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  #61 (permalink)  
Old 04-29-2014, 10:05 AM
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What more do you want? The majority of hams are just operating turnkey appliances. What kind of questions would you want added to the test?
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Old 04-29-2014, 3:42 PM
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Originally Posted by ab3a View Post
That's it. It is not about building antennas, soldering, triggering oscilloscopes, operating on HF, or anything that anyone has discussed here. It's about good citizenship, understanding the standards, and regulations, and knowing the right things to do. .
You said some good things, but to clarify what ham radio is "really all about" comes from part 97 itself:

97.1 Basis and purpose.

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

Last edited by bill4long; 04-29-2014 at 3:48 PM.. Reason: added formatting
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Old 04-30-2014, 5:29 AM
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Which, I think, brings back full circle.

Since we have Extra class hams who aren't interested in emergency communications, do little to advance the radio art, and aren't technically inclined, how did they get to be Extra class hams? Simple. They passed the same test that every other Extra passed. If that's the case, is the Extra class test pool relevant to amateur radio's fundamental purpose?
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Old 04-30-2014, 9:14 AM
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Originally Posted by W9BU View Post
....we have Extra class hams who aren't interested in emergency communications, do little to advance the radio art, and aren't technically inclined....
I believe that there are many hams in this category, though I have no stats/facts/or other evidence of this. But the fact that there are so many diverse aspects to this hobby like contesting, DX, and QRP; also the different data modes leads me to think that there are a considerable number of hams like the above statement.

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Originally Posted by W9BU View Post
How did they get to be Extra class hams? They passed the same test that every other Extra passed. If that's the case, is the Extra class test pool relevant to amateur radio's fundamental purpose?
A bit confused here, are you advocating a different class, or just making it stop at General for those who aren't interested in emergency communications, do little to advance the radio art, and aren't technically inclined? Personally, I'm technically inclined, but really have no desire to try to build a modern transceiver. I've done a few simpler projects but the idea of a multi month/year timeframe to put a rig together doesn't light my fuse one bit.

That being said, I felt that the Extra exam was a little off mark for the current state of the hobby where most hams buy their radios, power supplies, and even antennas. But I do feel that having the basic idea of where things came from is important. At least if you come across some issue or problem you can think back and say hey this is like that part of the exam - I need to look for more info on (insert pertinent topic here)....
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Old 04-30-2014, 9:37 AM
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I've been a ham for 36 years and passed my Extra at the FCC's NYC field office winter of 1980. In fact, I took all of my tests, except the Novice at the FCC's NY office. "Back in the day," I remember meeting old guys who were way older than me (I was a teenager at the time), who got their licenses before World War II. They had to draw out schematics back then. They thought the test I took on Varrick St. was too easy. For what it's worth, my older daughter passed her extra at a VE session when she was 13. Part of me wants to be critical of the process because the questions are published now (they weren't until Dick Bash did it 34 years ago - and back then, the FCC played cat and mouse with test content), and she didn't have to learn CW. I did. But I am ecstatic that she applied herself and actually learned complex math and theory. One, because she's a she, and two, because this was well before she was in high school (and the school system covered nothing near the subject or computational content of the general or extra exams).

I don't want to get into a political element, but given how technology has been exported to other nations, I think our current education system fails young people. I would not be for making amateur radio so restrictive that there are goals that require time-in-grade rather than it being focused on STEM issues. If it weren't for technical extracurricular activities, we'd be raising the next generation of hair and nail technicians and marketing people.

If for any other reason, I see the Extra class license as an orientation to technology careers. (Dare I make a statement that it's a "gateway?")

BTW, I'm equally proud of my older son the General and DXer/net control station extraordinaire, my two younger kids who are Technicians, and my entirely non-technical former-dispatcher ("I'm on my off-time, get that radio away from me!") wife who's also a Technician.
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  #66 (permalink)  
Old 04-30-2014, 9:47 AM
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For each person here that is continually harping on such things as "advancement of the radio art", "advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art", and "enhance international goodwill" I must ask - what have YOU done to satisfy EACH of these? Designed a new transceiver? Invented a new communications protocol or fantastic new antenna, volunteered and traveled to a foreign disaster area to provide communications?

