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FCC Relaxes Entrance To Ham Radio 135

Randy Rathbun writes "In a very bold (and IMHO, much needed) move, the FCC today released major changes to Part 97, which is the rules for the Amateur Radio Service. Among the changes are that there is only a 5 word per minute morse code exam from now on (getting rid of the 13 and 20 wpm exams), and reducing the number of license classes from six to three. The text of the changes can be read in this PDF document. You don't need to know morse code to get on the air on bands above 30 MHz, btw."
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FCC Relaxes Entrance To Ham Radio

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ham radio is populated mainly by aging elitist white guys with a strong fetish for tradition. They had to pass a code test to get their license, so should you and everyone else for all time!

    It was incredibly difficult to get the first no-code license created 10 years ago. Emotions ran very high, and many are still debating the issue.

    This is one of the rare cases where a federal regulatory agency is far more enlightened than those they regulate. The FCC's report and order clearly shows that the only reason they didn't get rid of the code test entirely was because of an archaic international treaty that requires it for frequencies below 30 Mhz. Hopefully that will also change soon.

    Phil Karn, KA9Q

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wow geek quotient plus! tons of morse apps for Linux at:! INDEX.html
    Time to check some of this stuff out.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am a no-code tech guy whos been thinking about upgrading for hf privs. I am glad to see i can do it now, with ease.

    Ham radio has to go data to survive. Much like the ssb revolution of the 60s, many will opt out. That's okay. just don't begrudge us our fun.

    The problem is fcc rules regarding encryption. I want to be able to do some internet work on this thing, but I don't want my laundry completely out in the public all the time. Yet, if we allow unrestricted crypto then the ham bands will be usurped by the telecom companies sending traffic they are paid for.

    There has to be some middle ground, somewhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    See the ARRL's [] website.

    Phil Karn, KA9Q

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 31, 1999 @05:21AM (#1430005)
    ...(and IMHO, much needed) move

    Right. Much needed for the manufacturers of Ham Radio appliances and for the continued existence of the ARRL, perhaps. But certainly just the opposite of what was needed for the "health" of Ham Radio, IMO.

    I recently allowed my license to simply expire. I just somehow never got around to renewing. I once was very active. I had an Advanced Class license. Obtained when one really had to work to get one. (I took my General and Advanced Class tests at the Federal Building in down-town Detroit. Administered by FCC personnel.) In the past: I was active in both CW and phone (that's Morse code and voice, for the non-Hams out there) on the low bands (translation: HF - those bands below 30MHz). I was also active in VHF (FM, SSB and packet) and UHF. Built my own antennas. Maintained my own gear. Built some of my own gear. Was actively involved in the Amateur Radio Public Service Corps in my county. Was once actively involved with what was once a major repeater group in my area. Hardly ever went anywhere without a rig close-at-hand.

    What happened? In a word: disgust.

    There has been a serious decline in the "quality" of the hobby. I mean a really serious decline. These days one finds more appliance-using "lids, kids and space-cadets" on Ham Radio that one does seriously interested, knowledgeable and talented Operators. It has become, IMO, little more than high-end (and I use the term loosely) CB radio.

    I think the final straw was hearing something like the third horribly-bungled Skywarn weather net in a row--and hearing the net control operator receive compliments for it--that I finally just gave Ham Radio up as a lost cause.

    Ham Radio "operators" like to laugh at "CB radio types" as clueless, redneck yahoos. Well y'all ought to take a look in the mirror some time. Here's how: turn the radios off for a couple of months and then turn them on again and just listen. Be prepared for a shock. Prior to Ham Radio I had been involved with organized volunteer public service CB radio groups. Their professionalism far and away exceeded what Ham Radio has devolved into today.

    For those who might accuse me of being a quitter--who might ask "Why didn't you stick around and help the hobby?": I tried. I really, really tried. I tired of tilting against windmills. Just try to correct somebody's bad operating habits these days. Just try to explain to to one of the average current crop of Hams that "QSL" does not mean 10-4. (Or "right". Or "correct".) Just try to tell some Ham that trimming ones coax does not really improve VSWR. Or that they're over-modulated/over-deviated. Or that their transmit power far-and-away exceeds their receiver's capability. Try to explain to a "modern" Ham on a 2m repeater why listening for "breaks" is important. (Much-less finding someone on 2m or elsewhere that has a clue how to handle emergency traffic!) Or, conversely, why one shouldn't "break" into a conversation unless they either: 1) intend to participate or 2) have urgent traffic. Arrrrgggg.

    FCC and ARRL keep pushing the entry barrier down and the hobby just keeps declining--both in "quality" and participation. Somehow it never seems to occur to these two that the effects just might be related. Well, in my case they most definitely were.

    Bitter? You bet I'm bitter. Having witnessed what was once an enjoyable hobby, populated mostly by Hams I could honestly regard as peers and superiors, degrade to the wasteland it is today.

    You can keep it.

  • No Morse code is needed, and in fact, Morse Code is no longer used on ships anymore, either.

  • I got a tech plus (before the no-code tech) 10 years ago when i was 12 (it expires in 00) i was wonding if there is any way to renew it so that i can be upgraded to general? do i have to retake the test to renew my licence? it has been a while but i would like to keep it for, you know, emergencies.
  • Did you know you can do network over Amature Radio? You can! What do you thing that AX-25 Stuff was in the Linux kernel?

    Check out TAPR []. Some people are even sending their email to their Palm Pilots this way.


  • You might know I'm the founder and present board member of No-Code International [], an organization that has lobbied for the end of code testing.

