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Wireless Networking United States Hardware

FCC Ponders Removing Morse Code Reqs for Amateur Radio Licenses 341

Nalez writes "This story on the ARRL website outlines six petitions currently in front of the FCC to drop the Morse code requirement for the amateur radio license exams. Currently the ability to do Morse code at 5 words per minute is required to operate on the high frequency bands (below 30Mhz), which are the bands that propagate best around the world." While this may or may not attract more people to ham radio, it will make it easier for the novice to use packet radio devices.
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FCC Ponders Removing Morse Code Reqs for Amateur Radio Licenses

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  • Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheGreek (2403) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:46AM (#6887428)
    dah dah dah dit dit dit dit dah dit dah dah dah
  • About Time (Score:5, Funny)

    by swordboy (472941) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:46AM (#6887433) Journal
    I've been tunneling all my morse code over SSH...
  • Technician class? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hayzeus (596826) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:48AM (#6887435) Homepage
    I think there is no MC requirement already for this type of license, right?
    • Re:Technician class? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Detritus (11846) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:52AM (#6887467) Homepage
      Not now. But if you want to operate HF, you still need to pass a 5 WPM morse code test.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:49AM (#6887444)
    i'm a ham and never bother turning on my rig anymore. I get much more satisfaction out of computers and the internet.
    • by JGaiser (12051) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:05AM (#6887560)
      I have to agree. I've held an Amateur Radio license twice in the past 30 years (WB7RHQ and N7PWF) and in both cases the old farts (and it has nothing to do with age) have ruined whatever interest I might have had.

      I'm truly surprised that this proposal has reached this far. I used to constantly listen to the arguments that Morse Code was a necessary hurdle to prevent the riff-raff from entering the hobby. Morse Code was never a problem for me - I passed 20WPM to graduate from Naval Radioman School in 1966 - but only attempted to use it twice. Good Riddance.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:13AM (#6887605)
      i'm a ham and never bother turning on my rig anymore. I get much more satisfaction out of computers and the internet.

      Ditto. There's just really not any advantage to using it. I only turn on my radio for one weekend a year to help support a volunteer event for emergency medical communications. It would've been nice to chat with people during this past blackout, but alas I'm only a technician class so I need to bounce off a repeater and they were all in disaster mode to save power on battery/generators. If I had HF privileges I could've talked to people outside the blackout area from my car. I have no interest in learning morse code though so that's not an option for me (yet?).

      It also doesn't help that amateur radio is a very elitist medium. The "old timers" treat anyone interested in getting into the field like they're n00bs as much as we would them getting into computers. I wouldn't mind playing around with APRS and packet radio, but it's hard to find any decent info and get help without being treated like a fucking moron.

      • It also doesn't help that amateur radio is a very elitist medium. The "old timers" treat anyone interested in getting into the field like they're n00bs as much as we would them getting into computers. I wouldn't mind playing around with APRS and packet radio, but it's hard to find any decent info and get help without being treated like a fucking moron.

        What the hell are you talking about? When I got my license about 3 or 4 years ago, I was instantly accepted by the hams in my club (BARC). If I needed help

  • About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:50AM (#6887446) Homepage
    I know the old-timers don't want to hear this, but it's really about time that this outdated modulation and transmission scheme no longer be required. They old-timers won't admit it to others, but they know that their hobby isn't growing because of the code requirements.

    Kids these days--the very people you want to get excited about ham radio--have absolutely no interest in pounding the brass, fumbling over the differences between A and N and trying to copy what others have to say via Morse. Remember, they're growing up in a HDTV, 500-channel, broadband Internet world. It's absolutely no surprise that they think sending letters with dits and dahs is draconian. It is.

    Let's give the customary 2-meter and 6-meter privileges to new tickets and push the cutting-edge technologies like PSK31 on the newbies. Show them that ham radio can truly be exciting and modern. But it really is about time the code went the way of the dinosaur. Don't outlaw it--just make it optional.
    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Karamchand (607798) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:53AM (#6887480)
      Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch.

      And for this to continue there have to be some off-putting requirements. If you want to transmit radio waves without learning anything one should choose citizien band.

      (Apart from the fact that morse code is still one of the most reliable kinds to communicate world wide even under worst conditions)
      • Re:About time! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:07AM (#6887578) Homepage
        Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch. And for this to continue there have to be some off-putting requirements. If you want to transmit radio waves without learning anything one should choose citizien band.

