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United States Communications Science

FCC Drops Morse Code Requirement 231

Posted by Zonk
from the end-of-an-era dept.
leighklotz writes to mention a story discussing what some might consider a historic event. The FCC has dropped the Morse Testing requirement for amateur radio certifications. The public announcement was made on Friday. Ham radio operators will no longer have to study Morse, in a move patterned after other western nations. Says leighklotz: "The U.S. joins Canada and other countries in eliminating the morse code testing requirement, after being authorized to do so on July 5, 2003, when the World Radio Telecommunications Conference 2003 in Geneva adopted changes to the ITU Radio Regulations."
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FCC Drops Morse Code Requirement

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  • Bad idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Perseid (660451) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:23AM (#17267206)
    I understand they want more people back on ham radio, but what will the old-timers think of these code-less noobs invading their clique? And, no offense, but will anyone new care?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by khallow (566160)
      Heh, it will be easier for me to obtain a license now. I'm now volunteering for a non-profit for which these licenses are useful to have. Probably will learn Morse code anyway since it is a very useful skill to know.
      • Re:Bad idea? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by packeteer (566398) <packeteerNO@SPAMsubdimension.com> on Saturday December 16, 2006 @10:33AM (#17268340)
        It is something that would be nice to know but realistically it has little to no use for most people.
        • by ivoras (455934)
          I would hope everyone keeps teaching at least one Morse code: SOS. It's a rarely recognizable international signal and symbol not tied (at least not anymore) to a specific language or culture.
        • by Columcille (88542) *
          But if you ever lived in the town of Jericho, Kansas, you could use your Morse Code skill to find out what cities had been nuked.
    • Re:Bad idea? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by scsirob (246572) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:31AM (#17267244)
      The requirement to do morse code was to enable HAM's to interact with official emergency crew. Since they abandoned Morse code from operations, there's no need to have this requirement anymore.

      No-one forbids anyone from using Morse code. Those who master it will be able to use it as much as they want, and there's specific frequency ranges set aside for morse code communications. It's just that newcomers are not forced to learn one specific, outdated form of communication to take part in all those other forms, including Amateur TV, digital modes, PSK-31, moonbounce, meteor/rain scatter etc. Those who are interested in communication with minimal hardware requirements will continue to explore morse code.
      • Re:Bad idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by aztracker1 (702135) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @07:03AM (#17267348) Homepage
        I don't think it is a requirement for ATV, or some of the other stuff mentioned.. I have a few friends that are HAMS, I know one is not Tech certified, only the lower level, and he participates in ATV.. I think the limitations are in frequency band usage, and maybe transition power (though few hams use the max allowed).

        It's kind of a mixed bag though.
        • Re:Bad idea? (Score:5, Informative)

          by rusty0101 (565565) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:30AM (#17267968) Homepage Journal
          One of the reasons that hams do not use the max allowed power all the time is that hams are supposed to use the least power they can to communicate. Not that they always do. Two hams a block or two apart may be chatting with each other through a wide area repeater transmitting at 50 or 90 watts, when they could be communicating simplex at less than a quarter watt.

          Also transmitting at x watts uses x plus some variable depending on the equipment in use power that has to come from some place. Commercial power, batteries, generators, solar cells, windmills all cost money or significant effort to put a signal on the air.

          Lastly, as odd as it seems to some people, we do not want to cause interference with other services or non-radio equipment. It actually bothers us when neighbors report that they are hearing our signals on their TV, computer speakers, or stoves. It means that energy we want to be broadcast for reception by other hams is being picked up by equipment not designed to receive the signal. Either energy that we want to be in the frequency spectrum we are transmitting on is in another spectrum, or the consumer equipment our neighbors are using has been designed poorly or the like.

          There are also big challenges to seeing how far we can communicate with very little power. There are a lot of hams that contest and communicate around the world on less than 5 watts. You know, the amount of energy that an incandescent night light draws.
        • by tylernt (581794)
          I don't think it is a requirement for ATV, or some of the other stuff mentioned.
          It's not. Morse was for the HF bands (below 50MHz) which are used for long-range communications. Morse-less hams were restricted to short-range frequencies*, where they could do ATV, PSK31, etc all they pleased.

