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FCC Ponders Removing Morse Code Reqs for Amateur Radio Licenses

CowboyNeal posted more than 11 years ago | from the dot-dot-dash dept.

Wireless Networking 341

Nalez writes "This story on the ARRL website outlines six petitions currently in front of the FCC to drop the Morse code requirement for the amateur radio license exams. Currently the ability to do Morse code at 5 words per minute is required to operate on the high frequency bands (below 30Mhz), which are the bands that propagate best around the world." While this may or may not attract more people to ham radio, it will make it easier for the novice to use packet radio devices.

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Oh no! (5, Funny)

TheGreek (2403) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887428)

dah dah dah dit dit dit dit dah dit dah dah dah

I was going to say... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887484)

dit-dit-dit
dit-dit-dit-dit
dit-dit
dah

(or)

dit-dit-dah-dit
dit-dit-dah
dah-dit-dah-dit
d ah-dit-dah

About Time (4, Funny)

swordboy (472941) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887433)

I've been tunneling all my morse code over SSH...

Re:About Time (4, Funny)

spoonist (32012) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887748)

I've been tunneling all my morse code over SSH...

Morse over SSH? Big deal. I've been tunneling SSH over morse code for years now!!

And let me tell you, running vi over SSH over morse code REALLY sucks.

Technician class? (4, Informative)

Hayzeus (596826) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887435)

I think there is no MC requirement already for this type of license, right?

Re:Technician class? (4, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887467)

Not now. But if you want to operate HF, you still need to pass a 5 WPM morse code test.

Re:Technician class? (1)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887472)

Right...

But they are restricted in what they can do.
This would give them a lot of stuff previously only available if you took the small amount of time needed to learn code.

Re:Technician class? (1)

stangbat (690193) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887482)

Yes, you are correct. You don't get HF privileges with this class license though (as stated by CobwoyNeal).

Re:Technician class? (1)

inerlogic (695302) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887505)

right, they restructured the licensing requirements, for the entry level license you do not need the code, but to get on the lower frequency longer range bands, you need to know code at 5WPM, that's the only requirement... me, i have no desire to dih dah dit..... it'd be nice to know... but... it's like my high school french... i'm never going to use it... 73's N1NJI

Re:Technician class? (1, Interesting)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887540)

I think there is no MC requirement already for this type of license, right?

Yeah, but a Technician license only gives you access to the 2 Meter(VHF) and 70cm(UHF) bands. You have to be able to slap a stupid paddle arbitrarily fast enough to be deemed worthy to use the 6 Meter(HF) band. It's pretty lame, in my opinion. Like making drivers pass a test using stick-shift before letting them drive on the interstate highways, regardless of whether their car is manual or automatic transmission. It's a silly hold-over from the olden days. The world is no longer so disconnected that one would really ever NEED to send a carrier-wave message.

Re:Technician class? (3, Informative)

sinnergy (4787) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887614)

Uh...

As a technician, you have full band priveleges on every band from 6m on up through the GHz ranges.

Anyone who's at least a tech. should know this.

Granted, most techs only work on these bands, but that's a different story.

kc8rwb

Re:Technician class? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887628)

The technician class offers everything above 30 Mhz that the General and the Extra class offers. The main reason one would get the CW done would be to have access to Transmit on the sub-30 Mhz bands.

Re:Technician class? (4, Interesting)

Bagheera (71311) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887648)

Wrong.

Technician class gives you access to all the amature bands "above" (higher freq, shorter wavelength) 6 Meteres and includes the 6 meter band. This also includes the multi GHz bands where things like, say Wireless LAN, live.

While CW may have dubious value any more for "real world" work, it's still in use by a lot of Hams worldwide, and is one of the best ways to do QRP (low power) work. It takes minimal bandwidth and power to communicate with CW.

Another thing it does is put up a minimal barrier working the HF bands. While that may seem "lame" to you, it would suck royally to have the Ham bands turn into the CB bands. The 5 WPM requirement is not that hard to achieve, but it at least shows "you" have enough dedication to go through the trouble to actually learn something that didn't just come from a cram session for your test.

Re:Technician class? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887745)

You are correct sir! I hold Technician class and had no morse code.

probably too late to save the hobby (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887444)

i'm a ham and never bother turning on my rig anymore. I get much more satisfaction out of computers and the internet.

Re:probably too late to save the hobby (4, Interesting)

JGaiser (12051) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887560)

I have to agree. I've held an Amateur Radio license twice in the past 30 years (WB7RHQ and N7PWF) and in both cases the old farts (and it has nothing to do with age) have ruined whatever interest I might have had.

I'm truly surprised that this proposal has reached this far. I used to constantly listen to the arguments that Morse Code was a necessary hurdle to prevent the riff-raff from entering the hobby. Morse Code was never a problem for me - I passed 20WPM to graduate from Naval Radioman School in 1966 - but only attempted to use it twice. Good Riddance.

Re:probably too late to save the hobby (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887605)

i'm a ham and never bother turning on my rig anymore. I get much more satisfaction out of computers and the internet.

