Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: History of the Amateur Extra  (Read 6277 times)
K9AIM
Member

Posts: 945




Ignore
« on: February 07, 2013, 05:11:39 PM »

I am hoping someone can clarify a question I have regarding the history of the Amateur Extra and Advanced classes. I had thought the Amateur Extra did not come into existence until 1951, but the wikipedia entry on amateur radio licensing suggests the Extra was created in 1923 ("Amateur Extra First Grade) and that is when the 20wpm code requirement came into being for that class:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio_licensing_in_the_United_States#History_of_U.S._amateur_licensing

Quote from: wiki
 
The Department of Commerce created a new top-level license in 1923, the Amateur Extra First Grade, that conveyed extra operating privileges. It required a more difficult written examination and a code test at twenty words per minute.

I know my uncle was an Advanced in 1976 when he gave me the Novice exam and also when I upgraded to General and Advanced in 1977.  I know he was licensed as 9CCA in 1927 (he would have been 21 yrs old then) and is listed in a 1934 callbook as W9PUT -- the call by which I knew him... I had thought my uncle and some other old school Advanced hams sort of saw the Extra with a bit of disdain (although he never said so) because they had passed the highest class and possibly a tougher written exam than the new Extra entailed.

So when did the Extra first come into existence, what was the original code requirement for a Class A and pre-WWII Advanced?

Also, if anyone could improve the wiki entry (if needed) thanks in advance (pun not intended).
Logged
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3856




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 06:12:55 AM »

The Amateur Extra First Grade was created in 1923 and existed for a few years. It required 20 wpm code, 1 year experience, a clean record and a written exam. But few hams got them because the move was on to the short-waves, and the regular license gave full privileges there. The Amateur Extra First Grade was quietly discontinued after a few years, and no license of that name existed until 1951.

I'm not sure when the "ABC" license system began, but it was in place by the early 1930s when the FRC/FCC took over licensing from the Department of Commerce. The ABC system lasted until 1951.

Under the ABC system, all hams had to pass the same code tests and a written exam. The Class B and C licenses were the same except that B was at an FCC exam session and C was by-mail.

The Class A license was only available at FCC exam sessions and required no additional code testing. It did require 1 year experience and an additional written test. If the applicant held a Class C license, s/he had to first retake and pass the 13 wpm code and the B/C written exams - FCC did not give credit for by-mail exam elements.

The code test speed was 10 wpm until 1936, and 13 wpm after that year. The written exam was also beefed up in 1936. Existing amateurs did not have to retest to retain their licenses, nor did a Class B ham who wanted an A license have to retake the B tests.

The ABC system existed until 1951, when the restructuring happened. Class C was renamed Conditional, Class B was renamed General, and Class A was renamed Advanced. So terms such as "pre-WWII Advanced" don't really mean anything, because back than it was called Class A. The restructuring did not change the license requirements for those license classes; only the name changed.

Until the 1951 restructuring, all US hams had full access to all amateur frequencies at full power. The ONLY added privileges for a Class A was 'phone operation on the bands between 2.5 and 25 MHz. Back then, that meant 75 and 20 meter 'phone were Class A-only territory. B and C hams could and did operate CW in the phone bands, and would sometimes have cross-mode contacts with Class A hams.

The "modern" Extra was created in 1951 as part of the restructuring that also gave us the Novice and Technician. It was meant to replace the Advanced as the top-level license. The 1951 Extra requirements were higher in every way: 20 wpm code, longer and more-detailed written test, 2-year experience requirement. Having an Advanced/Class A did not count any higher towards the 1951 Extra than did a General/Class B.

Most of all, FCC announced that no new Advanceds would be issued after Dec 31 1952. There was a bit of a rush to get one before the door closed!

I suspect that what bothered some old-time Class A/Advanceds back then was being dethroned from having the top license.

Under the rules of the 1951 restructuring, both the Advanced and Extra had full privileges - meaning 20 and 75 'phone. But the FCC also said that the Extra would get additional privileges in the future. There was no official pronouncement of what those additional Extra-only privileges would be, but speculation was that they might include power beyond 1 kW input, new phone bands, etc.

But just before the end of 1952, FCC did a complete turnabout. In mid-December, they announced that effective Feb 16, 1953, Generals and Conditionals would get full privileges. Why they changed their minds at the last moment I do not know, but the effect was to remove any practical incentive to get an Advanced or Extra.

Within a year or two of that announcement, 15 became a ham band (with a phone segment) and 40 got a 'phone segment. Generals and Conditionals had full privileges on both bands from the start.

This is what many old-old time Advanceds really resented - that what they'd worked hard to get was now available to the Great Unwashed Masses. It was part of the reason for the "no kids, no lids, no space cadets, Class A operators only" CQ of W2OY.

Then came Nov 22, 1968

73 de Jim, N2EY
Logged
K9AIM
Member

Posts: 945




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2013, 06:57:37 AM »

This is what many old-old time Advanceds really resented - that what they'd worked hard to get was now available to the Great Unwashed Masses. It was part of the reason for the "no kids, no lids, no space cadets, Class A operators only" CQ of W2OY.

