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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. W5WN

    W5WN QRZ Lifetime Member #379 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    I took my exams in November 1961. My license didn't arrive until the second week of April 1962. The FCC got pretty backlogged due to the holidays that time of year.
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  2. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    WOW...that is a wait!
  3. W5WN

    W5WN QRZ Lifetime Member #379 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    That was not true in 1963. I had a Conditional Technician class (my Novice had already expired). I was then 14 years old and very nervous about taking the General Class exam at the downtown Washington, D.C. FCC office. My code speed was a solid 18 - 20 wpm. However, I was so nervous that I missed the 13 wpm test by 2 or 3 letters. After the then required 30 day waiting period I took the test again and passed the code test with flying colors. However, again being nervous, I missed the written exam by several questions. That's what I was told by the FCC examiner, but they were not allowed to tell you the exact score or anything about what questions were missed.

    So, after another 30 days, I took the General Class exam again and passed without any difficulty. The FCC never cancelled my Technician license because I failed the General / Technician written exam in an FCC office. I've never heard anyone say that ever happened until you posted it. I've known several people with Technician (C) licenses that were called into an FCC office to retake the exam and had their license cancelled because they failed, but never anyone trying to upgrade. I think the FCC knew that people got nervous and froze in exams in FCC offices. Most of the conditional Technicians called in for re-exam were probably on the FCC's radar for rule infractions. At least the few that I knew were.

    It was a good experience. Since then I have passed FCC commercial as well as the Amateur Advanced and Extra Class exams easily on the first try. I really learned how to focus on exams and studying for them. Since then, I've easily passed exams for multiple college degrees and professional certifications. I'm glad that it was only the General Class exam at the FCC office that I ever choked up on.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
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  4. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It was the rule before 1954, which is probably why you never heard of it. Apologies for not being clear. Thanks for pointing out the mistake.

    Also - then and now, rules changes weren't always widely known by the amateur community. FCC would make an announcement, there might be a small item in QST and other magazines, and that was all. More than a few amateurs would not know that a rule changed for years. So there were plenty of folks who thought the old rule was still in effect.

    There were also false rumors which got widespread belief. In the 1970s, when FCC was considering phasing out the Conditional, there was a rumor that the license would not be renewed, and ALL Conditionals would have to pass the tests all over again at an FCC office to stay on the air. The rumor was completely false, but many Conditionals believed it and got all upset.

    That was usually the case. Particularly in TVI cases.

    In addition, the FCC Examiners had some leeway with the rules that wasn't widely known. For example, they could waive the 30-day-wait-to-retest rule at their discretion, but most of us didn't know that. The few cases I have heard of were when someone just missed the written exam by one or two questions.

    The first time I went for the 13 wpm code, I failed because The Examiner couldn't read my parochial school Palmer Method longhand "penmanship" well enough to find the required 65 consecutive legible characters. But he did find 25, so I got credit for 5 wpm and got a Technician that day by passing the written. He didn't have to do that, and it may have been technically against the rules.

    That was the one and only time I didn't pass an FCC exam on the first try.

    I went home and taught myself to block print at 30+ wpm and used up more than a few pencils and scrap paper copying W1AW code practice and bulletins. When I went back a month later, I was READY.
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  5. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It is my understanding that the backlog varied all over the place - could be a weeks, could be months. From what I've read and been told, it was all about how long it took your particular paperwork to get to the top of the pile.

    Note that FCC computerized in 1964, and before that the licenses were all done "by hand".

    And here's one more factor to consider.....

    In 1958, FCC took 11 meters away from amateurs and created Class C and Class D citizens' band - because UHF cb wasn't as popular as they thought it should be.

    11 meter cb started off somewhat slowly, but it wasn't long before it took off like crazy, with manufactured and kit gear for sale all over the place, publicity through mags like Popular Electronics, etc.

    And the FCC was absolutely deluged by license applications for the new service. By the time they computerized, there were over a million 11 meter cb licenses in effect.

