious. Next there was incentive licensing. Quite a number of people are still upset about that even though its been some 20 years ago. Then there is the "regulation by bandwidth" issue. Some say we've always subdivided the bands according to mode (and content) and we don't need to change. Others realize that technology is changing rapidly and we need to change the regulations to keep up. Dropping the CW testing requirement is just one more of those things. It was successfully fought for years but change is inevitable sooner or later.

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 1524

« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2007, 12:50:00 PM »

My main objection was that some people will never try it if it is not required.  There are many things in life we learn not knowing whether or not we will ever use it.  But we learn it because it is part of the basics that we can build on later if we find that our interests go that way.

The second issue that I had was that the majority of people pushing for eliminating the code had NO experience with it. Some even slammed the mode itself in their efforts to eliminate the test requirement.  Yes there were some Generals, Advanced, and Extra class operators who also pushed for its removal and were actually leaders in this (such as the leaders of NCI) but they were only a small handful of people.  

Another issue I had about it was not about eliminating the code per se but the lies that both sides told to try to justify their position.  The acrimonius debates and lies did far more to harm amateur radio than either keeping the code or eliminating it. It was the lies that made me the angriest of all.

Another similar issue is that some people were quite offensive about it. One incident in particular stands out in my mind.  I was teaching a General upgrade class and before one club meeting we were all sitting outside the building waiting for it to open. A no code Technician came up to the group and told them don't bother because code was useless and would be eliminated someday and that they should just wait to upgrade.  This person had NEVER operated HF (such as under a control op at Field Day) and had never even monitored the HF bands.  He had no basis to say it was useless.  He was quite obnoxious about it.  Fortunately my students ignored his opinion, studied, passed and were on HF for three years before the testing was dropped..

Another item is that such debates have convinced a whole group of people that code is "too hard" for the average person. These people may never try it because of this false premise.  Some would have found they liked it after getting past the learning stage.

Yes it takes some work to learn code.  For some it takes more work than others.  It took me an incredible amount of work.  The learning stage is also utterly boring.  But once a person gets past that, it is a whole different story.  I've worked many stations with CW that would have been impossible at the time on voice or digital modes.  It's still work for me but I appreciate being able to use it when there's a station out there that I want to work.  Perhaps someday I'll get to where I can head copy like the oldtimers.

I compare it to piano lessons.  No one NEEDS to learn to play the piano.  However many people make their kids take piano lessons as they believe that people should have some musical training (I required each of my daughters to learn an instrument for a couple of years).  When you talk to these people when they are adults, many will admit they hated the lessons as a kid.  Yet they all make one of two comments (depending on their personal history):  1)  I'm glad my parents didn't let me quit because I really enjoy playing now OR 2) I wish my parents had not let me quite because I'd like to be able to sit down and play once in a while.  I've NEVER come across a person who said that they were glad their parents let them quit.

Posts: 2806

« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2007, 11:22:48 PM »

Yes, there's more "anger" on the websites than on the bands.

I was chatting with someone at the counter of the local Ham Radio Outlet store.

"What's new?" I asked.

"Since the CW requirement was eliminated, we've been selling more CW practice tapes than we ever did before!"

Since CW is no longer "required", people are more willing to investigate it.  Certainly a good, unanticipated side effect of the change.

My personal opinion is that CW will live or die "on its merits"  compared to other modes.  So far, the only thing I've found that matches it in weak-signal work is PSK31.  I suspect that, if I were a better CW op, CW might beat PSK31.

And the only computer it needs is between my ears.


Posts: 1555

« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2007, 03:46:23 AM »

I'm just sorry that so many future hams will not experience cw operation.  While cw is not for many hams, at least all HF operators have had to learn it in the past - and many have found out how enjoyable and effective it is.  But I think that the elimination of the Morse code requirement will significantly minimize the number of new cw operators.  This is because very few people learn something if they don't have to.