Then came Nov 22, 1968

73 de Jim, N2EY

thanks for the informative reply Jim!  So it sounds like the initial creation of the Amateur Extra in 1951 was sort of a re-creation of the pre-FCC Amateur Extra First Grade of 1923.  That clarifies how Extra was new in 1951 but also existed in 1923.

When the written exams were later done away with in the 60's, and subsequent Extras came on board with more HF phone privileges than old school Class A's (who were later turned into Advanceds) had held, these former Class A's were probably a little put off by it.  I know my uncle for example could not do 20wpm CW when he at the age of 71 took me to the FCC office to take my exams.  He still did do CW occasionally, and he was my first QSO when I became licensed as a Novice in 1976.  He also never explicitly expressed any resentment over the Extra Class, and encouraged me to take the Extra exam when I passed my Advanced (he had no desire to move his code proficiency up to 20 wpm).  

I wonder if the FCC ever considered just giving the Extras more CW privileges?  Probably not, but I would have found that more resonant.

ymmv 73
Logged
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3856




Ignore
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2013, 08:42:19 AM »

So it sounds like the initial creation of the Amateur Extra in 1951 was sort of a re-creation of the pre-FCC Amateur Extra First Grade of 1923.  That clarifies how Extra was new in 1951 but also existed in 1923.

The 1951 Extra was the result of petitions by two small groups in the late 1940s. They complained to FCC that the existing Class A license was inadequate technically, and needed a higher-level written exam. One group complained that the requirements were inadequate operationally, and needed a higher speed CW exam. FCC took their ideas and (re)created the 1951 Extra. The ARRL opposed the new license but to no avail.

When the written exams were later done away with in the 60's,

I don't know what you mean. The written exams were simply changed to multiple choice.

and subsequent Extras came on board with more HF phone privileges than old school Class A's (who were later turned into Advanceds) had held, these former Class A's were probably a little put off by it.  I know my uncle for example could not do 20wpm CW when he at the age of 71 took me to the FCC office to take my exams.  He still did do CW occasionally, and he was my first QSO when I became licensed as a Novice in 1976.  He also never explicitly expressed any resentment over the Extra Class, and encouraged me to take the Extra exam when I passed my Advanced (he had no desire to move his code proficiency up to 20 wpm).  

I wonder if the FCC ever considered just giving the Extras more CW privileges?  Probably not, but I would have found that more resonant.

The "incentive licensing" changes of the 1960s were the result of 5 years of proposals and comments, and all sorts of ideas were included. Note that the 1951-1967 Extra exam included everything that was on the Advanced, and then some! After 1967, getting an Extra required passing all the Advanced requirements. So in all cases the Extra had passed everything an Advanced had, and more.

73 de Jim, N2EY
Logged
K9AIM
Member

Posts: 945




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2013, 09:21:34 AM »

I don't know what you mean. The written exams were simply changed to multiple choice.

that is what I meant.  not sure if the word 'simply' is the best choice of words though

The "incentive licensing" changes of the 1960s were the result of 5 years of proposals and comments, and all sorts of ideas were included. Note that the 1951-1967 Extra exam included everything that was on the Advanced, and then some! After 1967, getting an Extra required passing all the Advanced requirements. So in all cases the Extra had passed everything an Advanced had, and more.

73 de Jim, N2EY

what I meant was if the Class A amateurs who were later automatically changed into Advanced had always had special access to HF phone, and suddenly the new license structure took away that full access to all phone and required a multiple choice exam rather than a written one to attain any license, it may naturally have created some resentment.  If the 20wpm hurdle only granted access to more non-phone segments, I think it would have been easier to swallow. Think about it, if you for decades had a license that was full phone segment privileges, and then suddenly in your twilight years a new rule comes in that excludes you from some HF phone and grants it to young whipper snappers who may not have your experience and knowledge and history -- I am guessing it would feel like the bands were being dumbed down.  Same thing was felt by many when code requirements were weakened and then completely dropped. 

I wonder what the next phase will bring? ...
Logged
N3DF
Member

Posts: 251




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2013, 10:13:38 AM »

Amateur Extra First Grade licensees were folded into Class A when the Federal Radio Commission created the A-B-C license system in 1933.  Amateur First Class licensees with "unlimited radiotelephone" endorsements were also folded into Class A.  This endorsement had been created to allow "ordinary" licensees to use the restricted radiotelephone bands without the necessity of taking the 20 wpm cw test (they had to pass a special examination on radiotelephone subjects).  Amateur First Class licensees without the endorsement were folded into Class B, which ultimately became our present General class.  Class A licensees, of course, eventually became the Advanced class.  Incidentally, Amateur First Class was the third name for that class.  It started out as Amateur First Grade, became Amateur Class, then Amateur First Class.  The names were to distinguish it from hams who did not show up before government examiners.  Those names over time were Amateur Second Grade, Temporary Amateur, Class C, Conditional.
Logged

Neil N3DF
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3856




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2013, 11:13:36 AM »

what I meant was if the Class A amateurs who were later automatically changed into Advanced had always had special access to HF phone, and suddenly the new license structure took away that full access to all phone and required a multiple choice exam rather than a written one to attain any license, it may naturally have created some resentment. 

