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Speak Out: Radio Knowledge:

A contributor states, "There's plenty of quality information available on radio transceiver design and operation, and antenna system design. It's not necessary for the average ham radio operator to be a design engineer, (or even a repair technician) in order to learn at least the rudiments of the aforementioned necessary to get the most out of their station equipment. Yet, there are a substantial number of operators old and new that apparently, for whatever reason, do not have the basics down, and do not seem interested in learning them. Where is the drive for getting the most out of their equipment?"

37 opinions on this subject. Enter your opinion at the bottom of this page.
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KB1SF on 2010-04-02
Rex (ZL4IV) wrote: "When I took my exam many years ago there was only one level and it was very difficult. HF then needed CW but same exam. In some ways it's good to have a high bar to pass right at the beginning but then times have changed and if was still there we would be a dying hobby."

Rex, we ARE a dying hobby!

Now, I can't speak for New Zealand, but here in the USA, recent scientific survey work commissioned by our American Radio Relay League has definitively shown that, unless things rapidly change, our Service is destined to TANK in the out years from negative growth. Indeed, in the USA the number of non-club licensees in our Service PEAKED back in 2003 and has been very slowly dropping ever since.

Now, ordinarily, such slightly negative growth wouldn't be cause for alarm.

But when this fact is combined with the knowledge that the average ham in the USA is now pushing age 60 (and, indeed, THAT number may even be conservative!) it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that our ham population is poised to start "tanking" at an ever-accelerating rate going forward.

Personally, I have absolutely NO problem with a "high bar" for our tests, just as long as the content and comprehensiveness of those tests match the OPERATIONAL needs and privileges that they grant.

Unfortunately, and as I have shown, right now, in the United States, they very clearly don't.

Here, ours is still an "achievement based" system designed for absolutely no other purpose than to stroke egos rather than as a series of exams to determine minimal basic competencies….much like a driver's license to drive a private automobile or a private pilot's license to fly a small aircraft.

And I firmly believe it is the maintenance of all that "achievement-based" nonsense in our licensing system LONG after it served ANY useful regulatory purpose whatsoever that will largely be responsible for our Service's eventual demise…. at least here in the United States.


ZL4IV on 2010-04-01
When I took my exam many years ago there was only one level and it was very difficult. HF then needed CW but same exam. In some ways it's good to have a high bar to pass right at the beginning but then times have changed and if was still there we would be a dying hobby.
Yes we need to set a high level or we will end up with mom's saying 'my boy is an expert' like they do with computers geeks when really he's only an expert user of the equipment.

KB1SF on 2010-03-21
Robert (W3KFQ) wrote: "Screw the licensing structure, be competent enough to do the things necessary to operate your station safely,legally, and knowledgeably. Being courteous helps too.

So why do we STILL need three classes of licenses? What REGULATORY purpose do they serve...particularly the Extra?


W3KFQ on 2010-03-15

If you listen to the bands currently licensed to US radio amateurs from tech to extra..what do you hear?
Take the time to listen to the specifics that make a good operator and let me know what you find.
If you want the collar to match the cuffs, get a commercial license.
Screw the licensing structure,be competent enough to do the things necessary to operate your station safely,legally, and knowledgeably. Being courteous helps to.

VA7LLB on 2010-03-09
I have to agree with much of what KB1SF says. The FCC or Industry Canada set up the rules of admission. If a new ham takes the time to learn enough to pass the test(s) required by the authorities, it is not up to the old timers to complain. Instead, invite them out to a ham club. Offer to help them select equipment or set up their station.

I became a ham because I was tired of the technical limitations of CB/FRS/GMRS radios. I had a few friends who had earned their licenses and I could immediately see the advantages of ham radio. I knew there was a test so I studied. As it turns out, I did very well on the test so I bought my first rig and joined my local club.

I soon wanted to know more so I ordered study materials for the advanced exam and worked on it until I was confident I could pass. I am not an electrical engineer but I was always good at science so it came pretty easy to me. I passed that test and learned more about electronics along the way.

Originally, getting my license was a means to an end. My 4x4 club has been using CB radio when we are in the back country. It works OK for short distances but there are no repeaters, power is limited, and the equipment seems to be spotty. A few members of the club obtained ham licenses and were able to show us how much better a 2m rig is compared to CB.

