Incentive Licensing Retrospective

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

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  1. WB5YIW

    WB5YIW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Let me relate some local experience here that is in line with what you said.  Here in NW Arkansas, you can do a zip code search in the license database and come up with roughly 1300 listings in 3 counties.  At one time, there were up to 5 active clubs in this area with upwards of 2 dozen vhf and uhf repeaters on the air, and at least twice that many that were "paper" repeaters.  Of the 1300 I mentioned probably 400 or so were members of one or more of the 5 clubs I mentioned.  The one I belonged to was the largest at the time, with upwards of 250 members.  Out of those, you could get 20-30 to the monthly meeting, sometimes more.  If we scheduled any sort of emergency training, 90 percent of them would sign up, and when the time came, 3, maybe 4 would actually show up. Have an actual search or disaster, 2 dozen people you'd never worked with or even met before would be there. All well intentioned I'm sure, but lacking even the most basic training in traffic handling, or more importantly, working with city, county and state officials (many of whom are elected).  Invariably, at least one of them would get mad because he wasn't the "boss" and make some sort of scene, getting hams lumped into the "lunatic fringe" category with local officials.  Sad, but it happened more than once.

    We used to go out and help with bicycle races, motocycle races, marathons, all sorts of stuff. We'd get a decent turnout for stuff like that, 10 or 12, but you know who they were?  With very few exceptions, they were the new folks...the No-Code Techs.  None of the old guys except for one or 2 would ever come to any of this stuff, and would usually gripe the whole time about what a waste of spectrum these activities were. It happened so much, that we actually got a letter from one of the groups thanking us for our past service, but from now on we wouldn't be needed.  They were going to use FRS.

    Well, so much for public service.  

    Then there was a group that complained that all the club ever did was "repeater" stuff.  Not quite sure what they meant by that, so I tried repeatedly to put some activities together for the HF guys.  On the air scavenger hunts, contest activities, and so on.  My first idea was the CQ WW WPX contest. Mailed out invitations, even, 50 of them. Exactly 1 of them showed up.  Talked to them, all I ever got out of any of them was "oh, I don't do contests...damned lot of foolishness".  Got the same reaction to the on the air scavenger hunt.  Waste of time.   Ok, "what do you guys want to do?" I asked.  "Well, I uh....I just like to monitor mostly.  And I like a nice quiet frequency.  Don't care for all that jibberjabber."  These weren't NCT's, these were guys that had been licensed longer than I've been alive.

    So much for having fun as a group.

    Fast forward to the present.  There are still piles of repeaters on the air, all of them nice and quiet.  Most are pl'd to keep the intermod out, and a couple of them are even programmed to not transmit the PL tone when it identifies, that way it doesn't disturb any of the folks that like to "monitor".  Oh, the club I talked about, doesn't exist now. In-fighting and such destroyed it. I myself am no longer a member of any club, nor do I ever intend to be again.  Most of the time, you never hear anyone on the air, save the occasional husband-wife conversation that lasts maybe a minute: "I'm on my way home, need anything?"  "Naw, come on home, supper is already started."  "Ok, see ya in a few"...etc.

    On HF, there is a statewide net that meets every night. Anywhere from 25 to 100 will check in, and very few, very few indeed, don't add "count only" to thier check in.  Why bother?  As soon as they are acknowledeged, the disappear.  Guess you have to make sure the amp still works once in a while, even if you aren't going to talk to anyone.

    And we wonder why commercial interests are encroaching on our bands.  Here's my predicition for the future of ham radio.  I predict that sometime in the next 10 or 15 years, all spectrum assigned to the amateur service above 500mhz will be reassigned, possibly even our segment at 70 cm.  I don't think there will be any serious encroachment below that, mainly because of the size of the antennas, and because there's really not enough spectrum there to be of much help. Besides, from 2 meters down, propagation plays a factor.  Short range point to point communications don't work well on frequencies that tend to reach over the horizon.  That's one of the reasons law enforcement, fire service, etc.  has tended to migrate to uhf, no intereference from other services hundreds or even thousands of miles away on the same frequency.  And we're not going to use it anyway.  How many of you have ever made a contact with another ham on a frequency above 70cm?  Sure, there is a many of you have equipment for it right now?  I've done a little weak signal work on 1296, but never above there, and that was years ago.  I'll bet there aren't a dozen readers of this forum that can even tell you where the amateur band in the 900 mhz segment is (without looking it up), much less have used it.  

    As for HF, especially if BPL will cause all the problems that I keep hearing about, I see even more spectrum being made available to hams.  No one else will want it.  I predict the death of the AM broadcast band and having it reassigned to the amateur service.  I don't know about you, but I haven't listened to an AM station in years (other than on 40 meters when i'm trying to talk to someone at night). And with satellite radio gaining in popularity, AM is doomed, and the FM broadcast band will lose listeners in droves.