          *Ok, so 50-54MHZ is sometimes long range, but certainly not often nor reliably.
      • Huh? (Score:2, Informative)

        by zeke-o (595753)
        Don't know where you get your information, but I've been an amateur radio operator since the mid-60's and I've never heard of any 'official emergency crew' using CW.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I gather that hams have opposed this for years, saying that the lower entry requirements will cause their network to be flooded with the radio equivalents of AOL users. A bit like the time when the Internet suddenly became accessible to many, many, people, most of whom were complete idiots. However, I think that ham radio is a niche hobby, and it's unlikely that the changing requirements will really attract hordes of idiots.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zadaz (950521)
        If they want to avoid people who don't know Morse code, they can communicate on the frequencies reserved for it. But hell, for 6 years the only proficiency you needed was 5wpm to get the highest class license. That's hardly communicating.

        That said, you still need to be licensed. It's not like they're giving everyone a gun, a bag of bullets and a case of beer.
      • Re:Bad idea? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kefoo (254567) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:51AM (#17268086)
        Even without the code requirement, getting a license still requires a good deal of work. Every class of license exam includes quite a bit of electronics theory that I think will help to weed out the people who aren't up to the qualifications of having a license and previously would have been turned off by the code requirement. On top of that there's the expense of buying (or building) the equipment and setting up an antenna, so I doubt we'll be flooded by morons any time soon.

        In emergencies or during periods of bad signal propogation morse code often offers the best chance for getting a message through. It requires less power than voice transmissions and is easier to understand through the noise that sometimes clogs the bands. That being said, there are enough of us who do know code (and many who use it exclusively) that hams as a group won't lose their utility in those times.
        • Even without the code requirement, getting a license still requires a good deal of work. Every class of license exam includes quite a bit of electronics theory that I think will help to weed out the people who aren't up to the qualifications of having a license and previously would have been turned off by the code requirement. On top of that there's the expense of buying (or building) the equipment and setting up an antenna, so I doubt we'll be flooded by morons any time soon.

          That bring up something I wa

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by kefoo (254567)
            It's not that you have to know enough to build a radio. On the electronics front it's mainly knowledge about how basic circuits work, like oscillators and amplifiers. Much of the exam is on FCC rules and is simple memorization. Probably the most complicated thing you'd have to do is calculate the resonant frequency of a simple oscillator circuit or the proper length of an antenna for use on a given band, although I'm guessing a little here, since it's been fifteen years since I got my license. The license m
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fred911 (83970)
          "Even without the code requirement, getting a license still requires a good deal of work" -- NOT!
          Any monkey with a memory can pass an exam where the question pool is published before the exam. VEC's aren't allowed to change 1 word in any of the questions and are mandated what questions to ask.

            If memorization is what you consider a "good deal of work" wait until you have to pass a real test.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ztransform (929641)
      I grew up in an age where Morse Code seemed unnecessary, I remember the discussions about this all the way through university. Still, I decided to learn Morse Code for myself, and although I only passed at 6 wpm I had hoped that one day I would pass the 12 wpm exam.

      I believe that Morse Code is still good to learn, much like ocean-goers could benefit from learning celestial navigation techniques even though GPS has all but obliterated the need.

      One of the skills of a Ham Radio operator is potentially assistin
      • by timeOday (582209)

        I believe that Morse Code is still good to learn, much like ocean-goers could benefit from learning celestial navigation techniques even though GPS has all but obliterated the need.

        I can imagine situations where celestial navigation would work even if GPS would not (though I suspect the reverse is more often the case, due to clouds, mist, and daylight), but it's harder for me to see the value of morse code radio. It's not a different medium, just a different encoding of our alphabet.

    • Re:Bad idea? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @07:08AM (#17267366) Homepage Journal
      They will denounce it with bitter fury. Morse code requirements are a subject that shuts down rational discussion among hams as fast as abortion or the Middle East does among the general population.
    • double edged sword (Score:3, Insightful)

      by p51d007 (656414)
      This new rule, is an attempt to bolster the number of people who use amateur radio frequencies. If amateur radio numbers continue to decline, the frequencies available for their use will be returned to the FCC, which will sell the "space" to the highest bidder. Some of the bands are extremely under used, and there are a bunch of companies who would pay top dollar for their own use. Pulling the morse code requirement will enable some who otherwise would not be able to achieve their license. I have mixed fe
    • Re:Bad idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fyngyrz (762201) * on Saturday December 16, 2006 @11:05AM (#17268492) Homepage Journal
      ...what what will the old-timers think of these code-less noobs invading their clique?

      This extra-class "old-timer", who had to pass the 20 WPM code requirement, is all for the change. After WWII, all it ever served as was an artificial non-technical barrier to a technical achievement in a technical hobby. I don't object to anyone learning the code and/or using the code, it has some merit as a low-power communications mode with extremely low hardware requirements (like a mirror or your arms) but I don't favor it being part of the gateway to any set of band or operating privileges unless they come up with a new one like "code endorsement" that is simply a certificate.

