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FCC Drops Morse Code Requirement

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the end-of-an-era dept.

United States 231

leighklotz writes to mention a story discussing what some might consider a historic event. The FCC has dropped the Morse Testing requirement for amateur radio certifications. The public announcement was made on Friday. Ham radio operators will no longer have to study Morse, in a move patterned after other western nations. Says leighklotz: "The U.S. joins Canada and other countries in eliminating the morse code testing requirement, after being authorized to do so on July 5, 2003, when the World Radio Telecommunications Conference 2003 in Geneva adopted changes to the ITU Radio Regulations."

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Bad idea? (3, Interesting)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267206)

I understand they want more people back on ham radio, but what will the old-timers think of these code-less noobs invading their clique? And, no offense, but will anyone new care?

Re:Bad idea? (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267220)

Heh, it will be easier for me to obtain a license now. I'm now volunteering for a non-profit for which these licenses are useful to have. Probably will learn Morse code anyway since it is a very useful skill to know.

Re:Bad idea? (3, Insightful)

packeteer (566398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268340)

It is something that would be nice to know but realistically it has little to no use for most people.

Re:Bad idea? (1)

ivoras (455934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17269144)

I would hope everyone keeps teaching at least one Morse code: SOS. It's a rarely recognizable international signal and symbol not tied (at least not anymore) to a specific language or culture.

Re:Bad idea? (5, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267244)

The requirement to do morse code was to enable HAM's to interact with official emergency crew. Since they abandoned Morse code from operations, there's no need to have this requirement anymore.

No-one forbids anyone from using Morse code. Those who master it will be able to use it as much as they want, and there's specific frequency ranges set aside for morse code communications. It's just that newcomers are not forced to learn one specific, outdated form of communication to take part in all those other forms, including Amateur TV, digital modes, PSK-31, moonbounce, meteor/rain scatter etc. Those who are interested in communication with minimal hardware requirements will continue to explore morse code.

Re:Bad idea? (3, Interesting)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267348)

I don't think it is a requirement for ATV, or some of the other stuff mentioned.. I have a few friends that are HAMS, I know one is not Tech certified, only the lower level, and he participates in ATV.. I think the limitations are in frequency band usage, and maybe transition power (though few hams use the max allowed).

It's kind of a mixed bag though.

Re:Bad idea? (4, Informative)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267968)

One of the reasons that hams do not use the max allowed power all the time is that hams are supposed to use the least power they can to communicate. Not that they always do. Two hams a block or two apart may be chatting with each other through a wide area repeater transmitting at 50 or 90 watts, when they could be communicating simplex at less than a quarter watt.

Also transmitting at x watts uses x plus some variable depending on the equipment in use power that has to come from some place. Commercial power, batteries, generators, solar cells, windmills all cost money or significant effort to put a signal on the air.

Lastly, as odd as it seems to some people, we do not want to cause interference with other services or non-radio equipment. It actually bothers us when neighbors report that they are hearing our signals on their TV, computer speakers, or stoves. It means that energy we want to be broadcast for reception by other hams is being picked up by equipment not designed to receive the signal. Either energy that we want to be in the frequency spectrum we are transmitting on is in another spectrum, or the consumer equipment our neighbors are using has been designed poorly or the like.

There are also big challenges to seeing how far we can communicate with very little power. There are a lot of hams that contest and communicate around the world on less than 5 watts. You know, the amount of energy that an incandescent night light draws.

Huh? (2, Informative)

zeke-o (595753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268558)

Don't know where you get your information, but I've been an amateur radio operator since the mid-60's and I've never heard of any 'official emergency crew' using CW.

Re:Bad idea? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17267248)

I gather that hams have opposed this for years, saying that the lower entry requirements will cause their network to be flooded with the radio equivalents of AOL users. A bit like the time when the Internet suddenly became accessible to many, many, people, most of whom were complete idiots. However, I think that ham radio is a niche hobby, and it's unlikely that the changing requirements will really attract hordes of idiots.

Re:Bad idea? (3, Informative)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267312)

If they want to avoid people who don't know Morse code, they can communicate on the frequencies reserved for it. But hell, for 6 years the only proficiency you needed was 5wpm to get the highest class license. That's hardly communicating.

That said, you still need to be licensed. It's not like they're giving everyone a gun, a bag of bullets and a case of beer.

Re:Bad idea? (3, Funny)

tomjen (839882) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267648)

No the hand gun, bullets and beer are reserved for Dick Cheney.

Re:Bad idea? (4, Interesting)

kefoo (254567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268086)

Even without the code requirement, getting a license still requires a good deal of work. Every class of license exam includes quite a bit of electronics theory that I think will help to weed out the people who aren't up to the qualifications of having a license and previously would have been turned off by the code requirement. On top of that there's the expense of buying (or building) the equipment and setting up an antenna, so I doubt we'll be flooded by morons any time soon.

In emergencies or during periods of bad signal propogation morse code often offers the best chance for getting a message through. It requires less power than voice transmissions and is easier to understand through the noise that sometimes clogs the bands. That being said, there are enough of us who do know code (and many who use it exclusively) that hams as a group won't lose their utility in those times.

Re:Bad idea? (2, Insightful)

ztransform (929641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267330)

I grew up in an age where Morse Code seemed unnecessary, I remember the discussions about this all the way through university. Still, I decided to learn Morse Code for myself, and although I only passed at 6 wpm I had hoped that one day I would pass the 12 wpm exam.

I believe that Morse Code is still good to learn, much like ocean-goers could benefit from learning celestial navigation techniques even though GPS has all but obliterated the need.

One of the skills of a Ham Radio operator is potentially assisting in civil disasters. And having an extra tool for communication (perhaps a weak morse-only signal) is surely of benefit even if it might only be used rarely.

So to sum up: I understand the reasons for removing the requirement, but I still think Morse Code is a good thing to learn.

Re:Bad idea? (3, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267366)

They will denounce it with bitter fury. Morse code requirements are a subject that shuts down rational discussion among hams as fast as abortion or the Middle East does among the general population.

Re:Bad idea? (3, Informative)

drix (4602) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268550)

I can't believe you didn't say "Linux vs. BSD among the /. crowd." :-)

double edged sword (3, Insightful)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268054)

This new rule, is an attempt to bolster the number of people who use amateur radio frequencies. If amateur radio numbers continue to decline, the frequencies available for their use will be returned to the FCC, which will sell the "space" to the highest bidder. Some of the bands are extremely under used, and there are a bunch of companies who would pay top dollar for their own use. Pulling the morse code requirement will enable some who otherwise would not be able to achieve their license. I have mixed feelings. At least the theory requirements are still in place. Unlike when the FCC dropped the "license" requirements on the citizens band (11meter)radios, which caused the band to collapse under the weight of idiots, keeping the written exam will help weed out the noobs. 73's KB0GNK, licensed since 1990

Re:Bad idea? (3, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268492)

...what what will the old-timers think of these code-less noobs invading their clique?