    I suspect that had a lot to do with delays in other services, because FCC didn't magically get a pile of new people to do the work.
    W5WN likes this.
  6. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Is that what happened? It could as easily be claimed that Amateur radio abandoned 11 meters.

    I'll see people still bitter about this while also making no attempt to show the FCC how Amateur radio operators would use this spectrum more effectively. If Amateur radio operators wanted this band then they'd have used it. If they want this back today then they'd use it. To show the FCC that Amateur radio operators can follow the rules that means not modifying Amateur radio gear to operate on 11 meters illegally, it means buying certified equipment for this band. If the Amateur radio community can show the FCC that this is important spectrum to Amateur radio, and that Amateur radio operators can operate within the bounds they specify, then maybe the FCC could be convinced to reverse this "theft".
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  7. W5WN

    W5WN QRZ Lifetime Member #379 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    When it was an Amateur band it was full of diathermy signals / interference. So, it was unusable much of the time. When they removed diathermy it was reallocated to Part D Citizens Band shortly thereafter.
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  8. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the history lesson but it doesn't change what licensed Amateurs would need to do to get the FCC to return 11 meters to an Amateur radio band. That might change the perception on why Amateur radio operators didn't use the band but I still expect the FCC to dismiss any request to have the band returned to Amateur radio allocations until there are Amateur radio operators using the band in large numbers.

    If someone believes my tactic is flawed then I'd like to hear an alternative means to convince the FCC to restore 11 meters as an Amateur radio band. If there's a belief that there is no means to get it back then what is the point to complaining of this "taking"? If the reason for Amateur radio operators not using the band in the first place was that it was dominated by noise then just how much of a loss could it have been? Was anything "taken" if there was no "ownership" in the first place?

    If 11 meters is a valuable band to Amateur radio operators then they should use it. There is nothing stopping a licensed Amateur from using this band but a one time investment of less than $100 on proper gear. If it's not valuable spectrum then there is nothing to complain about.

    I'm not saying that every mention the history of 11 meters is necessarily a complaint. I saw mention of 11 meters being "taken" from Amateur radio operators as something in need of comment. The FCC did reallocate the spectrum to allow use without need of first obtaining a license, that's not in dispute. That action did not remove access to this bandwidth from those with an Amateur radio license, therefore "taken" is not an accurate description.

    Thanks again for pointing out an important detail in the history of 11 meters. That certainly does explain why it would not have been popular for Amateur radio operators at the time. It does not explain the the lack of popularity among licensed Amateurs today.
  9. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes, that is true. Keep in mind that the FCC regulations for 11 meters are not the same as those for the ham bands.
  10. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, that's what happened. There was a US amateur band at 11 meters from soon after VJ Day until 1958. In 1958 the FCC reallocated the band to the Citizens Radio Service.

    Anyone can easily claim just about anything. But that won't make it true. Amateur Radio didn't abandon 11 meters, it was taken from us by FCC, because they could. Simple as that.

    They did use it. That wasn't the issue.

    The real issue was that FCC decided that the Citizens Radio Service needed it more. Plus, FCC could reassign 11 meters without violating the treaty.

    So they did. Simple as that.

    Nope. Won't work. Here's why:

    First, amateurs today have the 10 meter and 12 meter bands. Do we really NEED 11 meters too? Are those bands so full that we need more spectrum in that region? What need would 11 meters fill TODAY?

    Second - and this is the BIG one.....

    Suppose amateurs did what you said and began operating in large numbers on 11 meters, following all the Part 95 rules. FCC would see that as a reason to keep 11 meters just as it is, NOT to reallocate it!

    It's a Catch-22 situation.


    Some history:

    Before WW2, the amateur bands below 30 MHz were 160, 80/75, 40, 20 and 10 meters. 160 was a popular band in the USA - equipment was simple, and all US hams had full privileges there phone and CW. The only downside to 160 was the size of a good antenna and the popularity of BCI to AM BC receivers. 11 meters (27 MHz) was an ISM band (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) for things like diathermy machines and cyclotrons.