    I mentioned it or not, it's coming and you can't stop it. I live out in the bojacks, and even though I'm a ham of more than 25 years, I'd subscribe if it was available.  I'm on dial up, no dsl or cable available. My only recourse for broad band is satellite, and its just too expensive.  Most of my neighbors are anxiously awaiting the day when they can get broadband, BPL or otherwise.  I said something about the interference to ham radio it causes, and one of them said "good!  you've been screwing up my tv for years.  about time you got some of it!"  Never mind his tv is 30 years old.

    Anyway. the point of all this is this....we have become so old and so inflexible that we've outlived our usefulness.  Yes, sometimes we step in and help out.  Most of the time, even when we do something good, we don't get any press for it, and the county/state/federal official being interviewed on tv is not about to admit that his system failed and a bunch of "amateurs" saved the day. He might not get re-elected if that happened.

    I'm going to talk a minute about the technical side of our hobby now for a bit.  Some of the other folks mentioned that. Sure, some of us are technically inclined, some are appliance operators.  I worked as a repairman for a couple of years at a local Motorola dealership, and while that's hardly noteworthy, I have made my living professionally for a time as a result of having a ham ticket.  As for home brewing equipment, have any of you priced components lately?  I have an IC-725 that in its day was as good as it got.  It sold new for around $1000 back then. I haven't priced it totally, but I would be willing to bet that if you tried to build this radio from scratch today, assuming the parts were available, it would cost upwards of $10,000. Let alone the test equipment needed to get it aligned and operating properly.  A decent service monitor these days can run into many thousands of dollars.  In case you haven't noticed, the days of the o-scope and the VTVM are gone, guys.

    Ok, I'm done now.


  2. KE6I

    KE6I Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yeah well a lot of people are less interested in operating than they are in defending 'their frequency'. Though maybe some of them gave up actual ham radio and are busy defending their turf on and from the influx of the imaginary no-code techs and CBers.

    Me, I don't think it'd be so bad to have a few more people to talk to. It sucks calling CQ and getting no answers.
  3. W0GI

    W0GI Ham Member QRZ Page


    I think that you have the right idea. This hobby is about making new things happen. And the real great thing, if you get into the technical part, is that you learn to understand how the IPOD's and cellphones work, and a lot more.

    We may not have the bandwidth on HF to do some of it, but the learning is priceless.

    There is a lot of cool stuff that goes on up in the higher frequencies, that most never notice.

    We are so dazzeled with HF, that we never seem to do much up in the GHz. Yet the high frequencies are the breeding grounds for the stuff of the future, because the bandwidth is there.

    I do want to apologize for being such a hardass to you on the Garretson issue. Just like radio, sometimes you learn, even when you are an OF.

    It is way too easy to read some words, and then feel that you know where someone is coming from, when you really don't.

    What I do know, is that we all have the same passion for this silly ham radio thing. We butt heads, sometimes get out of line, but in the end we slowly may find that we are the same team.

    The members of this service are as diverse as the service itself. And when we stop talking about techs verses 20 wpm extras, we will be ahead of the game.

    Ki4mve had a great post. He basicaly came forward, put it on the table, and made all of the BS we type seem a bit silly. This guy is going forward, while we argue about the past, present, and future. The future isn't what we think it will be, but what we make it.

    I have a feeling that while we type away moaning and complaining, Chad will be doing something cool with radios.

    Now that is a kick in the head.

    Thanks for the reply Charles, I think I know a lot more about you, and learned that I shouldn't go off half-cocked at the drop of a hat, and learned some things about myself.


    Bob W6NJ
  4. KB1SF

    KB1SF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page


    You have absolutely hit the nail on the head.

    We ARE all on the same team here, and we ALL want what's best for the hobby.

    And, you are also absolutely correct when you note that this medium leaves a lot to be desired in the communication department.  Unfortunately, experience has shown that it is very easy to make myself look like a complete idiot at the speed of light with this Internet stuff.  And, sadly, I have done so...on numerous occasions.

    It's often been opined that we Hams do a wonderful job of talking with each other, but we also seem to have an extremely difficult time listening to each other.

    One of my college professors from long ago defined "listening" as a "sharing of meaning".  That is, after the transfer of information has taken place, both the sender and the receiver share not only the same thoughts, but those thoughts have the same meaning for both.  As you have so ably noted, that's extremely difficult to do when all you have to work with are words on a computer screen.