        But there's already a fairly extensive written test. It's not like the morse-code exam is the only thing preventing the FCC from handing out licenses to anyone with five dollars and a heartbeat. If they want to make the written test more technical, that's fine with me. Just get rid of the requirement for learning a stupid monkey trick. It should be about knowledge, not rote-learning a silly cipher.

      • That's fine, but the less new people who replace the rapidly growing silent keys, there won't be a lot of people to chew the rag on HF (using Morse) left.

        And with less people in the hobby, where is the motivation for Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom, etc. to innovate and build new transceivers? There are a lot fewer vendors selling ham equipment than there were 20 years ago. I want to see new equipment. I want people to be excited about ham radio.

        One of the other replies to your comment is dead on. The technical
      • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:17AM (#6887624)
        Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch.

        I hate to break it to the old-timers who have this opinion, but if amateur radio continues to dwindle in users you're not going to have it pretty soon. The government will take away those frequencies and sell them off to the highest bidder for commercial communications. There's already VERY strong support for doing that. I'd be very sad to see that happen which is why I hope that they can do something to increase interest and decrease the amount of meaningless hoops you have to jump through to obtain broadcast privileges on certain bands. I'm not about to take a morse code test, but I'd certainly go learn the extra material required to pass a written test for general or advanced/extra (whatever) license.

        • Re:About time! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Karamchand (607798)
          Thank you all (Dun Malg, InterruptDescriptorT and AKnightCowboy) for your replies. While I want to add that my post was written a bit exaggerated and perhaps also provocative you have given me some interesting points and insights I haven't thought about before as well!

      • by j0nkatz (315168) *
        Perhaps the old-timers don't want their hobby to grow (for example to grow like the internet grew!) Perhaps they want to keep it like it is - rather clean, a bit of the elite-touch.

        Are you talking about Amateur Radio or Linux?
      • by kc8kgu (244956) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @02:07PM (#6888567)
        I am a ham. I have a general class license. I passed the 13wpm exam before the requirements were dropped to 5wmp a few years ago. I just wanted to mentions a few points that no one seems to be making.

        A similar rule change has been made before, and MANY MANY hams felt that it had a negative effect. Around 1989, I believe, the morse code requirement for the technication class license was removed. After that, there was a flood of bad, inconsiderate, and disrespectful new hams. Many of them were CBers who didn't want to take the time and effort to learn the code. It let in the riff raff, more Anonymous Cowards and first posters if you will.

        The are several good reasons why the cw requirement should still kept after all these years. Apologies to Bruce Perens.

        Think of morse code as a candle. Sure, we have lightbulbs, flashlights, glow sticks, and the sun. But, if something bad happens - the lights go out, the flashlights batteries are dead, your out of glowsticks, and its the dead of night, wouldn't it be nice to have a candle. It might be boring, plain, ugly, smelly, near useless in the modern world - but when the s*** hits the fan, you'll be glad you have it.

        It is a good filter. Most people have to really give an effort to learn the code. Not all but some. I studied for a couple of weeks to pass my 5wpm test. I studied a few days for the 13wpm test. Some people claim it takes them years to learn it. Maybe, i don't know. The point is, if you want to just talk to you buddy down the street, you can get a cb for $40 at radio shack and not even think twice about a license. Think of the bad operators as spam. If you had a chance to have a really good spam filter or not, would you take it. Don't get me wrong, not all no coders are bad guys and they should have a chance to use ham radio - and they do. They can get a no code tech license and use frequencies above 30mhz. What this would change is give them frequecies priviledges below 30mhz. These frequences are special because of physics and the ozone in that they can propogate thousands of miles instead of the couple hundred of the uhf (50mhz) freqencies and above.

        History. Morse code and ham radio have been together since the beginning. Its almost disrespectful in my mind to push the code to the wayside. Like putting an old dog down just because he isn't good for fetching the papers anymore.

        Anyway, im fairly confident that cw will be around for a long time after its required. If i had to bet, I would say that the requirement will be dropped. I'd say at least 50 years (hopefully i'll make it to my 80th birthday)

        As an aside, several people have mentioned that the written tests themselves are an appropriate filter. I disagree. All the questions that appear on every test are known in advance. I could teach my 10 year old daughter the answer to the questions without her having a clue what the questions actually mean.