This extra-class "old-timer", who had to pass the 20 WPM code requirement, is all for the change. After WWII, all it ever served as was an artificial non-technical barrier to a technical achievement in a technical hobby. I don't object to anyone learning the code and/or using the code, it has some merit as a low-power communications mode with extremely low hardware requirements (like a mirror or your arms) but I don't favor it being part of the gateway to any set of band or operating privileges unless they come up with a new one like "code endorsement" that is simply a certificate.

Numerous technical advances have come from the ham radio community. It makes little or no sense to hold back a technical wizard's privileges because his ears or fist aren't good enough for morse code. But that's the FCC for you, historically speaking. Sense isn't exactly their forte'.

CQ (5, Funny)

oz1cz (535384) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267210)

dit-dit dah-dit dat dit dit-dah-dit dit dit-dit-dit dah dit-dit dah-dit dah-dah-dit

Re:CQ (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17267258)

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

Re:CQ (2, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267630)

what the heck is a dat?

Re:CQ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17267750)

Said just like one of those no-code advocates:

It's actually dah-dit dah-dit dah-dah-di-dah

10-4 good buddy?

Re:CQ (1)

paniq (833972) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267788)

manah manah!

Re:CQ (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268366)

manah manah!

Doo Dooooooo Di doo doo.

Re:CQ (0, Offtopic)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17269112)

manah manah!
Doo Dooooooo Di doo doo.

http://www.devilducky.com/media/7452/ [devilducky.com]

...and here's the video for the Muppet-Impaired!

Re:CQ (4, Informative)

kefoo (254567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267966)

For all those who don't know Morse Code, it says "Interesting".

Re:CQ (2, Funny)

sbben (983577) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268018)

Cut the leet.

Re:CQ (5, Funny)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268240)

Cut the leet.
I think this might be the first time in history someone has accused of Morse Code of being leet speak. Wow.

Re:CQ (1)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268598)

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

Re:CQ (4, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268974)

You kids and your damn rap music. Now get off my lawn.

What the Morse? (3, Interesting)

CriminalNerd (882826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267240)

What's wrong with the Morse code? Personally, I think that learning the Morse code should be a requirement for radio operation at the very least (or any communications course in general) because the Morse code is very simple to learn and use, and because it is nearly universally recognized. Telling radio operators that they don't need to know Morse code is like telling scientists that they don't need to know the periodic table by heart.

Re:What the Morse? (3, Informative)

scsirob (246572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267252)

There's nothing wrong with morse code, it's just no longer a requirement to master morse code in order to take part in all sorts of other communication modes. Anyone who wants/likes to practice morse code is free to do so, it's just no longer an obstacle for people who do want to become a HAM operator but have no interest in this single mode of operations.

it was inevitable (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268090)

that they would drop the code requirement. Years ago, the maritime (ships) board dropped the code requirement for ship operators. Heck, I think they use satellites or RTTY anyway. With the explosion of computers in communications, morse will be gone in a few years, save for those who still enjoy a good Q-So.

Re:What the Morse? (2, Insightful)

chanrobi (944359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267350)

Yeah, astronomers definitley need to know their periodic tables.

Re:What the Morse? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17267818)

I agree. If a person can spend many hours studying (I mean memorizing) the question pool for the various tests now that are handed to folks on a silver platter, they can spend a few more hours learning the morse code at 5 words a minute for Gods sake. Years ago, there wasn't a study guide that had all of the EXACT questions in it to study, now they drop the code requirement - what next? Let's make it just like the CB band. Once again the EXTRA CLASS hams gets screwed. I'll be waiting to see how long it takes the FCC to start trimming the bandwidth now assigned for CW operation on the bands. Maybe we can start taking away "outdated" subject requirements to graduate High School too, like history, and English? That could get the kids into the workforce and college faster and save taxpayers a whole bunch of money. Funny how the FCC announced this on a Friday - usually the day many financial announcements that aren't too favorable are released. I knew that their "public input" was a joke and this was pre-determined many moons ago. I am sure they won't at least toughen the test up a little to make up for the relaxation of the CW requirement. Don't hold your breath.

Re:What the Morse? (3, Informative)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268532)

Okay, I probably shouldn't reply to a -1 flamebait, but are you aware that the FCC hasn't been in charge of the tests for some time? The Question Pool Committee (QPC), made up of representatives of each Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC), determine what is a part of each license class's exam. The FCC has been trying to back away from Amateur Radio for about 30 years now. This is just one more step.

If you truly care about the direction the Service is headed, then you need to get involved in one of the organizations and work toward that end.

Re:What the Morse? (2, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268610)

Once again the EXTRA CLASS hams gets screwed.

How, precisely, were we "screwed" by this change? I took the 20 WPM test, I passed it, I know code and can use it both ways at about 35 WPM (I can't write any faster than that.) I don't feel screwed by having the "achievement" under my belt, as it were. The only way I feel screwed is by the relatively few people who were able to make it to extra, earning recognition for their relevant skills, you know, like knowing how a blinking radio works? I feel screwed by the number of people turned away from the hobby because they found morse too difficult, though they were technically sophisticated. I feel screwed by a government that doesn't follow international treaties any time it wants, but elected to follow this requirement long after it was obsolete, thus trimming the membership of ham radio. I feel screwed by hams who rationalize that "because I did it, YOU have to do it" is a "good" reason.

Morse code isn't easy for some people. Just because it was easy for you, doesn't mean it is easy for any other individual. I'm a musician and it came to me naturally and quickly, and I think that is why. On the other hand, I worked for months with several hams trying to get them over the 20 WPM threshold, and it never happened despite hours and hours of investment of everyone's time. It was bullshit then, and it's been bullshit for many decades.

Anyone remember the Incentive Licensing debacle ? (0)

COredneck (598733) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268774)

Very few people remembered the incentive licensing debacle of around 1963. For those who were licensed, after a certain date, you lost privileges such as frequencies to operate on unless you moved up to higher classes by taking the exams. The "Extra" ticket was one of the items from incentive licensing. Another effect from it was a lot of the ham radio stores went out of business and companies like Hallicrafters, Hammerlund, National lost business and ended up folding.

