Electric Radio Magazine

Discussion in 'Amplitude Modulation' started by AC0OB, May 9, 2017.

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    That was before my time (mid-1960s). But, to play devil's advocate for a moment.....if the popularity of SSB was increasing and the popularity of AM wasn't, wouldn't there come a time when it was reasonable to move the demarcation point?

    As for the SSB folks down near 3800 - note that while the US 'phone subband in those times stopped at 3800, other countries went lower, and it was common for DX 'phones to operate "split", transmitting below the US 'phone subband edge but listening above. As more and more DX stations went to SSB, there would be an incentive for US SSB users wanting to work them to go below 3900.

    Of course to operate "split" required either a separate tx/rx or a (pardon my french) transceiver and an external VFO. But most of those (insert the t-word HERE)s could only handle a limited amount of "split" with an external VFO, because they used the same tuned circuits for both tx and rx. This effect wasn't bad on the higher HF bands (20 and 15), but on 75 it could be quite a problem. Tune the radio for correct TX on 3903, and receive sensitivity on 3775 would be terrible. Do the reverse, and TX power would be practically nil.

    Not saying one side was right or wrong, just the dynamics of what was going on. And then in November 1968....

    I agree 100%. There was plenty of growth before 1951, but the Novice really poured on the coal, so to speak. The Novice got an additional boost when it became by-mail for all, regardless of distance from an FCC office (~1954), because then a newcomer only needed to find a local ham or otherwise qualified volunteer examiner to give the tests.

    I don't know how true that really was, given the number of new hams who did pass the 13 wpm code before 1951. And IMHO one did not have to "fully master" it - just be able to copy 1 solid minute out of 5 legibly, and send with a straight key reasonably well.

    Well, a person could learn to send that way. Receiving was another story.....

    In those days there were Instructograph machines and records for learning code. But they weren't necessary, really - see below.

    I taught myself to send quite well with a J-37 (still have it and use it) and a homebrew code oscillator (long gone). To learn receiving, I built a simple regenerative receiver and listened to other hams using CW on 80 and 40 meters. I (unwittingly) used a variation of the Koch method: I would listen for a particular letter (such as A) and whenever I heard an A, I'd write it down. Other letters just got a line on the paper. Once I was copying A pretty well, I added another letter - say, N. When I was OK with N, I'd add another. Pretty soon I was copying them all.

    True - but, unfortunately, too many hams got into bad habits that way, and "hit the wall" or "reached the plateau" around 10 wpm, because that's about the limit of "counting dits" for most people. It can be argued that lowering the code speed to 5 wpm set a trap for newcomers, because it unintentionally encouraged bad habits that 13 wpm did not.

    IMHO it wasn't just the code speed, there was also the written test and the technical issues. The original Novice test was just 20 very basic questions, all of them multiple choice. MUCH simpler than the General/Conditional/Tech written, which in 1951 was about 50 questions, and included essays, draw-a-diagram, and show-your-work calculation questions at a much higher level.

    On top of that, the limited Novice privileges made the technical issues simpler. In the days when General/Conditional was "entry level", a new ham would be faced with a wide range of choices of band, mode, power level, equipment, etc. 80 CW? 10 phone? How much power? VFO or crystal? One band or several? All were open to the new ham in 1950 - but that didn't mean the newcomer would make the best choices.

    The Novice, with its reduced choices, made all that much simpler. The 75 watt power limit and crystal control meant that a very simple transmitter would be "competitive" in the Novice subbands. Somebody running 15 watts to a basic one-tube oscillator transmitter would be less than an S-unit below the Novice running the 75 watt limit. Having only limited subbands removed the question of where in the band to operate. Having only a few bands meant the ham with only one or two wasn't at that much of a disadvantage. Etc.

    All too true.

    Originally, the Novice included privileges on 80, 11 (!) and 2 meters. Over time, 11 was dropped while 40 and 15 were added. 2 meter 'phone was dropped as part of incentive licensing about 1967-68, and eventually 2 meter CW/MCW as well - for just the reasons you mentioned.