      Numerous technical advances have come from the ham radio community. It makes little or no sense to hold back a technical wizard's privileges because his ears or fist aren't good enough for morse code. But that's the FCC for you, historically speaking. Sense isn't exactly their forte'.

    • by kilodelta (843627)
      I go by KiloDelta - the first two letters of my amateur extra call sign. I had to do the 20WPM code and you know what, it's not that hard. In the space of one year I went from my no code tech license to full extra. So now I get to gripe like the real old timers get to gripe when the no-code tech license came around. And I've only been licensed for 15 years.
    • by uncoveror (570620)
      With no more Morse Code in the future, how will Scotty tap out "get back" to Captain Kirk and bust him out of his cell like in Star Trek V?
  • CQ (Score:5, Funny)

    by oz1cz (535384) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:24AM (#17267210)
    dit-dit dah-dit dat dit dit-dah-dit dit dit-dit-dit dah dit-dit dah-dit dah-dah-dit
  • What the Morse? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CriminalNerd (882826) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:31AM (#17267240)
    What's wrong with the Morse code? Personally, I think that learning the Morse code should be a requirement for radio operation at the very least (or any communications course in general) because the Morse code is very simple to learn and use, and because it is nearly universally recognized. Telling radio operators that they don't need to know Morse code is like telling scientists that they don't need to know the periodic table by heart.
    • Re:What the Morse? (Score:4, Informative)

      by scsirob (246572) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:34AM (#17267252)
      There's nothing wrong with morse code, it's just no longer a requirement to master morse code in order to take part in all sorts of other communication modes. Anyone who wants/likes to practice morse code is free to do so, it's just no longer an obstacle for people who do want to become a HAM operator but have no interest in this single mode of operations.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chanrobi (944359)
      Yeah, astronomers definitley need to know their periodic tables.
    • by rusty0101 (565565)
      How much of that periodic table does the scientist down the hall from you know? All 132 elements? (or is it 137 this week?) Is it the table that includes the atomic weight, mass, count of electrons in each shell, normal shell state levels, excited state electron shell levels? Full description of the organization of protons and neutrons? What other elements each element will build a valent or covalent bond with? What color a reducing electron shell move generates as a photon?

      Is it helping him in his job of a
      • Re:What the Morse? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @11:40AM (#17268742) Homepage
        I'll one-up you on that. I have an MS in Chemistry and I couldn't tell you the atomic weight of Tungsten, or even its Atomic number. I imagine that it is a transition metal, and if for some reason I was doing Tungsten chemistry I'd probably take the time to learn a heck of a lot more than fits in a 2cm square box.

        Sure, I have most of the abbreviations memorized, and weights/series memorized for the more common elements. And guess what - I didn't have to memorize them to pass a test! I'm sure that many reading /. didn't start out coding in java, and may not have ever taken a test, but I'm sure that quite a few have half of the normally-used classes memorized as well.

        When I see kids being forced to cram atomic numbers for a chemistry exam I cringe. No wonder nobody goes into the sciences these days! Make them memorize some facts, and don't bother to worry about whether they understand why things work that way... Are we teaching them science (the process of advancing knowledge in a systematic way), or magic (reciting mysterious incantations carefully lest you end up a newt)?

        I know a ham operator (extra class), and while he can key at 60WPM he tends to spend more time doing PACTOR/AMTOR these days, or using computer-assistance with the code. Actually, he has been trending away from operating at all since it seems like all the regulars are dying off (they just disappear and you don't hear about them again). It would seem that the FCC is doing the right thing in trying to transform the hobby.

        Consider that 50 years ago ham radio was cutting edge. People who now build PCs and PHP applications used to build radios and operate networks/relays/repeaters. Now ham radio has the perception of being ancient technology (although I know that it doesn't have to be that way). Memorizing morse code is about as useful as requiring knowledge of x86 assembly to program a computer, or knowledge of UUCP email addresses to use gmail. That doesn't make either of those things useless - but they aren't essential either and if you want to study functional programming you won't find much use in memorizing indirect memory indexing modes.
    • Or like telling computer programmers that they don't have to know how to code in machine language.
    • What's wrong with the Morse code? Personally, I think that learning the Morse code should be a requirement for radio operation at the very least (or any communications course in general) because the Morse code is very simple to learn and use, and because it is nearly universally recognized. Telling radio operators that they don't need to know Morse code is like telling scientists that they don't need to know the periodic table by heart.