    I think one of the main problems with Internet forums is that a lot of the normal human communication paths we use to check out our assumptions about what someone else is saying (body language, tone of voice, verbal inflection, and (most importantly) the ability to ask clarification questions in a timely way) are totally missing from this medium.  The built-in time lag between posts simply adds to the potential for confusion and misunderstanding.

    The end result is that we often end up NOT "sharing the same meaning" with others while trying to express our thoughts.  We also tend to leap to conclusions about what we THINK someone else is saying.  All too often, I've found my own initial conclusions about a person's thoughts on a subject were dead wrong.  

    I guess that's one of the reasons why I’m trying very hard to "listen with my questions running" when I'm posting things here.  But, then again, I'm human too, and keeping myself from leaping to a conclusion before I have all the facts is extremely hard to do, especially when passions are running high.

    As far as "passions" and Ham Radio go, like you, I think it is extremely important to remember that each of us has our own particular interest in the hobby.  Some of us like to tinker and experiment, while others like to simply communicate.  Both aspects are clearly contained in the ITU definition that forms the regulatory underpinnings of the Amateur Service.  And, it is precisely this diversity that makes Ham Radio the wonderful hobby that it is.  

    Just as long as we are able to retain enough spectrum space to play with (which, as I have outlined in a previous post, is a big “if” at this point) I'm confident there will be plenty of room to accommodate everyone’s particular “passion” going forward.

    73 and Happy Holidays to all!

    KB1SF / VA3KSF
  5. K5XS

    K5XS Ham Member QRZ Page

    "In that day many of us simply accepted the FCC as being GOD. We feared it, we expected to be monitored, even at 2 am on 75 meters, and a single "damn" was going to get us nailed."

    And it was a better time for much of ham radio, too.
  6. K5MYJ

    K5MYJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I got my novice ticket in 1957. I also got a tech ticket at the same time.

    In the 50's and 60's ham radio was a builder/opertors hobby. In th 50's and early 60's we mostly either homebrewed or modified surplus military equipment. We also built the few kit radios that we available.

    In the 60's Heathkit became the predominant supplier of kits for ham radio. The Heathkits provided the most eceonomical way to get into SSB.

    But as the equipment moved from tube designs to solid state designs the eqipment bacame to complex for the aveage person to assemble it without problems. That lead to the growth of ready to use equipment. This in turn caused a decline in the build it yourself part of the hobby.

    Today the entry point is a tech ticket and a 2M FM tranceiver working on the repeaters. Most of these people are refugees from CB. Most never move to HF.

    An entry level 2M FM rig costs under $200. An entry level (excluding QRP) HF rig costs over $500. The 2M FM rig only needs a simple antenna where a HF rig requires an antenna the requirs more space and is generally more obvious. With the restritions on new homes fewer people seem to move to HF.

    My experiance is that over 90% of the new people in ham radio have no idea how their radio works and really don't care. Their interest is stricly in the operation aspects of the hobby.

    The part of the hobby that provided technical advancment is mostly history. At least as far as HF operation is concerned. Connecting a personal computer to a radio is not technical advancement. It is just repeating history with more modern devices.

    Incentive licensing did not work and will not work. The hoby is just dumbing down. And there is no way to stop it.

    Also note that all the major manufacturing of ham radio rigs is now done in Asia. The comanies that made this a great hobby in the 50's through 70's are now all gone.

    But you can now get good buys on BOATANCHORS on eBay. And if you are technically inclined you can have a lot of fun making the old stuff work again. And i most cases at a lower cost than a new RICEBOX!

    Bob Macklin
    Seattle, Wa.
  7. KT6K

    KT6K Ham Member QRZ Page


    enough said
  8. K2EZY

    K2EZY Ham Member QRZ Page

    I myself am a NCT and I do not want to see the code requirement go away ever for any reason. Without CW it's just CB!! I have only been trying for a month now and feel confident that I can pass 5wpm and will do so BEFORE the requirement is dropped. Just my feelings. 73 and happy holidays to all!
  9. WA3VJB

    WA3VJB Ham Member QRZ Page

    George, if you're right about the League's goal being to push acceptance of SSB, then it backfired at least once.

    The group in Newington probably can't stand this, but "Incentive Licensing" for me was to upgrade to Advanced so that I could join the guys on AM on 3885, which was at the time reserved for upper class licensees.

    Thirty years later, I'm still hooked. For this Christmas, I have gotten a classic audio processor, the Dorrough DAP 610, designed and built by K06NM, an award winning broadcast engineer. It doesn't get better than this, and I am totally high on being on the radio with others who run our vintage specialty of AM.

  10. W6FYK

    W6FYK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Folks,when one "quotes" anothers post, PLEASE snip ,[cut] most of the lonnggggg ones out.
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