    Morse code is fun and people won't stop using it. But to have a test on copying Morse code by ear required to get any ham license that allows operation below 30 MHz in this day and age is rediculous. The average ham is older than 60, but ham radio should be a resource for young people to learn analog electronics, RF, wide-area networking, etc. I'm hoping that this change will start to address the age gap in ham radio, and I'll be working on a campaign to get young people into the hobby and on to our HF bands.

    One of the best things about this decision is that it ends a very ugly acrimonious situation in ham radio that has persisted since 1990, when the no-code VHF license was introduced as the first foot in the door for modernization of ham radio. A lot of the older hams alienated the younger ones because they felt that no-coders weren't real hams. Now, those younger hams will have the same licenses as the older ones, and will be in their faces on the HF bands.

    You can read more about this in my editorial The World's Most Silly Technology Law [].

    Bruce Perens K6BP

  • I'm in the same situation... I never got my Extra class license, because when I could listen to Morse that fast I hadn't studied for the exam, and by the time I had studied I hadn't done Morse code for so long that I couldn't do it anymore.

    That was a while ago :)

    It looks like I'm getting grandfathered in, but I might as well restudy for the Extra class.
  • (I've had a General class license for almost 6 years now)

    I'm sorry. I'm all for bringing more people into the hobby, but this is a bad thing. As much fun as it is, and as much as you can do with it, the amateur radio service is still just that: a service. Emergency communications are always a priority, and, in many emergency situations, nothing but CW will work. I'd rather have someone who would not have learned CW but had to to get his license with me in a situation like that, than someone who wouldn't even have *been* a ham if it weren't for a reduced CW policy.

    73 DE KE4JZN
  • Anyone notice a strange correlation between the coming of a day that many consider to be apocalyptic and/or provoking major crisis and the freeing up of the ham airwaves which have proven absolutely vital to maintaining communication and order, and even saving lives in some cases, in other major natural disasters? Perhaps the government knows something we don't? The truth is out there my friends ;)

  • by drix ( 4602 ) on Friday December 31, 1999 @12:41AM (#1430013) Homepage
    This provision will no doubt signal the beginning of the end of morse code (IIRC the only reason there's any requirement at all is because we have an international treaty requiring it), in the hands of an expert, morse code is totally amazing to watch. I've seen crusty old hammers with keyers (boxes with switiches that emits streams of dots or dashes when depressed) that can do morse faster than they can talk. It's really incredible to not even be able to discern between dots and dashes when these people are having entire conversations in them. Skilled morse oding seems to be destined to become a lost art along with blacksmithing, writing machine code, etc.

  • As one aging elitist white guy to another -

    "Your mother wears army boots!" ;-)

    Seriously, someone makes reference later in the thread to the flame war that was fought in the usenet amateur radio groups beginning way over 10 years ago. Phil and I were two of the participants. The thing was that Phil won the arguement 10 years ago with the creation of the no-code Tech license. The folks on the amateur radio usenet groups just haven't figured that out yet? I stopped reading those probably around the time the internet got popular mostly for that reason!

    Funny thing is that even one of the main reasons for getting rid of the code didn't account for the popularity of the net. Many folks believe(d) that getting rid of the code will save ham radio. I think it's probably too late! All of the "new blood" that would have come into the hobby traditionally are now yacking at each other on IRC over the net. The magic is gone.

    As for some of the old, tired arguments that are being repeated here in defense of code. Guys - the war was over ALONG time ago. The latest step is just another nail in the coffin.

    Perhaps the only way to recover ham radio is to create whole new technologies (or at least rapidly adopt them to our own uses...) that might capture the imagination of the younger set again. We need a new "killer ap" beyond DX and repeaters! Those are kind of warn out. Maybe we need the ability to do the internet over ham radio at high speeds? The problem with that is the content rules! (Did those get lightened up with the new order too??)

    Whatever -

    73 de Steve KA6S
  • For the clueless moderator that put this to zero - This was GOOD advice. is the american national ham radio organization.

  • Ah - okay - but KA9Q isn't an AC to me ;-) I've been arguing/communicating with him for years ;-) Steve Ka6S
  • uhm - no.

    Packet radio was invented by the Aloha project
    in Hawaii.

    Now if you said - who made it practical and
    inexpensive. That might be attributed to hams
    in the form of the TNC-1/2.

  • the near future...

    Wireless networking devices using HAM freq's become more popluar than CB's ever were. The Internet explodes and becomes really anarchistic. Advertising becomes the province of immensely powerful stations which hi-jack TCP connections to insert that awful little "dancing nude" anigif everywhere they can.

    Spam radio...
  • ...but I would guess that morse code was the very first digital communications system.

    I guess it would depend on your definitions, but one could make the argument that DNA got there first.

    Steve M
  • Like I said, there is room for interpretation based on definitions.

    However, you certainly do not need two intelligent beings. Animals communicate all the time. Ants have very sophisticated communications systems.

    Steve M

  • You're confused, the frequencies BELOW 30 MegaHerz are the ones that require code, above do not.

  • There is an international treaty that requires knowledge of morse code for HF operation.

    Some hams think that a morse code requirement keeps out the riff-raff (CB'ers and the like).

    The validity of the morse code requirement is one of usenet's longest running flame wars on the amateur radio newsgroups.

  • Unfortunately, the FCC did not automatically upgrade Tech Plus licenses to General. You have to wait until April and file some paperwork.

    When I took the test for a Technician license, I had to pass a 5 WPM code test and the General written test. That is the same as the new requirements for the General license.

