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Author Topic: Are these hams not wanted?  (Read 18885 times)
K7RNO
Member

Posts: 279




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« on: January 19, 2014, 12:02:00 PM »

There has been lively discussion of ham quality with regard to education in the amateur radio domain. Disappointment on one hand, that the dumbed-down questions produce appliance operators, vs. support of easier tests (e.g., dropping code requirement) to keep licensee numbers up. Both sides make valid points.

Then there’s a third side: the newly licensed hams. Some have helpful and supportive backgrounds and want to use their skills to be more than just operators. Others don’t have that benefit and—at least initially—don’t ever want to build rigs or gear, never want to develop new or refine existing modes, never will have more than an HT and the stock rubber duck: hams that only want to operate their HT when nothing else works due to the earthquake/storm/flood/other that could come any day where they live. Why do those hams need to know what a product detector is? Or that unit 1 in that block diagram is an oscillator and nothing else? Or what a transistor looks like on a circuit diagram?

My XYL belongs to that underprivileged category. She is a relentless learner, tough and not quick to give up on hard tasks. Yet she failed on two attempts to pass the Technician license test, with tears in her eyes because she was not able to even understand some of the questions, let alone the answers. She has two (non-technical) PhDs, is very involved as a volunteer with the local organizations, is CERT certified, a graduate of the Citizen Police Academy, Mobile Watch certified, Neighborhood Watch certified. So as a ham, she would be an asset to these organizations. And while she is allowed to use her HT in emergencies without an FCC license, she cannot be part of the local communicator team at the parade, help out with support during the marathon, hike up Mt. Timpanogos to assist TERT with radioing in medical support for distressed hikers, etc.

Where is the sense in that, and is it really to our benefit? Should there be a lower entry-level (operator-only) license? It is very acceptable that one needs a license to use the airwaves. So, let an entry exam focus more on operation and conduct. What would be so detrimental about that? If one also wants to be involved in the technical/electronic aspects, fine. Let them take the more demanding license tests.

Disclosure: this ham carries an Amateur Extra license but has not much of a clue about how things work. All he needs is the privilege to use the bands for his hobby, being a QRP CW operator, and not much more.

Respectfully discuss.
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73,
aRNO
NAQCC #6870, SKCC #11131
AA4PB
Member

Posts: 12891




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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2014, 12:45:21 PM »

Part 97.1

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:


(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.


(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.


(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.


(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.


(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

(b), (c), and (d) would need to be changed if we were to have an "operator" class of license. As it stands now, hams are responsible for ensuring that their equipment is performing in accordance with FCC rules. An "operator" class would probably require the person to have a higher class licensee do an annual inspection of the station to make sure all is okay and to do any repairs or maintenance.
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K7RNO
Member

Posts: 279




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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2014, 01:17:58 PM »

Excellent response, Robert. Can the FCC realistically expect a Technician, who was licensed yesterday, to
1) be able to and
2) actually perform the necessary steps
to ensure that their equipment is performing in accordance with FCC rules? I have some doubts.

(b), (c), and (d), as they are now, are not mandatory but optional. No ham will lose their license if they do not meet (b), (c), and (d). So, with the option for an operator-licensed ham to advance, nothing would need to be changed.
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73,
aRNO
NAQCC #6870, SKCC #11131
AA4PB
Member

Posts: 12891




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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2014, 01:22:08 PM »

"And while she is allowed to use her HT in emergencies without an FCC license"

That's limited to the immediate safety of life and property when no other means of communication is available. She isn't permitted to use it without a license just because an emergency has been declared. She isn't permitted to participate in drills or check into an ARES net unless she has the qualifying immediate emergency traffic.
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K7RNO
Member

Posts: 279




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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2014, 01:31:01 PM »

"And while she is allowed to use her HT in emergencies without an FCC license"

That's limited to the immediate safety of life and property when no other means of communication is available. She isn't permitted to use it without a license just because an emergency has been declared. She isn't permitted to participate in drills or check into an ARES net unless she has the qualifying immediate emergency traffic.


Understood. And she would much rather use her cell phone then, if that still works. Participate in a training net she can, as a third party.
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73,
aRNO
NAQCC #6870, SKCC #11131
AA4PB
Member

Posts: 12891




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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2014, 01:32:06 PM »

Where in Part 97 does it say that (b), (c), and (d) are now "optional"?

A new tech may not be able to perform all the maintenance but he has passed a test that shows he has at least some basic knowledge and should know that he is responsible for the proper operation of his radio - even if he has to ask a more experienced ham for assistance.

I'd encourage your wife to continue study, take some practice tests, and then take the tech exam again. With two PHDs she obviously has the ability to study and that will happen a lot faster than getting the rules changed to incorporate a new license class  Wink
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K7RNO
Member

Posts: 279




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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2014, 01:43:11 PM »

she obviously has the ability to study and that will happen a lot faster than getting the rules changed to incorporate a new license class  Wink

(emphasis mine)

Hi hi, that's for sure. But back to my OP, the idea was not so much to effect a change at the FCC level but to solicit established hams' views on ham qualification fit-for-purpose.