Phil - AD5X

Posts: 1524

« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2007, 05:42:56 AM »


I have always maintained that each and every mode has its strengths and weaknesses.  The best ops know these and include this in their decisions on how to call CQ to initiate a QSO.

Both CW and PSK31 are good for weak signal work in general.  However, when solar flares cause ionospheric disruptions, PSK31 (Phase Shift Keying) becomes unusable due to phase shifts induced by that disruption.  On the other hand, CW simply develops a nasty, raspy sound.  With practice, one can copy it.

Posts: 700

« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2007, 07:32:23 AM »

No anger here about the FCC's decision on CW testing. I got my ham ticket at 14 in 1969 and have always enjoyed and worked a lot of CW. Got my extra ticket in 1979. I have heard all the pro and con arguments for the past 30-plus years. Everything in life changes -- everything. I think ham radio would be much stronger today if this change had been implemented 20 years ago.

73, N4KZ

Posts: 30

« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2007, 09:39:00 AM »

Ryan, with no disrespect intended, and I don't know your situation, but you _MAY_ be finding what you're looking for, intentionally or not.  How you present yourself to others largely determines how you'll be accepted.

You are a General license holder, but if on introduction, you present yourself as a "no-code General" or mention you're finally enjoying HF without having to code test, you're just fishing for hostility, and will bring it out, even in some individuals who are sincerely trying to put this behind them.  

Bringing that up as a new member in a conversation with ham(s) is not a lot different from stating, "Abortion is murder" or "Private ownership of firearms should be outlawed" upon introduction to a new group of the general populace.  You may even find yourself unwelcome by those who agree with your position for your lack of tact.

What leads me to believe this _MAY_ be the case in your situation is your generalization of "CW ticket holders" as being "mad" and "hostile."  That is no less wrong than characterizing all ticket holders who didn't code test as being lazy and/or rebellious.  It sounds to me you need to get over the fact some will never consider you a "real ham" every bit as much as they need to get over the fact one can now be a "real ham" without code-testing.  

You'll find what you're looking for. Even on eham and QRZ, much less the real world of ham radio, if you look critically, you'll see the vast majority of code-tested hams consider your code-test status irrelevant, and it will be to most, unless you make it so. It's only a few on both side of the issue who post loudly and prolifically that make it appear otherwise.

The worst thing you can do towards acceptance, much less a healthy state of mind, is to identify with the few who didn't code-test and who laud the change as some kind of victory over years of persecution.  You'll find yourself defensively barricaded behind an "us versus them" mentality that will isolate you from the majority, who at this point are code-tested.  The best thing you can do is find what you have in common with some of the majority, an interest in propagation, antennas, home-brewing, dxing, chasing paper, etc.  That, my friend, is what is relevant, not your code-test status.

Posts: 550


« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2007, 01:04:23 PM »


I'm not mad, but disappointed. I think that
many new amateurs will never try CW and will
miss out on much of the "best" that amateur
radio has to offer.

Learning CW was a formative, unifying, experience
in amateur radio for many years (at one time,
even the Technician license required passing a
CW test). And it enabled new amateurs to build
their own simple equipment. (CW transmitters
are pretty simple).

To get an idea of what amateur radio once was
like, see:

'The Novice License Helped Shape the '50s Ham

In that era, new radio amateurs often built
some of their own equipment. This was not
unusual in the the 1950's or even into the
1970's when I became licensed (and built my
own Novice transmitter).

How many new hams do you meet today who
make their first contact with a transmitter
they build themselves?

30 years ago, this would not have been

I encourage you to give it a try (both
learning CW and "rolling your own" gear).