    During WW2, the first LORAN system was implemented - on 160 meters. It worked so well that when the war ended, it was not shut down. Amateurs were forced elsewhere - and in the USA, one needed a Class A license to operate 'phone on the bands between 2.5 and 25 MHz.

    So FCC allowed US amateurs to use 27 MHz on a secondary basis with ISM. Secondary users are allowed in the treaty on a non-interference-with-primary basis, and it's a bit difficult to QRM a heat-sealing machine or a cyclotron.

    In the late 1940s, US hams got bits and pieces of 160 back, with all sorts of restrictions. It would take decades for us to get the entire band back.

    Meanwhile, UHF CB was created by FCC in the late 1940s. It has evolved into what we now know as FRS/GMRS. The idea was for a land-mobile service that didn't have the expensive equipment and complicated licensing process of VHF land mobile radio.

    The problem with UHF CB was that, with 1940s-50s technology, a cheap UHF radio wasn't very good, and a good UHF radio wasn't cheap. The service never really caught on in a big way, although some equipment was made, sold and used.

    Back to Amateur Radio

    In 1947, at the Atlantic City World Radio Conference, a new amateur band at 15 meters was allocated. 450 kHz wide, worldwide exclusively amateur radio, harmonically related to the other bands, it was a big deal. It would take years for the existing users of the band to move, but it was ours!

    Before 1949, US amateurs could only operate mobile on land above 25 MHz. In that year, the restriction was removed.

    In 1951, the FCC restructured the old ABC system into the Novice/Technician/Conditional/General/Advanced/Extra system. And then, in early 1953, FCC gave full privileges to all Conditionals, Generals, Advanceds and Extras.

    But there's more!

    In the next few years (1953-1956 or so) 15 meters was opened to US amateurs, 40 meters got a 'phone segment, and a bit more of 160 was made available to US hams.

    So, in 1958, FCC created 11 meter CB over the objections of ARRL and many others.

    They could do that because, as previously mentioned, 11 meters was an ISM band, and hams had been allowed there as secondary users since the end of WW2. FCC figured hams didn't really need 11 meters, what with the addition of 15 meters, the slow return of 160 to amateurs, and other changes mentioned above.

    So 11 meter CB was created, because it didn't require changing or violating the ITU-R treaty. With late 1950s technology, a low-power 11 meter AM transceiver could be made which was both inexpensive and pretty good. Antennas were bigger than with UHF but not too huge for mobile use. FCC made the license process simple and even allowed unlicensed 100 mW "walkie talkies".

    But it was all a complete mistake. What FCC never considered was that large numbers of people would get the radios and simply ignore whatever rules they didn't like. At first FCC was able to keep a lid on things, but by the mid-1960s there were over a million users, and FCC just lost control.

    By allowing unlicensed operation, it was common for licensed and unlicensed users to be on the same channel. Pretty soon, many were on the air without licenses - and they weren't just using 100 mW walkie talkies. Within a short time, the rules meant nothing at all to most users. Then came the 1970s and the oil crises and things really boomed....

    FCC tried, but they simply didn't have the resources to enforce their own rules. They eventually had to just try to contain it to 11 meters. The one thing FCC could never ever do is to admit they'd messed up.

    What really burned most hams' bacon wasn't so much the loss of 11 meters as the fact that it soon became a completely lawless free-for-all, while amateurs were much better behaved, yet got pounced on by FCC for relatively minor rule violations. Amateurs were often blamed for TVI and other problems caused by 11 meter folks.

    Worse, 11 meter users began invading the amateur bands, particularly 10 meters. This is why Novices and later Techs got 10 meter privileges - it was thought that having more legal use of 10 would discourage illegal use of the band.

    (Shall I post the Podunk-Squeedunk story again?)

    Meanwhile, back in Amateur Radio, the original LORAN systems began to shut down, and US amateurs got more and more of 160 back. Then in 1979, the ITU-R treaty was changed to give us three new bands at 30, 17 and 12 meters.

    And then....we got cell phones, the internet and social media. 11 meter cb lost its appeal, and the boom ended.
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