Ditto. There's just really not any advantage to using it. I only turn on my radio for one weekend a year to help support a volunteer event for emergency medical communications. It would've been nice to chat with people during this past blackout, but alas I'm only a technician class so I need to bounce off a repeater and they were all in disaster mode to save power on battery/generators. If I had HF privileges I could've talked to people outside the blackout area from my car. I have no interest in learning morse code though so that's not an option for me (yet?).

It also doesn't help that amateur radio is a very elitist medium. The "old timers" treat anyone interested in getting into the field like they're n00bs as much as we would them getting into computers. I wouldn't mind playing around with APRS and packet radio, but it's hard to find any decent info and get help without being treated like a fucking moron.

Me too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887756)

The last real ham radio types are the AM'ers that rebuild all their gear from the 40's and 50's. Every other faction of the hobby sucks IHO. I was active for 20 years and sold all my gear last year. Radio is obsolete to me now. 1MB DSL and a barton 2500+ @ 2350Mhz is about 10 times as enjoyable. Computers and the net have totally replaced ham radio except during emergencys. I keep my ticket ( advanced class BTW ) but I'll never get on again the way I was. Boring and too many fights.

About time! (5, Insightful)

InterruptDescriptorT (531083) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887446)

I know the old-timers don't want to hear this, but it's really about time that this outdated modulation and transmission scheme no longer be required. They old-timers won't admit it to others, but they know that their hobby isn't growing because of the code requirements.

Kids these days--the very people you want to get excited about ham radio--have absolutely no interest in pounding the brass, fumbling over the differences between A and N and trying to copy what others have to say via Morse. Remember, they're growing up in a HDTV, 500-channel, broadband Internet world. It's absolutely no surprise that they think sending letters with dits and dahs is draconian. It is.

Let's give the customary 2-meter and 6-meter privileges to new tickets and push the cutting-edge technologies like PSK31 on the newbies. Show them that ham radio can truly be exciting and modern. But it really is about time the code went the way of the dinosaur. Don't outlaw it--just make it optional.

Re:About time! (4, Insightful)

Karamchand (607798) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887480)

Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch.

And for this to continue there have to be some off-putting requirements. If you want to transmit radio waves without learning anything one should choose citizien band.

(Apart from the fact that morse code is still one of the most reliable kinds to communicate world wide even under worst conditions)

Re:About time! (3, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887578)

Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch. And for this to continue there have to be some off-putting requirements. If you want to transmit radio waves without learning anything one should choose citizien band.

But there's already a fairly extensive written test. It's not like the morse-code exam is the only thing preventing the FCC from handing out licenses to anyone with five dollars and a heartbeat. If they want to make the written test more technical, that's fine with me. Just get rid of the requirement for learning a stupid monkey trick. It should be about knowledge, not rote-learning a silly cipher.

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887732)

Yes. Its about time. Using morse-code for communication in the days of world wide cell phones, internet, GPS, etc is worse than a stupid monkey trick. So what if you can communicate around the world using a few watts and 5 wpm? We transmit pictures from the outer planets faster than that using a similar few watts.

I resented the absurd code requirement when I got my license over 30 years ago. It was pointless then and vastly less than pointless now.

Re:About time! (2, Insightful)

InterruptDescriptorT (531083) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887621)

That's fine, but the less new people who replace the rapidly growing silent keys, there won't be a lot of people to chew the rag on HF (using Morse) left.

And with less people in the hobby, where is the motivation for Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom, etc. to innovate and build new transceivers? There are a lot fewer vendors selling ham equipment than there were 20 years ago. I want to see new equipment. I want people to be excited about ham radio.

One of the other replies to your comment is dead on. The technical test is still there, so the burgeoning ham has to learn about basic electronics, amplifiers, and rules. It's not like the ticket is granted for a few bucks and an online application form. But forcing new recruits to pound brass is anachronistic and off-putting. I don't think the loss of the code requirement is going to turn HF into CB radio. It's a world of difference.

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887647)

I want people to be excited about ham radio.

What's ham radio? Is that like spam e-mail?

Re:About time! (5, Insightful)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887624)

Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch.

I hate to break it to the old-timers who have this opinion, but if amateur radio continues to dwindle in users you're not going to have it pretty soon. The government will take away those frequencies and sell them off to the highest bidder for commercial communications. There's already VERY strong support for doing that. I'd be very sad to see that happen which is why I hope that they can do something to increase interest and decrease the amount of meaningless hoops you have to jump through to obtain broadcast privileges on certain bands. I'm not about to take a morse code test, but I'd certainly go learn the extra material required to pass a written test for general or advanced/extra (whatever) license.

Re:About time! (2, Insightful)

Karamchand (607798) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887643)

Thank you all (Dun Malg, InterruptDescriptorT and AKnightCowboy) for your replies. While I want to add that my post was written a bit exaggerated and perhaps also provocative you have given me some interesting points and insights I haven't thought about before as well!

Thanks!

Re:About time! (2, Funny)

j0nkatz (315168) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887651)

Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch.

Are you talking about Amateur Radio or Linux?