The same was true of Generals and Conditionals licensed after Feb 16 1953. They'd always had full privileges. And the ones licensed before the changeover to all-multiple-choice in the 1960s had passed the old-style writtens.

If the 20wpm hurdle only granted access to more non-phone segments, I think it would have been easier to swallow. Think about it, if you for decades had a license that was full phone segment privileges, and then suddenly in your twilight years a new rule comes in that excludes you from some HF phone and grants it to young whipper snappers who may not have your experience and knowledge and history -- I am guessing it would feel like the bands were being dumbed down.  Same thing was felt by many when code requirements were weakened and then completely dropped.

The problem with that line of thought is that it presumes that, since a person passed a test once-upon-a-time, they should be guaranteed the privileges forever - regardless of what has changed since.

IMHO, a ham should always be able to pass the exams for the license held. In the old days (until the 1950s at least), there was a statement on the renewal form where you certified that you could still pass the required tests.

The last time I took an amateur radio license exam that counted was in 1970, at the FCC office in Philly. The exam back then did not cover many things that are common today - RF exposure, repeaters, satellites, digital modes, solid state, and much more. Since 1970, FCC has renewed my license based on the idea that I had kept up with the times. Every so often, I take a practice test online just to be sure I have. (Yes, I pass).

73 de Jim, N2EY

Logged
N3DF
Member

Posts: 251




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 01:21:26 PM »

Also, if anyone could improve the wiki entry (if needed) thanks in advance (pun not intended).

I wrote the 1912-1950 portion of the wiki entry.  It cannot be improved.
Logged

Neil N3DF
K9AIM
Member

Posts: 945




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 04:36:47 PM »

Also, if anyone could improve the wiki entry (if needed) thanks in advance (pun not intended).

I wrote the 1912-1950 portion of the wiki entry.  It cannot be improved.

  Smiley I had heard the 1951 Extra described as a new class of license and was surprised to learn of the 1923 version in your entry.
how about making the post-1950 section(s) equally unassailable?  Wink
Logged
W4HIJ
Member

Posts: 367




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2013, 02:17:02 PM »

I know my Father felt slighted. He was a class A and always felt he should have been awarded Extra Class. I remember him talking about it.
Michael, W4HIJ
Logged
K9AIM
Member

Posts: 945




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2013, 07:16:00 AM »

I know my Father felt slighted. He was a class A and always felt he should have been awarded Extra Class. I remember him talking about it.
Michael, W4HIJ

I can understand that.  First, Class A had to adjust to everyone be suddenly given HF phone privileges despite a history of only those who had earned a Class A getting to operate phone there, and then later a new Class was created that takes away some HF phone from them (despite their having attained the highest license class of their day and despite their having earned full access to all Amateur privileges).  Taking away phone access to Class A's was wrong.

I think it may be harder for those who earned an Extra in the 60's or 70's and never held a Class A to understand that...

That is probably where the decision to retain an Advanced Class license on principle arose given that Class A's were turned into Advanced back at a time when Advanced was the highest license class ...  

When I came back to ham radio in 2008 after being mostly QRT for 30 years, there were some who advised me to retain my 1977 Advanced  since it proved I passed a code test.  But *that* argument to retain the Advanced carries none of the gravity those old school Class A Advanceds must have felt.  
Logged
WB6DGN
Member

Posts: 590




Ignore
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2013, 10:30:22 AM »

Quote
...(until the 1950s at least), there was a statement on the renewal form where you certified that you could still pass the required tests.

It was still that way in 1967 when my license expired for the first time.  That was also the reason that I did not renew it. 
I completed the application for renewal and then read that (or a similar) statement and tossed the application in the trash.  I KNEW that there was no way that I could pass the code test after never having used it during the previous five years.
I was working in the field and never would have had trouble with the theory but, mainly being interested in VHF and above, there was just no incentive to relearn CW.  I didn't renew my license until 1986 or 87 when at avionics school and one of the instructors started an amateur radio class.  I joined it JUST for the CW; really had no intention of applying for a license.  I just wanted to see if I could learn CW again after all those years.  I guess I didn't lose it completely 'cause it seemed very easy for me that second time around.
Tom
Logged
NO2A
Member

Posts: 758




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2013, 11:06:04 PM »

On thing history has tought us is the F.C.C. has always had trouble making up their mind. If you`ve ever read about the beginning of tv in the 40`s,they were constanly changing rules until finally reaching an agreement on the frequencies/channels/bandwidth used. This is why early tv`s had vfo`s instead of fixed channels. But that`s a whole other story!
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!