We soon arranged, through one member, to connect our 4x4 club with a local ham club. Over 3 different training sessions, we trained approximately 30 members of the club. The vast majority of these new hams went out and purchased 2m mobile rigs and since then, our primary communication method off-road has been 2m simplex.

I know that I would not have bothered trying to get a ham license if I knew morse was a requirement. I also know that would have been the case for the other members of my 4x4 club. The main reason for this is that we would NEVER use morse while out on the trails.

My point (and I do have one) is that amateur radio is different things to different people. Licensing ensures that a basic standard of technical knowledge is met but after that, it is up to individual hams to explore the area of this hobby that works for them.

Most of my 4x4 club members will never go beyond VHF. They are perfectly happy with that and more power to them. I happen to want to do more so I set up an HF station. I joined a ham club. I use APRS and IRLP. I plan to use other digital modes after I upgrade my base station. I do not plan to use CW but that may change in the future.

Our choices and our activities in amateur radio should not be threatening to the "old timers". It does not water down the amateur radio community just because there are a bunch of "no code" hams out there, rather it expands it by opening the doors to people who would otherwise never have joined the hobby.

Welcome the new hams into our hobby. Without them, amateur radio dies and our bandwidth will be lost.

KB1SF on 2010-03-03
Robert, W3KFQ wrote: After reading the lengthy diatribe of KB1SF, I am left with the impression that he doesn't see the merits of "paying your dues"

Robert, this issue has absolutely NOTHING to do with "paying your dues". Rather, the issue has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that the content and comprehensiveness of our licensing system (particularly as it relates to our Extra Class License) in no way matches the operational privileges it grants.

In other threads and in other forums, I've continually asked those who would maintain our licensing system in its present form indefinitely to explain what the fundamental OPERATIONAL differences are between the privileges granted to a General Class licensee and those of an Extra Class licensee in our Service in the United States.

So far, those requests have all been met with stony silence.

Could it be that (gasp!) there ARE none?

Indeed, by what reasonable standard can it now be "deemed necessary" that applicants for a full featured (i.e. "Extra Class") license in our Service absolutely NEED to know the complete contents of a 600 page license manual in order to successfully pass yet ANOTHER (this time 50-quesiton) exam just to operate in the last few KHz of our HF bands?

I can't help but compare and contrast such needless regulatory overkill with the international (ITU) definition of our Service. That definition simply says that ours is to be: "A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest."

Clearly, the drafters of that ITU definition (as reflected in the ITU rules they later wrote to support it) NEVER intended (nor do they even allow for) our Service's licensing systems to be used as a forced education tool for a government to ram higher learning down people's throats so as to fulfill some arcane social or economic policy goal.

Indeed, in one of those policy goals outlined in the "Basis and Purpose" for our Service in the United States (FCC Part 97.1 (d)) says that a basis and purpose of our Service is for the "Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts."

Would you please now explain where the "interested in radio technique solely with a PERSONAL aim" is in any of THAT?

I also find it instructive that our FCC recently ruled that EmComm activities using our amateur bands on behalf of an employer…even a GOVERNMENT employer…are quite illegal under the rules. Their implied "litmus test" for the legality of such operation is based on to whom the "benefits" of such operation accrue. If those benefits accrue to a private employer…or even to a government agency…then such operation is not appropriate to be carried out in the Amateur Radio Service.

However, that recent ruling also now begs the question as to precisely whom do the benefits of an "expansion of the existing reservoir of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts" as outlined in Part 97.1 (d) accrue?

Do they accrue to us as individuals? Or, do they accrue (as I believe) to the US Government as a whole by fulfilling their own social and economic policy goals? Indeed, isn't the continuation of all that "reservoir building" in the US Government's "pecuniary interest"? If so, doesn't that activity ALSO now run completely counter to the "non pecuniary interest" ITU definition of our Service?

I contend that such needless nonsense (along with most everything else contained in Part 97.1) injected a whole series of blatantly self-serving, US GOVERNMENT economic and social policy goals into our Service.

I also contend that activity was (and remains) patently illegal under the international rules because such regulatory malfeasance fundamentally altered the basic intent of our Service as promulgated by our international regulators. The latter's clear intent was simply for governments to provide a radio service where we "amateurs" could practice and experiment with "radio technique solely with a personal aim"…that is, for precisely NO OTHER PURPOSE than for our own personal enlightenment and enjoyment.