Japan for many years did not require code even contrary to old ITU regulations. Because of this, they have many Hams and as a result, a good electronics industry.

Seems like in the USA, the politicians keep making policies where we keep screwing ourselves. We outsourced manufacturing - a place where a blue collar workers can make a decent living and live a decent lifestyle. We are in the process of outsourcing our computer industry which provides good income for many people. Just for a short term buck, we f*ck ourselves in the long run !

This change in policy is forward thinking for once. I got my General Class license back in 1983 (with 13 wpm) and Advanced in 1993. I thought about the Extra ticket but haven't had the time. One guy I remembered from grad school got his Extra ticket right before the 13 & 20 wpm exams went away permanently back around 2000.

Re:Anyone remember the Incentive Licensing debacle (1)

autocracy (192714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268942)

I do think that this may have been one case where politicians listened. The HAM community has always had a large group strongly backing morse code requirements.

Re:What the Morse? (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268084)

How much of that periodic table does the scientist down the hall from you know? All 132 elements? (or is it 137 this week?) Is it the table that includes the atomic weight, mass, count of electrons in each shell, normal shell state levels, excited state electron shell levels? Full description of the organization of protons and neutrons? What other elements each element will build a valent or covalent bond with? What color a reducing electron shell move generates as a photon?

Is it helping him in his job of analyzing and describing the observations of the cosmos? Is it helping her explain how quantum electro dynamics is demonstrating a flaw with the concept of causality? Was there some test they took that demonstrated they knew all the minutia of the periodic table by heart?

I think you will find that you can easily find scientists who do not know every possible detail of the current periodic table by heart. Just as you will likely find a few hams that can't tell you how Ohms law is affected by a change from DC to AC.

Morse is a very useful language to know. In some cases far more useful than people who know it expected at one time or another. But that doesn't mean that every radio operator is going to use it for every activity they do on the radio. It can be fun to work with, but that doesn't make it worthy of being a requirement to know or be tested on.

Re:What the Morse? (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268742)

I'll one-up you on that. I have an MS in Chemistry and I couldn't tell you the atomic weight of Tungsten, or even its Atomic number. I imagine that it is a transition metal, and if for some reason I was doing Tungsten chemistry I'd probably take the time to learn a heck of a lot more than fits in a 2cm square box.

Sure, I have most of the abbreviations memorized, and weights/series memorized for the more common elements. And guess what - I didn't have to memorize them to pass a test! I'm sure that many reading /. didn't start out coding in java, and may not have ever taken a test, but I'm sure that quite a few have half of the normally-used classes memorized as well.

When I see kids being forced to cram atomic numbers for a chemistry exam I cringe. No wonder nobody goes into the sciences these days! Make them memorize some facts, and don't bother to worry about whether they understand why things work that way... Are we teaching them science (the process of advancing knowledge in a systematic way), or magic (reciting mysterious incantations carefully lest you end up a newt)?

I know a ham operator (extra class), and while he can key at 60WPM he tends to spend more time doing PACTOR/AMTOR these days, or using computer-assistance with the code. Actually, he has been trending away from operating at all since it seems like all the regulars are dying off (they just disappear and you don't hear about them again). It would seem that the FCC is doing the right thing in trying to transform the hobby.

Consider that 50 years ago ham radio was cutting edge. People who now build PCs and PHP applications used to build radios and operate networks/relays/repeaters. Now ham radio has the perception of being ancient technology (although I know that it doesn't have to be that way). Memorizing morse code is about as useful as requiring knowledge of x86 assembly to program a computer, or knowledge of UUCP email addresses to use gmail. That doesn't make either of those things useless - but they aren't essential either and if you want to study functional programming you won't find much use in memorizing indirect memory indexing modes.

Re:What the Morse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268172)

What is the point of a scientist knowing the periodic table if they are a physist, or something to that effect? I recived my Technicain Lisence in July 05 at age 12, and have been waiting since then for them to drop this requirement. For the person who commented that Morse Code is easy to learn and use, you are wrong. I have tried for some time to learn it(includeing several computer programs passed on by my Elmers) and have thus far failed. The reason I got into Ham Radio was to help communicate during emergencies, this code requirement, however, blocks me form any HF going ons, limiting my range to a couple of miles. This progress will rejuvinate HAM Radio, leading to a safer America.

Re:What the Morse? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268488)

Or like telling computer programmers that they don't have to know how to code in machine language.

Re:What the Morse? (1)

mongoose(!no) (719125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268490)

That's probably one of the best reasons I have heard for keeping it. It took me nearly two years of working on and off to be able to pass the 5wpm test. I have yet to make a contact using it. I stick with PSK31 and SSB for most of my contacts, but I appreciated it is there and it is amazing to see some of the people who are very proficient with it. It is still the ultimate weak signal communication mode, and combined with Q-codes and other ham lingo, it makes for a nearly universal language to communicate with other hams.d

Re:What the Morse? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268780)

It is still the ultimate weak signal communication mode

Well, maybe without the assistance of a computer. I'm sure a digital technology with error correction would enable communications at lower power than morse. Morse is essentially a form of digital communications designed to be understood by a person. It also has the advantage that you could probably build a practical radio rig out of stuff you'd find lying around the house (unlike a computer).

What about everyone else? (3, Funny)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267246)

ditdit ditditdit ditditdah ditdahdahdit ditdahdahdit dahdahdah ditditdit dit dah ditditditdit ditdit ditditdit ditdahditdit dit ditdah ditditditdah dit ditditdit dit ditditditdah dit ditdahdit dahditdahdah dahdahdah dahdit dit dit ditdahditdit ditditdit dit ditdit dahdit dah ditditditdit dit dahditdit ditdah ditdahdit dahditdah ditditdahdahditdit

Re:What about everyone else? (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267256)

I should postfix this with what I meant to say was that the people who don't have morse skills will be missing out on a large part of the communications that goes on in the HF bands. Learn morse so you can actually use some of the limited bandwidth and get further DX- HF isn't pointless without morse, but it sure is more interesting.

Re:What about everyone else? (2, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267278)

You show exactly why morse code should not be a requirement. It sure is an interesting mode, for those who want to explore limited bandwidth modes and long distances. It has zero use to those interested in UHF/SHF experiments, digital modes etc. The requirement to learn Morse code to access HF would be as justified as requiring people to decode AX.25 packets from memory just to allow them access to their local UHF repeater chatbox.

Refining the point (2, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267388)

There are plenty of other narrow-band modes well suited for DX, e.g. PSK31.

A lot of the world, though, doesn't have computers coming out their ears like the rich countries do. But they can turn transmitters on and off.