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887685)

Never ask a man what computer he uses. If it's a Mac, he'll tell you. If it's not, why embarrass him? -- Tom Clancy

What a dumb quote. Funny how Mac people think they are "elite", when in fact they have the most clueless O/S available. Even Windows requires more technical know how than MacOS, let alone Linux.

I better watch out that some Mac guy doesn't come and take my job. No, wait. Without a mouse and purty icons to click, you're screwed. You're so leet dude.

Re:About time! (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887757)

not to add to your troll (too late) but obviously you know shit about macos. Seems to me that OSX is pretty much BSD with a cool desktop. Since you can run gcc and compile just about any code made for linux/unix/bsd on it, it seems pretty cool to me. The only thing lacking is power, which the 970(g5) has now cured.

You sound like you are talking about MACOS 8 or 9. Then again, you post as AC, so everyone will know how clueless you are, but not know who you are.

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887549)

You apparently don't know what the word draconian means.

Regarding the article: eh, it doesn't really matter; Morse code isn't hard to learn. But it's also not terribly useful day-to-day anymore, so really, what's the big deal either way?

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887632)

I used to think the same way. I'm not a Ham, I never spent enough time to learn code! I had the theory of circuits down cold though. Later in life I recognized that it was the perfect mode of communication. You could quite literally keep the design of a CW transmitter/receiver in your head. Scrounge up a few parts, put it in a tuna tin and you have a radio to use. When I recognized this, I thought what a truly simple way of communicating. I follow QRP (low power) quite closely (I'm going to a QRP meeting in a few hours.) and can say that this aspect of Amateur radio is alive a well.

Re:About time! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887691)

You know, for a while there (IE, before I had broadband) I thought the internet was better in the way-back... before make money fast, before AOL, etc. But you know what? That's a bunch of horseshit. Sure with more people you get more problems, just like you have a shitload of traffic accidents in LA because there's gotta be like ten million cars running around that area every day, maybe more. But look at what we get for our troubles! Just like if there were only a handful of cars in the US we wouldn't have interstates, if there were only a handful of users on the internet we wouldn't have broadband, because there simply wouldn't be enough money in it. Of course, that's a chicken and egg issue.

Now perhaps morse code will always be useful, it should be a lot easier to pick morse out of a noisy channel than speech, making it useful during times of disaster, but the truth is that there are automated systems capable of encoding and decoding morse in this day and age, and there's no good reason for a human to be required to know it. I'm sure the reasoning is so that hams can be pushed into service for the public good in times of disaster (not that they generally need any pushing) but since Morse is really no longer a requirement for this kind of functionality, I say screw it.

Re:About time! (1)

brakk (93385) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887728)

Yes, morse code has been around for a long time and isn't used much any more. But, then reason it was invented in the first place was that it could be used under bad conditions when voice can't and could still be usefull. There is still a good network of HAM users that can communicate even if all other communications networks go down (ie: terrorist attack). But that number is shrinking and on top of that, there might be other problems getting a good enough signal through for voice communications. The basic HAM license doesn't require MC and the HF license only requires 5WPM which isn't hard. You learn a few basics, pass the test, and promptly forget it afterwords. The point is, that you did learn it at one time and if you ever HAD to use it, you could pick up a manual and figure out enough to get you by. It's like all those advanced trig problems you did in HS/college, or all that stuff on the MCSE exam. You don't remember it anymore, but you know enough that if you needed it, you could look it up and know what you were looking at.

The inevitability of it ... sigh (5, Insightful)

freeio (527954) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887447)

We knew that sooner or later this requirement would be removed. Those of us who love CW (Morse Code) still use it, and others will continue to do so, if only because it is simple, it works, and it overcomes real language barriers.

Still, even though we may love it, it is an anachronism, and the requirement will be dropped, like it or not.

73
W4TI

Re:The inevitability of it ... sigh (1)

benzapp (464105) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887576)

and it overcomes real language barriers.

What language do you use when communicating in morse code? My understanding was that it was for roman characters only... so that eliminates many languages right there.

However, I imagine the Russians must have created a cyrllic version of morse code.

Re:The inevitability of it ... sigh (3, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887655)

However, I imagine the Russians must have created a cyrllic version of morse code.

Interestingly enough, they use standard morse code and map the cyrillic letters to their closest phonetic counterparts in the roman alphabet. I was a signal intelligence analyst in the army in the cold-war days and even the Red Army used standard morse. They did everything via code tables and didn't spell out actual words very often so it wasn't a big deal for them.

Re:The inevitability of it ... sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887645)

Those of us who love CW (Morse Code) still use it, and others will continue to do so, if only because it is simple, it works, and it overcomes real language barriers.

What?? Overcomes language barriers??

Messages are transmitted in english. Certain codes can be sent in any media anyway.

Re:The inevitability of it ... sigh (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887717)

There is a fair amount of CW jargon and text that is so common that it is language independent. You can operate at a limited level with no knowledge of the other operator's native language.

Re:The inevitability of it ... sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887723)

"We knew that sooner or later this requirement would be removed. Those of us who love CW (Morse Code) still use it, and others will continue to do so, if only because it is simple, it works, and it overcomes real language barriers."

Ha ha ha! What a phony! Any idiot knows what Morse Code is simply an encoding (Morse CODE) for written languages such as English, or French. It's not a new language!