Many inexpensive QRP CW transceiver kits
are available today that are light years
better than my single tube CW transmitter
was in 1976. Look at the 'Small Wonder Labs
SW+', the 'MFJ Cub', or the 'Wilderness Radio

Have fun in the hobby and 73


Posts: 300


« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2007, 02:50:00 PM »

Ryan, I think the best advice came from AB8XA and W5ESE. Read that ARRL article about the Novice class license. IMO, the Novice license was the best entry point into amateur radio. We should not have gotten away from it. Keep an open mind about CW and give it a try. Learn it it at your own pace. You may just like it. That is one of the biggest reasons I had for wanting the code test retained. I'm afraid that without a mandatory code test, most new hams won't bother to learn it. Many (including me) who learned it mainly for the license privileges found out that they liked it and wanted to use it. If they didn't have to learn code for the license privileges, they may never have taken the time to learn code, and wouldn't be using it.

What most coded hams are afraid about regarding the new codeless HF ops is the "chip on the shoulder" and the "in your face attitude" that the new codeless ops will bring to HF. Their fears are justified by the behavior on eHam and QRZ of the hard-core anti-code militants.

Most coded hams including myself would be receptive of the no-coders provided that they don't come on the bands with an "attitude." Don't wear your no-code status on your sleeve. Don't have a bitter resentful attitude toward the coded hams. Be friendly, do your best to assimilate and don't segregate. Don't try to gravitate into cliques with other no-coders. If coded hams see that the new no-coders are just like they are, that they are trying to enter the institution and be accepted instead of trying to change the institution and drive out those who were here before they were, acceptance of the newbies will be a lot easier. It's the only way to diffuse the "Code War" and the only way amateur radio will begin to heal and gradually become one again instead of 2 camps totally opposed to each other. Nobody wants to be met on the air with one who has a hostile attitude. It works both ways. Respect is a two-way street.

Have fun with your new HF privileges and make new friends.

73 de Mark

Posts: 48


« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2007, 07:13:12 AM »

  Question is how would you feel if you worked hard for something like what we went through only to have the FCC turn around and change it for the next guy. It might be better for you but there are many who don't feel that way. And its nothing against you directly just the changes aren't considered right. No matter what others think.

Posts: 4283


« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2007, 09:03:35 AM »

Actually there was a very good but totally unrelated benefit of the CW licensing requirement.  Since no one was able to learn it in one day, it placed a "delay" in obtaining your HF license.  The benefit of the delay usually did two or three things.  First many of us required help (from an Elmer or whomever) to learn the code.  This Elmer then usually would convey much other information to the new recruit, such as antenna design, operating requirements, examples of on air behavior and the protocols.  Or, if no Elmer, folks, like myself, bought the handbooks, license manuals, and operating guides and had the time to read them and get many of the basic answers.

Also, during this delay, folks, if they had the equipment, would do a lot of listening and forced folks to learn how others did it on HF.  There is very little similarities between VHF/UHF and HF and DXing.  Check out a recent thread on the forum of one newbie's first foray into the world of HF; he admits he's totally blown away and wasn't prepared.

Without the CW learning delay, folks are able to get their license much quicker and based on many recent questions of these newbies on the forums, they are not doing any listening nor have an Elmer nor are reading and doing their basic research.  This is evidenced by the really basic questions that they are asking; it's like they believe they can learn everything by asking questions on the forums?!  This can work eventually but they may also be missing out of key bits of info because they may not be asking the right questions.  
When someone has to ask what to do with the end of a wire entenna or what RST Sent & Recvd mean or what QSL TNX means, I too have to question whether or not they are really ready for HF.

Don't mean to demean folks but since HF signals propagate to foreign countries and therefore puts HF ops in the position of being ambassadors of our country, I'd personally would want each and every one to be ready and represent themselves as well as the US in a good and professional light.  

So in my opinion that CW learning delay was good for HF.

Posts: 542

« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2007, 12:17:47 PM »

"Since CW is no longer "required", people are more willing to investigate it. Certainly a good, unanticipated side effect of the change. "

A lot of people - myself included - knew that this was going to happen.  People are more inclined to embrace something if it is not forced upon them.
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