    I've never bothered upgrading since I got a Technician license. I could easily pass the written test but I hate morse code. Now I might try for an Extra license.

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Thursday December 30, 1999 @11:37PM (#1430024) Homepage
    Is ham mostly one way or two way?

    Mostly two way, although there are some one way propagation beacons.

    Is ham all private or is it also commercial?

    Commercial traffic is prohibited.

    Is ham radio sort of like a bbs type community?

    There are bulletin boards that you can access via packet radio (radio modems).

    Do you meet new people on ham radio or talk to ones you meat in real life?

    You meet lots of new people, esp. on the HF (high frequency) bands.

    What kind of transmit ranges are possible?

    You can cover the Earth with an HF (3-30 MHz) radio. VHF and higher frequencies are generally limited to line-of-sight, just like broadcast FM radio. There are amateur satellites that can extend the range of VHF/UHF stations.

  • The fact is that wireless communication has become a commodity item, and as a result some of the reason people take up amateur radio in the first place has disappeared. Why after all, would someone engage in something that requires expensive equipment and a special license when they can go out to the local electronics store and pick up a pair of FRS radios for under $150? Or suffer through static crashes and the ins and outs of HF propogation when they can grab a cell phone and dial any phone on the face of the planet?

    Because it is fun, I imagine. Personally, I've just gotten into radio the last few months and find it very interesting. As long as there are geeks, there will be amateur radio. :)

  • Wow.. A post by *the* Phil Karn? Cool! :-)

    I played with TCP/IP packet back when I was 12 or so and every NOS BBS program had code stolen/borrowed from the original by "Phil Karn KA9Q".. I never figured you actually existed.. Kind of like a legend to me.. :-)

    Too bad the packet world dried up and died here. (Eastern Iowa). Therefore I became the only node around and that was back before the Internet was cheap enough for me to stay connected a do some packet tunneling. *sigh* I'd love to get back into it, but it seems like everyone around here sold all their TNCs and turned off their computers.

    Sean (KB0LCJ, yeah, a lowly tech+)
  • I'm practicing for the higher WPM morse tests, the writtens are easy to study for. Oh well, time to get my General license :)
  • I severely doubt it; on issues of already-commercialized segments of the spectrum (i.e. everything except Ham), the FCC is in bed with the big corporations that own the spectrum (and don't want competitors). For starters, try this article from Reason [].
  • Not likely. The FM band is kinda full, and commercialized by those big evil corporations.

    OTOH, what for full deployment of HDTV. HDTV will be moving everyone to UHF (which used to have to be spaced 6 channels apart for really bad UHF tuners of the 1950's and 1960's, but can be packed much tighter today). That means many VHF TV allocations will be emptied, especially in big cities, as RS-170/NTSC gets phased out. Channels 5 and 6 would be ripe for adding to the FM band (though we would need new FM radios ... many non-US FM bands already use these frequencies of 76 to 88 MHz). If that happens, we need to petition to set aside a few MHz for low power.

    ham radio != broadcast radio
  • OK, so how about an Internet DX Contest? How well do you think the net would handle every ham and hacker pinging every other ham and hacker?
  • I do agree that the morse code test is silly if you don't want to use the code. However, I don't see that the no-code VHF license has done anything to modernize the amateur service. There was never any influx of young people into the amateur ranks and those young people who did join in the early 90's are older now and have either quit or don't use their license and will let them expire. Watch next year as the number of no-code licenes drop.

    No-Code International has done nothing good for the Amateur service and you Bruce Perens should be ashamed of yourself for thinking that it has.

    I for one will not slow down for a 5 wpm extra class operator in the extra class cw sub-bands.
  • I am sure Bruce Perens will have more to say but in the meantime go to [] (this is an organization reponisble for lobbying of the FTC regarding this issue.

    Also, make sure you chek out The World's Most Silly Technology Law [], an editorial by Bruce Perens over at []


  • There are a number of comments here arguing that it's useful to know about electronics basics and Morse code - it's possible to agree that those are good things to know about, without agreeing that the government ought to force people to learn about them before using basic electromagnetic techniques to communicate with each other.

    I guess the implication behind the arguments to keep the old rules is that people won't learn that stuff if they don't have to - which suggests that it isn't as valuable as the proponents of the arguments would have us believe. If those really are useful skills, people will learn them voluntarily. If they aren't useful (or more useful or entertaining than other activities available), people won't bother with them. That seems fine to me.

    It would also be useful if everyone knew how cars work, and how computers work - but it would be silly to think that the government should require people to pass a test about internal combustion engines or the manufacturing processes behind radial tires before getting a drivers' license, or to to pass a test about webservers and operating systems before using a browser.

    (In fact, in the US it's silly to talk about "licensing" forms of communication, as all of them should be covered by the First Amendment, but that's another argument for another day.)
  • this is how it should have been for a long time

    many other things in the fcc must be changed
  • It always amazed me that to talk using voice or data on the HF bands, the government wanted me to prove that I could operate CW. I didn't have to prove that I was capable of doing what I wanted to.

    "Son, I know you want to fly that spacecraft to mars but first you gotta prove to me that you can shift gears on my grandpappy's Model T"

    Who knows, maybe I won't let my license lapse after all.

    N7JCT (Licenced since Jan 1987)

  • His name is in the document about 5 times....

  • Could you perhaps mail me some more information, or post a URL here? I just moved to Holland a few months ago, and I've been wondering about getting a license earlier, but I haven't had the time/money/eagerness to learn morse code ;)

    If you're reading this, thanks in advance.

  • God listen to us.

