Incentive Licensing Retrospective

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by K3UD, Dec 21, 2005.

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  1. NY7Q

    NY7Q Guest

    So what does “destinated and on the by” mean, anyway?

    I would say, ask a chicken bandit operator.
  2. WA5PL

    WA5PL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think we, the ham community as a whole, are at fault, in general for allowing the FCC and ARRL to downgrade our hobby.

    Incentitive licensing, now matter how you feel about it, was a way of trying to advance the skill levels of hams so the hams would increase their technology knowledge and CW speed in order to obtain more band privilages. I know it worked on me! I wanted those extra band privilages, and it was the main insentative for me to obtain my Advanced and then on to my Extra Class license before there was talk of down grading the code requirement from 20 wpm to 13, to 5 to no code.

    We have not stayed up with technology advancements throught the years. Most of us have not obtained the higher education needed to build radios and we to not have ready access to electronic parts,tools and test equipment, as we once had. These two events alone has turned a lot of hams into appliance hams. It is not that many of us wanted that to happen; it just did! It is no different than trying to work on a late model auto today. Tune-ups are a way of the past just like replacing electronic components are in your radio. If you do not have the tools and knowledge, you will not attempt to repair a new $2,500 to $10,000 transceiver. Swaping out circuit boards is about the limit for a lot of hams and even that is asking a bit much for many.

    So what is left? antenna experimentation?, audio enhancements, digital communication, computer programs?, remote operation? changing the brakes or spark plugs on your auto? Yes, these things can be challenging and fun at times but these actities alone do not raise the skill levels necessary for us to build or tune up radios equivalent to the new ICOM's, Kenwoods, or Yaesu's. Building radios, knowing how to tune them up, maintain them, and repair them when they break, was the original skill sets needed to be a ham - way back in the good old days - even before my time.

    We, as a specialized ham community, have not even attempted to set up professional training classes to learn what the integrated circuits do or set up labs that would allow us to replace and test surface mount or imbedded components and circuits. The education is available and I'm sure even some of our highly skill hams would be willing to hold classes "if put to the challenge" but I have not seen very much of that come forth, probably because it is too expensive. It is too easy just to purchase a new radio, sit down and read the operating instructions, plug in an antenna, hook up a power supply, and start making contacts. If it breaks, just send it back to the manufacturer service center for repair.

    I'm not saying this is all wrong or bad but it does explain why we, as hams, are not considered as professionaly skilled as we once were like back in the 40, 50's and 60's. Maybe all of us, including myself, need to take a hard look at our skill sets and ask ourselves if we need to advance our skills. Maybe our hobby would grow again as a result. Right now I personally feel we are not much better than those who use CB. The only difference between us and them is that we have to obtain a license and know a little theory, and we should have better operating skills?

    I'm sure a lot of you will disagree with what I have said but that is how I see it! I have been a Ham since the mid 1960's and I started as a CBer when I was a kid, got my Novice when I was in the 8th grade, obtained my General, Advanced, and Extra Class license in the 70's and 80's, I still enjoy Ham Radio and talk on the radio, but I'm not proud of Amateur Radio as I once was. We did it to ourselves. Maybe we need to re-instate insentative licensing and provide some new challenges for all hams.

    Paul Lucas
  3. WA4RYW

    WA4RYW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Good points, all.
  4. WA4RYW