      Tell that to a quadraplegic. Back in the 1980s I knew a paraplegic,

    • Morse code was GREAT...back in the day when we could pull tubes, resistors, caps, and discrete transistors from the wreckage of a Nuclear/Natural disaster and put togther a quick rig to spit out RF. You could then communicate with other radio operators, assuming you had some batteries. One such person per neighborhood was all that would be needed for a distant government relief agency to keep in touch with desperate people.

      Skip forward to September, 2005. Imagine yourself in the aftermath of Hurricane K

  • by Loconut1389 (455297) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:32AM (#17267246)
    ditdit ditditdit ditditdah ditdahdahdit ditdahdahdit dahdahdah ditditdit dit dah ditditditdit ditdit ditditdit ditdahditdit dit ditdah ditditditdah dit ditditdit dit ditditditdah dit ditdahdit dahditdahdah dahdahdah dahdit dit dit ditdahditdit ditditdit dit ditdit dahdit dah ditditditdit dit dahditdit ditdah ditdahdit dahditdah ditditdahdahditdit
  • by xquark (649804) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:43AM (#17267282) Homepage
    So how will we coordinate our counter attacks when the aliens from independence day come-a-knockin'?
    sms perhaps?
    • by rusty0101 (565565)
      By finding people who decided that learning Morse Code was worth the effort for some reason other than that it was a license requirement that they never used again?
  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:47AM (#17267294) Homepage Journal
    This is Bruce Perens's thing, isn't it: The World's Most Silly Technology Law [perens.com]
  • Code requirement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DJTodd242 (560481) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @06:49AM (#17267298) Homepage
    Being an amateur myself (and have been so for 15+ years) I can picture the screams of horror from all of the 60+ year old operators out there. I'm in my 30s myself, and the code requirement for using the HF bands always seemed rather quaint to me.
    But honestly, it's probably a last ditch attempt to get more people using the amateur bands. The stereotype of the 65 year old retired operator in a motorised chair isn't too far from the truth.
    I forsee the day that usage is low enough that governments can justify clawing back more of the spectrum.
    • by kilodelta (843627)
      If you've been in the hobby that long you know that back in the early 90's UPS made a grab for a chunk of the 220MHz band and got it, only to do nothing with it. Not to mention that the 70cm band is also home to wind profiler radar. You're right and I think we'll be pushed to frequencies below 6m as time goes on because right now we sit on some pretty sweet real estate with allocations in the 400MHz, 900MHz, 1.2GHz etc bands.
  • by wb8wsf (106309) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @07:03AM (#17267346)
    I'm not unhappy to see the requirement go. I've been a ham for
    30 years, and while I have seen useful (very useful) things done
    with code, I was never enamored with the idea of *having* to learn
    it up front. I did, though with struggling and headaches. The
    time came when my elmer gave me the code test and I passed, just
    barely.

          As I see it today, getting people into ham radio is the
    important thing. Having to learn a particular mode before
    being allowed to join just doesn't make sense. And no one
    should think that having to know code was an effective barrier
    for the twits, such that they stayed out. In 1976 I heard
    language on 80M that was a great exercise in George Carlin's
    "7 dirty words"--and most of the speakers were Extra Class
    hams (highest license).

          CW *is* useful though, and I've come to embrace it for
    the VHF/UHF weak signal stuff I've been doing, where at
    time the luxury of a voice just isn't there; things are
    too weak. Also Moonbounce will require me to reall learn
    CW, which I am working towards, equipment wise.

          Yes, its the end of an era. But so what? Technology
    roars along, changing the way we communicate, but it has
    never changed the reasons for the 'why'.

          If you are contemplating becoming a ham, great, please
    do so. If you are a ham and bemoan the lack of CW now,
    get off your duff and start a CW appreciation class!
    Show new hams *why* its cool (and it is, though it took
    me 20+ years to realize that), and get them hooked on it.

    --STeve Andre'
    wb8wsf
    grid sqare EN82
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by snaz555 (903274)
      CW *is* useful though, and I've come to embrace it for the VHF/UHF weak signal stuff I've been doing, where at time the luxury of a voice just isn't there; things are too weak.