The reason to learn code today is for contacting a wide range of people in a wide range of countries, while conserving bandwidth and allowing operation under more difficult conditions. Automatic decoding of human-sent Morse code has been suprisingly troublesome compared to using a human brain for the purpose.

Re:What about everyone else? (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267816)

for the mods- the above actually says something:
"I suppose this leaves everyone else in the dark?"

the point for saying so was - people on those frequencies will still continue to use CW and everyone else will not be able to read/understand unless they learn morse anyway!

Sad Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17267272)

This is eternal September all over again.

Independence day Aliens (3, Funny)

xquark (649804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267282)

So how will we coordinate our counter attacks when the aliens from independence day come-a-knockin'?
sms perhaps?

Re:Independence day Aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268080)

Not so fast, my friend.

If you remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the only way the hostages could communicate was through tapping on the wall. . .in morse. Now I agree the likelihood of this happening to the average American is in your alien scenario category, but for the hopelessly paranoid, it makes a damn good idea.

Also, it makes it a lot easier to cheat in class.

Re:Independence day Aliens (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268104)

By finding people who decided that learning Morse Code was worth the effort for some reason other than that it was a license requirement that they never used again?

Code requirement (5, Insightful)

DJTodd242 (560481) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267298)

Being an amateur myself (and have been so for 15+ years) I can picture the screams of horror from all of the 60+ year old operators out there. I'm in my 30s myself, and the code requirement for using the HF bands always seemed rather quaint to me.
But honestly, it's probably a last ditch attempt to get more people using the amateur bands. The stereotype of the 65 year old retired operator in a motorised chair isn't too far from the truth.
I forsee the day that usage is low enough that governments can justify clawing back more of the spectrum.

Re:Code requirement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17267874)

Being an amateur myself (and have been so for 15+ years)

That's an awfully long time to be an amateur. Have you ever thought of going pro? Or maybe your skills just don't cut it. Shit or get off the pot!

they already have taken back (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268102)

part of the 220mhz band, and some of the HF bands. Unless the usage climbs, look for the FCC to pull more of the UHF spectrum. Those bands are worth big $$$

Re:they already have taken back (1)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268604)

Errr, which part of any HF band has been taken back? There were some adjustments immediately after World War II, but we have gathered more HF spectrum over the past quarter century, not lost (okay, 27 MHz was part of Amateur Radio until the CB service was created in the '50s). We have gotten 250 kHz in three allocations at 10 MHz, 18 MHz, and 24 MHz in the 1980s and 5 "channels" at 5 MHz within the past few years. Back in the 1980s the allocation at 1.8 MHz also became uniform nationwide and useful to more hams. On HF we have had many gains of spectrum.

Where we have lost is part of 220 MHz and some portions of certain microwave bands but we also gained 902-928 MHz.

I expect us to gain more spectrum at MW (probably 500 kHz) within the next decade, but the microwave spectrum is at greatest risk.

Re:Code requirement (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268160)

> I can picture the screams of horror from all of the 60+ year old operators out there

The HAM nerds, right? The ones who say you're not supposed to talk politics etc - the rules seem pretty restrictive. Who wants to talk about what kit they've got all the time? Boring. You don't get people on the net constantly going on about how much ram they've got, their broadband modem manufacturer etc. Dropping the morse code requirement is a reflection of reality, not an attempt to shape it. I'm sure these old farts had a similar problem when Latin was declared dead.

A change which makes sense (5, Insightful)

wb8wsf (106309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267346)

I'm not unhappy to see the requirement go. I've been a ham for
30 years, and while I have seen useful (very useful) things done
with code, I was never enamored with the idea of *having* to learn
it up front. I did, though with struggling and headaches. The
time came when my elmer gave me the code test and I passed, just
barely.

      As I see it today, getting people into ham radio is the
important thing. Having to learn a particular mode before
being allowed to join just doesn't make sense. And no one
should think that having to know code was an effective barrier
for the twits, such that they stayed out. In 1976 I heard
language on 80M that was a great exercise in George Carlin's
"7 dirty words"--and most of the speakers were Extra Class
hams (highest license).

      CW *is* useful though, and I've come to embrace it for
the VHF/UHF weak signal stuff I've been doing, where at
time the luxury of a voice just isn't there; things are
too weak. Also Moonbounce will require me to reall learn
CW, which I am working towards, equipment wise.

      Yes, its the end of an era. But so what? Technology
roars along, changing the way we communicate, but it has
never changed the reasons for the 'why'.

      If you are contemplating becoming a ham, great, please
do so. If you are a ham and bemoan the lack of CW now,
get off your duff and start a CW appreciation class!
Show new hams *why* its cool (and it is, though it took
me 20+ years to realize that), and get them hooked on it.

--STeve Andre'
wb8wsf
grid sqare EN82

Re:A change which makes sense (2, Informative)

snaz555 (903274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267464)

CW *is* useful though, and I've come to embrace it for the VHF/UHF weak signal stuff I've been doing, where at time the luxury of a voice just isn't there; things are too weak.


If you're going to send messages, which is probably what you'll want at low bandwidths, there's got to be better and more efficient encodings and transmission protocols than CW. Off-hand, how about not sending the message in order so transmission errors don't result in consecutive symbols lost, and with CRC/ECC techniques and encapsulation to boost the chances of recovery (and reduce sensitivity to noise/loss). Isn't this the kind of thing that makes experimenting with 'moon bounce' and such fun in the first place? Experimenting with encodings, compressions, recovery methods, heuristics, homing algorithms, etc?

If I were part of the ham culture I'd be concerned that CW, by providing a predesigned but rather poor encoding and protocol standard, discourages innovation and entrenches mediocrity.

Re:A change which makes sense (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267792)

Off-hand, how about not sending the message in order so transmission errors don't result in consecutive symbols lost, and with CRC/ECC techniques and encapsulation to boost the chances of recovery

Complexity. Using Morse code, you can send a signal right around the world with pennies worth of electronics. You can cover hundreds of miles on HF with a transmitter that runs off a single PP3 battery and uses a handful of components. You need a bit more than that to calculate CRC, unless you're *really* good at mental arithmetic.

Re:A change which makes sense (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268396)

That's right, and you could build it yourself. The beauty of CW is that it has no electronics overhead. It is a code, but it uses the wetware to "encode and decode" the message. I learned morse code at 5 wpm to get my novice ticket more than 15 years ago, but I never went further than tech because at the time I wasn't all that keen on learning more code. Now, I might go ahead and get higher licenses since it's "just theory." But the question remains, in my opinion, no matter how much you appreciate, respect, or understand ham radio: is there a point to getting a higher class license?