    WA4RYW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I too must agree that incentive licensing was a great motivator for me to advance my skills and upgrade through the ranks. Amateur radio and incentive licensing was the catalyst to what was once my career. Since I engaged the service at an early age, I also developed a work ethic that has served me very well over the years. There’s an article in QST this month from the director that addresses this issue, and although they miss the mark as the current ARRL administration predictably does, the initial argument drove home WHY amateur radio is so important to me, and why the hams that advanced through the old system are so defensive about the service. Working through the ranks WAS a very difficult process for anyone to do, and every inch of privilege was earned. The novice license was a sink-or-swim situation, and yes, the service WAS a fraternity of people that suffered the same trials. It was not a gift or right, every advance in access to spectrum was earned, and there was nothing easy about it. That’s what kept me in the hobby during events in my life where it wasn’t practical or even possible to engage radio, the fraternity and deep PRIDE that I had overcome the obstacles, requirements, initiation, whatever you wish to call it that I was a member of. I was a PIECE of amateur radio, not just a passing enthusiast. I think of it like the pride and fraternity that Marines have. Once a Marine, always a Marine. The same forces are at work here. That’s what’s wrong with retention today. Now, it’s just a hobby, like fishing or photography. You buy a radio, get a tech license, and talk. And with a brief bit of exposure to the quality of what the airwaves have to offer, quite a few choose to do something else after a while. Even a segment of the 11-meter bunch tends to migrate back to freeband. It brings back the excitement that legal radio doesn’t have, and there’s a more solid sense of camaraderie, or fraternity if you will. I believe this sense of brotherhood (or sisterhood) could be recovered, but we (by enabling the ARRL and FCC) have been tearing down the “institution” for over 15 years now. There’s very little left but the hobby.

    I consider myself VERY active in amateur radio, but I haven’t picked up a microphone (or a key) with one or two exceptions in five years. I’ve lost common ground with the current lot. I even have HF in the car, but I just listen anymore. I prefer to do my radio on the back end such as infrastructure. Now I spend my time building and supporting APRS and IRLP gateways, repeaters and the lot. Much more fun than talking for me. Especially since AO-40 took a dive. But no matter what happens, I’ll always be WA4RYW until the day I croak.
  5. W5HTW

    W5HTW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Continuing a bit. Or: The Sequel!

    I got into an electronics career. Not a "computer board pull and swap" career. And the way I got into it was I had a General class ham license. I had actually passed a test, had a proven and demonstrable technical ability, and an interest in pursusing an activity that presented a challenge to me. Those are the things employers like to see when they interview prospective employees.

    The requirements for being accepted into the job were that I know basic electronics, DC and AC theory, RF troubleshooting, and other technical skills indicative of the level of the General ham license of the early 1960s era. Other requirements were that I copy Morse code at 15 wpm, and have the ability to obtain an extremely high security clearance. Armed with those three qualifying factors, I was soon venturing around the world courtesy of my very rich Uncle in Washington, D.C. And what got me there was mostly my ham ticket, at least two out of the three.

    Many years later I had long since left that position and had begun to explore new options. By now, though, it was the early 1980s. I had a decent job, as far as pay and benefits went, but I wanted to be in a more challenging position. I was soon to find the mention of a ham license was becoming (though not completely yet) a 'no-no.' Indeed even a commercial license no longer meant much of anything.

    I remained where I was, but I explored over a period of a few years, always looking for that one challenging position that would use my diverse (and therein is the damaging word) talents, experiences and skills. "Diverse" was no longer the catchword of the employment industry. The age of specialization had begun, even then.

    When you put "diverse" on a resume that also included "ham radio license" you were, I found, branded a tinkerer, a person who goes off on his own tangent, frequently does not follow company rules, and often will not complete a task because it "doesn't turn him on." You were thinking outside the box, when the box was very important. You were not a team player but a wanderer.

    I thought that was unfair. I had just done many years in solid employment thanks to my ham license. I had also done some time in gainful employment thanks to my commercial license. All this was disappearing.

    Still, a lot of it existed in the 1980s, even though I had a hard time finding it. A friend of mine, a ham, had a very nice job with the DEA. He tried to talk me into coming to work with him. Sounded sort of fascinating, with the radio technology that was now being used, but I just could not convince myself this was the career turn I wanted to make. I passed on the opportunity. And I quickly point out my qualifications this time were NOT ham radio, but my own years in government communications service. I wasn't being sought because of a ham license, but rather through networking on a non-ham basis.

    By the early 1990s my career was doing well enough, but I have always been one to peer through the fence at different colored grasses. I began to find out that the new ham radio was almost never considered a qualifying factor for any kind of work except something like selling ham radio for a ham radio dealer. The age of speciality was upon us, as I noted in my earlier post. More and more, the tinkerer was out the door.

