Question about license requirements after leaving the Army.

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio License Test Schedules' started by KD0TFL, Sep 16, 2020.

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  1. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    The only situation REMOTELY similar to this was that if you had a second or first class FCC Radiotelegraph license, you could waive your code test for the Extra.
  2. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The procedure for "by mail" examinations varied over the years before the VEC system. But in all cases the tests could be administered by a single volunteer examiner (no capitals). The volunteer examiner had no special qualifications other than holding the correct class of license.

    Originally, only those living 125 miles or more from a quarterly FCC exam point could get a license test "by mail" - and if they moved to within 125 miles of a quarterly FCC exam point they had 90 days to retest. The only license classes available "by mail" were Novice, Technician and Conditional - the Advanced and Extra were FCC-exam-only.

    But about 1954 the FCC changed the rules and made all routine Novice and Technician license tests "by mail". They also reduced the distance to 75 miles and removed the retesting requirement.

    From Feb 1953 to Nov 1968, the Conditional class license carried full privileges.

    Since the beginning, the regs have required at least 3 VEs at a VE session.
    K3XR likes this.
  3. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    One more fun fact:

    FCC reserves the right to retest any licensee who earned their license as a result of non-FCC testing.

    It's rare, but FCC has done it.
  4. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    When I took the "by mail" Novice test in Dec. 1959 I lived less than 20 miles from the FCC office at the Customs House in Philly. In the summer of 1960, the "by mail" Technician test was written only as you received credit for the Novice 5 wpm code test. I also recall having to have one/both (don't recall) documents associated with the test notarized by the local notary who also happened to be the town magistrate. A ham radio operator was not required to administer the Technician test and may have been the reason for the notarization. Checking the address on a copy of the license will indicate the distance from Philly. I believe at the time you could only take the Novice test by mail regardless of your location but can't be sure.
  5. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    When the Novice and Technician licenses were created in 1951, the tests were given at FCC exam points. "By mail" only applied if you lived 125 miles or more from a quarterly FCC exam point.

    The FCC exam sessions were soon flooded with people trying for Novice and/or Technician licenses, particularly in the summer when school was out. So in 1954 FCC made all routine Novice and Technician tests "by mail" only, regardless of distance. You could live across the street from the FCC office and you still had to do the by-mail routine after that change. In my case the distance from my QTH to the FCC Office was maybe 6 miles and a quick subway ride but I had to do the by-mail thing.

    In 1951-54 the license tests were free, so in cities with FCC offices it was just a matter of having the time and transportation to spend a morning at the FCC office. I suspect that the FCC got tired of large numbers of young people showing up at FCC offices and failing the tests due to lack of preparation...and then showing up a few weeks later to try again, using up FCC time and resources.

    The requirements for the volunteer examiner and notarization changed over time, too. When I got my Novice in 1967 there was no notarization required, but the process was a long one.....many weeks between the first letter to FCC and the actual license.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
    K3XR likes this.
  6. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    The test was taken over high school Christmas vacation so the test would have been taken on Dec 25th +/-. The license was issued on Feb. 11 and likely was delivered around Feb. 15. I get a huge kick out of some of the posts where the test was taken and they want to know why their license did not arrive in a couple of days.
    N2EY likes this.
  7. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    As an example, here's the by-mail process as it was when I got my Novice back in 1967.

    Step 1) Learn code and theory well enough to pass the tests.

    Step 2) Find volunteer examiner (just one, and could be any ham who wasn't a Novice or Technician or a relative, and who was over 21.)

    Step 3) Mail a letter to FCC requesting Form 610.

    Step 4) Wait several weeks for Form 610 from FCC to arrive.

    Step 5) When Form 610 arrived, set up appointment for code tests with volunteer examiner, and fill out Form 610.

    Step 6) Meet with volunteer examiner and pass code tests, receiving and sending.

    Step 7) Volunteer examiner sends completed Form 610 to FCC, certifying that code tests were passed and requesting written test.

    Step 8) Wait several weeks for written test to be sent to volunteer examiner.

    Step 9) When written test arrived, volunteer examiner contacts and sets up appointment for written test.

    Step 10) Take written tests. Volunteer examiner did not grade or even look at the test papers, just put them in appropriate envelope and sent to FCC.

    Step 11) Wait several weeks for FCC to process.

    Step 12) License arrives in the mail if you passed (small envelope). New Form 610 and letter arrives in the mail if you failed (large envelope).