    This reminds me of the time I sat next to an elderly, retired engineer at a banquet, and listened to him reminisce about the time they got THE BIG COMPUTER UPGRADE. You know, the "stored program jobbie".
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday December 31, 1999 @04:11AM (#1430039) Homepage Journal
    Well, I remember back when I was a kid with a ham license sending and receiving CW with another kid whose was chirping like a canary. We discussed it for a while and it turned out that he had a home built rig that was basically an RF oscillator stuck to an home brewed RF amp stuck to a string of wire, with a code key stuck between oscillator and the power supply (i.e. the oscillator fired up everytime the key closed and shutdown when the key came back up).

    Of course it was an incredibly half assed way to build a radio, but it worked well enough that we could communicate using 5W probably five hundred miles apart! My nephew just got his codeless novice, and his first rig is an incredible little 2m handheld that can access just about any place on the world on a sophisticated network of repeaters using maybe 5W. However, he could no more build this for himself than you could assemble a functional web server out of a barrel of surplus electromechanical relays. He's having a lot of fun, but he's not really learning any electronics. The new licensing tests don't require that you know anything about circuits.

    The cool thing about CW is that a kid can sit around and dream up a rig with no outside guidance and build it himself out of probably less than $100 of parts. It may not be done the "right" way, but he's going to learn a lot.

    CW also enables people in third world countries to communicate without the kind of sophisticated repeater networks that exist in this country. And, no matter what you say, CW is the most reliable form of telecommunication there is. It takes only a few watts to go hundreds of miles, so it can work during a prolonged power outage. It doesn't require any kind of intermediate linkages like repeaters or sattelites.

    That said, undoubtedly CW is going the way of the wire telegraph, very soon now. I'll be sorry to see it go.
  • I've been trying to get my code speed up from the barely functional 5 WPM and, in the true "cypherpunks write code" style, wrote my own teaching applet/application. If you want to try it for yourself, look at Morse Practice []. It runs as an applet or application, and the source is also available. Note, however, that it is not 100% Pure Java (it uses the classes) and has only been tested on a Mac. Bugfixes are always welcome.
  • I'm a Ham operator (KC8DDC), and I think your claim that morse code (BTW, we call it CW) is destined to become a lost art, and that the only reason its still in use is because of the licencing requirement, is way offbase.

    Even if the CW requirement were to completely dissapper, CW itself will not disapper anytime in the forseeable future. There are situtations where, right now, CW is the only viable communactions mode (one example is adverse conditions such as severe interferance, and weak signals). Also, many hams use it for contesting and DXing, and there are hams who use it as thier primary communcations mode because they enjoy using it.

    Rest assured, despite what the pro-code lobby says, CW is not going away anytime soon. :)
  • I always had a problem with the eletist attitude caused by morse code. I know there are several good reasons for it and I still use it (to id navigation aids) but for a huge part of the spectrum, its just a waste. I wanted to be a ham to deal with digital radio but I didn't meet the code requirement. It was enough to get me out of RF and analog completely.

    The bit about the international treaty is true but there are a number of countries that do not require any CW test at all so it can't be that importaint to anyone (other than the old mens club)

    I know a few of old hams that love CW (I used to know a lot). Those guys did a great deal for the whole radio and electronics business and I think that some of them deserve that special area to use as long as they can. Sure they have big egos and don't like newbies but I can respect that -- if they are good.

    And on a typical /. note... There is a company in Lynchburg VA that has a patent on a single-wire transmission protocol...its simply more code over a wire. It works at 5 wpm or 50000 wpm. Its the only case I know of where the invenotor would argue that patents are getting out of hand and that it should not have been accepted by the patent office.

    And now (20000101 00:33) it looks like Victoria Aus won't been needing CW to tell the rest of the world what went wrong...
  • by Blrfl ( 46596 ) on Friday December 31, 1999 @03:27AM (#1430043) Homepage
    I came in on the big wave of no-coders in the early '90s and within a year had upgraded to Advanced.

    The fact is that wireless communication has become a commodity item, and as a result some of the reason people take up amateur radio in the first place has disappeared. Why after all, would someone engage in something that requires expensive equipment and a special license when they can go out to the local electronics store and pick up a pair of FRS radios for under $150? Or suffer through static crashes and the ins and outs of HF propogation when they can grab a cell phone and dial any phone on the face of the planet?

    As wireless services become more prevalent, fewer people will have an interest in rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. The state of the radio art is no longer being advanced in amateurs' workshops, it's happening in the labs at Motorola and Qualcomm. While it used to be true that many EEs were also hams, I think the current working conditions many of us suffer through make us less inclined to do things similar to what we do at work during our off time. Amateurs are, after all, by definition people who do something for the love of it. Why do something if it's neither necessary or fun?

    I still do it because people don't tend to want to talk to you if you pick up your cell phone and dial a number at random. Having a yak with people I know on the way to work in the morning makes the commute go by faster. And even though I know this message will be read by people around the world, I'm still tickled to be able to talk to someone halfway around the world with no wires.

    Fewer interested parties means fewer participants, and it's sad to have to predict that the hobby will probably have dwindled to almost nothing in 20 more years. Compounding the problem is the fact that in this country, amateur radio is the classic nerdy hobby, even more so now that computers are commonplace and using the internet has become the hip thing to do. Several years ago I was having a chat with someone in Europe about this topic. It seems that in his country (and I forget which it is), people who take up the hobby are regarded as people who are doing something useful with their spare time and not sitting down at the bar quaffing beer and watching soccer.