      • Re:About time! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GoRK (10018)
        Hmm... That's fine by me. I will outlive all of their sorry asses then it will be my hobby, and their rotting carcass will have nothing to say about it!
    • You know, for a while there (IE, before I had broadband) I thought the internet was better in the way-back... before make money fast, before AOL, etc. But you know what? That's a bunch of horseshit. Sure with more people you get more problems, just like you have a shitload of traffic accidents in LA because there's gotta be like ten million cars running around that area every day, maybe more. But look at what we get for our troubles! Just like if there were only a handful of cars in the US we wouldn't have
    • "It's absolutely no surprise that they think sending letters with dits and dahs is draconian."

      Yeah, like why don't they just join the 21st century or something and do it digitally like everyone else.

  • by freeio (527954) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:50AM (#6887447) Homepage
    We knew that sooner or later this requirement would be removed. Those of us who love CW (Morse Code) still use it, and others will continue to do so, if only because it is simple, it works, and it overcomes real language barriers.

    Still, even though we may love it, it is an anachronism, and the requirement will be dropped, like it or not.

    • and it overcomes real language barriers.

      What language do you use when communicating in morse code? My understanding was that it was for roman characters only... so that eliminates many languages right there.

      However, I imagine the Russians must have created a cyrllic version of morse code.
      • by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:22AM (#6887655) Homepage
        However, I imagine the Russians must have created a cyrllic version of morse code.

        Interestingly enough, they use standard morse code and map the cyrillic letters to their closest phonetic counterparts in the roman alphabet. I was a signal intelligence analyst in the army in the cold-war days and even the Red Army used standard morse. They did everything via code tables and didn't spell out actual words very often so it wasn't a big deal for them.

    • it overcomes real language barriers.

      How does it overcome language barriers? All it can be used to send is letters, and letters make up words. Last time I checked, words were somewhat different between languages.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ham radio isnt to be used for commercial and/or encrypted communication.

    There is no way for a person to have a secure private conversation over long distances without going over some sort of provider.

    802.11b don't count cause it has limited range.

    That sucks.

  • morse code? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Comsn (686413) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:51AM (#6887459)
    whats morse code?

    isint that what they used to stop the aliens in Independance Day?
  • Not before time.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rjmx (233228)
    This move's at least 20 years late. While the rest of the communications world has moved on to much more efficient methods, the Amateur crowd has clung to 120-year-old technology. With any luck, this'll go through (although, knowing the ARRL and its sister organisations, I can't see them going down without a fight) and might even result in more tech types going for amateur licences.

    .....Ron (ex-vk6zjm)

    • I think most of the morse code fanatics have died off. I don't hear many people saying that deletion of the morse code licensing requirement would lead to the fall of Western Civilization, which was common in previous debates on the subject.

      I recently got a grandfathered upgrade to a General license, because I got my Technician license way back when it included a 5 WPM send/receive morse code test and the General written test. I'm studying for the Extra license, now that it doesn't require another morse c

    • Some of the sister organizations have already moved this way. The international body has dropped the requirement, and Switzerland has dropped the requirement and I think England might soon. http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2003/07/22/1/ [arrl.org]
  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:52AM (#6887474) Homepage Journal
    We know that even in the distant future, one's survival may depend on embedding a morse coded message in the warp signature or scanning frequency!
  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) * on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:53AM (#6887479) Homepage Journal
    In fact, I was going to post this in Morse code, but the lameness filter caught me. I hereby suggest that Slashdot switch to Morse code entirely.

    Ahem...anyhow, you could argue that being a ham operator is like joining the Army: you're making yourself and your abilities available to your country/neighbours/fellow humans if necessary. Morse code is intelligible when packet radio and voice are not. Multiple, redundant channels of communication are Good Things, especially when disaster strikes...why allow one of those channels to wither and die?

  • by farnerup (608326) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:53AM (#6887481)
    If I knew morse code, I would like to have a cell phone that understood morse code. I'm sure entering SMS messages would be a lot faster that pressing 1 three times for "c" and so on. The phone would need just a single button!
    • Modern mobiles tend to use predictive text input these days - you only press the keys once for each letter and the phone works out the rest (not a bad success rate either) - you also get spell checking as a nice side effect.

      Some of Nokia's ringtones are in morse code though - the 'Special' SMS tone is 'SMS SMS' and the 'Nokia' Ringtone spells 'Nokia' (proving that someone in Finland *almost* has a sense of humour)

    • One Button (Score:3, Funny)

      by brakk (93385)
      It's so user friendly it only has one button, and we push that before it leaves the factory!!
    • You know, joke though this may be, I just sat here for a second and tapped out some Morse on my leg and it seemed faster than both standard number-pad typing and T2, maybe not as fast as a someone with steady hands using a thumb-board, but not bad--and you can do it blind.