Re:A change which makes sense (1)

MrBoombasticfantasti (593721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268696)

You can cover hundreds of miles on HF with a transmitter that runs off a single PP3 battery and uses a handful of components.
 


I've been looking for a schematic for something like this. Preferably 40 meters, capable of over 4 hours of sustained transmission on a PP3. Range should be at least 50 miles. Of you know of a schematic that can do this, please let me know.

Re:A change which makes sense (2, Interesting)

W2IRT (679526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268516)

In 1976 I heard language on 80M that was a great exercise in George Carlin's "7 dirty words"--and most of the speakers were Extra Class hams (highest license).

Sadly, that kind of garbage is still there. Between the plethora of Rush Limbaugh wannabees (with their own gold-plated RE-20s!!), codgers describing their gall bladder surgery and the 4-land "pigfarmers-with-pitchfoks" types displaying all 20 of their IQ points, both 80 and 20m phone bands are painful to listen to more often than not.

I usually try to catch Riley Hollingsworth's keynote presentation at Dayton, Timonium or some other hamfest every year, and it seems to be a constant - the biggest troublemakers on the HF bands, he claims, are 20-WPM Extras and 13-WPM Advanced-class licensees.

On the other hand, CW is growing in popularity. Look at the recent big DXpeditions; 5A7A to Libya, 3Y0X to Peter the First Island and others. More QSOs in CW than any other mode, and by a large margin. And 40m CW is always the toughest nut to crack in any DXpedition.

As for me, I hated CW when I passed my Canadian Advanced license exam in 1981 (15 WPM sending and receiving, 3 minutes solid copy, 100% accuracy required!). I put my key in a drawer after that and didn't touch it again until about 3 years ago. I'm back up to over 15 WPM now, and I'd say 80% of my QSOs today are in Morse. I may not be great at CW, but I sure enjoy using it. I hope the new codeless operators who get into HF will decide to pick up a set of paddles and come down to the bottom of the band and have a go. It really does expand one's horizons. And if you're a DXer, it's impossible to get your totals up without it!

As a relatively new ham operator... (3, Insightful)

Mystic Pixel (911992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267466)

I see this from the other side. I got my Tech license last year, and I've been waiting to take the General test because I've been struggling to learn CW. What with trying to finish my EE degree, I haven't had the time.

I'd heard about this a while ago, and was aiming to get general before it happened (out of pride, masochism, or maybe a little bit of both.) That's more or less moot now. But when I realize that it's a move to get more new people into the hobby, I can understand and appreciate it.

I'm a member of the ARA at my college and we've been struggling to attract new members - we've got a great shack and solid equipment but only about 3-4 active members. Getting more people into the hobby is important right now; steps should be taken before it becomes a critical problem.

KB3NIF

Re:As a relatively new ham operator... (followup) (2, Interesting)

Mystic Pixel (911992) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267528)

(follow-up, since I forgot /. doesn't allow editing)

I don't think the comparisons to Endless September are really justified. The difference is that to get the higher classes, people still have to pass more complicated tests. If they don't enjoy, understand, and appreciate the hobby, what incentive is there for them to do this?

Sure, the ham world has it's share of inconsiderate jerks (I've encountered some of them on 2 meters myself) but ham radio is different than the internet in a number of important ways. First and foremost, commercial transactions are strictly forbidden.

Endless September resulted from the commercialization of the Internet: the root cause was that net access was being marketed to the general public. Computers were becoming cheaper and the average person was being told that they *needed* one of these machines. No such thing is happening here. Ham radio still requires a fair amount of technical expertise, and the motivation for getting a license has to come from within. The equipment is still expensive, and violation of the rules still carries FCC penalties. (Which is a good counter-argument, I just realized: AOLers and idiots on the internet aren't subject to FCC fines.)

Plus, without the commercialization, most people don't really appreciate ham radio enough to get into it themselves. Those that do (by and large) understand the rules and the reasons behind them, and if they don't, their day will come.

KB3NIF

Re:As a relatively new ham operator... (1)

Loco Moped (996883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268042)

Getting more people into the hobby is important right now; steps should be taken before it becomes a critical problem.

You want to get more people into HAM radio?
Outlaw the manufacture and sale of radios which will transmit on ham frequencies.
I lost interest when I realized that, other than memorizing a few test questions and knowing where to sign a check, there's no skill involved. If you got the cash and a working mouth, you're in. IOW, it's just a more-expensive version of CB radio.
Force people to actually BUILD their own equipment, and maybe you'll get a higher class of user, one who'll actually appreciate the license to use the airwaves, and who'll have some valuable skills.

Re:As a relatively new ham operator... (2, Interesting)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268790)

Very interesting. At one time (back in the '30s I believe), it was a requirement that the applicant had to draw the complete schematic of his proposed station as part of the exam. However, to require that hams build all of their equipment would kill the service faster than the naysayers claim dropping the Morse exam will.

Where would the new ham find the parts to build a radio? Many parts are already difficult to find. You say manufacturers would ramp up production? I doubt it as ham radio has a far smaller user base than Linux and look at the trouble we encounter with manufacturers supporting Linux on their hardware.

While I think I understand your sentiment, it simply isn't practical. Ham radio today is about emergency communications more than anything else. Hams need reliable and agile equipment to fulfill that role. Nothing discourages hams from building their own gear (or modifying other equipment to work on the ham bands), and many still do either from scratch or by way of a kit. As with Morse Code it should not be a regulatory requirement.

A change that makes me sad (3, Interesting)

Cauchy (61097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267542)

I am a ham who has held a Technician license for 9 years now. Technician gives all privs at the higher frequencies, and it does NOT require code. I never got a higher license because I never found time to learn code so this requirement was in fact holding me back. With that said, it makes me profoundly sad to see them drop this requirement as code is extremely useful for many applications, and I think it will significantly reduce the number of people who bother to learn code. I guess I'm just a sucker for nostalgia. It isn't like you needed code to get a license---you could work any and all ham uhf and vhf frequencies with a license that does not require code. With that said, I'll certainly be upgrading my license, sooner rather than later now. :)

Re:A change that makes me sad (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268226)

I think we will see code being picked up by more people who want to learn it to use it for some other reason. We will nearly always have operators who will find no need for the skill, and I suspect we will find operators looking for every edge they can get in a contest. (* like double the points just for each code contact you make.) And others who will be looking for ccdx awards in each band, and each mode. Likewise dxpeditions will end up at some grid square that no one has operated from in over 40 years, who will only operate in CW. You want the QSO for some reason, well they ain't listening in the phone bands.