Where in Part 97 does it say that (b), (c), and (d) are now "optional"?

Between the lines? Because, like I said, no ham is going to lose their license if they do never perform on those points.
Logged

73,
aRNO
NAQCC #6870, SKCC #11131
KD8TUT
Member

Posts: 59




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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2014, 03:32:56 PM »

There has been lively discussion of ham quality with regard to education in the amateur radio domain. Disappointment on one hand, that the dumbed-down questions produce appliance operators, vs. support of easier tests (e.g., dropping code requirement) to keep licensee numbers up. Both sides make valid points.

Then there’s a third side: the newly licensed hams. Some have helpful and supportive backgrounds and want to use their skills to be more than just operators. Others don’t have that benefit and—at least initially—don’t ever want to build rigs or gear, never want to develop new or refine existing modes, never will have more than an HT and the stock rubber duck: hams that only want to operate their HT when nothing else works due to the earthquake/storm/flood/other that could come any day where they live. Why do those hams need to know what a product detector is? Or that unit 1 in that block diagram is an oscillator and nothing else? Or what a transistor looks like on a circuit diagram?

My XYL belongs to that underprivileged category. She is a relentless learner, tough and not quick to give up on hard tasks. Yet she failed on two attempts to pass the Technician license test, with tears in her eyes because she was not able to even understand some of the questions, let alone the answers. She has two (non-technical) PhDs, is very involved as a volunteer with the local organizations, is CERT certified, a graduate of the Citizen Police Academy, Mobile Watch certified, Neighborhood Watch certified. So as a ham, she would be an asset to these organizations. And while she is allowed to use her HT in emergencies without an FCC license, she cannot be part of the local communicator team at the parade, help out with support during the marathon, hike up Mt. Timpanogos to assist TERT with radioing in medical support for distressed hikers, etc.

Where is the sense in that, and is it really to our benefit? Should there be a lower entry-level (operator-only) license? It is very acceptable that one needs a license to use the airwaves. So, let an entry exam focus more on operation and conduct. What would be so detrimental about that? If one also wants to be involved in the technical/electronic aspects, fine. Let them take the more demanding license tests.

Disclosure: this ham carries an Amateur Extra license but has not much of a clue about how things work. All he needs is the privilege to use the bands for his hobby, being a QRP CW operator, and not much more.

Respectfully discuss.


I don't know... on one hand I can see a license for emergency/public service operators only. On the other hand, the Technician exam is not difficult to pass- you can even memorize most of the questions. However, even memorizing them, you are learning the correct answers to things that come up.

No disrespect to you wife intended, I'm sure she is very smart. But lowering the bar on an entry level license is not what the hobby needs.

Especially since you can get every math/theory question wrong on the exam, and still pass on the non technical questions.

Perhaps, she's not preparing effectively for the exam? This is important, even recognizing that most hams have some technical background when they come in. But even so, non technical people pass the tech exam all the time.

I'd suggest something like hamtestonline.com (very very good for actually learning) or taking lots of practice exams which are available on various sites.
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KD0WZW
Member

Posts: 38




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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2014, 03:42:46 PM »

As a fairly newly licensed ham, I've thought that both tests I passed should have had more questions pertaining to actual operating, and less goofball technical questions.
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KG6AF
Member

Posts: 359




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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2014, 04:30:00 PM »

Based on experience at over 100 VE sessions, I'd guess that 9 out of 10 examinees pass the test they studied for (the percentage is much lower for those who pass an exam and decide to take the next-level exam without having studied for it).  It's hard to imagine how the Technician exam could be much simpler, given the open question pool, multiple available study guides, online practice sessions, etc.  And if someone were to petition the FCC to make the exams simpler, the ARRL could file comments that list the actual pass rates seen by their VEC (similar to what I've observed, I'd bet), and it would be game, set, and match for rejecting the proposal.

I've got to believe that your wife could pass the test, provided she has access to decent study materials.  I second the recommendation for hamtestonline.com, but many folks swear by Gordon West's study guides.  KB6NU's no-nonsense Technician study guide (http://www.kb6nu.com/tech-manual/) is also very good, and the PDF version is free.
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KK4LGR
Member

Posts: 53




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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2014, 01:45:17 AM »

I don't know if changing the licensing structure needs to happen, but maybe the question pool needs some adjustment.

The electrical components and such, for example.  Modern radios with their integrated circuits and surface mount components aren't as user serviceable as they once were.  Expecting a new ham--who probably doesn't have a background in electrical engineering--to have a functional understanding of that level of complex electrical circuitry is just unrealistic.  Shaming new hams with slurs like "appliance operator" will only serve to discourage newbie participation.