      Going much faster, I think, would require a decent telegraphy key on a flat surface, which is sort of unweildy for a cellphone, but a key in the form of, say, a ring worn on a finger that you activate by tapping a specific code (CQ?) on,
  • 2-Meter Packet ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ProfMoriarty (518631) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:54AM (#6887486) Journal
    While this may or may not attract more people to ham radio, it will make it easier for the novice to use packet radio devices.

    There's already packet for 2-Meter ... so changing the Morse requirement would only allow it on different frequencies.

    As an Amateur Extra class holder, I can see both sides of this ... if you drop the requirement, then more people would be able to get the General or AE license.

    However, if there is a roadblock (not a very high one), that would limit the number of poor operators on HF frequencies that would travel around the world.

    If BPL [arrl.org] does come to fruition, it really won't matter on HF anymore.

    BTW, what type of communication would prevail if aliens invade [imdb.com]?

  • If they drop the morse code requirement, how will we stop the aliens when they destroy all our communication satellites???

    But in all seriousness, part of the Ham Radio culture is being slightly above everyone else with your mad communication skillz, and Morse code should remain part of that. If they drop that, then all Ham Radio-ites are are guys with way to much money to spend on radios.

    And in all seriousness, the requirement is 5 words a minute. It's not like they're asking for your college disserta
  • Clarification .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peatbakke (52079) <peat@noSPaM.peat.org> on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:55AM (#6887492) Homepage
    Three questions for all you hams:

    - Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

    - How often is morse code used today?

    - What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?
    • Re:Clarification .. (Score:3, Informative)

      by ProfMoriarty (518631)
      - Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

      IIRC - it served several purposes but primarily kept poor operators off the airwaves. It also showed that you had "technical prowess" ...

      - How often is morse code used today?

      Given the fact that it is easily discernable, takes very little bandwidth (4 * WPM) = Hz, and global, it is used quite a bit. In fact with my handheld, I can pick up Morse on 7.110 (or so) just about anytime.

      - What advantages does morse code have, vs other fo

      • IIRC - it served several purposes but primarily kept poor operators off the airwaves. It also showed that you had "technical prowess" ...

        Interesting. I would have thought that morse code would have been the cheapest, easiest way to get started. Forgive me for guessing, but don't you just need an oscillator, an amplifier, an antenna, and an easily toggled switch?

        Heh. I think the "geek factor" is undeniable, though.
      • It also showed that you had "technical prowess" ...

        The effort needed to learn morse code is trivial... You just look at a morse-code chart, and in a few minutes, you will be able to translate. It takes longer than that to learn what the dials on front of the radio do...
        • It's more difficult than that. You have to memorize the sounds of the letters, numbers and punctuation, so that when you hear dah-di-dah-di, your brain automatically says "C", without conscious thought. Something similar applies to sending code.

          In the old days, you would run into shipboard radio operators who could listen to morse code and type the received message on a typewriter, while simultaneously having a conversation with someone in the radio room. Transcribing the code had become a reflex.

    • Re:Clarification .. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by laing (303349) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:05AM (#6887558)
      1: Morse code is the simplest form of modulation that can convey intelligence. You don't need much in the way of circuitry to build a C.W. (continuous wave) transmitter. Ham radio is all about experimentation, do-it-yourself projects, and good will. The easiest way to get on the air is to build a C.W. transmitter.

      2. Morse is still used extensively. Tune around the H.F. CW bands and you'll always hear lots of QSOs going on.

      3. In addition to being a simple form of modulation, Morse is also very good at moving data through low SNR (signal to noise ratio) conditions. It's much easier to discern whether or not there is a C.W. tone present than to try to understand spoken language. Note: There are other digital modes which add FEC (forward error correction) and these are actually even more robust than Morse; but you can't do them without additional equipment. Morse communication can be accomplished without a computer.
    • - Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

      - What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?

      I dislike the morse code requirement, but I think both of these can be summed up in that even under the worst communications conditions you can almost always transmit and receive morse code. A noisy signal that would be uncopyable for voice communications would be sufficient to hear morse code. One of the main reasons for amateur radio to exist has been and

    • Three questions for all you hams:

      I'm not a ham, but your questions are incredibly simple.

      - Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

      Maybe because morse was the first form of communication... Before voice, before packet, there was morse. Absolutely any equipment can send a morse signal, and somebody has to be able to understand it, don't they?

      - How often is morse code used today?