So, once again, Robert, the underlying legal flaw in our current licensing system (which you and your buddies seem to want to ignore) is that, back in the late 1960s, our ARRL (along with their willing stooges in the FCC at the time) fundamentally ALTERED the international basis and purpose of the licensing system for our Service from a simple safety and operational VERIFICATION system into a vast pseudo-EDUCATIONAL system designed to not only preserve, protect and defend their own "Good Old Boy's Radio Club", but also to crank out hoards of people just like themselves…..budding PROFESSIONAL RF engineers.

This wholesale hijacking of our so-called "amateur" radio service (and the then FCC's (now clearly failed) attempt at the behest of the ARRL to turn us all into "professionals") was all accomplished in order to fulfill their own (and, by extension, the ARRL's) economic policy goals.

Sadly, the FCC could do that (and get away with it) back then because there were absolutely NO federal equal access statutes in the US Code at that point to stop them.

But, as I have also said in other posts (and much to the chagrin of our 1950s-era "incentive licensing forever" zealots) those days have now LONG since gone the way of the dinosaur.

For, not only did such regulatory overreach run ABSOLUTELY COUNTER to the clearly "personal aim" and "self-training" intent of the ITU rules, it ALSO now runs horribly afoul of a whole plethora of equally binding, 1990s-era, US federal equal access statues as well.

And, despite some people's attempts to continue justifying the FCC's blatant regulatory overreach from that bygone era, our so-called "incentive" approach to licensing in our Service is falling further and further out of compliance a whole host of those equally binding US laws.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm absolutely NOT advocating that newcomers to our Service should not strive to learn all they can or take advantage of the lifetime of wonderful training opportunities it affords.

I'm simply saying that it is absolutely NOT the FCC's job (as a US Government REGULATORY agency) to force "education" down people's throats BEYOND verifying those knowledges and skills that are MINIMALLY required to assure safe and courteous operation on our bands.

Indeed, as our Service provides us all with a lifetime of opportunities FOR such learning, I find it patently absurd that our FCC continues putting the "final exams" at the beginning of that lifetime of "self-training" rather than at the end. To continually do so sends the clear message that "we want only OUR kind here" and that all others (i.e. the "amateurs" for which our Service is clearly intended internationally) need not apply.

Unfortunately, for the last 50 years it is PRECISELY such systemically discriminatory snobbery that has kept thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of otherwise well qualified people out of our Service. Today, amateur radio's very survival is becoming ever more questionable as we "old farts" continue to die off in ever-increasing numbers and potential youthful newcomers to our Service continue to look elsewhere to exercise their budding technical talents.

In fact, I firmly believe it is an extreme distaste for ALL such regulated bigotry and baseless "hazing rituals" that today's youth STILL see in the licensing and regulatory systems for our Service that are one of the main reasons why amateur radio in the United States remains so "out of touch" with today's youth. It's also why we remain consistently unable to attract large numbers of them.

Clearly, the days of such caste-like snobbery being enabled, underwritten and then indefinitely perpetuated in the licensing and regulatory systems for federal agencies of the United States are now FINALLY drawing to a close. This is happening DESPITE our fundamentalist zealot's ever more frantic attempts to keep all that institutionalized bigotry alive and well in our Service.

Today's FCC is no longer listening to them.

To the contrary, because such regulatory malfeasance from the 1960s has absolutely NO legal basis (either in the international rules NOR in current US public law) plans for its eventual demise are already well underway. The latest chapter in the FCC's deregulation plans for amateur radio was their complete elimination of the arcane Morse testing requirement back in 2007.

And, much to the obvious dismay of our fundamentalist fanatics, my hunch is that there is MUCH more deregulation of our Service to follow.

Thankfully, our resident techno-snobs will remain absolutely powerless to stop any of THAT as well.


W3KFQ on 2010-03-02
After reading the lengthy diatribe of KB1SF, I am left with the impression that he doesn't see the merits of "paying your dues"

It is not elitist old narrow minded curmudgeons that object to "loose" or watered down requirements, but the folks who reflect the technical and professional standards that are a hallmark of any good organization.

I am tired of reading the arguments about cw and am being relics. This is everybody's amateur radio..newbies and old timers, old technology and new technology.

If and when the time comes that we lose our privileges and bands to operate on because we're too technically stupid, or rude to appreciate them, It will be our own fault.

KB1SF on 2010-02-22
Cary, WA5WRD wrote: "Actually I left Amateur Radio about 1997 when the CB attitude, quality, reliability, and intellect became very prominent with the new licensing schemes. I do not believe in licensing through volunteers except under the old Conditional and Novice situation."