      If you're going to send messages, which is probably what you'll want at low bandwidths, there's got to be better and more efficient encodings and transmission protocols than CW. Off-hand, how about not sending the message in order so transmission errors don't result in consecutive symbols lost, and with CRC/ECC techniques and enca

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)
        Off-hand, how about not sending the message in order so transmission errors don't result in consecutive symbols lost, and with CRC/ECC techniques and encapsulation to boost the chances of recovery

        Complexity. Using Morse code, you can send a signal right around the world with pennies worth of electronics. You can cover hundreds of miles on HF with a transmitter that runs off a single PP3 battery and uses a handful of components. You need a bit more than that to calculate CRC, unless you're *really* good
        • You can cover hundreds of miles on HF with a transmitter that runs off a single PP3 battery and uses a handful of components.
           


          I've been looking for a schematic for something like this. Preferably 40 meters, capable of over 4 hours of sustained transmission on a PP3. Range should be at least 50 miles. Of you know of a schematic that can do this, please let me know.

          • by Gordonjcp (186804)
            I do, but only in dead tree form. Easy enough, but you're going to need a pretty good aerial to cover 50 miles. I'd suggest looking in the ARRL or RSGB handbooks.
          • by tylernt (581794)
            What you want is a "mint tin" CW rig, such as the Pixie. Range is much more than 50 miles (depending on antenna), but I don't know what a PP3 battery is or how long it lasts.

            Just Google for "QRP" (low-power) transceivers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by W2IRT (679526)

      In 1976 I heard language on 80M that was a great exercise in George Carlin's "7 dirty words"--and most of the speakers were Extra Class hams (highest license).

      Sadly, that kind of garbage is still there. Between the plethora of Rush Limbaugh wannabees (with their own gold-plated RE-20s!!), codgers describing their gall bladder surgery and the 4-land "pigfarmers-with-pitchfoks" types displaying all 20 of their IQ points, both 80 and 20m phone bands are painful to listen to more often than not.

      I usually tr

  • by Mystic Pixel (911992) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @07:34AM (#17267466)
    I see this from the other side. I got my Tech license last year, and I've been waiting to take the General test because I've been struggling to learn CW. What with trying to finish my EE degree, I haven't had the time.

    I'd heard about this a while ago, and was aiming to get general before it happened (out of pride, masochism, or maybe a little bit of both.) That's more or less moot now. But when I realize that it's a move to get more new people into the hobby, I can understand and appreciate it.

    I'm a member of the ARA at my college and we've been struggling to attract new members - we've got a great shack and solid equipment but only about 3-4 active members. Getting more people into the hobby is important right now; steps should be taken before it becomes a critical problem.

    KB3NIF

    • (follow-up, since I forgot /. doesn't allow editing)

      I don't think the comparisons to Endless September are really justified. The difference is that to get the higher classes, people still have to pass more complicated tests. If they don't enjoy, understand, and appreciate the hobby, what incentive is there for them to do this?

      Sure, the ham world has it's share of inconsiderate jerks (I've encountered some of them on 2 meters myself) but ham radio is different than the internet in a number of important w

  • by Cauchy (61097) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @07:52AM (#17267542)
    I am a ham who has held a Technician license for 9 years now. Technician gives all privs at the higher frequencies, and it does NOT require code. I never got a higher license because I never found time to learn code so this requirement was in fact holding me back. With that said, it makes me profoundly sad to see them drop this requirement as code is extremely useful for many applications, and I think it will significantly reduce the number of people who bother to learn code. I guess I'm just a sucker for nostalgia. It isn't like you needed code to get a license---you could work any and all ham uhf and vhf frequencies with a license that does not require code. With that said, I'll certainly be upgrading my license, sooner rather than later now. :)
    • by rusty0101 (565565)
      I think we will see code being picked up by more people who want to learn it to use it for some other reason. We will nearly always have operators who will find no need for the skill, and I suspect we will find operators looking for every edge they can get in a contest. (* like double the points just for each code contact you make.) And others who will be looking for ccdx awards in each band, and each mode. Likewise dxpeditions will end up at some grid square that no one has operated from in over 40 years,
      • by Phrogman (80473)
        I have a friend who used to do architectural blueprints by hand, and was the only one left in his office who made them that way. He was far, far faster than the guys using the CAD systems to draft up plans. The only time he was slower was when a change to a plan had to be made and they could update just the specific section and reprint it and he was stuck with redrawing the whole thing.

        With regards to the article, I wouldn't miss CW all that much. I had to take a year of it when I was in the Canadian Forces
  • Back in the days... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Snarfiorix (1001357) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @08:00AM (#17267568) Journal
    Having learned Morse code while in the Royal Dutch Navy and a love to tinker with electronic, I created a text- to Morse - to text application on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum K back in 1983 and hooked it up to an old AN PRC 10-A. I had lots of fun sharing the app and testing how fast we could push it (we got it to transmit and receive at 400 words per minute). Then we had the idea to transmit lists of basic code to each other so we could share apps for the old Sinclair... Of course it would end up having to retransmit because interference or some joker cutting in on the frequency.

    We kept tweaking the app until 1989 where we had a IM type of functionality, encryption (!) and we could "attach" binaries or act as a automated relay station. The old Sinclair was an ideal micro to grab your solder iron and make it interface with all sorts of electronics. I remember having much more fun with morsecode and that old Spectrum then when I got my first PC with DOS on it.

    Heck, I think I will head up the shed and dig up the Sinclair and the AN PRC 10-A.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by denttford (579202)
      Careful with the encryption feature. Using it is an FCC violation [fcc.gov].

      Lots of people dislike the FCC content regulations, like this ham, for example. [visi.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geminidomino (614729) *
        Section 97.117 of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. 97.117, stipulates that amateur station transmissions to a different country, where permitted, shall be in plain language and shall be limited to messages of a technical nature relating to tests, and to remarks of a personal character for which, by reason of their unimportance, recourse to the public telecommunications service is not justified.

        Jeez... is it just me or does that read like "The Telcos bought and paid for this rule to protect thier income str
    • by fm6 (162816)
      Dude, you are hackerdom personified!
  • Its the old story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:27AM (#17267950)
    "_I_ had to learn it, so everybody else for all eternaty will have to learn it, too!".

    Plus the fact that you can create an aweful lot of baseless elitism by practicing a worthless and unneeded skill.
  • by rohar (253766) <bob.rohatensky@sasktel.net> on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:42AM (#17268026) Homepage Journal
    In 1988 I took Marine Radio Operating and obtained a Canadian RGMC which required error free 20 wpm Morse Code send/receive and all of the electronics theory and regulations to be a commercial marine radio operator. The holder of a RGMC also was granted a HAM license from the DOT. I ended up in IT and never did work as a Radio Op., or even use my HAM license, but after a year of training, I never forgot Morse Code. I would imagine I would have to practise for a while to send/receive at 5 wpm (never mind 20wpm) now, but it's one of those learned skills that seems to stick. but if I am ever lost at sea...

    D dddd d Ddd d d DdD ddDd dD DdDd D DDD dDd dd ddd dddd ddD Ddd d
    The had to be in characters because apparently ./ considers any amount of .- as 'junk' and won't allow the post.

    I want a cwtext message interface for my cell phone, at least for sending. Has anyone heard of a phone that does that?

    • by rohar (253766)
      NM, posting it as "code" worked a bit better

      - .... .   -.. . . -.-   ..-. .-.-.-. - --- .-.   .. ...   .... ..- -.. .
  • Thank God (Score:2, Funny)

    by proxy318 (944196)
    That was the one thing holding me back from getting my radio license.
  • by SkyDude (919251) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @10:31AM (#17268326)
    After the nuclear holocaust, when we emerge from the caves, Morse code will be a necessary skill. So will knowledge of MS-DOS, hand cranking a Model T, using a buggy whip and reading an analog clock. The FCC is being very short-sighted.

    Apparently, so is Slashdot. In an attempt to be humourous, I couldn't post a series of Morse words. It kept rejecting the posting with the reason "Please use fewer junk characters." Huh.

    Damn nerds, what do they know.
  • by Nate B. (2907) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @10:34AM (#17268346) Homepage Journal
    I have been involved with administering amateur radio license exams since 1992 and have overseen two separate exam teams since 1999. So, I have seen us transition from a rather complicated licensing structure to one that is a bit more sane.

    I hear comments that amateur radio is being "dumbed down" to match the output of the government schools. The truth be told, I have witnessed people from many walks of life be thoroughly confused by the old licensing structure. So, there it little doubt in my mind that changes needed to be made. As an examiner, the recent (2000 and now 2006) changes will make my life a bit easier. They also lessen the burden on the FCC's administration of the Amateur Radio Service which is a key factor behind the recent changes.

    As for the Morse Code requirement. When I started my self study of Morse in 1981, I truly believed that I would never be able to pass any test higher than 5 WPM. A few years later I did pass the 13 WPM (1985) and then in 1992 I passed the 20 WPM exam to obtain my Amateur Extra class license. I have used the code at various times throughout my ham radio career, but haven't ever gotten proficient enough at it to carry on a casual conversation with it. I have done well enough to enjoy some radio contests using the mode.

    While I should probably be in the camp that says "I had to do it, all newcomers should too", I am not. In the early '90s the FCC, in response to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, made an administrative rule allowing anyone to obtain a doctor's statement claiming a disability that granted a waiver of the 13 and 20 WPM exams. As examiners we were required to accept the statement and grant the waiver. We could not question it any way. I personally saw several abuses of that rule and there was nothing I could do. The FCC was very specific in its mandate that only it had the authority to question the validity of any such statement.

    The upshot of this is that due to the medical waivers, the 13 and 20 WPM Morse Code exams had almost become a farce by the time Restructuring (the action that reduced the license classes from six to three and reduced the Morse exam to 5 WPM) was enacted in April 2000. Anyone wanting to operate on HF still had to pass 5 WPM as the FCC deemed that speed not a significant hardship and the USA needed to comply with its treaty obligations which required a knowledge of Morse Code for operators licensed to operate below 30 MHz.

    There are many reasons for hams to learn Morse Code in the future and a lot of them have already been stated here and elsewhere. The debate about whether it should be required knowledge is now moot so it's time for the amateur radio community to work toward the future. Morse Code (or CW) is one mode among many available for the Radio Amateur's use. As such, it can stand on its own and attract those interested in using it. I predict that the use of Morse Code on the amateur radio bands will continue for many years into the future by those that appreciate it.

    Preparing for an exam session will now mean that I just have to prepare the written exams for the three license classes. No longer do I need to drag various pieces of electronic equipment along to conduct a Morse Code exam. This relieves the exam teams of a significant burden and will speed exam sessions up considerably. It will also make exam sessions more consistent as the Morse Code exam was an area where many teams free-lanced and some even prided themselves on administering an exam that was very difficult to pass.

    Based on the elitism that I've seen demonstrated by too many hams over the years regarding the knowledge of Morse Code, I am not one bit sorry to see the exam requirement for it eliminated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bromoseltzer (23292)

      I have been involved with administering amateur radio license exams since 1992 and have overseen two separate exam teams since 1999. So, I have seen us transition from a rather complicated licensing structure to one that is a bit more sane.

      I hear comments that amateur radio is being "dumbed down" to match the output of the government schools. The truth be told, I have witnessed people from many walks of life be thoroughly confused by the old licensing structure. So, there it little doubt in my mind that changes needed to be made.

      Some questions come to mind about ham radio licensing -

      Why do we have licensing for ham radio? We license ham operators and auto drivers, but not CB/FMRS or Internet users. What's up with that? The idea is that if you're going to "drive" a kilowatt radio transmitter with widely variable frequency and potentially large antenna systems and worldwide propagation, you need to be qualified - to understand the damage you can do to other users and to the public if you don't observe minimum standards, etc. T
      • by rusty0101 (565565)
        As to the international requirement in 1938, I would suspect that at least part of the idea was to allow amatuer operators to communicate with ships at sea that were in trouble. At the time, ships RTOs consistently used CW to communicate with the ports they were approaching. Due to the nature of the Q codes ships RTOs used, as well as the general numeric nature of much of the information that would be sent, it was reasonable to presume that an Amatuer operator who knew International Morse Code, could commun
  • I got my General when it meant showing up at the FCC regional and after the thrill of trying to copy the 13 wpm (65 character/minute) the guy was sending, you had a five minute break before you had to get up before the group and send back to him with a straight key.

    For me, one of the hardest tests I've taken.

  • 1) It drastically lowers the "bar" to get the more advanced Amateur radio licenses, which benefits everyone all around.

    2) With more ham operators around, it means that in case of a major emergency (e.g., large-scale natural disaster or other calamity) communications will be faster since in a natural disaster just about all other means of communication--TV channels, commercial radio, land-line telephones and cellphones--will not work for some time. Indeed, during the 9/11 attacks in New York City a lot commu
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @11:31AM (#17268684)
    Morse code is [engadget.com] is faster than texting [google.com]
  • Actually, I like this. I've been an Amateur radio operator (ham) for over 16 years now (since August 1990), and had to pass the 20 wpm Morse code exam to get my Extra class license back in April, 1991. I love Morse code and using the CW mode, and am trying to get my code recognition up around 35 wpm (long process).

    That said, I am also an ARRL Volunteer Examiner (VE), and have been for almost as long as I've had my Amateur Extra license. Since the ITU dropped the requirements for Morse code at sea, I have
  • Imagine you're in a tight spot and your only communication tool is a radio with a dead mike or a flashlight, not an unimaginable situation. If you don't know Morse code, you're not only in trouble, you're likely to end up dead. Morse or something like Morse (such as the code used by Vietnam War POWs) will always be useful.

    Personally, I think rudimentary Morse code, along with basic hand signing and a useful second language such as Spanish ought to be a requirement for all high school diplomas. If you don't
  • There is nothing wrong with code, and I think there should always be some reserved space in the band plans for only cw. Those who enjoy it should be allowed to use it.

    But in the 21st century, requiring the knowledge of morse code to get a ham license is like requring one to successfully demonstrate how to start a hand-cranked auto before one can get a drivers license.
  • As another VE (volunteer examiner), as well as one who had to learn the code to obtain the Technician-class license some time back, here's my two cents' worth (save up the change for a root beer or something).

    The Morse Code isn't dead. Groups such as FISTS [fists.org] will make sure it sticks around on the ham bands for quite some time. Even non-members will continue to operate it, if for no other reason than the maintenance and improvement of a traditional skill. I prefer to operate digital modes -- SSTV and PSK3

  • by mrbill (4993)
    I agree with the various reasons for the elimination of the Morse test, but I wanted to pass the 5wpm exam (its a pride/accomplishments thing) before they made this change.

    Now I guess I'll just need to find a ham who is willing to "test" me and say "okay you know it good enough to pass the test" since there will be no more official tests.

    I have nobody to blame but myself; got my Technician license (KD5LQR now K5WCB) in 2000 and have had plenty of time to do it before now.
  • I recently got my codeless technician's license. I have yet to make my first contact. Here are among my interests in amateur radio:

    1) the lack of centralized infrastructure, hams own the infrastructure, it is decentralized and therefore it can operate when other infrastructures are down (telephone, power, cell towers, provided the ham has his own power source, be it generator or solar or wind). This is primary reason why ham radio becomes important in time of natural disasters.

    2) the ability to communicate over long distances, sorta like having international (and national) pen pals. Sure I could write letters (which are dependent on a working mail service) or send email(again, dependent on infrastructure beyond my control) or make a telephone call (again, dependent on, well, you get the point).

    3) it is non-commercial, so I'm not having to pay fees to communicate, as I own the infrastructure (providing power may or may not have to rely on someone else's infrastructure) Talk minutes, ha, they are meaningless on amateur radio.

    As far as dropping the morse code requirement, I'm all for it, mostly so I can get international contacts, which is hard to do on 50mhz and above. I still may use CW (morse) but I would be doing it through a computer, as I believe I can type faster than I could code, plus I don't have a huge interest in learning code. What I'm saying is, one can take advantage of CW these days, without actually learning to do the code yourself, you can use a computer to do the interpretation. I'm also interested in packet radio, and other forms of amateur radio which take advantage of the merging of computers, radio and now the internet. The lower frequencies enable international communication, in areas which might not have infrastructure, and I feel it is slightly insulting that I have to learn an arcane code just to take advantage of the HF bands. I have a good technical background, I will now persure the upper license priviliges, which I would have done even if I did have to learn code, now I have a much easier time doing it (in my case). Amateur radio covers a huge spectrum of communication modes. Currently, I only have a 2 meter rig, it appears to be pretty quiet in my neck of the woods. I'd love to have other technical friends of mine get into the hobby such that I can play around with it.

    I think the most important rule in amateur radio is to not be an asshole or a prick and intentionally interfere with others, and to play nice with other operators.

    Also in light of our (the US) government's meddling with our civil liberties, I believe that the number of proficient ham radio operators should increase. I believe that if the government starts to really crack down on free speach, amateur radio can provide a morally correct outlet of free speech and communications to concerned citizens. I understand the ease of locating active transmitters, but I also believe that a group of technically proficient operators could really make secure communication possible in times of national crisis. I know that amateur radio is, in our currently fuctioning society, supposed to be in plaintext (or speech) and that encryption is not allowed (generally, I do believe their are some special exemptions), but in times of crisis, sometimes the rules have to get thrown out the window. I'm not advocating any amateur operator engage in rule breaking, but I merely mention it because I feel it is a real possibility that "underground" secure communication might one day be a necessity. Owning the infrastruture is vital to this end. I also believe this is why wifi can play an important role, as it provides networking and communication independant of infrastructure.

If A = B and B = C, then A = C, except where void or prohibited by law. -- Roy Santoro

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