I tell you what I would rather have studied on my Technician exam:  Antenna theory.  SWR, what it means, how to measure it, and what to do about it.  Gain, what it actually means, how it effects your signal, and how to improve it, including a better feel for directional antennas.  Chokes and baluns, and what they actually do.  Polarization.  RF exposure limits and how to deal with it.  More thorough stuff about power wiring and equipment.  Fuses and how/why to install them.  What sensitivity and selectivity mean.  Duty cycle as it pertains to RF exposure and heat dissipation.  These are things I've run across that studying for a Technician license didn't really prepare me for.  I probably won't ever have to build a transmitter out of discrete components, but I will have to build antenna systems and power supply systems, and these are skills I think that should be emphasized in Technician class.  I don't think we have to push a new class of license to accomplish that.

73
Adam
KK4LGR
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"Well I'm sure glad we've got these ham radios to talk on."
--Unidentified station heard on 2 meters
KG4RUL
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Posts: 2734


WWW

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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2014, 06:50:45 AM »

I don't know... on one hand I can see a license for emergency/public service operators only.

There is such a license - a GMRS license.
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KD0WZW
Member

Posts: 38




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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2014, 07:27:16 AM »

I don't know if changing the licensing structure needs to happen, but maybe the question pool needs some adjustment.

The electrical components and such, for example.  Modern radios with their integrated circuits and surface mount components aren't as user serviceable as they once were.  Expecting a new ham--who probably doesn't have a background in electrical engineering--to have a functional understanding of that level of complex electrical circuitry is just unrealistic.  Shaming new hams with slurs like "appliance operator" will only serve to discourage newbie participation.

I tell you what I would rather have studied on my Technician exam:  Antenna theory.  SWR, what it means, how to measure it, and what to do about it.  Gain, what it actually means, how it effects your signal, and how to improve it, including a better feel for directional antennas.  Chokes and baluns, and what they actually do.  Polarization.  RF exposure limits and how to deal with it.  More thorough stuff about power wiring and equipment.  Fuses and how/why to install them.  What sensitivity and selectivity mean.  Duty cycle as it pertains to RF exposure and heat dissipation.  These are things I've run across that studying for a Technician license didn't really prepare me for.  I probably won't ever have to build a transmitter out of discrete components, but I will have to build antenna systems and power supply systems, and these are skills I think that should be emphasized in Technician class.  I don't think we have to push a new class of license to accomplish that.

73
Adam
KK4LGR

this.  You put it into words better than I did Adam, thanks.
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KG6AF
Member

Posts: 359




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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2014, 09:31:59 AM »

I don't know if changing the licensing structure needs to happen, but maybe the question pool needs some adjustment.

The electrical components and such, for example.  Modern radios with their integrated circuits and surface mount components aren't as user serviceable as they once were.  Expecting a new ham--who probably doesn't have a background in electrical engineering--to have a functional understanding of that level of complex electrical circuitry is just unrealistic. 

A new ham (or even an old one) may not be able to dive into a board full of SMTs with a soldering iron, but building or assembling simple equipment--an audio filter, a keyer, a signal monitor--isn't that hard, and is done all the time.  I don't think it's asking too much for a Technician licensee to know what a resistor is.

Quote
Shaming new hams with slurs like "appliance operator" will only serve to discourage newbie participation.

Agreed.  Sadly, this kind of thing (and even the term "appliance operator") dates back at least to the mid-60's, when I got my license.  Imbecility of this sort dies hard.

Quote
I tell you what I would rather have studied on my Technician exam:  Antenna theory.  SWR, what it means, how to measure it, and what to do about it.  Gain, what it actually means, how it effects your signal, and how to improve it, including a better feel for directional antennas.  Chokes and baluns, and what they actually do.  Polarization.  RF exposure limits and how to deal with it.  More thorough stuff about power wiring and equipment.  Fuses and how/why to install them.  What sensitivity and selectivity mean.  Duty cycle as it pertains to RF exposure and heat dissipation.  These are things I've run across that studying for a Technician license didn't really prepare me for.  I probably won't ever have to build a transmitter out of discrete components, but I will have to build antenna systems and power supply systems, and these are skills I think that should be emphasized in Technician class.  I don't think we have to push a new class of license to accomplish that.

I think you have some excellent ideas.  I'd suggest you write up some questions and submit them to NCVEC, the organization responsible for putting together the question pool.  You can do it online, at http://www.ncvec.org/feedback.php .
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N0IU
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Posts: 1328


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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2014, 03:57:39 AM »

My XYL belongs to that underprivileged category. She is a relentless learner, tough and not quick to give up on hard tasks. Yet she failed on two attempts to pass the Technician license test, with tears in her eyes because she was not able to even understand some of the questions, let alone the answers.

With all due respect, since you have an Extra Class license, did you help her study or did she just attempt to do it on her own? My wife has a MLS degree (Masters in Library Science) and even though it has "science" in the title, it is about as far from scientific as you can get but she passed her Technician test on the first shot.

She and I went over the tests a number of times and she asked a lot of questions and she did not go to the testing session until she was consistently passing the practice tests by a fairly substantial margin.

She got her license in 2000 and has yet to get on the air! She just wanted to do it to show me that she could do it!
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