This is simply MORE of the same "we're being dumbed down" blather from that same group of pious snobs who remain royally peeved that their government-enabled, "Olde Tyme Radio Club" is now in the process of being permanently dismantled.

It's nothing but "deer in the headlights" panic that their long-established "exclusive" portions of our bands are now (in their narrow minds) being overrun with people who don't think, speak and act EXACTLY as they do. Indeed, such people are quite understandably miffed because newcomers to our Service today don't (and won't) have to endure the same, 1950s-era, ARRL-concocted "hazing rituals" that they all did "back then".

Clearly, what our resident "techno-snob" contingent wants everyone to forget is the fact that our licensing and regulatory structure was needlessly (and I say illegally) "dumbed UP" by the FCC (at the behest of the ARRL) in the late 1960s so as to force "pseudo education" down people's throats.

So, we shouldn't be at all surprised when those persons who wholeheartedly embraced all that ego inflating, "incentive licensing" nonsense from long ago are the same ones who now constitute the most vocal advocates of indefinitely retaining all that 1960s-era, regulated snobbery for our Service.

Unfortunately, for FAR too many people who "earned" their Advanced or Extra Class licenses in our Service long ago, Amateur Radio has now become more than "just a hobby". For some, it has morphed into a full-fledged, fundamentalist RELIGION, complete with highly structured ranks and titles, as well as unwritten "rules" and "rituals", not to mention a whole plethora of sacred "rites of passage".

That is, unless someone holds a 13 or 20-WPM, FCC-administered Advanced or Extra Class license, genuflects daily at the altar of Hiram Percy Maxim, and forever pledges to strictly adhere to all the 1950s-era traditions and other "rites of passage" from THEIR Amateur Radio Service of long ago, one can never "enter into the Kingdom" and be deemed a "real ham".

Indeed, newcomers to our hobby who hail from the vast unwashed masses of that "other" radio service (CB) are particularly unwelcome. In the minds of our resident Mutawas, such low-life are absolutely NOT (and never will be) worthy enough to share the same radio spectrum with those who regard themselves as the keepers of the ancient and most holy rituals of our Service. That's because such newcomers entered into the "Kingdom" without being properly "baptized".

Furthermore, and as we have seen, anyone who DARES to utter a despairing remark about ANY of those (long-entrenched, but now slowly dying) "rites of passage" that once made up the ARRL-inspired, US Government-imposed "canon law" for Amateur Radio commits blasphemy against our Service. And, as we have also seen, all too often such blasphemy includes questioning THE most holy and sacred sacrament that one must forever demonstrate an innate ability to speak in "tongues" (Morse) to someone in authority so as to be found worthy enough to obtain a full-featured license in our Service.

Fortunately, ALL of this pious, 1950s and 60s-era, evangelical nonsense is now WELL on its way to the regulatory trash heap.

That's because the fundamentalist fanatics who successfully perpetuated it in our Service for the latter half of the 20th Century are now, themselves, dying in ever-increasing numbers. As a result, they (and the like-thinking organizations they populated) will NEVER AGAIN be capable of solely calling the shots for the future course of Amateur Radio in the United States. Today's FCC is simply no longer listening to them.

On the other hand, reading the increasingly impotent rants from our Service's ever-shrinking cadre of pompous "techno-snobs" as their underlying regulatory support for decades of elitist snobbery slowly evaporates under their pious, upturned noses has now become quite entertaining.

Clearly, the ONLY remaining outlet our fundamentalist zealots now have left to express their extreme displeasure over the inevitable regulatory progress now going on all around them is in online forums like these.

Fortunately, they aren't getting any traction here, either.


AI2IA on 2010-02-21
I hope that my well intended posts on this thread do some good. While the FCC can make obtaining a license more or less difficult according to their purposes, the majority of hams hold the key to amateur radio's reputation which can make wanting to become licensed and to participate worthwhile, or repugnant. If the majority of current hams were to demonstrate habitually negative attitudes and chronic complaining, what do you suppose would be the result?

KU5Q on 2010-02-21
"AI2IA on 2010-02-20
Curiously, KU5Q tells me:
"Ray, why so serious? Don't be a hater."

========================================== worries mate, just trying to lighten the mood.

It called "Speakout", so speak your mind. You have a right to your opinion just like everyone else.

Cheers my friend, and take care of yourself.


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