  • Seriously... When I got my ticket in 1965, there were three classes that counted, Novice, Tech and General. Extra was just honorary. The ARRL wanted to sell more study guides so they pushed "Incentive Licensing", with reduced General privs and more exams. It largely killed ham radio in the USA; growth has been very low ever since. The new scheme is a lot like pre-1965s, except that now the top code test is 5 WPM, the three licenses are a more modern mix, and you need a second theory test to go from tech to general. So it's going to hurt study guide sales, but help ham radio. - fred k1io
  • Whilst the Report and Order was released yesterday, it doesn't go into effect until April 15th.

    So, is this "day that many consider to be apocalyptic and/or provoking major crisis" supposed to be Y2K, or Tax Day?

    (Note to non-US Slashdotters: In the US, April 15th is the deadline for filing US Federal Income Tax Returns -- as well as paying any unpayed income taxes.)
  • You don't -quite- have it right...

    10 years ago, there were 5 license classes:

    Novice (5wpm, test 2, very few HF priviledges)
    Technician (5WPM, tests 2&3A, Novice+VHF)
    General (13WPM, tests 2,3A/B, VHF+HF)
    Advanced (13WPM, tests 2,3A/B&4A, VHF+more HF)
    Amateur Extra (20WPM, tests 2,3A/B,&4A/B, all privs)

    (Test 1, not mentioned, is the Morse Code portion, divided up into 1A (5wpm), 1B (13wpm) and 1C (20WPM))

    The reason for the odd numbering of the tests is that technician was originally "General with a lower code requirement" and Advanced was "Extra with a lower code requirement". So the original element 3 was split, as well as the origional element 4.

    Then the FCC decided to change the regulations, allowing Techs to get their licence w/o the Morse code test -- but without HF priviledges. After some settlement, we ended up with Tech split into "Technician" (no morse code, no HF privs) and "Technician Plus" (5wpm, Novice HF privs).

    Since then, the number of people enterring ham radio through Technician class has skyrocketed, and the number of people enterring through Novice has plummetted.

    One major problem with this system: Techs, because of history, were required to learn the rules associated with HF operation on the Novice bands, but did not have access to the Novice bands!

    The new rules eliminate Tech Plus entirely (with the rule that -any- Tech who can prove they have passed a 5wpm code test get old-style Novice HF priviledges), and closed Novice and Advanced to new hams. Existing Novice and Advanced class hams can continue to renew as Novice or Advanced with no loss of priviledges. It also (as many people have already noted) eliminated the 13 adn 20wpm code tests.

    This simplifies things -immensely-. Instead of having to deal with elements 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, 3A, 3B, 4A and 4B, the FCC and the amateurs that give the exams only have to deal with elements 1 (5WPM), 2(Tech Written), 3(General Written) and 4(Extra Written).

    Tech now requires element 2, General requires 1,2,3, and Extra requires all four. Techs have all VHF priviledges, General has most of the HF privileges as well, and Extra has all ham privileges.

    In addition, it is now streamlined in that Volunteer Examiners can prepare exams for any license class below their own (Extras can also prepare Extra exams).

    The goal was streamlining and simplification. It succeeded in this goal.

  • Absolutely -- there needs to be a reason for hacking ham radio again. Wearable computing perhaps... :-)
  • (Well, here goes my karma...)

    I'm one of those (and probably the only one who will post on slashdot for attribution) who thinks dumbing down the code requirement is a Bad Idea. I expect to get flamed for it, but this is one issue I've given a lot of thought to over the last 20 years or so, and don't expect to be convinced otherwise.

    Ham radio is not only about technical innovation. Yes, that's one purpose, and one that I, too, believe is important. It's not the only purpose, however. The basis and purpose of the service, as expressed in 97.1, includes fostering international goodwill and providing emergency communications when needed. It takes more than a technogeek to accomplish these ends. One must be able to *communicate*. The dual nature of the ham tests serve, IMAO, to point that out: you can answer all the theory questions they can throw at you and still not be an effective operator. The code test provided some way to check that. To get the Extra ticket, you had to be a well-rounded ham, both a skilled operator and at least fairly knowledgeable technically.

    The FCC has goofed here, aided by public pressure from well-meaning techies who can't see that building the technology isn't enough: you have to make use of it, too, to provide communications.

    Jay Maynard, K5ZC (licensed as Amateur Extra in 1977)

  • by Jay Maynard ( 54798 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @05:01AM (#1430049) Homepage
    I'm hoping that this change will start to address the age gap in ham radio, and I'll be working on a campaign to get young people into the hobby and on to our HF bands.

    Just like you hoped the no-code Tech would, too? Not to mention bringing in a flood of technically competent folks to revolutionize the state of radio communications, all on a shoestring budget in the ham bands, results published in QST and CQ. Right.

    The simple truth of the matter is that the no-code license has failed in its stated objective. The average age of hams has risen at one year per year of elapsed time, and that rate is unchanged before and after the advent of the no-code license. As I've contended all along, the real problem is that ham radio is not attractive to kids today. Your campaign is 10 years too late, and ham radio will suffer for it.

    One of the best things about this decision is that it ends a very ugly acrimonious situation in ham radio that has persisted since 1990, when the no-code VHF license was introduced as the first foot in the door for modernization of ham radio. A lot of the older hams alienated the younger ones because they felt that no-coders weren't real hams. Now, those younger hams will have the same licenses as the older ones, and will be in their faces on the HF bands.