      I will leave that for the actual hams.

      - What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms

    • by niko9 (315647) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:53AM (#6887815)
      Three questions for all you hams:

      - Why was morse code originally required for amatuer radio operators?

      - How often is morse code used today?

      - What advantages does morse code have, vs other forms of radio communication?

      Most of the early gear was built by operators. There was no commercially avaible gear. You built everything by scratch, and the first radios were CW, then voice.

      Despite what most non hams would love to tell you, CW is widley used on the HF bands. Why?
      It is a highly efficient way of operating.

      When band conditions are not optimal for voice or othe rmodes, CW usually gets through, and usually with less power. Morse is universal, so talking to that Japanese will not be a problem. When I first became licensed as a No Code Novice (teenager at the time) I too thought CW was moronic and for old times, and thought I would never use it. Then I started to read more about things like QRP [qrparci.org] (5 watts or less) and home brew gear and my interest in CW grew.

      Go visit sites like Small Wonder Labs [smallwonderlabs.com] or Nor Cal QRP kits [fix.net] and take a look at some of these high quality CW battery operated kits. Were talking a handfull of parts, battery operated, less than a couple of watts and you could literally work the world all within a few Khz of band space. Some of these kit's are availble for under 40 bucks, and can be built in one night with some hand tools and a low wattage soldering iron. Now go read the reviews [eham.net] of some of these "kits" compared to high priced, bells and whistles laden, rush to market, poor quality control, consumer rigs. [eham.net]

      Some of the younger people (ages 9-18) trying to get into the hobby today just don't have thousands to spend on a new all-in-one 100 watt radio. Some of these people are also turned off to the fact that they'll become appliance operators. They could just surf the net at 1Mb instead.

      So in respects to CW, some folks don't look at the BIG picture when it come to this antiquated mode.

      Some of our worst nightmares came true on Sept. 11, and it was a disaster on a grand scale. But what if there was a disaster on a national or even planetary scale? Isn't bulletproof, battery operated worldwide communications with a simple wire antenna sound like a great idea?

      I don't have any objections to having CW dropped as a requirment, but I do think that if it does happen, people will eventually want the CW portions of the HF band turned over to other modes, which I object to.
      • I don't have any objections to having CW dropped as a requirment, but I do think that if it does happen, people will eventually want the CW portions of the HF band turned over to other modes, which I object to.

        Well, it's worth noting that CW is the one mode you're allowed to transmit anywhere in the RF spectrum. You don't have to use SSB on 3.819 MHz -- you can use CW if you want. Any objections will come from the guys trying to carry on an SSB conversation, not the FCC. Even if the FCC opened up CW su
  • As the inventor and patent holder for Morse (TM) every ham operator must pay a $299 licence fee to.. etc..

    Darl McBride
  • by doppleganger871 (303020) <{gro.tcatnocon} {ta} {sknahton}> on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:57AM (#6887506) Homepage Journal
    I'm all for dropping the CW req. but I understand why it's there... It's low-tech, and can be received a lot further than any other type of transmission... very little of the actual signal needs to make it thru in order to get the message. High-tech relys on more equipment, and therefore, usually has a higher risk of malfunction, and more difficult repair. Pretty easy to make a cw switch... any two pieces of electrically conductive materials would work in a pinch.
  • Why? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Qbertino (265505) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:58AM (#6887507)
    The Morse code is almost common knowledge, imho. It's a good basic skill and can be somewhat usefull if you can count on a substancial amount of people being able to morse. It's not to far fetched having people be able to morse at 5 wpm in order to get a HAM licence.
    And why would one want to lower the entry level for HAM? If someone really wants to do HAM, learning to morse won't be a barrier, but the requiements keeps the twits away from HAM and that probably maintains a good 'quality of service'. For the lack of a better word. It's just like Fido Net: People where required to give their real name and address and therefore noise and junk was/is *very* low on Fidonet.
    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:17PM (#6888297)
      Because Morse code is a technique that is long past beeing needed in ham radio, it's now only the old farts way of hazing new members to ham radio.

      There are actually much better technologies for doing anything Morse code claims to do now. PSK31, for example, is a far better digital modulation system than Morse. Even Morse could survive if it was desired, but why keep a very knowledgable ham (perhaps one that has even passed the Expert class written exam) off the bands just because they can't learn an ancient 19th century audio encoding technique? There is plenty of computer technology that would allow a ham to both send and receive code much better than someone doing it by hand and ear. You need some technology to receive a radio signal anyway, why arbitrarly draw that line short of letting a ham put a morse-to-speach converted in a set of headphones? (Which, of course, is perfectly legal for all use, just not for qualifying for a license in the first place. In fact I know many hams who learned code to get their license and never used it again afterwards, and, although they have renewed their licenses since then, could not use morse code now if they had to.)