    If you failed, you had to do everything all over again. No partial credit.

    In my case, "several weeks" was about six weeks. This meant the entire process from sending the letter to FCC to the arrival of the license took about four and half months.

    The reason processing took so long was that FCC did not have an enormous staff, and every application got processed in turn. Only the license records were computerized back then (FCC went to computer license records in 1964) so it was a lot of clerical work. With about 250,000 US hams back then, and 5 year license terms, license renewals alone amounted to almost 200 per working day.

    Ancient history now.
  8. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    That was fast!

    The processing time varied enormously, as did the procedures.


    The current system is much better, IMHO.

    The delays of the past were due simply to waiting for one's paperwork to reach the top of the pile at FCC. With by-mail tests, FCC did the grading, not the volunteer examiner.
    K3XR likes this.
  9. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    As I recall there was a club in Puerto Rico where the FCC suspected that members were buying their licenses. I don't know what lead to this suspicion but I believe it had something to do with a larger trend at the time of people getting licensed for the purpose of getting a cheap mobile phone. Repeaters with phone patches was a big thing then, cheap cell phones around about the year 2000 made that far less appealing. Anyway, the FCC thought that many of these people had not actually taken any tests even though they had VEs sign off on them. The FCC then asked everyone in the club to retake the tests from an FCC examiner or surrender their license. Again as I recall, there were few or none that took the offer for a re-test. I don't recall how many people were involved in this suspicious behavior, likely dozens. Maybe my recollection fails me and I have time, place, etc. not all correct. The point is that I recall cases of the FCC exercising this option. The other cases I recall had similar elements, but the FCC exercising this option to require a re-test was limited to one person to a handful of people.
    KA0HCP and N2EY like this.
  10. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes! I remember that case! IIRC, of the few who did show up to retest, there was a high failure rate.

    Some more memories:

    - Prior to 1954, if someone obtained a license "by mail", and then moved to within the "Conditional distance", they had to retest within 90 days or lose the license. In 1954 the distance was reduced from 125 to 75 miles and the retest requirement removed.

    There were stories told of those who "moved" to "Conditional territory", got a Conditional license, then "moved" back to their real QTH. And since the Conditional license was full privileges from Feb 1953 to Nov 1968, they were all set - or so they thought.

    - About 1964, FCC increased the distance from 75 miles to 175 miles and increased the number of exam points, reducing the "Conditional territory" to small parts of CONUS.

    - The "Conditional distance" was straight line map distance - or "air line" distance, not road or rail distance. In some parts of the USA, 175 miles "air line" was a lot more road or rail distance, due to hills, twisting roads, bodies of water, etc. Since FCC exam sessions were almost always weekday mornings, travel could be a significant issue for some. The "uphill in the snow both ways" stories could be valid in some cases.

    - Technician licenses issued as a result of "by mail" tests had "TECHNICIAN (C)" on them, for the reason given below.

    - "Back then", tests passed "by mail" did not carry credit for license upgrades (This went away in the 1970s). What this meant in practical terms was that if someone had a "by mail" license and went to an FCC exam session for an upgrade, they had to retake and pass the tests for the license they held before being allowed to even try the higher class license tests.

    For a Technician (C) wanting a General, it meant passing not only 13 wpm code but also the General/Technician/Conditional written test. For a Conditional wanting an Advanced, it meant passing both those tests before being allowed to even try the Advanced written. And if the person didn't pass, they lost their existing license!

    This caused some serious opposition when "incentive licensing" was proposed. For a General to upgrade to Advanced was just the Advanced written test, and if the person failed, no problem. But for a Conditional to upgrade to Advanced meant retaking and passing 13 wpm code, sending and receiving, then the General written, before even being allowed to try the Advanced. And their license was on the line! FCC's attitude was "you should be able to pass the tests for the license you hold."

    In the mid 1970s, FCC announced that they were phasing out the Conditional. A rumor started that all Conditionals would have to retest, which caused quite an uproar. At the time I naively wondered what all the fuss was about - only later did I realize that at least some hams might have more than a little trouble if called upon to retest.

    But the rumor wasn't true - FCC simply renewed all Conditionals as Generals, and forgot all about the retest requirement for upgrading.

    All ancient history now. I suspect that, today, more currently-licensed US radio amateurs earned their licenses "by mail" than did so by FCC examination.

    73 de Jim, N2EY

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