    Oh, so now the FCC can change human nature with a simple Report and Order? Those of us who had to work to earn our privileges are going to be as resentful of those who do not under the new scheme as was the case with the no-code Tech. This change will, if anything, perpetuate the alienation and division, and spread it to the HF bands as well. Many older hams have resented, and IMAO rightfully so, the dumbing down of the entrance requirements in the name of attracting the "right people" into the service, especially given the 10 years of failure to do anything of the sort that we've seen.

    The real solution, as I have been arguing ever since the no-code argument started, is to convince people that ham radio is worth the entrance requirements. No matter how low you set the barrier, the real problem is not getting people past it - the widely diverse ham population before 1990 is all the proof anyone can ever need that desire will conquer all - but getting people to want to climb over it. We should have tried better marketing in 1990, instead of assuming that people were too dumb any more to pass the requirements. This change can only continue the slide toward chaos and lawlessness that we've seen - case in point, the 147.435 LA repeater, a blight on the face of the service if there ever was one - ever since the requirements were first lowered.

    Jay Maynard, K5ZC

  • by Jay Maynard ( 54798 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @05:03AM (#1430050) Homepage
    (In fact, in the US it's silly to talk about "licensing" forms of communication, as all of them should be covered by the First Amendment, but that's another argument for another day.)

    The First Amendment covers content, not manner of speech. You can say anything you want, but the government has a right to regulate how and when and where in order to keep the peace.
  • Anonymous Coward wrote:
    [Now you can] have a bewolf cluster linked by radio.
    Well, you could before. The codeless technician class, which gave access to all legal amateur frequencies above 30 MHz, has been around for at least five years. The new part is the simplification of the license structure and the complete elimination of the 13 and 20 WPM code tests.

    Unfortunately, since amateur packet radio is among the most inefficient digital communication modes known to man, such a cluster would be frustratingly slow. All the really cool stuff, at least with wireless networking, is taking place in the license-free bands because license-free is cheaper and you don't have to answer questions about Ohm's law to get access to them.

    For more information about wireless networking, you can start at The wireless field test at Old Colorado City communications/ [] or you can go to the Wireless LAN/MAN Modem Product Directory [].

    Wireless networks are the way of the future, it's just that Ham Radio isn't the way to get there.

    Jonathan Guthrie, KA8KPN, Amateur Extra class (now grandfathered) since 1980.

  • I'm not too surprised that people are clueless about amateur radio. I went to a job fair not long ago and casually mentioned that I was a ham. The majority of telecom companies I talked to just staired at me clueless. The only company I talked to that truly understood the significance of ham radio was SkyTel. Now I'm working with them... :-)

  • When I was 10, I pulled out a 50 year old copy of the encyclopedia britannica(sp?) and looked up morse code, and proceeded to memorise all three types listed (american - its whacked, shipping (two tones), and international), and now, 8 years later, I very much want to get into the ham radio scene, but like all geek toys seem to be lately, it is getting dominated by wannabes. I have no call sign but often listen with what ever radio i can scrounge up, usually my short-wave.

    Lets keep morse alive.

    //-.-./--.-/-..//-.-./--.-/-..//--/---/.-./.../. //-.-./---/-.././/../...//-..././../-./--. //-/..../.-././.-/-/./-././-../......//

  • Communications?

    To communicate requires at least two intelligent beings with knowledge and skills of the system being used.

    DNA is not interpretted via intelligence for it's intended purpose. If DNA is being interpretted by intelligent life to create life, and not just used by non intelligent mechanisms to define individuality, then please point me to the interesting URL!
  • The ham bands that require passing electronics and morse code tests have some very intelligent people frequenting them.

    Many scientists, doctors, and engineers how work for companies like NASA and the .au CSIRO. People who have made scientific discoveries. People that have a genuine love for science.

    Whiney loosers? These are the types that gave you the internet and other technologies you probably take for granted.

    I can't say for sure, but I would guess that morse code was the very first digital communications system. It punches through noise that analog voice comms could not.

    The internet has not made ham radio obsolete, it has probably made the hams appreciate their medium even more! The internet has an unmeasurably low signal to noise ratio that even makes CB seem like it is populated with nuclear scientists. :)

  • Is ham mostly one way or two way?

    2 way

    is ham all private or is it also commercial?


    is ham radio sort of like a bbs type community?

    yes - but often with an RF techy orientation (you get to build your own gear)

    do you meet new people on ham radio or talk to ones you meat in real life?


    what kind of transmit ranges are possible?


  • I am sad that they had to resort to this in order to keep interest alive in such a valuabel tool.

    Morse code is, and will always be extrememly important as a tool and in emergency situations. But Amateur Radio really is hurting right now for younger members. Going to a meeting, you only see ages 50 and above... which really is too bad, it is a fun hobby that I think kids would relly enjoy if their parents knew about it and gave some support.

    I got my license when I was 12... and I also learned morse code at that age. It certainly is not that difficult, only a little intimidating at first.

    Now those darn kids got "chat" over the internet ;)

  • Nothing compares to the power of CW. It's power is its simplicity.

    With no other means of communication can your voice travel so far using so little.

    If the world's computers had crashed around us at Y2K, you can bet that those magical dots and dashes would still be singing.

    While I hope that loosening the CW requirement will bring more people into this wonderful hobby, I hope that these newcomers will take the time to master CW anyway.

  • I remember the good old days of the ARPANET, when you had to have a government research contract to be on the network at all, and everyone on the net was smart and polite and helpful, there were no advertisements, and no AOL, and no one much bothered with computer security because it was uncool not to share your computing resources.

    Gosh, if we could only go back to those wonderful days of the elitist ARPANET...