I love the way he tries to sound like a pro, and then makes a tit of himself! Aha ha ha!

Re:The inevitability of it ... sigh (1)

swtaarrs (640506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887734)

it overcomes real language barriers.

How does it overcome language barriers? All it can be used to send is letters, and letters make up words. Last time I checked, words were somewhat different between languages.

Allow cipher on ham radio (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887454)

Ham radio isnt to be used for commercial and/or encrypted communication.

There is no way for a person to have a secure private conversation over long distances without going over some sort of provider.

802.11b don't count cause it has limited range.

That sucks.

-Johan

Re:Allow cipher on ham radio (1)

UnuMondo (642324) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887698)

Most amateur radio regulations aren't decided by the US, but by international treaties. The code requirement was dropped from international convention a few years, so now the US is free to remove it from the FCC regs. Ciphers, on the other hand, remain forbidden.

morse code? (5, Funny)

Comsn (686413) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887459)

whats morse code?

isint that what they used to stop the aliens in Independance Day?

Re:morse code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887630)

omg and jeff goldblum used a mac lolz

CRAP! how are we gonna kill the aliens (0, Redundant)

netsavior (627338) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887463)

Didn't they see independence day? Morse code needs to stay universal

Not before time.... (2, Interesting)

rjmx (233228) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887473)

This move's at least 20 years late. While the rest of the communications world has moved on to much more efficient methods, the Amateur crowd has clung to 120-year-old technology. With any luck, this'll go through (although, knowing the ARRL and its sister organisations, I can't see them going down without a fight) and might even result in more tech types going for amateur licences.

.....Ron (ex-vk6zjm)

Morse Code Fanatics (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887606)

I think most of the morse code fanatics have died off. I don't hear many people saying that deletion of the morse code licensing requirement would lead to the fall of Western Civilization, which was common in previous debates on the subject.

I recently got a grandfathered upgrade to a General license, because I got my Technician license way back when it included a 5 WPM send/receive morse code test and the General written test. I'm studying for the Extra license, now that it doesn't require another morse code test.

I have nothing against morse code, I just think that it shouldn't have a special status in licensing examinations.

morse code will always be important! (5, Funny)

fermion (181285) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887474)

We know that even in the distant future, one's survival may depend on embedding a morse coded message in the warp signature or scanning frequency!

Re:morse code will always be important! (1)

farnerup (608326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887527)

Or tell the air force pilots not to destroy the 747 you are on (and have nearly reacquired from the terrorists.)

Tis a fine idea (1)

NoMercy (105420) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887476)

Only because I passed the test but don't know morse code so can only apply for a licence to transmit over 30Mhz, which is effectively 50MHz+ since there's no bands in the uk between 30-50 for radio ham uses.

This was going to say "First Post" in Morse Code (3, Insightful)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887479)

In fact, I was going to post this in Morse code, but the lameness filter caught me. I hereby suggest that Slashdot switch to Morse code entirely.

Ahem...anyhow, you could argue that being a ham operator is like joining the Army: you're making yourself and your abilities available to your country/neighbours/fellow humans if necessary. Morse code is intelligible when packet radio and voice are not. Multiple, redundant channels of communication are Good Things, especially when disaster strikes...why allow one of those channels to wither and die?

Morse code on the cell phone (5, Interesting)

farnerup (608326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887481)

If I knew morse code, I would like to have a cell phone that understood morse code. I'm sure entering SMS messages would be a lot faster that pressing 1 three times for "c" and so on. The phone would need just a single button!

Re:Morse code on the cell phone (2, Interesting)

kybosh (471551) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887589)

Modern mobiles tend to use predictive text input these days - you only press the keys once for each letter and the phone works out the rest (not a bad success rate either) - you also get spell checking as a nice side effect.

Some of Nokia's ringtones are in morse code though - the 'Special' SMS tone is 'SMS SMS' and the 'Nokia' Ringtone spells 'Nokia' (proving that someone in Finland *almost* has a sense of humour)

Re:Morse code on the cell phone (1)

farnerup (608326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887637)

Yeah, but with morse code you could enter text without looking at the display. You could even put the phone in your pocket and hold a conversation without anyone noticing, like in "Casino".

Re:Morse code on the cell phone (1)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887712)

You've pointed out some obvious advantages to be had by anyone who cares to jump through the hoops.

Nobody is proposing banning morse code. If you know it or wish to learn it, you might be able to adapt a wireless device to use it. You could have the advantages you speak of. Just as anyone who cares to learn can get more and more advantage out of Linux and the software that surrounds it. The more you learn, the more advantage you have. Nonetheless, there are major efforts at making Linux easier to use for those who don't want to jump the hoops. Those people will never enjoy some of the advantages that are there for the learning.

Good luck with your wireless pocket morse code idea.

2-Meter Packet ... (3, Insightful)

ProfMoriarty (518631) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887486)

While this may or may not attract more people to ham radio, it will make it easier for the novice to use packet radio devices.

There's already packet for 2-Meter ... so changing the Morse requirement would only allow it on different frequencies.

