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Re: code restructuring

At 07:23 AM 12/31/1999 -0600, you wrote:
>P.S.  To all you old-timers (respectfully) out there - do you remember the
>last time drastic license restructuring took place?  I think it was back in
>the '50's or '60's.  Regardless of the exact date, I hear about it quite a
>bit from a fellow General-class ham in the area who lost priveliges he
>previously had.  I'd like to hear from all you guys (directly to my e-mail
>address) who went through this at that time.

First of all, a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all my brother
and sister satellite-riders, regardless of race, creed, religion,
nationality, license class and CW speed!  :-)

A little history:  From late 1952 to 1967, Generals had all HF priviledges.
There was no Advanced.  Extra was a prestige license with no additional
priviledges.  Then the ARRL pushed for what was called "incentive
licensing," the scheme we have today.  Generals lost a significant chunk of
the phone bands, and the lower 25 kHz of 80-15m (the prime CW DXing
territory).  Naturally, many of them felt betrayed.  You can find a brief
discussion of all this in the January 2000 QST, on page 32.

I received my Novice license at the beginning of 1969.  I was 15 years old.
 I went directly to Advanced 4 months later.  It took me until 1984 to get
my Extra, mostly because of the 20 wpm code.  I never lost priviledges,
because I got my ticket just after incentive licensing took effect.  But I
do remember feeling that the "Iron Men" of CW and the ARRL had used their
lobbying power to raise the barriers to keep "lids, kids and space cadets"
like me off the best HF frequencies.  I resented that a lot, and so did
many others.  The ARRL lost a lot of membership dollars and ham radio lost
many prospective members because of that kind of resentment.  

So now the shoe's on the other foot.  I'm a long-time Extra about to become
a member of a less exclusive group.  We're not exactly going back to
pre-incentive licensing days, but the prime barrier to
advancement--increasing CW speed tests--are about to become history.  I
suspect that if WARC abolishes the international CW requirement for HF
access, many countries will follow suit, and we may have a no-code General.

I'm neither happy nor unhappy at what the FCC is doing.  It's just a sign
of the times.  As with any change, there will be good things and not so
good things.

Personally, I think it's good to know CW, because it is very useful at the
power levels and with the antennas most of us have to settle for.  Living
in the Northwestern U.S., I find CW even more useful than I did as a kid in
the Northeast.  Europe and much of Asia lies on a polar path from my
current QTH.  100-watt CW signals from a dipole or vertical have a lot
better chance of getting over the poles than SSB.  PSK31 is often in CW's
league under HF conditions, but not with polar flutter.  And I've made a
goodly number of my satellite contacts on CW.

BUT--none of this necessarily justifies CW testing as an absolute barrier
to advancement in ham radio.  I do regret the loss of Morse as a "lingua
franca"--a univeral language that all hams can fall back on.  I also
understand that in today's fast-paced digital world, people who would make
very good hams do not have the time, skill or inclination to learn this
labor-intensive manual skill, or would prefer to use that time on more
modern methods.  That's OK, too.  So ham radio is faced with a major
cultural change dictated by the times and technology.  You lose something,
you gain something, and life goes on.

I hope that many hams will continue to learn and use CW because it is
useful to amateurs, and it can be fun.  I also hope, plead, and beg for an
end to the horrible rancor and bigotry expressed by some of the most vocal
advocates of the pro- and no-code positions.  All cultural changes cause
some friction.  But some of the extreme "old guard" sound like pre-1960s
segregationists. And some of the extreme no-coders sound like they want to
ban CW and all hams over 40 from the bands, with summary execution not far
behind.  Those attitudes are far more dangerous to ham radio's long-term
future than any commercial frequency grab. 

Once again, a Happy New Year, Century and Millenium to you all.  Remember,
it is a love of *radio* that binds us together, not any particular method
of modulation.

73 from KD7MW,

--- Peter
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