I think this is a great time to look in the mirror and assess yourselves BEFORE denigrating others. If you have not SPECIFICALLY and PERSONALLY fulfilled each of those areas, then you are just a hypocrite for demanding that others must do so.

In fact, I posit that continually harping that some hams, regardless of license class, are not truly qualified to be hams is HARMING INTERNATIONAL GOODWILL by making it appear to those outside the US that read these forums that the US is full of a bunch of ignorant, wannabe hams.

In that light, you are once again just proving your hypocrisy as you are actually PERSONALLY AND DIRECTLY acting COUNTER TO ONE OF THE PURPOSES OF HAM RADIO.

How about everyone get off of their high-horse, self-important, self aggrandizing platforms and just enjoy the HOBBY?
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Old 04-30-2014, 10:15 AM
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Create a special EMCOMM ham license that has basic requirements, ie a complete set of tests regarding medical first aid, radio operations,law enforcement,safety etc.. questions and a health requirement, (ie meet a minimum physical requirement exam)

On passing you get a special badge/certificate and license to a new set of frequencies restricted to EMCOMM licensed ham operations only
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Old 04-30-2014, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jdobbs2001 View Post
Create a special EMCOMM ham license that has basic requirements, ie a complete set of tests regarding medical first aid, radio operations,law enforcement,safety etc.. questions and a health requirement, (ie meet a minimum physical requirement exam)

On passing you get a special badge/certificate and license to a new set of frequencies restricted to EMCOMM licensed ham operations only
Was this meant to be posted on 4/1?
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Old 04-30-2014, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Cunnerman View Post
A bit confused here, are you advocating a different class...
No.
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Originally Posted by Cunnerman View Post
...or just making it stop at General for those who aren't interested in emergency communications, do little to advance the radio art, and aren't technically inclined?
No.
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Originally Posted by Cunnerman View Post
That being said, I felt that the Extra exam was a little off mark for the current state of the hobby where most hams buy their radios, power supplies, and even antennas.
Your thought expands my point a bit. Should the Extra class question pool be relevant to the stated purpose of amateur radio or should it be relevant to the current state of the amateur radio service?
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Old 04-30-2014, 1:14 PM
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I think the exams, at all levels, need to reflect the current state of the radio art - in other words they need to test on subject matter that is relevant to operation of a ham radio TODAY, not what was needed to operate a ham radio 50 years ago.

The reality is that constructing one's own transceiver is becoming more and more a non-starter, and insisting that someone possess such knowledge in place of knowledge relevant to current technology is a disservice to the hobby.

FCC rules and regulations, basic electronics, antennas and transmission lines, SAFETY, propagation, RF fundamentals, troubleshooting, SAFETY, radio operation (understanding differences between USB/LSB, FM, CW, AM, etc; understanding filtering, bandwidth, NR, NB, etc, power output, digital communications such as RTTY, PSK, packet, etc) - I think those are good foundations to launch someone into a lifetime of learning about radio communications.
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Old 04-30-2014, 1:26 PM
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Originally Posted by jdobbs2001 View Post
Create a special EMCOMM ham license that has basic requirements, ie a complete set of tests regarding medical first aid, radio operations,law enforcement,safety etc.. questions and a health requirement, (ie meet a minimum physical requirement exam)

On passing you get a special badge/certificate and license to a new set of frequencies restricted to EMCOMM licensed ham operations only
This wasn't so far off. Many years ago - during the Duck and Cover days of Civil Defense - there was a category referred to as a "push to talk license" which allowed civil defense personnel to operate their WC prefix stations with simply a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's Permit.

I'm not sure this is a good idea. EMCOMM is something that's been co-opted to individual agenda. Licenses are not overly difficult to get and the current FEMA director is a ham, himself, without any special accommodation. He just studied and took the test.

Quote:
Originally Posted by W9BU
Your thought expands my point a bit. Should the Extra class question pool be relevant to the stated purpose of amateur radio or should it be relevant to the current state of the amateur radio service?
That's a policy decision about what amateur radio is envisioned to be. The electronics stuff is easy: either you know it or you don't (or you memorize the answers and recognize it when you see it in context). It's hard to put a performance metric to things like "international goodwill." But at least the FCC is consistent. We have other conceptual items, too. Like "profanity." I worked in the street, and words don't bother me anywhere near people's actions, yet there is a precedent of George Carlin words and Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunctions that seem to be objections versus gratuitous violence or glamorized depictions of criminal subcultures that seem to be making their way to mainstream media, each desensitizing the population further to where things that would shock the prior generation no longer shock the current.

You'd almost have to give vignettes and ask, "As an amateur radio operator of ____ class, what would you do if _____?" Even then, the right answer to an intangible is more of an opinion than ministerial mandate. It's like watching the Munsters episode, If a Martian Answers, Hang Up. The opening scene is where two FCC guys talk about what an upstanding guy Herman Munster more than likely is because of the monumental amount of international diplomacy vested in him. Do we as a culture even value that anymore with how casual the Internet has made contact with others in other nations?

Maybe the bigger issue here is revising the exam to reflect social vicissitudes and cultural priorities. Testing electronics and frequency compliance is easier.
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Old 04-30-2014, 1:41 PM
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Should the Extra class question pool be relevant to the stated purpose of amateur radio or should it be relevant to the current state of the amateur radio service?
I think it's good to know "where we came from" if you understand what I'm trying to say. I also think that if they remove any of the theory questions that the "old timers" will gripe even more about these new hams who didn't do it the way we did 50 years ago - and we liked it! Up hill both ways to scavenge parts from old TV's, sewing machines, and making straight keys out of copper/aluminum mined in their own backyards with a teaspoon.

However, this is the era in which we find ourselves. I don't think that we should expect each and every ham to draw circuits or assemble actual parts into a working device. BUT I do think that there should be more actual, usable information covered. For instance, it's great to know that antennas/feedlines need lightning protection. Fantastic - now how do you go about that? It's great to know that you have to do an RF evaluation; how exactly is this done? I found a website where you plug you power, frequencies, etc in but I suspect that most hams have never done it. I.E, "I'm running 25 watts on VHF and there's no way that could hurt anyone. It's not even a light bulb..."

It's wonderful to say that yes everything has to be grounded in a certain way - how do you actually do that at your particular location? Say your electric service entrance is diagonally opposite your shack location in your house. What are the mechanics of getting the connections there so that your station ground is at the location of your entrance ground and bonded together? Do you have to trench the whole way around your yard to get there? These are types of things that I feel should be covered in more depth - the safety issues and things that actually matter and could affect life safety. Handling emergency traffic, etc.

What to do about RFI? Diagnosis is great, but what do you actually have to do to stop/contain/eliminate it whether caused by you or caused by a neighbor or the power company.

To me, offending a ham with 40 or 50 years experience by incorrectly completing a QSO or any other thing is peanuts compared to something that can get you or someone else killed. I just feel that theory is great, but here in the real world, in real life we all need to know how not to kill ourselves or drive our neighbors crazy with our hobby. I hope my discussion makes sense.
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Old 05-01-2014, 1:48 AM
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Default Exam questions.

How many people here, are using a transceiver that they built? What are you using that you designed or built? So why is so much of the tests on electronic theory? Today things are mass produced by people who do it better than I could.

To pass the tests people are forced to either learn a whole bunch of things they will most likely never use, or have a good memory to remember test question answers that make absolutely no sense to them.
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Old 05-01-2014, 8:47 AM
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How many people here, are using a transceiver that they built? What are you using that you designed or built? So why is so much of the tests on electronic theory? Today things are mass produced by people who do it better than I could.

To pass the tests people are forced to either learn a whole bunch of things they will most likely never use, or have a good memory to remember test question answers that make absolutely no sense to them.
Danny, this is the chicken and the egg argument, except with radios. Building a radio with modern components is complex and most people can't do it. No doubt. But most people can no longer go to component level to repair their radio equipment when needed. They have no understanding of what's under the hood. They have no ability to troubleshoot a simple problem, or to apply instrumentation to even diagnose what a problem is - and it's not taught in trade schools anymore.

This is bad for us as a nation, because we cannot depend on our technology items working within a consumer framework. Information technology is the sexy thing today, and our schools and universities are turning out young folks and retreads who can configure a specific product, or can write a script to do a certain function. But when the power supply fails, their only training is the 3-R's: "reset, reseat, replace." That's been the case since about 1992 when the Pacific Rim nations became more fiscally viable sources of manufacture (now it's China), and SMT technology made replacing subassemblies more cost-effective than paying for technician time.

Forget "EMCOMM." The more important mission of amateur radio today is to maintain a domestic cadre of knowledgeable individuals who have at least an awareness level knowledge of electronics. That doesn't mean they are experts (as 97.1(d) might suggest), but that they have the capacity to be if we, as a nation, ever required.

Watch how quickly all this [*singing the 80's song*] "We are the world" stuff goes away if we have an escalation of tensions with our engineering and manufacturing besties in the other hemisphere. There's an Italian expression that's not very polite, but it was the name of Tony Soprano's boat. That's exactly what we will be holding if we eliminate yet another STEM gateway program because we have experienced a societal shift from designers and producers to users and consumers.
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Old 05-01-2014, 9:47 AM
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It used to take a bit of work to pass the code and the theory for this top license class. Now people are passing it on the first take (including me). If it really meant anything, shouldn't it be hard enough to require the average ham at least 2 or 3 tries. Or maybe do it like the Master Electrician's license, you have to be a lower class licensee for 5 years before being allowed to take the test.

Bob
I don't think failure should necessarily be a goal for writing a good test. I passed the Extra on the first try, and I don't think I'm *that* smart Just a matter of studying and practicing...

I've thought that a mandatory waiting period before upgrading might be a good idea; after all, there are a lot of concepts that you can only learn through on-air experience. However, there are a lot of hams out there that haven't learned anything about decorum in the 30+ years they've been licensed, so...
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Old 05-01-2014, 9:50 AM
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Correction, perhaps "a lot" isn't accurate. They just tend to be the loudest
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Old 05-02-2014, 1:29 PM
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It used to be that you could buy a radio for say $100.00. If you bought a kit, you could put a similar radio together for say $60. Today the kit would cost more than the finished product, and most likely would be inferior. As far as the ability to repair, by the time most things today break, newer models with more features are available, and the costs to repair are less attractive than the cost to replace.

As technology increases each field becomes more specialized, and nobody has the capacity to know it all. A number of engineering divisions work on designing a single product.

My thoughts are the tests should have a lower priority on build theory, and more on safety procedures, and good operator practices. An example is that for an exam there might be one question that addresses safety hazards of voltages over 30 volts, but there might be a half dozen on radio component designs. Once someone gets past not harming themselves or others and not interfering with the transmissions of others, then they can learn whatever they want. Maybe have merit badges like the Boy Scouts.
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Old 05-03-2014, 8:31 PM
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I think the exams, at all levels, need to reflect the current state of the radio art - in other words they need to test on subject matter that is relevant to operation of a ham radio TODAY, not what was needed to operate a ham radio 50 years ago.
I'm currently studying to take the extra. I'm rather surprised how much electronics theory it covers that will in no way will help me in the process of operating my radio. I appreciate that the electronics theory is key to a deeper understanding of the hobby, but I doubt many new people coming into the hobby will ever build their own radio, or even repair a radio. This just isn't typical in today's appliance society. We buy stuff, use stuff, when it breaks, throw it away and buy a new one.

There probably are new people entering the hobby that are more into the electronics side of the hobby, and given the current interest levels in 'maker' type activities, probably more than I think.

I guess where I'm going with this is maybe there needs to be a couple of different parallel tracks to the licensing, an operating license track vs an electronics/build/fix-your-own track. It does seem odd to me that these two areas are currently combined because they are very different interest areas.
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Old 05-06-2014, 10:14 PM
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I didn't think it was too easy. But the math part is my weakest point.. Why have letters in math?? hehe

But, I tested tonight, and passed, and get the joy of id'ing as "temp AE" for a week or so.
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Old 05-07-2014, 9:15 AM
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I didn't think it was too easy. But the math part is my weakest point.. Why have letters in math?? hehe

But, I tested tonight, and passed, and get the joy of id'ing as "temp AE" for a week or so.
congratulations!
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