As an Amateur Extra class holder, I can see both sides of this ... if you drop the requirement, then more people would be able to get the General or AE license.

However, if there is a roadblock (not a very high one), that would limit the number of poor operators on HF frequencies that would travel around the world.

If BPL [arrl.org] does come to fruition, it really won't matter on HF anymore.

BTW, what type of communication would prevail if aliens invade [imdb.com] ?

Ponder my cock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887489)

but please do it in morse code. Please? Hands up everybody here who has fucked or been fucked by gigantic ducks. Honestly.

Ok... (1)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887490)

If they drop the morse code requirement, how will we stop the aliens when they destroy all our communication satellites???

But in all seriousness, part of the Ham Radio culture is being slightly above everyone else with your mad communication skillz, and Morse code should remain part of that. If they drop that, then all Ham Radio-ites are are guys with way to much money to spend on radios.

And in all seriousness, the requirement is 5 words a minute. It's not like they're asking for your college dissertation in morse code.

Clarification .. (4, Insightful)

peatbakke (52079) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887492)

Three questions for all you hams:

- Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

- How often is morse code used today?

- What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?

Re:Clarification .. (2, Informative)

ProfMoriarty (518631) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887551)

- Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

IIRC - it served several purposes but primarily kept poor operators off the airwaves. It also showed that you had "technical prowess" ...

- How often is morse code used today?

Given the fact that it is easily discernable, takes very little bandwidth (4 * WPM) = Hz, and global, it is used quite a bit. In fact with my handheld, I can pick up Morse on 7.110 (or so) just about anytime.

- What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?

I defer to the above answer for most of this ...

Re:Clarification .. (1)

peatbakke (52079) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887598)

IIRC - it served several purposes but primarily kept poor operators off the airwaves. It also showed that you had "technical prowess" ...

Interesting. I would have thought that morse code would have been the cheapest, easiest way to get started. Forgive me for guessing, but don't you just need an oscillator, an amplifier, an antenna, and an easily toggled switch?

Heh. I think the "geek factor" is undeniable, though.

Re:Clarification .. (1)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887761)

By poor he probably meant "bad"... A bit like forcing every script kiddie to write their own exploits...you get rid of the worse..

Re:Clarification .. (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887681)

It also showed that you had "technical prowess" ...

The effort needed to learn morse code is trivial... You just look at a morse-code chart, and in a few minutes, you will be able to translate. It takes longer than that to learn what the dials on front of the radio do...

Re:Clarification .. (5, Interesting)

laing (303349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887558)

1: Morse code is the simplest form of modulation that can convey intelligence. You don't need much in the way of circuitry to build a C.W. (continuous wave) transmitter. Ham radio is all about experimentation, do-it-yourself projects, and good will. The easiest way to get on the air is to build a C.W. transmitter.

2. Morse is still used extensively. Tune around the H.F. CW bands and you'll always hear lots of QSOs going on.

3. In addition to being a simple form of modulation, Morse is also very good at moving data through low SNR (signal to noise ratio) conditions. It's much easier to discern whether or not there is a C.W. tone present than to try to understand spoken language. Note: There are other digital modes which add FEC (forward error correction) and these are actually even more robust than Morse; but you can't do them without additional equipment. Morse communication can be accomplished without a computer.

Re:Clarification .. (1)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887662)

- Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

- What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?

I dislike the morse code requirement, but I think both of these can be summed up in that even under the worst communications conditions you can almost always transmit and receive morse code. A noisy signal that would be uncopyable for voice communications would be sufficient to hear morse code. One of the main reasons for amateur radio to exist has been and still is for emergency communications in a disaster. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I guess I've nullified my own argument. Maybe morse code should stay.

- How often is morse code used today?

Don't know. I've never used it on any of the UHF or VHF bands. The only time I ever hear it is a repeater singing off it's station call sign in morse code.

Re:Clarification .. (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887668)

Three questions for all you hams:

I'm not a ham, but your questions are incredibly simple.

- Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

Maybe because morse was the first form of communication... Before voice, before packet, there was morse. Absolutely any equipment can send a morse signal, and somebody has to be able to understand it, don't they?

- How often is morse code used today?

I will leave that for the actual hams.

- What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?

It's very very simple. You can just about wrap wires around a stick and make a radio that can do morse-code. It's the equivalent of "pulse-dialing" telephones, in that it is incredibly simple, and anything can handle it.

Also, a morse signal is much stronger. When you are out in the middle of nowhere, and your radio's battery is dying, (or you are just too far away) and your signal is too weak for anyone to hear voice, morse will come-in loud and clear.

Re:Clarification .. (1)

aongus (22221) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887731)

I am an extra-class ham (the highest license class) and I strongly support keeping the morse code requirement, primarily as a low, but viable, entry barrier. FYI, I learned morse code and passed the 5wpm requirement in two weeks, and I was working a 60-hour per week job at the time. It is not difficult! It just takes some practice and desire.

To answer your questions:

1. Morse code was required originally because that was the only mode available at the time. This was prior to about 1925, during the days of spark gap transmitters (think Tesla coil). Voice, in any mode, just wasn't possible.

