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Author Topic: Are these hams not wanted?  (Read 34963 times)

Posts: 415


« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2014, 08:36:04 AM »

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.

To which I ask...for what purpose?  

How does knowing that bit of (obscure) knowledge specifically relate to someone operating their amateur radio stations safely and without interfering with other hams and/or other services?

The truth is that most other amateur radio licensing systems in the world specifically withhold operating privileges from lower class licensees based primarily on safety and non-interference considerations rather than on rewarding "exclusive" slices of artificially walled-off sub-spectrum to holders of higher class licensees.    

Indeed, what I've been advocating in these and other forums for several years now is that the United States Federal Communications Commission needs to stop focusing their amateur radio licensing system on creating budding RF Engineers and, instead, make the questions on the US exams actually match the operating privileges those licenses grant.  

Right now, that isn't happening.

And if this approach leads to a more technically comprehensive (i.e. "harder") exam "up front", then SO BE IT!  

In fact, that's exactly what Canada does right now with their Basic exam that ALL Canadian hams must now pass in order to get ANY license for our Service in that country.... even for VHF and UHF operation.

I know from my own personal experiences (from administering them) that the 100-question Canadian Basic exam is a whopper of a test that not everyone passes the first time...or the second...or the third…or even the fourth!  

You actually have to "know your stuff" to pass it.  And, with 100 questions pulled out of a 900-item question bank, I've also found that it is extremely hard (if not impossible) for candidates to simply "memorize the test". That's probably because the Canadian Basic exam is roughly equivalent in content and comprehensiveness to our US Tech and General exams put together.

But, even so, there's still a difference.  

That is, rather than focusing on testing obscure parts of our hobby that few (if any of us) will ever need to know about (let alone use!), that Basic exam focuses specifically on examining only those skills and knowledges that hams will absolutely "need to know" in order to keep themselves (and their neighbors) safe and/or from causing harmful interference to other hams or other services.  

What's more, unlike our current US Tech license (based on successfully completing a horrifically un-comprehensive, 35-question exam) that grants high power operating and transmitter construction privileges from day one, holders of the Canadian Basic certificate are STILL limited to running only 250 watts of power.  Basics also cannot build transmitters "from scratch" (kits are OK) and they can't hold the license of an in-band repeater or club station, or give exams.

To do those things, they need to pass yet another, 50-question exam over much more technically oriented subject matter.

That is, unlike our General and Extra Class exams that simply ask more obscure questions about subject matter relating to operating privileges that (in most cases) have already been granted to lower-class licensees in the US system, the Canadian Advanced exam is anything but yet another "achievement test".  

To put it bluntly, it's a big-time toughie over a whole lot of new material!

However, even though it is a much more comprehensive and technically oriented exam, it still focuses on examining only those added technical knowledges and skills that Advanced certificate holders absolutely need to know to keep themselves and their neighbors safe (and themselves from causing harmful interference) while exercising those newly granted (high power and repeater-enabled) privileges.

The bottom line here is that candidates for licenses in our Service in Canada are examined NOT based on their "achievements" or with an aim to "educate" them into becoming budding RF engineers.  Rather, Canadian licensed candidates are examined on what they absolutely need to know to do certain things in our Service based primarily on safety and non-interference concerns…and nothing more.    

And before some in our ranks accuse me of trying to further breed "mediocrity" in our Service, please understand that I am NOT advocating that we "water down" our exam structure any further!  

To the contrary, what I AM advocating is that we need to "front end load" our examination requirements and then subsequently examine only those things that we all know (from our own experiences) are specifically required keep ourselves and others safe while also helping to prevent us all from becoming a nuisance to other hams or other services.  

Such an approach would, indeed, make an "Extra Class" license totally irrelevant, and therefore absolutely unnecessary.  Which, in my mind, it already is.

This approach gets the FCC out of the "education" business (where they absolutely don't belong and where their stupid "incentive" system has proven to be a dismal failure in that regard) and back into simply examining us for basic (and advanced) technical and regulatory competencies that are specifically relevant to what we actually do…on the air…as modern hams.  

Or, to put it another way, this approach gets our examination system back into the business of examining skills and knowleges based on "need" rather than for some obscure modicum of educational "achievement".  

That's not advocating "mediocrity" in our Service (or creating a "no ham left behind" Radio Service)!  

Rather, it's called examining for the right set of needed technical and regulatory skills at the right times in our ham radio "careers".


« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 08:39:42 AM by KB1SF » Logged

Posts: 11

« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2014, 07:12:08 AM »

What can you expect when you have one or two weekend technician class sessions? When I earned my license (Novice), the class was 12 to 14 weeks long. We had to learn Morse code, rules and theory. Many of the new hams of today are in it just for EMCOMM - that is fine, but remember there are other aspects to the hobby and that should be emphasized. I helped teach a technician class 2 years ago. I offered to let people come over to my station and have a chance to get on the air (from HF to VHF/UHF) no takers. Interested only in EMCOMM. I do the majority of operating on HF and 6 meters. I tend to stay away from the "Appliance Operator" frequencies 2/440. If I was stuck on those frequencies, I would have dropped out of ham radio years ago.