I also think that as a result we will find a lot of people even more willing to teach these operators code, because they are watching people learn a skill they want to use, not something they are going to throw away the moment they get their ticket. Architects happen to use computers to do almost everything they do these days. When I was in high school, the architectural drawing class used t-squares, 45 and 30/60 triangles, tri-rules in various scales, French curves, elliptical templates, and a metal shield for erasing lines that went beyond where you planned for them to end up. It took skill to use these tools properly. It's a skill that high school students today are not learning, because using the computer drafting tools is the marketable skill for the industry in general. There will still be architects who choose to learn the skills of old, because they find those skills interesting, and occasionally useful for their own purposes.

-Rusty - kc0vcu

Re:A change that makes me sad (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268324)

I have a friend who used to do architectural blueprints by hand, and was the only one left in his office who made them that way. He was far, far faster than the guys using the CAD systems to draft up plans. The only time he was slower was when a change to a plan had to be made and they could update just the specific section and reprint it and he was stuck with redrawing the whole thing.

With regards to the article, I wouldn't miss CW all that much. I had to take a year of it when I was in the Canadian Forces, and never ever used it in earnest during a 10 year career as a military communicator. People used to dread being ordered to "move to alternate means" (meaning break out the key and start working in morse), and it was amazing how many keys were suddenly "broken" when they had checked out just fine when the det was deployed.

I would enjoy getting into HAM I think, but for the expense of buying the equipment etc. I don't think I recall all that much about radio operations at the moment - other than voice proceedure which I am sure never leaves you - and I am sorry to say I don't really recall my morse all that well despite hundreds of hours in the simulators listening to it and sending it.

I did meet guys who worked morse all the time, and some of them could listen to it and hear not the code character by character, but entire *sentances* at a time.

Back in the days... (5, Interesting)

Snarfiorix (1001357) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267568)

Having learned Morse code while in the Royal Dutch Navy and a love to tinker with electronic, I created a text- to Morse - to text application on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum K back in 1983 and hooked it up to an old AN PRC 10-A. I had lots of fun sharing the app and testing how fast we could push it (we got it to transmit and receive at 400 words per minute). Then we had the idea to transmit lists of basic code to each other so we could share apps for the old Sinclair... Of course it would end up having to retransmit because interference or some joker cutting in on the frequency.

We kept tweaking the app until 1989 where we had a IM type of functionality, encryption (!) and we could "attach" binaries or act as a automated relay station. The old Sinclair was an ideal micro to grab your solder iron and make it interface with all sorts of electronics. I remember having much more fun with morsecode and that old Spectrum then when I got my first PC with DOS on it.

Heck, I think I will head up the shed and dig up the Sinclair and the AN PRC 10-A.

I might become one. (1)

CCFreak2K (930973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267814)

Radio hasn't ALWAYS fascinated me, but growing up with those cheap toy walkie talkies and watching my father (tech class, K6MTT if anyone cares) with his radio equipment (he's collected a lot in the last couple of years), my eyes have opened to the fact that even the regular consume headsets at Radio Shack were peanuts if you devoted time and money to something like that. After I turned to wireless Ethernet, I really got excited to the possibilities of radio. Now that a requirement like this has been dropped, I've become more motivated to getting a license. However, I don't know where to start. Where WOULD I start if I wanted to get a license and, more importantly, the knowledge of radio?

Re:I might become one. (2, Interesting)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268142)

The ARRL [arrl.org] has plenty of books on how to study for the FCC exams. I recently just received my technicians license, which is the most basic license. There are books there that will teach you all of the requirements that you need to learn to pass the FCC exam. However, if you want to learn about electronics, then any Ham will tell you to pick up a copy of the ARRL Handbook [amazon.com] .

I own the Handbook and am an electrical engineer by trade. The Handbook is certainly a book that will give you examples of how to build radios yourself without bogging the explanations down with a lot of math. If you like explanations with more mathematical rigor, then you will have to go elsewhere. However, the book does an effective job of explaining circuits with some very creative examples.

The ARRL web site also has a directory of local clubs and events. Usually there is a point of contact associated with the club and they can give you a hand.

Re:I might become one. (1)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268430)

The ARRL Handbook, as good as it is, gets dense rather quickly. ARRL publishes a number of good introductory books. A couple that might be of use are Basic Radio [arrl.org] and Understanding Basic Electronics [arrl.org] .

Another good book, long out of print but maybe available used in various places, is Understanding Amateur Radio. I picked up a copy of it back in the early '80s and it helped my self study of electronics immensely.

Re:I might become one. (1)

mmarker (10942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17269004)

I, too, just received my Tech. license. I did get one of the formentioned books [arrl.org] from the ARRL which focused on the FCC licencing requirements needed. Somewhat disappointed in the text (it wasn't as in-depth as I would have liked, especially from a "how to operate" standpoint), but that can be made up from other sources like the aformentioned books and listening to people actuallying operating (ok... maybe not so much...)

I also found some good online websites (I've lost the references...) that will quiz you using the question pools available to see if you know your stuff. Resist the temptation to memorize the question pool unless you understand the "why" behind the questions asked.

Having said that, if you have a technical background (doesn't NEED to be electrical... this ChE passed easily), and can use some common sense (which helps remebering many of the simple FCC regulations), the test is a simple multiple choice exam. With the online study, and what you learn studying for Technician, you may even be able to pass the General exam as well (I came short by 3 questions...and I didn't even study for it!).

As for the Morse requirement, I am having a hard time with it. I can hear the differences, but the brain is not doing so well in tying the rhythm with a letter. So, I'm happy that I can progress without knowing it, but at some point I will force myself to pick it up. (Been trying to decode a beacon on 6M around here... I know what it should be saying, but I haven't been able to pick up anything past VVV)

Good luck!

KC2QLC

Its the old story (2, Interesting)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17267950)

"_I_ had to learn it, so everybody else for all eternaty will have to learn it, too!".

Plus the fact that you can create an aweful lot of baseless elitism by practicing a worthless and unneeded skill.

Re:Its the old story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268314)

Why not go one step further then - Why should people have to take a TEST to get the privledges to operate? Why not just turn the amateur service into a big brother of the CB bands? Maybe put a license on every milk carton. Yeah that's it. Sounds like you tried to learn the code and couldn't and are full of sour grapes, right?

