FCC to re-institute CW as part of license requirements?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KJ4RT, Apr 4, 2021.

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  1. WZ7U

    WZ7U Ham Member QRZ Page

    Bicker bicker bicker. :rolleyes:
    W4NNF and AC0GT like this.
  2. WA1GXC

    WA1GXC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Harsh. Trans-Atlantic cable, long before radio. Your point would be?
  3. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    aka "Meaningless banter"
  4. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sort of. There were several factors involved.

    Partly. But there were other factors, IMHO:

    1) The first thing to go was the sending test (about 1978). Testing sending required a trained examiner who would decide, hopefully with some objectivity, whether the examinee could send Morse or not. Testing receiving simply required a code machine and transcripts; anyone who could read could test receiving. Eliminating the sending test saved a lot of resources.

    2) From about the mid-1960s onward, FCC lost control of 11 meters. FCC itself had created the problem, and had never imagined that millions of Americans would simply ignore/defy FCC rules and do whatever they felt like on that "band".

    When 11 meter folks were asked why they didn't just get Amateur Radio licenses, which allowed far more power, bands, modes, etc., the single most-given reason they were given was "the code test". "I just want to TALK on the radio, why do I have to learn beeps?" The written tests were rarely given as a reason. FCC clearly saw a possibility....

    3) At the 1927 World Radio Conference, the treaty required all radio amateur operators to pass Morse code tests. At the 1947 World Radio Conference, an exception was made for licenses that only gave privileges above 1000 MHz. Over time, the 1000 MHz limit was lowered (in steps) to 30 MHz. But the USA did not avail itself of the exception until 1991.

    This wasn't from lack of trying. In 1975 or so, FCC proposed a new 7 license class, two-ladder license system - one set of licenses for HF (Novice, General, Advanced) and one set for VHF/UHF (Communicator, Technician, Experimenter). Under that system, the Communicator license would have no code test at all, and a very simple written test. (The Extra would remain the full-privileges license).

    This happened about the same time that FCC and EIA were pushing a "Class E" service that would remove 220 from amateurs and give it to the citizens service. 5 MHz would be enough room for a few hundred FM channels, and by the 1970s the technology of VHF synthesizers and FM power RF amplifiers was well developed.

    The idea was clear: 11 meter folks would get Communicator licenses or go Class E, and get off 11 meters. Trouble was, both amateurs and 11 meter folks the Class E thing, and amateurs opposed the 7 level 2 ladder system very strongly.

    Still, FCC didn't give up on the idea. They tried again in the early 1980s to create a nocodetest amateur license, and then succeeded in 1991.

    3) Through the 1980s to the present, the FCC continued to look for ways to reduce their workload. The VEC system was the biggest change; it took an enormous amount of work that had been done by paid Federal employees in Federal offices and handed it off to unpaid volunteers using their own resources. The 10 year license term was another worksaver - eliminate over 50,000 renewals per year !

    4) Intervention by a King who was also a ham got us medical code waivers in 1990. This effectively lowered the code speed to 5 wpm for all licenses; all it took to get a waiver was a form letter signed by any M.D. or D.O. saying it would take longer than usual for the person to do 13 or 20 wpm code. No reason had to be stated nor did the medical problem have to be permanent.

    Anyone who knew how to present their story could get a letter ("Doc, when I listen to code for more than a minute or so I get a headache". "Doc, the dits and dahs all sound the same to me". ) Who used a waiver was not to be divulged for medical confidentiality reasons.

    Ten years of waivers and 9 years of nocodetest Technician licenses gave FCC reason to say "the only reason for the code test to stay is the treaty". Which they did in 1999.

    5) There was a small, single-purpose but very vocal organization in the 1990s and early 2000s whose only purpose was the elimination of code testing. They made a lot of noise and said a lot of things FCC wanted to hear. (And once the code test was gone, the organization disappeared.)

    We've been here before. That argument may have made sense in the 1930s, but by the end of WW2 the need for radiotelegraph operators was already diminishing as RTTY (RATT to the Army) was taking over. Plus, the services were able to train all the operators they needed.

    And again, the services were able to train what they did need.

    The "reserve of trained operators in time of war" has been a gross exaggeration for more than 60 years. Simply passing a one-time plain-language code test of 13 wpm (all that was required for full amateur privileges until November 1968) does NOT mean someone is ready to be a military or commercial radiotelegraph operator - particularly years after they passed the test.

    If that's not enough, consider how few amateurs, even back a few decades, would be eligible for military service.

    It's clear they stopped that line of thinking long before 2000. But there's more!

    The FCC was also under pressure from commercial interests. Note how the old system of Commercial RadioTelephone and RadioTelegraph operators and endorsements was trimmed down to almost nothing. This saved commercial interests a ton of money, compared to the old days when they had to hire only Licensed Commercial Radio Operators for a whole bunch of tasks.

    Go back 50-60 years, and you'll see that a First 'Phone was almost a Golden Ticket to a decent job. Add a First Telegraph or even a Second, and you were sitting pretty. Not that the jobs were easy or that you didn't have to know your stuff, but they were good jobs that didn't require a college degree or years of trade school. Nor could the jobs be automated or sent "offshore".

    The commercial interests wanted to reduce those costs - and they got their way. All that's left is the GROL and one RadioTelegraph license.

    I think it was more about "we just want to cut our workload".