  • Trying to paraphrase the doc, to see if I understand it right before I explain it to some friends interested in getting into HAM... do I have this right?


    The FCC revisits rules every two years, and this year, they recognized the advances in communications by simplifying the license structure. Most of it is to ease their own bookkeeping headaches, though.

    There were six classes of HAM license, each level of license including all entrance requirements and privileges of simpler level licenses.
    * Technician (first test) (50MHz+)
    * Technician Plus (5+ wpm morse) (additional privileges)
    * Novice (second test) (3-30MHz)
    * General (13+ wpm morse, third test) (additional privileges)
    * Advanced (fourth test) (275KHz)
    * Amateur Extra (20+ wpm morse, fifth test) (175KHz)

    Now, there will be three classes of HAM license,
    * Technician (first test)
    * General (second test, 5+ wpm morse)
    * Amateur Extra (third test)

    Novice and Advanced holders are grandfathered, keeping their privileges, not upgraded to additional nor downgraded to lesser privileges. Technician Plus holders renew as Technician. Technicians who pass the 5wpm morse exam will be able to use the additional privileges, but it won't be a separate license class.


    Questions: very briefly, what are the 'additional privileges' that are not new bands of frequencies? Where does someone get to use a fixed station vs a handheld station, for example?

    I guess I'm too used to business docs that require an 'Executive Summary' or separate sections for history, what ideas were proposed but rejected, and what was adopted.
  • Here in los angeles we have 145.220 for folks like you who just want to talk about antennas and coax vs. ladder line. For most people, this is just boring. For the rest of the people who like something different, we have the world famous 147.435 repeater. It is known as the "freedom of speech repeater. Kevin Mitnic used to be well known on the repeater. So if you dont want to communicate with "lids, kids and space-cadets", change the channel, we dont want to hear you either. You are a prime example of why the hobby is pretty much dead.
  • I have always wondered why morse code is neccesary for a Ham radio Licence. Is it just to prove your serious or is there more to it?
  • by def ( 87618 ) on Friday December 31, 1999 @04:38AM (#1430063) Homepage
    The ARRL posted a press release here [] describing the change that is in HTML format so you don't have to read that PDF file. Personally, I think this is a very Good Thing. The avaerage age of Amaterur radio is rising rapidly, and one major barrier to entry was the morse tests. With so many other things to interest young geeks now, that has seriously reduced the number of young people getting involved. I hope this helps alot!
  • Speaking as an Amateur Extra Class for the past 9 years, and an instructor of Amateur Radio classes, I think it's a good thing the FCC did. I personally enjoy using Morse Code, but in the Internet age, I think it is no longer a requirement for inter-continental communication. Those people who wish to learn Morse code will, and the rest would just forget it anyway. BTW, Morse code is no longer a requirement for sea-going ships, which If I remember right, was one of the reasons for continuing to require the faster Morse code tests on Amateur licences. --------------------------------------------- Howard Pepper AC4FS
  • by kermyt ( 99494 )
    Mayby this means that the FCC will relax it's stand on low power unlicensed FM broadcasts in the 88-108MHZ range... I await with baited breath
  • Is ham mostly one way or two way?

    is ham all private or is it also commercial?

    is ham radio sort of like a bbs type community?

    do you meet new people on ham radio or talk to ones you meat in real life?

    what kind of transmit ranges are possible?
  • Steve- you are right it was good advice, but it was posted by an anonymous coward. That's why it defaulted to zero. It hasn't been moderated at all.

    The had lots of good technical info, tho it didn't give me much of a feeling of how people actually use their radios.
  • How cool is that? from the air waves to the internet... These are cool times for geeks
  • Ham Radio "operators" like to laugh at "CB radio types" as clueless, redneck yahoos. Well y'all ought to take a look in the mirror some time. Here's how: turn the radios off for a couple of months and then turn them on again and just listen. Be prepared for a shock. Prior to Ham Radio I had been involved with organized volunteer public service CB radio groups. Their professionalism far and away exceeded what Ham Radio has devolved into today.

    I got a CB radio from my parents after I said it would be 'neat' to try radio. Ok, this was a while ago and the FCC required a CB license. I thought that was real cool and did the paperwork, got a call sign(KCB1476 IIRC) and had a lot of fun. The next step was to get a Ham license. Never happened for a few reasons, but I did store that CB in a closet. One day a few years later I setup the CB and said, "Break - KCB1476", well to my suprise everyone on the net (airwaves), on that channel, flamed (useful term) me for the call sign. So, I listened for a while, thought about what I was hearing, and threw the CB in the trash (after stripping it) and filed the call sign in a folder of death and forgot about radio.

    What happens when something technical becomes mainstream? The least common denominator effect surfaces. This is not a pretty sight as most people who have been around when it occurs will testify.

    Will these new rules cause me to "get into" Ham radio now? No. Did the old rules stop me? No. I just have less will to put up with stupid Sh*t. That is enought to keep me from Ham radio, even though I have plenty of time to tinker.

    By the way I think antenna design is kewl. -d

  • Check my reply to 'I gave it up'. I don't think you are wrong and I think the FCC should have kept the standard where it was. Did the community (licenced operators) have any say in the change? Did the lobby, for and against, act on their own? It really sounds like the big-shots are making the rules, as usual.

    Maybe, based on my lack of involment I missed the communication point. However, if I had a better experience when I tuned back in with a CB (KCB1476) I would not have checked out forever. The poor communication skills I heard on that day was just to much. Time I have, skills I may have, the will to put up with stupid people or bad manners, I don't have. -d

  • Ok, the soapbox has been put away. Yes, I have heard of 147.435, but I don't recall when. There are repeaters real close to where I live and I do live on high ground (dam microwave tower 1/2 mile away - eye sore). I will try this, maybe I am off base too. 1)repair the small problem my old scanner has, 2)listen with an open mind, 3)make a decision.