Re:Its the old story (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268700)

you're a fucking idiot and I hope you die. Which you probably will soon you worthless old fart.

learning Morse is like riding a bike (4, Interesting)

rohar (253766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268026)

In 1988 I took Marine Radio Operating and obtained a Canadian RGMC which required error free 20 wpm Morse Code send/receive and all of the electronics theory and regulations to be a commercial marine radio operator. The holder of a RGMC also was granted a HAM license from the DOT. I ended up in IT and never did work as a Radio Op., or even use my HAM license, but after a year of training, I never forgot Morse Code. I would imagine I would have to practise for a while to send/receive at 5 wpm (never mind 20wpm) now, but it's one of those learned skills that seems to stick. but if I am ever lost at sea...

D dddd d Ddd d d DdD ddDd dD DdDd D DDD dDd dd ddd dddd ddD Ddd d
The had to be in characters because apparently ./ considers any amount of .- as 'junk' and won't allow the post.

I want a cwtext message interface for my cell phone, at least for sending. Has anyone heard of a phone that does that?

Re:learning Morse is like riding a bike (1)

rohar (253766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268062)

NM, posting it as "code" worked a bit better

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

Gnomes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268200)

Stage 1: Learn morse-code
Stage 2: ..-.. -. --. .--
Stage 3: Profit!

Thank God (2, Funny)

proxy318 (944196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268252)

That was the one thing holding me back from getting my radio license.

Re:Thank God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268424)

Ditto. The only things I know are S and O, and I learned those from a commercial on television (advertisement for S.O.S. pads, in which the dirty pots and pans clank out their plea). I'd pretty much given up hope of ever picking up a license.

Re:Thank God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17268744)

If you wait a little longer, the genius' at the FCC will also drop the testing requirements, so we can destroy another hobby.

Survivors Will Need Morse (3, Funny)

SkyDude (919251) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268326)

After the nuclear holocaust, when we emerge from the caves, Morse code will be a necessary skill. So will knowledge of MS-DOS, hand cranking a Model T, using a buggy whip and reading an analog clock. The FCC is being very short-sighted.

Apparently, so is Slashdot. In an attempt to be humourous, I couldn't post a series of Morse words. It kept rejecting the posting with the reason "Please use fewer junk characters." Huh.

Damn nerds, what do they know.

Some thoughts from a volunteer examiner (5, Interesting)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268346)

I have been involved with administering amateur radio license exams since 1992 and have overseen two separate exam teams since 1999. So, I have seen us transition from a rather complicated licensing structure to one that is a bit more sane.

I hear comments that amateur radio is being "dumbed down" to match the output of the government schools. The truth be told, I have witnessed people from many walks of life be thoroughly confused by the old licensing structure. So, there it little doubt in my mind that changes needed to be made. As an examiner, the recent (2000 and now 2006) changes will make my life a bit easier. They also lessen the burden on the FCC's administration of the Amateur Radio Service which is a key factor behind the recent changes.

As for the Morse Code requirement. When I started my self study of Morse in 1981, I truly believed that I would never be able to pass any test higher than 5 WPM. A few years later I did pass the 13 WPM (1985) and then in 1992 I passed the 20 WPM exam to obtain my Amateur Extra class license. I have used the code at various times throughout my ham radio career, but haven't ever gotten proficient enough at it to carry on a casual conversation with it. I have done well enough to enjoy some radio contests using the mode.

While I should probably be in the camp that says "I had to do it, all newcomers should too", I am not. In the early '90s the FCC, in response to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, made an administrative rule allowing anyone to obtain a doctor's statement claiming a disability that granted a waiver of the 13 and 20 WPM exams. As examiners we were required to accept the statement and grant the waiver. We could not question it any way. I personally saw several abuses of that rule and there was nothing I could do. The FCC was very specific in its mandate that only it had the authority to question the validity of any such statement.

The upshot of this is that due to the medical waivers, the 13 and 20 WPM Morse Code exams had almost become a farce by the time Restructuring (the action that reduced the license classes from six to three and reduced the Morse exam to 5 WPM) was enacted in April 2000. Anyone wanting to operate on HF still had to pass 5 WPM as the FCC deemed that speed not a significant hardship and the USA needed to comply with its treaty obligations which required a knowledge of Morse Code for operators licensed to operate below 30 MHz.

There are many reasons for hams to learn Morse Code in the future and a lot of them have already been stated here and elsewhere. The debate about whether it should be required knowledge is now moot so it's time for the amateur radio community to work toward the future. Morse Code (or CW) is one mode among many available for the Radio Amateur's use. As such, it can stand on its own and attract those interested in using it. I predict that the use of Morse Code on the amateur radio bands will continue for many years into the future by those that appreciate it.

Preparing for an exam session will now mean that I just have to prepare the written exams for the three license classes. No longer do I need to drag various pieces of electronic equipment along to conduct a Morse Code exam. This relieves the exam teams of a significant burden and will speed exam sessions up considerably. It will also make exam sessions more consistent as the Morse Code exam was an area where many teams free-lanced and some even prided themselves on administering an exam that was very difficult to pass.

Based on the elitism that I've seen demonstrated by too many hams over the years regarding the knowledge of Morse Code, I am not one bit sorry to see the exam requirement for it eliminated.

Re:Some thoughts from a volunteer examiner (2, Interesting)

bromoseltzer (23292) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268694)

I have been involved with administering amateur radio license exams since 1992 and have overseen two separate exam teams since 1999. So, I have seen us transition from a rather complicated licensing structure to one that is a bit more sane.

I hear comments that amateur radio is being "dumbed down" to match the output of the government schools. The truth be told, I have witnessed people from many walks of life be thoroughly confused by the old licensing structure. So, there it little doubt in my mind that changes needed to be made.
Some questions come to mind about ham radio licensing -

Why do we have licensing for ham radio? We license ham operators and auto drivers, but not CB/FMRS or Internet users. What's up with that? The idea is that if you're going to "drive" a kilowatt radio transmitter with widely variable frequency and potentially large antenna systems and worldwide propagation, you need to be qualified - to understand the damage you can do to other users and to the public if you don't observe minimum standards, etc. The risks involved with Citizens Band or the Internet are judged to be minor. (debatable, though!)

Historically (like > 40 years ago), it really did take quite a lot of work and study to get yourself on the air, and the license exams were only part of it.

Morse Code? Historically (again > 30 or 40 years ago), Morse Code (aka CW = continuous wave) was the only practical way for new hams to get on the air. If you are building your own equipment, this is still true! Minimum knowledge of Morse was a practical necessity, and it demonstrated earnestness. Exactly why it became part of the international convention (1934), I can't tell you.