    But worse than that, I learned that the new ham had a very negative effect on employers. He was seen no longer as just a tinkerer, but often as someone who thinks he knows far more than he does. Far more. He had that Tech ticket and he thinks he is now Marconi's Gift to the electronics world. If hired, (I was told this by an employer friend of mine who had hired hams now and then) he comes in unwilling to learn, for he thinks he has nothing TO learn. He wants to be boss immediately, or at least a junior level director of operations. After all, he has years' of experience at pressing a PTT switch, for he spent 20 years in CB radio. He is total expert, and he insists you, the employer, treat him as such. He wants to make ham radio a part of his job, even if his job is running a printing press. After all, he is a former CBer, he has a HAM (yes, now it is capitalized, and stands for something, though no one knows what) license, and he assumes you hired him to use and talk radio on the job. My friend, in fact, was a bit harder on them than that, and I don't recall all he said. And yes, he was (and is) a ham.

    So we have easier tests and more of the "right now" group, and more of the "I done been in CB so I IS an expert," and it fades the lustre badly on the old scene of a ham ticket is a ticket to a career. Toss in the "I got my Tech ticket so now I'm a cop" type, and the lustre disappears into the mud.

    I did feel Incentive Licensing was a good thing. The idea of taking away things as a carrot was a poor one. But even then, it worked. Thousands of hams DID improve themselves, especially technically. Quite a few who could not pass the 20 wpm code test, didn't know that. So they studied the theory and became far more knowledgeable, only to find they didn't have the dedication to pass the code. Still, they were better hams. They had more knowledge, and that is what Incentive Licensing was all about.

    It was, though, too late. The dream that the ham could once again become that highly valued "pool of trained technicians" thanks to Incentive Licensing, did not take into consideration that the world was already changing, and those technicians were about as valuable as udder-clippers on a rooster.

    I think Incentive Licensing was at least a half hearted attempt by the ARRL to make ham radio return to its Glory Days. As others have said, those days were probably in the 40s and 50s, and I feel extremely fortunate to have come along in them, albeit in the sunset years. But as such an attempt, I have always felt that Incentive Licensing was a good idea. It just had a bad implementation. And yet, it worked. It worked then, it works now. I would LOVE to go back to the end of the 1960s, and have ham radio pick up some of the shine it once had.

    Ain't gonna happen. The shine is gone, and the shoeshine boys have retired. Where we go in the future is little more than speculation, but in almost no scenario is it even vaguely pretty. And in no scenario at all, does it resemble ham radio in its heyday.

  6. KB7UXE

    KB7UXE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, you can figure this:
    if you have a license or not, it don't meen nothin anymore.
    cause theyer just gonna hire someone in india at 20 cents an hour
    ta do what ever job you thought you migh be able to do for a decent wage. so there went the incentive to actually earn a license, to actually know anything.
    ham license now is simply a permit you purchase to play radio with your biuddies. 10-4.
    You can thank the fcc/white house for that.

    there should be a tarriff on any job outsourced out of the us
    at such a rate it would make it cheaper to hire a local.
    'ol uncle Ross was right, that big sucking sound of jobs leaving the us.
  7. N5UV

    N5UV Ham Member QRZ Page


    I'm sorry guys, this is really flogging a dead horse. The ARRL is evil, the FCC is evil, all "new" hams are evil, the only good hams are dead and gone now, the end of the world is coming and I hope I'm dead before I see it, blah, blah, blah....