2. Morse code isn't used as much today as it has been in the past. But it is still popular. Unfortunately, the only radio service still using it is the amateur service, afaik.

3. As other posters have stated, it will get through, especially with minimal equipment, when nothing else can. I have copied morse code successfully when I wouldn't even have been able to tell that there was a signal present with any other mode.

dashdot dash dash dash (0, Redundant)

jdc180 (125863) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887500)

DashDash Dash dot dot dotdot Dash dot Dash Dash Dash dot DashDashdot dot dot dot dot Dash Dash dot Dash Dash dot dot dot Dash dot dot dot Dash dot dotdotdot Dash dot dot Dash Dash Dash dotDashDash dotdot Dash dot dot dot dotdot Dash dot Dash dot dot dot Dash dot dot Dash Dash Dash dot Dash Dash dot dot dot dot Dash Dash dot dotDash dot Dash dot dotDash dot dot Dash Dashdot Dash dot Dash Dash Dash dot Dash Dash

Beep beep beep (-1, Troll)

bogie (31020) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887501)

.---. .-----....

--.. ...----

The last two remaining amateur Morese Code fans go wild!

Standard SCO joke.. (2, Funny)

adeyadey (678765) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887503)

As the inventor and patent holder for Morse (TM) every ham operator must pay a $299 licence fee to.. etc..

Darl McBride

Looks like I'm in... (3, Insightful)

doppleganger871 (303020) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887506)

I'm all for dropping the CW req. but I understand why it's there... It's low-tech, and can be received a lot further than any other type of transmission... very little of the actual signal needs to make it thru in order to get the message. High-tech relys on more equipment, and therefore, usually has a higher risk of malfunction, and more difficult repair. Pretty easy to make a cw switch... any two pieces of electrically conductive materials would work in a pinch.

Why? (3, Informative)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887507)

The Morse code is almost common knowledge, imho. It's a good basic skill and can be somewhat usefull if you can count on a substancial amount of people being able to morse. It's not to far fetched having people be able to morse at 5 wpm in order to get a HAM licence.
And why would one want to lower the entry level for HAM? If someone really wants to do HAM, learning to morse won't be a barrier, but the requiements keeps the twits away from HAM and that probably maintains a good 'quality of service'. For the lack of a better word. It's just like Fido Net: People where required to give their real name and address and therefore noise and junk was/is *very* low on Fidonet.

hrmm (-1, Redundant)

segment (695309) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887509)

Ok here is my message

.... . .-.. .-.. ---
.-.-.- .-- --- .-. .-.. -..

For those of you who can't read morse code (2, Informative)

jbarket (530468) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887574)

It's just a link to goatse, a couple of bad jokes (in soviet russia, morse code you!), and one of those huge ass GNAA posts. Who had the time to sit down and read one of those GNAA posts, let alone translate it into morse code, I have no idea. But thanks to the clever work of Samuel Morse, I'm making the worst joke of my /. career and burning my karma away.

I don't get it.... (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887514)

The submitter says this will make it easier for those who want to do packet radio. You don't need morse to do standard AX.25 packet. It's on the 2m and 70 cm band and a few others that Techs have privledges on. I think what he means to say is use other packet modes like PSK31. PSK31 is a nice mode and can get through noisy band conditions that SSB would be unusable. The government themselves have not been using CW for a while (GW was in office, and was the receiver of the last cw message on a government service. Actually I should say the recipient....he did not decode the message...he had staff for that. CW will live as long as those who love it stay alive, but it will go away.

Re:I don't get it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887599)

Actually, you are wrong about this. Special Forces continue to be trained in Morse (CW). Think about it; in the field, where you might be lying in a patch of grass, yards from the enemy, on some crazy ninja recon mission.. you can't exactly talk into a radio, or whip out your laptop and send an email back to HQ. But you can send a CW message without being noticed.

I'm an Extra class Amateur; I passed 20 WPM in 1991 at the age of 15. I didn't find it too difficult, but I know many people do. I think the testing requirement should be retired. It's akin to requiring people to write a program in BASIC before they can use a computer to send email. Ham radio is a diversified hobby; CW is but a small slice of it. I think it'll be a good thing when the requirement is retired (which will definitely happen, I think, in the next 6-18 months).

CW required for packet? (2, Insightful)

Kymermosst (33885) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887522)

While this may or may not attract more people to ham radio, it will make it easier for the novice to use packet radio devices.

Did you mean Novice class licensees, or new licensees?

Assuming the latter: A technician-class license (no code, 30 MHz and up operation only) has no code requirement and packet radio use is common.

What this will make easier is for people who don't have any use for code (like myself, I have to admit) to transmit on the worldwide HF frequencies with packet.

Of course, if they do drop the code requirement, I am not sure I will operate on HF, because the equipment is kinda spendy, antennas are kinda big (I live in an apartment), and all the fun stuff that I like to do is on VHF/UHF. (I like satellite & other space stuff like EME.)

If these petitions go through... (2, Interesting)

C A S S I E L (16009) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887547)

...then - think about it - soon we'll never hear the nostalgic, reassuring aural tapestry of Morse Code ever again...