Why do we have a volunteer examiner system? Apparently the government, in its wisdom, still thinks licensing is necessary (and a treaty obligation under 30 MHz, perhaps), but it is not willing to allocate the resources to manage the examination program. The VEC exams seem to be a compromise -- not as "serious" as the old FCC administered exams (let me tell you!), but cheap and still a meaningful hurdle to pass.

Are the license requirements relevant? This is the real question. In olden days, you had to be able to draw or recognize a misdrawn circuit diagram of a Hartley or Colpitts oscillator and know a fair amount of other practical electronics. You had to send and receive Morse at 5, 13, or 20 wpm, depending on license class. Today, other skills are more relevant - digital modulation and signal processing, computer interfacing, Internet services. Few people build their own equipment. The role of Morse/CW is much less central to ham radio, though still very popular for some of us. Reluctantly, I'd say it should have been eliminated years ago as a license requirement. Some of us will always work CW, just as some homebrew their gear and some do their own DSP coding. But it won't be a barrier for everyone else.

73 de AA6E, "20 wpm Extra Class" ham

They already did this... (1)

supaneko (1019638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268368)

The Morse code test was required for anyone looking to get a license above "Technician" class. When I took my test to get my "Technician" license five years ago, the Morse code test had already been dropped.

Re:They already did this... (1)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268462)

But, only dropped for the Technician class and already back in 1991. This action drops the Morse requirement for all classes of amateur licenses issued in the USA. Prior to this action becoming effective, any licensee operating below 30 MHz must have demonstrated a knowledge of Morse Code.

Savoring the spite of "They should have to too!" (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268418)

I got my General when it meant showing up at the FCC regional and after the thrill of trying to copy the 13 wpm (65 character/minute) the guy was sending, you had a five minute break before you had to get up before the group and send back to him with a straight key.

For me, one of the hardest tests I've taken.

About time with good reasons: (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268646)

1) It drastically lowers the "bar" to get the more advanced Amateur radio licenses, which benefits everyone all around.

2) With more ham operators around, it means that in case of a major emergency (e.g., large-scale natural disaster or other calamity) communications will be faster since in a natural disaster just about all other means of communication--TV channels, commercial radio, land-line telephones and cellphones--will not work for some time. Indeed, during the 9/11 attacks in New York City a lot communication systems went down, and ham radio operators were pretty much among the only reasonable means of communication for days.

I'm glad to see this requirement go. (1)

paenguin (311404) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268726)

I'm an extra class operator and I have been running code practice sessions for the last year on a local repeater in an attempt to get more people into General class or above.

One thing I have seen is perfectly good operators who are unable to grasp this mode. Either they can't hear it or can't decipher it. The vast majority of these Techs are moral people who will now have a chance to become first class citizens of HF instead of being stuck at the higher frequencies.

I plan to announce the end of my code practice sessions this Sunday evening at 9 pm.

Now, if someone wants to learn code, I'll go one on one with them and we'll get it done, but for many people, it's mud. And, now it's no longer required.

Someone brought up an interesting analogy between learning Morse Code and learning to drive.

Having to learn Morse Code to talk on the radio is like having to learn to shoe a horse to get your drivers license.

Morse Code Requirement (1)

DoctorPepper (92269) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268962)

Actually, I like this. I've been an Amateur radio operator (ham) for over 16 years now (since August 1990), and had to pass the 20 wpm Morse code exam to get my Extra class license back in April, 1991. I love Morse code and using the CW mode, and am trying to get my code recognition up around 35 wpm (long process).

That said, I am also an ARRL Volunteer Examiner (VE), and have been for almost as long as I've had my Amateur Extra license. Since the ITU dropped the requirements for Morse code at sea, I have thought that the FCC's requirement for Morse code to get to the HF bands was really out of touch. I'm glad to see they finally rectified this.

For the hams proclaiming this is the end for ham radio, I say sit down and STFU. Amateur radio needs to evolve with the times, and presenting an artificial barrier to entry to the HF bands was not conducive to this. Why should people have to learn one mode over all the others, that they probably won't ever use, and will forget the next day, just to get HF privileges? Those that want to learn and use Morse code will, the rest will use sideband, AM, FM or one of the ever popular digital modes.

Amateur radio is under attack from the Internet and from cell phone usage. If we want to preserve our hobby, we need to be flexible in our attitude to the hobby. This is the 21st century, and hobbling an entire hobby to 19th century technology will be the death of it.

73, Howard
AC4FS

Might as well be CB (1)

KC1P (907742) | more than 7 years ago | (#17268982)

Yeah, I'm one of the carmudgeons who passed the CW tests in the old days and think it's a valuable experience for anybody. CW is the true beauty of ham radio anyway -- I mean if you just want to yack with people on voice, couldn't you, like, go out in public and actually get a LIFE with real in-person human beings???

Anyway much more importantly, the CW tests are as good a way as any to test someone's level of seriousness and discipline. If we just let everyone waltz on in, well that's called CB and it's cacaphony. Many people won't act with even a basic level of maturity unless they're made to jump through a hoop or two (and it could be anything -- it'd be OK if they made us learn ASL instead).

Finally, it's not as if the CW tests were hard in the first place. I passed the 5 WPM when I was 12 and the 20 WPM when I was 14, and believe me, I'm not a clever guy. All it takes is a little practice. By the time I got the basic alphabet down by getting my mom to quiz me, she knew it too without even meaning to (it was just easier to remember it than to look everything up on the chart). But everyone since then (1978) has pissed and moaned and whined as if it were the hardest thing in the world, and as usual the FCC caved. Well I'll be staying in the CW bands (the ones that are left) where it's safe.

No different (1)

KB3JUV (898173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17269012)

I passed the 5WPM but I think its time for it to go. I've never used it, and I don't think many people will unless they truly want to. Even without the requirement, there will still be plenty of CW on the air, and plenty of people who will go out of their way to learn it. Justin KB3JUV

It's impossible to join the clubs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17269092)

Well for someone which would love to get their license it almost impossible to join a club. I have been trying to get into the ham stuff over 4 years. All the clubs in the Toronto area refuse to answer e-mails, or just expect the person to be in the university or college. There was one person that was going to teach me, but he was in his late 90's. He's dead now, so I'm out of luck.

I fed up.... I can't get into HAM radio because the people/clubs are too hard to access. Reading the books is no replacement for interacting with real HAM's.

I wish the colleges and Universities would just offer courses for HAM. Because the club scene is just does not work. I could sign up get instruction from a professor and write the exam. Done.

I have a weather station sitting in my backyard which I can't get transmitting weather information by radio.
I also would love to get into APRS with my car computer.

It's a exclusive club scene people. Outsiders are not welcome.

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