    Note that the 2000 restructuring also reduced written testing dramatically. Used to be 5 tests totalling about 190 questions, now it's 3 tests totalling 120 questions.

    Before 2000, a new ham could take as many as 5 steps from no-license to Extra (Step 1: Novice or Technician. Step 2: Upgrade to Tech Plus. Step 3: Upgrade to General. Step 4: Upgrade to Advanced. Step 5: Upgrade to Extra). Most of those steps involved 2 tests.

    After 2000, a new ham could take a maximum of 3 steps from no-license to Extra (Step 1: Technician. Step 2: Upgrade to General. Step 3: Upgrade to Extra) All of those tests involve 1 test.

    Think about all the administrative work eliminated from, say, 1981 to 2021.

    And note this:

    The treaty requiring code tests was changed in February 2003. But the FCC rules didn't change until April 2007 - almost 4 years later.

    FCC could easily have issued an order in the fall of 2003 saying "we told you back in 1999 that the only reason we kept code tests was for the treaty. Now the treaty is gone, so the code tests are gone too."

    But they didn't. It wasn't just slow-moving FCC, either.

    All ancient history now.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    WA4KCN likes this.
  5. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

  6. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Shoot, there was commercial transatlantic TELEPHONE service in 1927. When it wasn't being used for voice calls, it carried four channels of....teletype.
    KI4ZUQ and W4NNF like this.
  7. K2EDM

    K2EDM Ham Member QRZ Page

  8. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Of course there were many factors, the important part is that sometime in the 1980s the FCC was losing interest in testing for Morse code proficiency in radio operators. Computers were more accurate than a telegraph operator and didn't ask for a paycheck. The FCC and the industry had a plan to get rid of the telegraph operators by the year 2000, if not far sooner. The reality of it all wasn't so clean, many poorer nations kept their telegraph stations far longer. I suspect that there's still a few nations hanging on to their code keys out of a combination of inertia, poverty, and stubbornness.

    I've seen this before but I have my doubts on how seriously this was considered. I've seen people post news articles that were clipped from magazines from the era but it's possible this was taken with as much seriousness as that "Tyro" license from a couple years ago.

    Yep, that happened. I have no doubt the FCC wanted it sooner but felt pressure to keep the Morse code tests longer.

    Another claim that I find having very weak evidence to support it.

    Yes, we have been here before. The goal of the FCC was to keep a pool of radio operators in case of a draft. Not just because these people would be called to military service but because if drafted they'd be leaving their civilian jobs open. If there wasn't a pool of noncombatants ready to fill these jobs then the military could have a problem finding enough combat ready warriors. They needed women, teenagers, and retirees in their database as much as they needed young men that were fit to fight a war.

    Was the military ready to train the radio operator equivalent of "Rosie the riveter"? No, they weren't. That had to come from elsewhere. Factory work was left to "Rosie" as did jobs operating radios for police, fire, civil aircraft, and so forth.

    Then comes those called to the military and had experience with Morse code from Amateur radio would still have their military training but it could be abbreviated. Nobody was going to go from ham radio operator to a foxhole overnight. If the person came to the military with Morse code knowledge and radio experience then they could be put on a two month training track instead of three.

    I made no claim that a licensed Amateur radio operator would be a "drop in" replacement for a military radio operator.

    This is not a "gross exaggeration" but a misunderstanding of the goals. By having a database of people that passed a 5 WPM and 13 WPM Morse code test the military and government services had a list of people that they could expect could be trained up to the 16 WPM, 20 WPM, and 25 WPM standards they expected for various government and military positions. Having that database of people trained to 5 WPM and 13 WPM was far better than nothing. I have no doubt these people would be tested again for their Morse code proficiency before their MOS/rating was chosen for them. I have no doubt that they'd still require extensive training on the equipment they'd be using, the processes of handling traffic, and the "lingo" they'd use on the air.

    Again, I made no claims that these people would be skipping over any training or testing. The point is that there would be an incentive for civilians to self train with Amateur radio and the FCC would have a ready database of people suited for military and government communications positions which would make it easier to locate suitable people for these jobs and allow for abbreviated training for potentially thousands of military recruits and civil servants in a time of war.

    I believe it was just the slow moving FCC.

    If so then why did you feel the need to expand what I believe was well summed up in a sentence or two into many paragraphs? Saying that the FCC lost interest in Morse code training shortly before their 1990 decision to create the "no-code" Technician should have been enough, no? Do we really need to go over anything more than a mention of the replacement of Morse code with RTTY, radiofax, and other technologies at the time? Don't get me wrong, this can be something of great interest for many but if it's "ancient history" then why give ten paragraphs of detail when one is enough? So, yes, many factors lead to where we are. A big one was technology, another was a desire for broadcasters and shipping to lower labor costs, and then comes public opposition to Morse code testing to get a radio license.
  9. W3WN

    W3WN Ham Member QRZ Page

    No wonder Mr. Debakey and Mr. Barnard are starving for clients.
    N0TZU and N2EY like this.
  10. KG7QJB

    KG7QJB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I wish I had learned it at an early age, as we get older everything is harder. It is a wonderful way to get signals across the continents without a large amount of wattage and a big pocketbook. Who knows i may start over this winter and focus my mind that i am going to learn it. I know where I went wrong the first time , too much paper and pencil and not enough listening. I have all the learning cd's etc.

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