    I agree about "life, the draft, or procrastination", as well as what was known as "the Technician trap" in these parts (Novices who spent too much time on 2 meter 'phone, then got Techs as their Novices were about to run out).

    But IMHO there was another factor: the ham who did things out of sequence. We're seeing a 21st century version of this today with some new hams.

    Most of the Novice hams I knew who went on to General and beyond got started in the following way:

    1) They found out about amateur radio from various sources and began reading books, finding other hams, etc.

    2) They got an HF receiver and strung up some sort of antenna, and began listening to hams and other HF radio services. Part of this was to learn code, but they also learned what to expect on HF - propagation, QRM and QRN, operating practices, different services, different modes, etc.

    3) They began to seriously study for the Novice exam, and to work on setting up a station. Was the receiver they had good enough for 2-way operation? How about the antenna? What band(s) would be used? What sort of transmitter and TR system? Operating desk? Etc.

    4) They "overlearned" in preparation for the exam, because getting another go was a real pain in the paperwork.

    5) Once the test(s) were passed, setting up a station went into high gear, in order to be able to go on the air as soon as the license arrived. (In my case, I built my first transmitter in the weeks spent waiting for the license to arrive).

    The result was that as soon as the wonderful little envelope arrived, the new ham was ON THE AIR - and ready, because of all the experience listening and assembling a station.


    Some newcomers would set about getting the license first, without doing anything about getting a receiver, setting up a station, etc. They'd learn the code from tapes, records, or a class, and the theory from books. So when the license arrived, they were caught unprepared to actually use it. They'd spend a lot of precious Novice time figuring out what they needed, getting it, and setting it up. And then time ran out.

    73 de Jim N2EY
  2. K5UJ

    K5UJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I got Novice in 1972. I think I had it for a year. But I think by then it was good for 2 years and FCC had gotten rid of the 2 m. phone privilege which was okay because to me that was very exotic and beyond my means. I recall starting out trying to learn each character from A to Z and it didn't take long for that to not work out. Somehow I got a copy of Learning The Radiotelegraph Code that the ARRL published and the one nugget of revelation in it was learning the letters by groups of similar dot and dash combinations. I had a Hallicrafters oscillator and key and a small reel to reel tape recorder my family had purchased years earlier. I'd send lessons and record them, then play them back a few nights later when I had forgotten what I sent, adding a new code group and reviewing previous ones each night. It took about a month, of one hour per night sessions but I remember after four weeks I was on top of it and working on speed plus numbers and punctuation. The CW tests for General and Extra were a breeze because all I did was operate CW and I handled traffic. Back then I'd hear about some mythical 10 w.p.m. "speed barrier" preventing folks from upgrading to General. I never believed it.
    N2EY likes this.
  3. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great story! And yes, in 1972 the Novice license term was 2 years.

    The 10 wpm "speed barrier" did exist for some people. From what I observed, it was almost always those who had developed the habit of "counting dits and dahs". IOW, they didn't hear "S" as dididit, a single sound, but rather as three sounds, and they'd count them and then figure out it was an S. Trouble was, they couldn't do it fast enough to get past about 10 wpm.

    I also encountered cases where the problem was writing it down, which was required for the test back then. Some folks just didn't write or print all that fast.

    True story - when I tried 13 wpm the first time, I didn't make it. Not because I couldn't copy that fast, but because The Examiner couldn't read my "Palmer Method" parochial-school longhand well enough to find the required 65 legible correct consecutive characters. So I went home and taught myself to block-print at 30 wpm, copied W1AW code practice and bulletins until I could put down a complete 18 wpm bulletin without a hitch, went back and passed 13 easily.

    73 de Jim. N2EY
  4. KA4KOE

    KA4KOE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I used Radio Shacks book "From 5 to 1000W" to learn the Morse. Did it by myself. Worked for me back in '79.
    N2EY likes this.

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