    Maybe visit a hamfest, need to check on the outside world anyway. -d

  • For more information in a somewhat more accessible format, you might want to check out this article on the ARRL's website [].
  • That person that you chatted with in Europe must not have been from the UK - it seems that's tehonly things they do there - drink beer and fart around at the pub.
  • Having just received my no code tech license a couple weeks ago, I'm sort of happy about this, but also a bit apprehensive. 5 wpm code should be very easy to learn and that makes me happy since it seems it should be pretty easy for me to get an extra class license now (the written tests really aren't that hard).

    However, I don't know if this is the greatest thing. I have the highest respect for someone who's been in the art for decades and can do CW at 30-40 WPM. When I do get my extra license, I'll sort of feel like a jerk compared to the people who know CW like a pro. However, IMHO, the real fun is in the lower frequencies (40M and below) and I'll be damn happy to be able to use those frequencies with more ease.

    And no matter what anyone says, when you're trying to get that DX QSO at very low power levels, CW is the way to go.

    Sam Etler - KB9VPB

  • " most hams I've spoke to though just think it's neat (kind of like programming, I guess),"

    (meaning, they think Morse code is neat, not the new law)

    Ryan Kirk
  • by Magic Snail ( 123426 ) on Thursday December 30, 1999 @11:23PM (#1430076)
    Well, there actually was a reason for the law. To quote Mr. Perens:

    " There was a logical reason to pass this law in the 1920's. Military stations needed a way to order the hams off of the air if the country went to war, or if the hams were interfering with the military stations during peacetime. Since the military didn't have any voice radios, they required the hams to learn Morse Code so that they'd understand when they were given government orders. Another reason for having the hams know Morse was that the government wanted telegraphers for communication during wartime. It took a long time to train a telegrapher, so it was easier to just draft a ham who had already learned the code. "

    Since the law is etched in international treaty, the requirement for Morse apparently can't be repealed by Congress, only slackened (as it just has been). Some see this as a way to let more people into the field of amateur radio, most hams I've spoke to though just think it's neat (kind of like programming, I guess), plus it turns their hobby into an exclusive club. One guy I know says he usually likes to just sit there and do morse code instead of talk because it's easier.

    I recommend reading Mr. Perens' article at , it gives a good background on the topic.

    (Sorry, Bruce, I got here first...)

    Ryan Kirk
  • It's all a conspiracy I tell you! Everyone is involved. The Friendly Candy Company [] and the American Radio Relay League []. They cooked this up just so those paper pushers at the FCC could have something to do, and so the ARRL could sell more study guides []! Although I would recommend that everyone get the Handbook for Radio Amateurs [], a.k.a. The Bible of All Applied Electronics. KB9UTQ
  • Now wait a sec...Radios and computers go hand in hand. Did you know what you might not have been able to post that flame if it weren't for amateur radio operators? Who do you think invented the first packet communication protocol? Yep, a couple of guys in a garage with a radio and a computer. Amateur radio is the perfect hobby for a geek wishing to leave his/her computer for a while. It can be as "do it yourself" as you wish. (Or you can just buy your rig.) Did you know that amateurs also help the Red Cross in times of emergencies? How do you think then communicate from ground zero of a hurricane after it hits and takes out all of the phone lines? Yep, volunteer amateur radio operators. And did you know that they some also train for such an event? (Field Day) I suggest you read to learn more [].

    Proud to be KB9UTQ
  • I'm working with a couple of hams in the Boston/Lowell area on building out a high-speed radio network. We're planning on using a mix of part 15 wireless gear and some high-speed ham radio imported from Slovenia ( [] I just ordered three of the radios so we will see how well they work).

    The L0pht folks tried to do something like this with but it hasn't gone very far. If you are in the Boston area, are interested in getting a ham license, and participating, please contact me at:

    --- eric (ka1eec)

  • I don't know the exact sizes. But you can fit something like 15 CW (morse code) signals into the footprint of on FM voice signal.
  • Well, considering that Amateur Radio is public service, and serves to provide considerable help during emergencies and things (at least here in the US in some parts), Morse code can fit nicely in this picture.. Continuous wave is the most efficient, and the easiest to implement. In the situation where you might need to build a transmitter/receiver, the knowledge needed is much less. At the sametime, the recieving end needs are much less too, and an intermittent carrier will punch thru where a lot of other things get ate up by static. And many more communications via CW can be carried out in the same bandwidth. Happy New Year!
  • Hehe,

    Try a little garbage picking. You could build a clean CW transmitter for much less. Solder, Board supplies, a calculator, some wire, and a soldering iron.

    They did away with circuits? Darned, now I know I have been inactive for way to long, hehe.

    Eric A. Griff, < [mailto]>
  • If you were licensed as a tech before 3/21/87 you don't need to re-test. If you are a Tech+(5wpm) all you need to do is pass the general class theory test. N0RKX
  • Here's a neat site that has Pilot software for Hams >>> er/palm-ham/ []
    and of course here for really neat Palm-APRS software >>> []
    I've always thought that if someone could port AX25 from Linux to PalmOS, that would be very neat AND useful. PPP to a gateway box is neat but somewhat limiting. The Palm Pilot is a cpu (albeit simple)... why not just connect directly to the TNC and do the link management right on the Pilot? Makes sense to me.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry