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  #11   Report Post  
Old October 14th 07, 04:59 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

"Steve Bonine" wrote
But the new hams are missing a memory that all of us old timers have of
being intimidated by the FCC exam process, and that's just a tiny bit sad.


Steve, I think you're right - very right - especially after reading Jim's
posting that followed yours. It's an experience that few of us hams share
any more.

N7SO



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Old October 14th 07, 09:14 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed


"Howard Lester" wrote in message
...
"Steve Bonine" wrote
But the new hams are missing a memory that all of us old timers have of
being intimidated by the FCC exam process, and that's just a tiny bit
sad.


Steve, I think you're right - very right - especially after reading Jim's
posting that followed yours. It's an experience that few of us hams share
any more.

N7SO

Only licensed 30 years ago, but took the exam before the steely-eyed FCC
examiner at BATTERY Street in San Francisco. Back then, it was a lot tougher
to get a Ham License than it was to join the US Navy hi hi. A memorable life
experience. And the several week wait for the ticket in the mail was
unforgettable as well.

Lamont Callsign withheld in the swampy waters of the news groups (;-)

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Old October 14th 07, 09:16 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

On Oct 14, 10:03?am, Steve Bonine wrote:

I suppose that the VE system is a positive and reasonable
step for the
hobby. It sure is easier to convince class attendees to come
to a VE
session than to travel to the nearest FCC examination location,
so it's
obvious that we get more new hams with the VE system than
having the FCC
administer the tests.


I don't think it's obvious at all. Look at the growth in US amateur
radio over the decades, and the VE system by itself didn't really make
a noticeable difference in the number of new hams.

Remember too that in the mid-to-late 1970s the FCC offered
hams two test options:

1) Travel to an FCC exam point

2) Get a certain minimum number of people lined up for the
test, and FCC would send an examiner

Most hamfests above a certain size had FCC exam sessions
in that time period. Clubs and classes would have periodic exams, too.
All free.

Not to mention all the tax dollars that we're
saving.


*That* is the only reason we have the VE system, IMHO.
The FCC got unpaid volunteers to do almost all the work of test
preparation and administration, instead of paying federal
employees to do it.

But the new hams are missing a memory that all of us old timers
have of being intimidated by the FCC exam process, and that's
just a tiny bit sad.


Given the choice, I'd rather have the tests be really good ones
that are readily accessible, with as little intimidation as possible.

I think the main effect the old system had on me (and probably many
others) was that, since it was somewhat difficult/expensive
to get to an FCC exam session, and the results of failure could be
rather dire, we tended to be way overprepared for the exams, and
surprised that they weren't as tough as we'd feared once we actually
got to them.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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Old October 15th 07, 08:53 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

On Oct 12, 1:25?pm, wrote:

What do others remember?


It's a cool late February weekday in the year 1956. I am
23 and a month out of active US Army duty, having spent
the last three Army years in radio communications, I had
decided to get a civilian commercial radio operator
license two weeks prior. I've done the cram thing on over-
drive, practically memorizing all of the looseleaf notebook
FCC rules borrowed from a new friend at a broadcast
station. I walk several blocks from the train station to
the Federal Building in Chicago. I am alone, have never
been walking in downtown Chicago before...but I am
confident although a bit tired. The train ride was an
hour and a half and the flat Illinois prarie boring as usual.

The FCC Field Office is upstairs and I find it. Everything
seems to be utilitarian-government. World War II ended
11 years prior and all federal offices look "war surplus"
furnished. Three visible officials are brusque, bored, not
effusive; i.e., it's like being back in the Army. Familiar.
FCC guys are fussing with a paper-tape code machine
and one of the three radiotelegraph testees has a
problem with connecting his favorite speed key (allowed
then). I am going for radiotelephone first class. I fill
out a two-page form about myself, then do the first of
four written tests, a short one required of everyone then
about FCC organization and laws. Code beeps are
heard in the background and a telegrapher seems to be
mumbling while copying; he is advised to be quiet.

Government-issue tables are too high, government-issue
chairs too low. I pass the first test, then everyone is
interrupted by loud bell claning outside.It is a fire drill in
the Federal Building. FCC agents are not happy. I
get a cup of bad coffee from a stand at the main
entrance and do the break, waiting and waiting, my
mind reviewing what I've memorized in rules and regs.
The military had never required licensing and is not
accountable to the FCC in radio operation.

Back upstairs again to finish the parts. I have to draw
a couple schematics and explain what the parts do on
a supplied schematic. One of the tests is multiple-
choice. Not a problem, it is something almost
intuitive to me now. Regulations and special law
considerations are not. I finish the last part and
bring it to the remaining agent's desk...I wonder idly
where the other two have gone. He pulls out a
template and other test notes from under his desk
blotter. Not much "security" there. I stand quietly to
one side, sort of in civilian parade rest. After a long
time of checking and making a few notes he finally
notices another human in the office. The telegrapher
testees have finished and are gone. He looks up
and says "You passed" in a bored unenthusiastic tone.
I say "Thank you" with as much enthusiasm and leave.
I know the government drill.

It is now after lunch and the return train won't leave for
three hours. What to do? I have a hot dog from a
street vendor, good franks in Illinois and Wisconsin, as
I know. I idly look in shop windows, pass a movie
house in its last week of first-run showing of the film
"Oklahoma." It has a matinee. I buy a ticket and
watch it from the balcony, the only one up there. At
the train station I buy a copy of the Chicago Tribune
and pass the return trip time reading of news that
don't really affect my life. I have no real emotion
about the day. I was confident in passing and did.
My mind is at ease. The rest of my life awaits.

Time Machine forward to February 2007 and FCC
announcing the fateful decision of No Code Testing
for US amateur licenses. I hadn't planned on getting
a "ham ticket." I idly check for exam places near me
in Los Angeles. ARRLweb lists one on 25 February,
a Sunday, at an old firehouse across from a Ralphs
supermarket that I've shopped in for over 40 years. I
thought the one-engine firehouse had closed down
years ago? I say to myself, "Why not?" and call the
ARRL VEC team leader listed for other info. I will
miss the Fontana, CA, NASCAR race carried on
ESPN2 but we have a DVR in the cable company's
set-top box. The old one-door firehouse had been
replaced for years but is now one of the stations
of the Los Angeles Emergency Communications
Auxilliary. Nice folks in there, all pleasant and
seeming enthusiastic. I wait and wait in a room
full of strangers, all younger than myself. Actual
testing doesn't begin until an hour and a half after
scheduled time. Must be 30 to 35 folks in there by
then, most doing just routine administrative things
they could have done themselves. Why didn't they,
I wonder? No real problem but it delays license
testing. The ARRL VEC team leader knows I am
going for Extra but I get the impression he doesn't
think I can do it.

These tests are not even close to the formal testing
I've had in college classrooms. I am retired and my
"job" doesn't depend on passing this test. I will not
cease to exist if I don't pass it. I have prepared for it
and have confidence that I can pass. But...let's GET
ON with it there, people! It's at least a half hour wait
between each test element. I chat idly during
breaks with others. Most seem amazed at what I
am doing. Why, I wonder? I don't look THAT old.
Do they really stand in awe of tests? How did they
get California drivers licenses which also require
multiple-choice testing? Did some fail to graduate
high school?

There are four in this ARRL VEC team. I casually study
them as much as they seem to study me. Interesting
situation. I smile inwardly. The team leader practices
lots of testing security, even to using a small padlocked
test-material box. Every examiner checks everyone's
answers. That's good. That also slows down the
process. I was surprised to see an African-American
on the VEC team. That's a rarity in US amateur radio.

I finish the last test. The VEC leader seems really
surprised. He shakes my hand in congratulations. So
do the other three. Am I the first applicant who got
"Extra out of the box" with this VEC team? I guess so.
One of them mumbled something to that extent. Okay,
another test completed, another in many tests taken
during my life. I leave, walk across the street to get to
my car and drive a mile back to my house. My name
and new callsign (for amateur radio purposes) shows
up on FCC databases for 7 March 2007. I am 74.

Did I get all sorts of emotional goosebumps over that
ham test? No. I had planned to do it, prepared myself,
and felt confident in passing...much the same as I'd
done 51 years prior for my commercial license.
Planning, preparedness, confidence works every time.

73, Len AF6AY

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Old October 16th 07, 05:10 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

Steve Bonine wrote:
Howard Lester wrote:

That white shirt and tie was pretty intimidating, wasn't it?


One of the most rewarding experiences of my ham radio career was serving
as reader for a blind ham who was taking her Extra exam in Chicago, just
before the FCC stopped administering them. She wanted to take the exam
from the FCC. She passed. I felt a tiny part of her pride.

I suppose that the VE system is a positive and reasonable step for the
hobby. It sure is easier to convince class attendees to come to a VE
session than to travel to the nearest FCC examination location, so it's
obvious that we get more new hams with the VE system than having the FCC
administer the tests. Not to mention all the tax dollars that we're
saving. But the new hams are missing a memory that all of us old timers
have of being intimidated by the FCC exam process, and that's just a
tiny bit sad.


As a little counterpoint to the issue, I was licensed first in 1999
(rank newbie - HA!) and took my first Element one test in 2000.

Well, I flunked it.

What I remembered though was the examiner who labored over trying to
find the different ways that I might have squeezed through and actually
passed the thing. But it just wasn't to be. Poor guy was so apologetic
and felt so badly that I ended up feeling badly for him.

So much depends on our outlook, but I would trade that guy's kindness
and eagerness to get me into the fold, over being intimidated by the
steely eyed examiner. It made me look forward to passing my test and
getting into that fraternity. Which I did a few months later. And passed.

- 73 de Mike KB3EIA -




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Old October 16th 07, 07:04 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

Michael Coslo wrote:

So much depends on our outlook, but I would trade that guy's kindness
and eagerness to get me into the fold, over being intimidated by the
steely eyed examiner. It made me look forward to passing my test and
getting into that fraternity. Which I did a few months later. And passed.


Ah . . . back then, the 5 wpm code test was not administered by the FCC,
at least not for the Novice ticket. It was administered by your fellow
operator, as part of the examination for Novice.

I gave a number of Novice exams back then, and it was always a pleasure
to do so. I also taught a number of Novice classes, most of which was
code, and enjoyed doing it. Mostly I think my students enjoyed it, too.

So we got both experiences . . . an Elmer's kindness, plus the steely
eyed examiner grin (Although my memory of the examiners in Chicago is
a pretty positive one.)

73, Steve KB9X

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Old October 17th 07, 07:51 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

On Sun, 14 Oct 2007 11:59:54 EDT, "Howard Lester"
wrote:

Steve, I think you're right - very right - especially after reading Jim's
posting that followed yours. It's an experience that few of us hams share
any more.


So very true. For most hams that was the first one-on-one contact
that they had with the FCC and being told that one passed the exam
made it a positive contact. Some hams also went up to the FCC office
to look up information in the public data bases or to ask for an
interpretation of the Rules. Now one deals with the FCC via the very
impersonal internet or through a third party (privatization at its
worst) , and it's a good bet that most hams do not know the location
of the closest FCC District Office or the name and face of the
District Director or any of the field agents unless and until one
receives an inspection or Notice of Inquiry or Violation because of
some problem.

At one time the staff was encouraged to visit each ham club on a
regular basis. Everyone knew who Phil Kane was and how he could be
reached.

Those days are gone. What a loss.
--

73 de K2ASP - Phil Kane

From a Clearing in the Silicon Forest

Beaverton (Washington County) Oregon

e-mail: k2asp [at] arrl [dot] net

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Old October 18th 07, 05:28 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Forty Years Licensed

On Oct 17, 2:51?am, Phil Kane wrote:
On Sun, 14 Oct 2007 10:14:05 EDT, wrote:
What was intimidating was the fact that the Examiner was The Man From
FCC, who had sole power to say "You passed" or "You failed".


It was the applicant who determined if the result was passing or
failing. The examiner merely reported the results.


Bwaahaaahaaa! I walked right into that one, Phil!

However, didn't the examiner have to use at least some judgement as to
whether an applicant's Morse Code copy was 'legible', and whether his/
her sending was OK?

Going back before my time, when the exams involved writing essays,
drawing diagrams and showing how an answer was derived, didn't the
examiner have some judgement as to whether the applicant had properly
answered a question?

--

The way I recall it, the examiner I met wasn't so much trying to
intimidate as to simply let you know that this licensing stuff was
serious business.

--

One more story:

In those days (1967-1970) the written exam questions came in a booklet
and there was a separate answer sheet for your answers. They made a
big deal about having two #2 pencils, filling in the little box
completely, erasing completely, not making stray marks on the paper,
do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate, etc.

I'd had similar standardized tests several times in school, and there
was always an air of mystery about how the tests were graded. It was
implied that they were fed into a computer that had a no tolerance for
those who didn't follow instructions.

Being a curious sort, I asked how the machine worked, but got no
information. Top secret?

It seemed to me there were two possibilities: either there was some
form of photoelectric system that shone a light through the paper, or
there was a grid of contacts (gold plated?) that detected the answers
by the conductivity of the graphite pencil marks.

The photoelectric system seemed more workable, but the grid-of-
contacts system explained the insistence on #2 pencils.

When I went to take the test at the FCC office, I thought I might get
a glimpse of the grading machine. But there was nothing that looked
like such a device in the exam room.

When I handed in my completed written test, the examiner's assistant
pulled out what looked to me like a manila file folder. She opened it
up and slid the answer sheet inside - behind a piece of paper with
holes punched in it. She counted up the holes with marked boxes behind
them, then pulled out the answer sheet and looked for any questions
with more than one box filled in. Whole operation took very little
time. She said "You passed" and that was it.

What a letdown! No fancy machine, no photocells or gold-plated
contacts, no computer, just some pieces of paper with holes in the
right spots.

I got the distinct impression that I'd seen something I wasn't
supposed to reveal to others.

The phrase "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" took on a
whole new meaning that day.

73 de Jim, N2EY



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