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A century of amateur radio licensing--December 13, 2012

Discussion in 'Discussions, Opinions & Editorials' started by N0NB, Dec 11, 2012.

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  1. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    December 13, 2012 marks the centennial anniversary of perhaps the the most important event in amateur radio history in the USA. The Radio Law of 1912, passed in August 1912 became effective on December 13, 1912. Radio schools at naval yards and army posts were crowded with amateurs of all levels of experience to get a license from the Department of Commerce.

    Irving Vermilya, 1HAA, later W1ZE, became the first licensed amateur in the USA being issued Certificate of Skill #1 and is known for all time as Amateur Number One. A number of other amateurs followed suit and rather than seeing amateur radio die out as the Law's authors obviously intended, amateur radio began to flourish with a combination of adopting new technology (Edwin H. Armstrong invented the regenerative receiver in September 1912) for reception and later transmitting (CW emissions became feasible after the World War) along with organizing message relay routes. Amateurs led the way finding that the wavelengths shorter than 200 meters were not useless through the new technologies and, by the early 1920s, a declining solar cycle that enabled communications not only for transcontinental paths, but intercontinental as well.

    A century later we enjoy this hobby of amateur radio precisely due to the unintended consequence of a law designed to kill amateur radio that did not state its intention exactly and instead allowed it to live and thrive for 15 years! In 1927 more comprehensive radio legislation was enacted and in 1934 the Communications Act created the FCC that we know today.

    For more information visit the United States Early Radio History site by Thomas H. White. Thomas' site is not limited to amateur radio, however, and is quite comprehensive on a lot of radio topics. The ARRL publication, 200 Meters and Down by Clinton B. Desoto documents much of the early amateur radio history. An article by David Newkirk, ex WJ1Z, now W9VES, The Coming of The Law (available to ARRL members), published in the November 1993 issue of QST also documents the forces behind the enactment of the Radio Law of 1912 and how radio amateurs responded to it. The December 2012 issue of CQ has The Radio Act of 1912: A Century of Radio Regulation and Licensing by Rich Moseson, W2VU, providing another perspective on this red letter day. Certainly, more articles on this topic have been published over the years and make for good reading.

    As of December 13, 2012 amateur radio will officially be 100 years old complete with examinations and licenses. Happy anniversary!
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Damn, seems like it was yesterday.
  3. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    WoW a hundred years of jammers and malcontents. ;)
    And the few,
    The Proud,
    The real
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    When ham #2 got on the air for the first time, he worked ham #1 and then started complaining about interference from him.
  5. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I could believe it, maybe hated the short waves due to poor propagation.
  6. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    W1ZE was hilarious....kinda like John Troster. Didn't take his status too serously. :)
  7. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    Absolutely! I wished he would have written more, but we only have the linked article written by him that I'm aware of. I would have really loved to have been a fly on the wall when the one chap energized his cannon-based electromagnet in his apartment!
  8. KB4QAA

    KB4QAA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Every time someone posts complaints about the recent rude behavior being conducted on 75m or 20m, I laugh. Irving's articles prove that bad behavior is nothing new to hamdom, because Irving was in the thick of it! ;)
  9. W5DQ

    W5DQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Interesting sidenote that in researching previos activity pertaining to my call W5DQ, I am only 4 years shy of hitting this centennial mark. I bet that if others were to take a look at their old 1x2 formats, they'd also find that their calls have a long proven history too.
  10. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, it IS a bit harder to cuss on spark gap. :)P

    It really is amazing though.....the tenacity to build an amateur LAND LINE! When I hear someone ask "How do I build a dipole" with three gillion web links to tell you how...and this guy builds an entire telegraph network with a few NEWSPAPER articles as his only information...

    One must wonder.
  11. G0GQK

    G0GQK Ham Member QRZ Page

    When radio amateur #2 eventually managed to find radio amateur #1 after searching for a couple of hours he asked him what the weather was like down his neck of the woods

    Mel G0GQK
  12. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have seen your signature before and it is neat that you have documented the history of your callsign. Mine goes to 1998 and it doesn't appear to have been issued in the '70s when first available. Our local club call can be traced to 1926 as Ernie Wolff received 9GCJ that year. Later, 1929 or thereabouts, it became W9GCJ and after the second World War W0GCJ when the tenth call area was created. After his passing and with the vanity system our club obtained Good Clean Joe. Ernie told me personally the history of his callsign.
  13. K9ASE

    K9ASE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Them Ham#3 came along and started yelling "split"
  14. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page


    Hams have become so used to this that I recently worked a guy across town who asked me about the weather.

    I told him, "It's sunny over on this side of the street.":p
  15. W6QT

    W6QT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very interesting Gene! So, one of the ways to research the past history of a call sign is dig into family history records? I wonder about my call and only know the person that had it before me, but I would imagine its origins go back much further!
  16. KJ5P

    KJ5P Ham Member QRZ Page

    I never thought about it before, but I was first licensed as a Novice at the halfway mark in 1962. (Unfortunately I can't remember my callsign then.) My grandfather was first licensed in 1915 and became active again in 1952 as K2EI. That callsign has passed through a number of hands since he passed away in 1973. My timing has been off every time it came up for grabs.

    It's a bit scary to realize that Amateur Radio is older now than morse code was in 1912.

    Don, KJ5P
  17. KA3JLW

    KA3JLW Ham Member QRZ Page


    So did I read that correctly? Ham radio licensees used to be tested on morse code?
  18. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yep. Here's a short history of how it worked in the USA:

    1912-1917: 5 wpm
    1917-1936: 10 wpm (for a few years in the 1920s there was an "Amateur Extra First Grade" which required 20 wpm)
    1936-1951: 13 wpm
    1951-1991: 5 wpm for Novice and Technician, 13 wpm for General, Conditional and Advanced, 20 wpm for Extra.
    1991-2000: No test for Technician, 5 wpm for Novice and Technician Plus, 13 wpm for General, Conditional and Advanced, 20 wpm for Extra.
    2000-2007: No test for Technician, 5 wpm for Novice, Technician-with-HF, General, Advanced, and Extra.

    - Amateur radio shut down during WW1 (1917-1919 in USA). All licenses revoked.
    - Amateur radio shut down during WW2 (1941-1945 in USA). All station licenses suspended; operator licenses still issued.
    - Conditional phased out in 1970s by renewing Conditionals as General
    - Sending tests waived after 1977
    - From 1990 to 2000, 13 wpm and 20 wpm tests could be bypassed with a "medical waiver"
    - After 2000, Technician Plus phased out by renewal as Technician.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
  19. KA3JLW

    KA3JLW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks Jim. I was kinda kidding. But that was kinda cool.
  20. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    You're welcome.

    Here are some more fun facts:

    - Until 1927, amateur radio was not recognized as a separate radio service in international treaties. It existed only in those countries whose governments decided it was worth having. The groundwork was laid at several conferences in the 1920s, and in 1927 we got written into the treaties. This meant we had official bands protected by treaty regulations (160, 80, 40, 20, 10, 5, 2-1/2 and 1-1/4 meters) and other regulations. Among the requirements was the code test requirement for all ham licenses.

    - In 1947, a provision was added that if a country wanted to have no-code-test ham licenses, they could - if the licenses only allowed operation above 1000 MHz. Over the years this limit was lowered - first to 146 MHz, then to 30 MHz.

    - Japan had a nocodetest amateur license for many decades - since at least the 1960s. They got around the treaty requirement in a unique way: such hams can only run QRP is certain band segments which are worldwide amateur-only.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
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