73, Bill KE0XQ

Posts: 75

« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2014, 08:24:13 AM »

I will second the recommendation to try hamtestonline and also suggest that she use the study mode rather than practice exams.  She can actually learn the material this way and will know when she is ready for the exam ( a practice exam or two at this point will confirm readiness and ease pre-exam jitters ).

Posts: 80

« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2014, 05:33:12 AM »

Hi Arno!  Your wife sounds like she has more than enough of the right kind of grey matter to pass her Technician exam and higher.  I fully agree with those who recommended the online practice tests and especially the Gordon West license manuals.  Gordo does an excellent job of explaining various concepts and formulas in a manner that most anyone can grasp.  I am a mathematical dunce and studying his guides allowed me to grasp the formulas needed to pass my extra with only two missed questions.   By all means help her out with the concepts and things she is having a problem with.  I have no doubt that she CAN do it!

I really don't feel we need to dumb-down the exams any further than has already happened.  In my area, we have an overabundance of "droolers" who have passed their general test and well-meaning but misguided hams are encouraging one to go for his Extra.  By "droolers", I mean people who would have been classified as the dumbest of the dumb that would have been found on CB radio in 1977 or thereabouts; the ones who could only say, "mercy me good buddy, great day there good buddy, (whistles loudly) mercy there good buddy" and who sounded as though the were drooling as they said it.

If anything, they need to tighten things up on all the tests, especially General and Extra and yes, if they did so, I would gladly study and sit for a re-test on my Extra.

Ray  KV4BL

Posts: 629

« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2014, 10:45:05 AM »

I'm going against the grain a bit here.  While there can be no question that Arno's wife is intelligent, it's a scientific fact that no human can do all things.  Some people just can't grasp electronics, and it has nothing to do with their intelligence.  I wish I could play a musical instrument - especially a guitar or piano, but I lack the dexterity to do so.  Some people are cut out to be hams, and others are not.  It doesn't make them any better or any worse.  Changing the licensing criteria on a system that is based on one's desire to know and/or learn about things electronics to allow those who can't fulfill that basis is a bit disingenuous to me.

Posts: 1299

« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2014, 05:42:02 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.

I'm going to be a bit old-fashioned and say that a ham radio license isn't just a permit to operate a radio, but an entry to a service (not just a hobby) that values not just using the equipment but understanding how it works and, if possible, building or at least maintaining/repairing it. Plus, advancing the state of the art.

There are various commercial/public licenses available for those who aren't interested in knowing about radio/electronics theory at all, but just want to use the spectrum allocated to those commercial/public services. That's perfectly legitimate, but it's not ham radio.

Our spectrum allocations are given to us precisely *because* we aren't those other "services." If we were just like the others, there would be no reason to allocate that spectrum to us.

Without "goofballs" such as Faraday, Maxwell, Hertz or Marconi, human exploitation of radio wouldn't exist.

The tests are not very hard. In particular, the tech license is probably attainable to anyone who has a reasonable memory for that multiple-choice question pool (not that I would advocate doing it that way).

Just my own 2 cents. (I'm also a relatively newly licensed ham BTW.)

(Oh, and yes, I agree that the current tests probably place too little emphasis on how to *operate* although there is a little bit of that in there.)

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 05:45:56 PM by KB1WSY » Logged

Posts: 5

« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2014, 11:43:45 AM »

Great answers but I think the problem is where are the hams in these groups she is a member of. If someone I knew was having this much trouble. I would jump in and help. I think she needs to talk to someone who can help her. The electronics is not that difficult for the tech. Is there a club or "Elmer" around to talk too? 

Posts: 177

« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2014, 05:40:21 PM »

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

Sign her up at and she will pass that test in 2 weeks with 1-2 hours a day in study mode.

Same goes for general. Finest program on the planet for prepping you to pass the test.

ARRL Life Member|QRZ Life Member

Posts: 1

« Reply #23 on: March 31, 2014, 07:28:01 AM »

I know that this is a bit of an older thread, but I am hoping that my perspective might help a little bit.

When I was in the boy scouts (early - mid 1980's) one of our outings was to a guy's house where he operated a repeater and had a HUGE stack of radio equipment. Considering I was mid 5 ft tall and I thought it was huge, it really must have been pretty impressive. From that time I always wanted to get my amateur radio license and learn about how they work. Almost 30 years later, I finally got my license.

Now I have had my license for a little over a year and this last weekend I went in and passed my General. To this date, I still have not picked up a radio or even talked on one. Much of it is due to the following reasons:

* As a new operator, the older group really is intimidating. To listen to many "old timers" talk, anyone that just gets their license is an idiot that should have started off with CW or not at all.
* There are so many aspects to amateur radio that I really don't know where to start. Hearing everyone talk about "hitting X repeater and talking to X" doesn't really interest me. Getting my own mobile station set up and using hand held radios while out hunting sounds fun. Also, setting up an HF station to just play with sounds fun to me. Building antennas, towers, mobile stations, etc. = fun sounding. The problem is that so many people have told me to NOT get used gear. There now is a huge monetary barrier to overcome if I only get new stuff. Also, I don't like all the chatter on the 2m 73cm bands that I have heard thus far. Now I am stuck on what to save for or do....
* I have found a lot of supposed "Elmers" that are really elitist and not that helpful for new hams. Maybe I just haven't found one, but having a "Craigslist/Ebay Elmer" would help direct me so I know how much to save up to get started.
*A lot of people just tell me to hit up my local club. Well, I run into the same problems there. They are also very intimidating and almost elitist about many things.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that EVERY established and experienced amateur radio person is an elitist jerk. Not even close. What I am saying is that there are distinct and definite barriers to entry into the HAM world. Adding additional requirements or constraints will not assist people in joining this hobby. With the technical expertise that many kids have with computers and computer networking, adding them to the ranks may actually advance the hobby in ways that no one has even considered. Just because they might not want to collect contact cards doesn't mean that their eventual contributions won't be just as important to future amateur radio hobbyists as the contributions that were made 40 years ago.

In my assessment, there are enough aspects of this hobby for everyone. More inclusion and less exclusion can only help the community in my mind, especially from the perspective of someone that has felt excluded for the entire 14 months I have had my Tech/2 days I have had my General.

Thank you for your time for those that read this. Again, I hope it helps seeing it from the other side.

Posts: 133

« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2014, 07:38:35 AM »

I can only speak for myself, but while I'm pitifully lacking in electronics expertise, i've done very well machining things like parts for project enclosures, antenna mast fittings, and many more (including a very simple but very handy antenna accessory I won't discuss in detail because it's not patented yet).

I know this because I've worked on a lot of projects with Ed Lemus, KE6VRK, and while he's a whiz with circuitry and digital equipment, he has the bad habit of leaving his finished working projects looking like spaghetti... wires hanging out everywhere. I've had to help him out by fabbing enclosures for stuff like that.

Incidentally, I've lately been giving some thought to joining the VE program... if that isn't a way to help the world of ham radio, then I don't know what is. ---73, Marty

Posts: 2101

« Reply #25 on: April 06, 2014, 10:10:42 AM »

* As a new operator, the older group really is intimidating. To listen to many "old timers" talk, anyone that just gets their license is an idiot that should have started off with CW or not at all.

I was first licensed in 1976 and would have liked for the code requirement to never have been dropped, but I would never suggest that not passing a code test makes someone an idiot (saying such a thing is wrong on so many levels). Any licensed ham is a real ham, period.

I have never been on 2 meters; it doesn't sound very welcoming.  based on my own experience I would suggest you try HF.  Or if you can find a local club station to visit, ask someone to show you how to use it and check out a net that is newbie friendly such as OMISS

In case it helps, here is a list of Elmers from a local club in your area:

I am not sure why anyone would suggest you only consider new equipment. maybe it is the same type who say you have no business on 80 meter phone (aka 75 meters) unless you run a kilowatt.  there are people who have 80 meter DXCC (100 countries) who run QRP.  I would recommend finding a used HF radio as long as you have space room to put up a dipole or inverted vee or vertical.  If you have trees in your yard they can be your antenna support (aka: tower).

73 and hope to hear you on the air,



Posts: 279

« Reply #26 on: June 20, 2014, 11:14:58 AM »

She passed!

What she thought would be hard to achieve has happened: she passed on the first attempt with over 90% and she is ever so happy about that. Her vanity is on order now and she has no reason to believe it won't be granted.

Thanks all who supported her here, I am sure it helped.

NAQCC #6870, SKCC #11131

Posts: 2005


« Reply #27 on: June 20, 2014, 08:07:39 PM »


Your wife will probably be on the air before my wife... who has been licensed since 2000!

Posts: 66


« Reply #28 on: June 22, 2014, 09:19:53 AM »

I think the technician license should have a name change and deal more with procedures and regulations.

I've worked on computers for a living for almost 30 years. No resistors in there, except tiny ones inside the chips. I have no problem making the Technician test tougher, but there is really no need for knowing what a resistor does until General. How to get on the air, antenna safety, proper usage on air, etc. is more important.

While building a radio from scratch interests some, many simply don't care to do so.

As for Elmering, sometimes that doesn't happen these days. I did get good Elmering back in the early 1960s for a science fair project. I made a code oscillator from scratch.


Posts: 446

« Reply #29 on: June 22, 2014, 11:57:36 AM »


The learning ground around here is CB and GMRS.
Those that want to go further become Amateur Radio operators.
But, most want to know how to properly operate, not what makes it work.
It is kind of like the modern automobile, most kids are happy just learning to drive, some want to become mechanics.
The driving test does not ask technical questions, it asks if you can drive.
Think of Amateur Radio as the next step up from CB and GMRS.
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