    I for one will do my job, try to promote the hobby to other potential hams, be warm and friendly to new hams, and just enjoy the fact that there are some folks out their with a similar interest in this hobby. I really see ham radio going into more of a public service role as time goes on, with a technical aspect that will always appeal to can make this hobby as technical as you like, but I think it's ridiculous to think that ham radio will improve by keeping the entrance criteria antiquated and excessively difficult to enter. And, if that means the entrance exam into ham radio seems watered-down, so what...I may actually want to relearn CW someday just because it's a challenge, why can't we let new hams make that decision for themselves after they've tested the waters. I'd rather have "churn" and lose some hams than have fewer, more dedicated folks getting into the hobby. Let people find what they like about the hobby, and welcome them with open arms.
  8. KB7UXE

    KB7UXE Ham Member QRZ Page

    and your pioint is?

    if they want below 30mhz let them learn cw, let them earn their license.
    if they don't want to learn cw, they can stay a tech-.

    You don't become ceo of a company just cause you want to,
    you have to earn it...
    ( unless your daddy buys the company for you. ) :cool:

    Darwin was right. eveloution is a good thing.
    let the weak of mind and body die off so the strong and smart cw ops can inherit the earth.
  9. N5UV

    N5UV Ham Member QRZ Page

    "You don't become ceo of a company just cause you want to, "

    Right, but ham radio is a hobby,not a business. There is no CEO of ham radio per se, so the end result is that there is no CEO position to vie for. Your analogy doesn't make much sense.

    The point is: I'm sorry we can't all enjoy the pleasure of listening to dots and dashes, I just don't think in this day and age that needs to be a required element for being a ham...WITH HF priveleges. I'm sorry the Patrician Caste of ham radio can't stand for those "other" hams to get into or upgrade in the hobby so easily. America is suppose to be a classless society, so why do we still think in these terms of us vs. them in this hobby?

    Here, I'll through some gasoline on this fire...I think the ARRL's recommended band plan (in the Jan. 2006 QST issue) is exactly what we need. Way to go ARRL! I've advocated voice priveleges for years for Novice/Tech. hams, except on the crowning jewel of 20m. That's fair in my opinion. I'm not going to be one these of scolding types that makes it a point to tell new hams just how much harder the test used to be...who cares, I'm glad in this day and age to see ANYONE show an interest in ham radio that never did before.
  10. N8NU

    N8NU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Some of my long-held beliefs about licensing:

    1) Limiting generals to small slivers of the HF phone bands was a disaster, first causing crowding, then the unwelcoming situation of adv/extra bands dominated by canned DX operation, general bands run by nets, and nowhere to call CQ. (I remember having an advanced ticket in the 1980's, but spending most of my operating time on the novice bands). If they had to do incentive licensing, whole phone bands (just 20m for adv/extra, perhaps) would have been better.

    2) Limits on data operation by baud rates, rather than bandwidth, should have been changed long, long ago. All those years that the "information superhighway" was developing, as data on telephone lines went from 300 baud to 28000 and beyond, amateurs were unable to advance beyond the model 15 teletypewriter. If the regulations had been in bandwidth in the first place, amateur radio could have become the "information airline". I'm afraid it may be too late now.

    3) The codeless tech (1991) was not a bad idea, maybe a little too late, but one mistake was the huge gap in the license structure, which left little incentive to learn 5 wpm code, and 13 wpm needed for HF phone AND DATA, which may have appeared beyond reach to those not already in amateur radio. A strong intermediate license (e.g., 5 wpm, some HF phone, perhaps 40m, and general CW and data privliges) was needed to retain interest in CW.

    4) Knowing CW never proved one was a good operator. It did, however, show that an operator could switch to more bandwidth-efficient operation when the phone bands became too crowded. If too many operators capable only of using SSB enter the phone bands, the bands could become uncivilized. Narrowband digital operation (including PSK31) must be on any new general or extra license exam, and amateurs should be encouraged to develop modes of digital audio using 1500 Hz or less of bandwidth.

    5) (and I say this as an extra class licensee who can already operate here). Much of 40m suffers crowding because of increased data operation and phone operation outside the USA (especially Canada).
    I think that 7000-7025 kHz, currently extra-only, should be opened to generals and advanced as well. The incentives to upgrade to extra would still be very much in place, and the change would encourage CW, PSK and data operation on the very useful 40m band.

    comments welcome (though I only can read mail about once a week)
    73 and 64 (happy new year) to all, Rob
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