...oh, apart from those thousands of mobile phones bleeping out "SMS" daily to owners who have no idea what it means...

Re:If these petitions go through... (1)

Loosewire (628916) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887588)

...oh, apart from those thousands of mobile phones bleeping out "SMS" daily to owners who have no idea what it means...
[ Reply to This ]
i love that little cookie nokia put in their phones ;-)

Morse code dropped only because its a RACIST! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887548)

Morse code dropped only becasue its a RACIST test, that has been documented as adversely affecting the few hispanic and blacks that try to pass the competency test.

somehow, the correlation of "WHY" the test is ahrder for blacks to pass is not defined, though the blatant effect has been noted.

Therefore, the test is racist without adjusting via a normalization bonus bias for the disenfranchised groups that seem mostly held back by the current morse code requirements.

That is one reason its being dropped, but the Fed gov will not admit it.

Re:Morse code dropped only because its a RACIST! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887597)

At a 1947 meeting in Atlantic City, the ITU agreed that Morse proficiency should only be required when amateur operation took place on frequencies below 1000 MHz (1 GHz). At WARC-59, the 1959 World Administrative Radio Conference dropped this level to 144 MHz. A further reduction was made at WARC-79 to its present 30 MHz level. it seems logical to drop it further if not entirely.

It is also an unwritten observation that few blacks (and many whites) pass the Morse test. It is racist, just as the Math section of the SAT is.

Re:Morse code dropped only because its a RACIST! (4, Funny)

quonsar (61695) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887636)

few blacks (and many whites) pass the Morse test

shee-it. cw gots rhythm, honky.

Re:Morse code dropped only because its a RACIST! (1)

toddestan (632714) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887704)

But why is it racist? I don't see any reason why blacks, hispanics, or anyone else would have any more problems communicating by dots and dashes than a white person.

Now the SAT I can understand how someone could word the questions in a way, or give examples that whites can more easily relate to - which would make it a racist test.

But morse code is pretty straightforward - basically memorization of the roman alphebet in code, and the ability to use that code it communicate. It may be that blacks and hispanics do poorly on it, but does that fact alone make it a racist test?

Good move (2, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887550)

I have a General-class HAM license. There is no reason anymore to require morse code. But with the internet and cell phones and satelite phones, there is no reason to need a HAM license either.

Restrictions on use of the Ham bands (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6887553)

Now, I'm fairly new at this, so excuse my ignorance...
I know commercial traffic is forbidden, this is understandable. But encrypted messages are forbidden? Does this not seem a little ... counter-cultural for a geek community?

In order to conserve space... (3, Funny)

Styx (15057) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887569)

... the FCC is considering a move from using . and - as morse code notation, to using . and /

///...///

Article: A Business Man's View (3, Interesting)

wherley (42799) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887572)

Here [eham.net] is an article at eham.net with one hams viewpoint and lots of comments. his bottom line - don't sweat the dropping of code requirement.

K9JRW

Re:Article: A Business Man's View (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887654)

title of article:: Article: A Business Man's View

Hmm, why should business care? If you ANYTHING for money/objects/services, you're breaking FCC rules. The ham licenses were created for hobbists and hobbists alone.

Victim of technology (1)

phoebe (196531) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887600)

The purpose of the requirement appears to be rather redundant considering the removal of monitoring stations for morse code alerts around America & Europe:

news.bbc.co.uk [bbc.co.uk] (1997).

Keep the requirement (3, Insightful)

Alton_Brown (577453) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887601)

Look - everyone wants to try to bend over backwards to help people feel welcome these days. Instead of changing the rules they should look for alternatives. Maybe create their own spectrum for those who want to participate but don't know morse code. The rules of golf have been around a long time. However recently to make people feel accepted or to try to capture a larger audience those rules have been changed. Cases in point: Casey using a golf cart and Annika Sorenstam playing a PGA event without having earned a proper PGA Tour card. In both these cases the end result was disappointing even though it was done with the best of intentions.

We have to respect the rules and understand the subtle details of the hobbies we choose (be it morse code or where to drop an out-of-bounds shot). What's next - do we change chess because people can't remember that the knight has to move in that crazy 'L' shape? Yeah, that's it - we'll protest the Internation Chess Federation for that - it's not fair to those who don't want to or can't learn how to use the piece correctly!

Sorry for the rant, but at some point you have to stand up and say no!

--AB

support this (4, Informative)

Rock Ridge (677665) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887607)

An int'l radio body recently dropped the code requirement. This is a good thing, even though I learned code to get a general license when about 13 years old. It was easy for me to learn, but really isn't necessary if the potential licensee wants to experiment with radio -- there are many ways to do that without code: packet radio, rtty, tv, ham satellite, vhf/uhf/shf/ehf.

As a kid... (4, Interesting)

Funksaw (636954) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887639)

As a kid, I was actually pretty interested in the idea of ham-radio. I loved the idea of communicating worldwide with people. (I suppose that's when the Internet came along, I took to it like a duck to water...) But, honestly, I couldn't get the morse code requirement. The way my brain works, it's hard for me to, well, memorize stuff. Calling it up on command would be even sillier. So I never got into it. Here's the thing though. We have typewriters. We have computers. You can still *use* morse code without *knowing* morse code - simply hook up a computer on your line, type your message, and have the computer encode all of the message to Morse. If one wants to recieve, that can be translated by computer also. Morse is a great transmission type - and great for redundancy in emergencies - but it's hard to learn and use. Instead, why not keep the positives of morse code, while taking away it's negative - it's hard-to-learn status? -- Funksaw

Morse code is basic radio (2, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887657)

CM (Carrier Modulation: turning the signal on and off manually) is the most basic mode of radio communication.

When you're sinking at sea and the boiler explosion has thrown your microphone and keyboard over the side, you'll still be able to call for help, give your position, and ask for clean drawers by plugging and unplugging the antenna lead.

If the FCC wants to create a new class of licenses for selfish, aloof operators who "just don't want to get involved", well, that's what the Radiotelephone licenses are for.

Barriers to Entry (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887696)

I've been thinking about getting a license for a few weeks now. Some of my friends have radios, and as the NY blackout is still in mind and hurricane season in South Florida upon us, it seems it could even be useful (and marginally justifiable as opposed to yet another dumb computer hobby of mine).

I don't know what to make of it really. As far as the Internet is concerned I am usually in favor of removing barriers to entry for all. This means that I fully support cheap PCs, free and open software, public broadband, and most initiatives that put more people on the Internet. This has its disadvantages, of course. Notably, there is a lot of spam, clueless Usenet users, etc., that would not be present if it was still the demesne of a bunch of academics. Has the value of the Internet been raised as more people join? I think so. I think that the human benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

Does the same thing apply to ham radio? I'm not certain. Unlike the Internet there's (AFAIK) limited bandwidth. In other words, my ability to connect is not seriously affected by the swarm of others. This refers to both shared bandwidth connections like cable to the legions of M$ machines sending me "Details Later" bounce messages.

It seems that what the morse code requirement provided was a non-monetary barrier to entry. In other words, if you are serious about the license you will have to study, learn the rules, then take the test. This *might* help prevent purely corporate interests from buying a license then trying in some way to exploit the community of radio operators.

In my case the Morse code requirement will not at all be a deterrent.

Why do they call it MORSE CODE?? (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887708)

It's not like they can program or anything....

(yeah, I'm a ham too. bad joke)

Why Morse? (5, Informative)

eriko (35554) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887733)

Well, the historical reasons for morse are many, but the reason for the 5WPM requirement (and it used to much harder -- the top classes required 20WPM) was treaty.

Long distance HF bands aren't useful, unless everyone agrees what those bands are -- no use having the US hams on 40M, if the UK is using that same band for broadcast. So, the amatuer bands were set by treaty. This treaty also had a morse requirement. However, this year, the World Radiocommuncation Conference, held every so often to review things like this, dropped the code requirements for the HF bands.

I agree that Morse as a requirement has passed it's time. It is a bandwidth efficent and noise resistant mode -- but there are better now, such as PSK31. I've copied 90% of a PSK31 transmission that was so weak I could barely see it on a waterfall display -- never mind actually hearing it.

Note that eliminating the Morse code requirement wouldn't eliminate Morse code from the bands. There are segements of the ham bands that are CW only. Those who work with low power (QRP) are very fond of CW morse.

Lowering The Bar (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887744)

This is a rather alarming trend in most parts of society today.

Instead of continuing to require a level of competency, just lower the bar to include more people. Eventually there will be no expectations to meet at all.

As related to amateur bands, this will be another step in reducing it to the level of the citizens bands..

Great. Just what we need. A bunch of incompetent's clogging the airwaves..

Good and Bad (2, Interesting)

rikun (704741) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887750)

I'm somewhat torn on this entire idea. First, I do agree with many people who believe that it's definitely quite old and not really neccesary at this point, however, I also agree with those who are saying that it COULD be useful. It is universal to some degree, and it doesn't require a huge degree of electronics to use. In any case, how much longer do you think radio stations and whatnot will even be AROUND? I've already seen some internet-based radio parts... it's probably only a matter of time. They're going to evolve or die, I believe. As to which, no idea.

CQ? The Net? Which is more fun? (2, Insightful)

MsWillow (17812) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887763)

As a former ham radio geek, I too had to learn CW, at least 5wpm - back then, it was a requirement to be able to use much above 30mHz. I survived the test, and forgot nearly everything about CW after that, workig on packet radio, satellite and 6m ssb dxing.

My partner also learned CW, and loves it, eventually getting her Extra-class license. As we now live in an apartment, antennas are not allowed, so we both gave up on ham radio. However, she hasn't given up on CW.

She's found a new program - IRCQ - that uses CW over the Net. Yikes! :) So, while the FCC is finally hoping to abolish CW for more technologically-advanced communications, the old curmudgeons can still use their dinosaur-mode skillset.

So, I guess that CW won't die, despite the FCC's wishes. I personally won't mourn iys passing, but I do see how it can be useful in a very tight situation. Maybe I'll even give ITCQ a try some day,

73 de N9JZW

10-4 good buddy (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 11 years ago | (#6887764)

There's already a no-code service. It's called CB.
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