      Most importantly, a frequent argument the old farts like to make is the "importance" of Morse code in emergency situations. But keeping people out of the hobby and having less stations able to monitor and respond in emergency situations because people who can not learn morse code have been kept out does not make sense. In this sense the morse code license requirement actually keeps many hams (like myself) from having HF equipment that they could provide aid with when a disaster hits.

      And yes, although some people have no problem with it, there is a significant barrier for Morse code for many. It's not just learning what the patterns are and what letters they match up to, it's being able to hear them and do that translation in real time while signals continue to come in. Easy for some, hard or imposiable for others, even though they have tried all of the tricks many times.

      Forcing new hams to learn Morse code would be like a teacher forcing new computer students to learn the Hollerith code for punch cards, saying "I had to learn it so you have to learn it". The information shouldn't be lost, but new programmers no longer need to be able to look at rectangular holes in a punch card and read the information on sight. The same should be the case for Morse code.

  • The submitter says this will make it easier for those who want to do packet radio. You don't need morse to do standard AX.25 packet. It's on the 2m and 70 cm band and a few others that Techs have privledges on. I think what he means to say is use other packet modes like PSK31. PSK31 is a nice mode and can get through noisy band conditions that SSB would be unusable. The government themselves have not been using CW for a while (GW was in office, and was the receiver of the last cw message on a government
  • by Kymermosst (33885) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @10:59AM (#6887522) Journal
    While this may or may not attract more people to ham radio, it will make it easier for the novice to use packet radio devices.

    Did you mean Novice class licensees, or new licensees?

    Assuming the latter: A technician-class license (no code, 30 MHz and up operation only) has no code requirement and packet radio use is common.

    What this will make easier is for people who don't have any use for code (like myself, I have to admit) to transmit on the worldwide HF frequencies with packet.

    Of course, if they do drop the code requirement, I am not sure I will operate on HF, because the equipment is kinda spendy, antennas are kinda big (I live in an apartment), and all the fun stuff that I like to do is on VHF/UHF. (I like satellite & other space stuff like EME.)

  • ...then - think about it - soon we'll never hear the nostalgic, reassuring aural tapestry of Morse Code ever again...

    ...oh, apart from those thousands of mobile phones bleeping out "SMS" daily to owners who have no idea what it means...

  • Good move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Henry V .009 (518000) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:03AM (#6887550) Journal
    I have a General-class HAM license. There is no reason anymore to require morse code. But with the internet and cell phones and satelite phones, there is no reason to need a HAM license either.
  • by Styx (15057) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:06AM (#6887569) Homepage
    ... the FCC is considering a move from using . and - as morse code notation, to using . and /

    • Unfortunately, this helical-scan morse encoding standard has already been patented. The FCC proposal will require CW operators to pay royalties on every QSO copied by this method. Of course, the old lineer-scan method will be banned under the new regs.

      73, -KC4TQP

  • by wherley (42799) * on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:07AM (#6887572)
    Here [eham.net] is an article at eham.net with one hams viewpoint and lots of comments. his bottom line - don't sweat the dropping of code requirement.

  • by Alton_Brown (577453) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:12AM (#6887601)
    Look - everyone wants to try to bend over backwards to help people feel welcome these days. Instead of changing the rules they should look for alternatives. Maybe create their own spectrum for those who want to participate but don't know morse code. The rules of golf have been around a long time. However recently to make people feel accepted or to try to capture a larger audience those rules have been changed. Cases in point: Casey using a golf cart and Annika Sorenstam playing a PGA event without having earned a proper PGA Tour card. In both these cases the end result was disappointing even though it was done with the best of intentions.

    We have to respect the rules and understand the subtle details of the hobbies we choose (be it morse code or where to drop an out-of-bounds shot). What's next - do we change chess because people can't remember that the knight has to move in that crazy 'L' shape? Yeah, that's it - we'll protest the Internation Chess Federation for that - it's not fair to those who don't want to or can't learn how to use the piece correctly!

    Sorry for the rant, but at some point you have to stand up and say no!

  • support this (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rock Ridge (677665) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:14AM (#6887607) Journal
    An int'l radio body recently dropped the code requirement. This is a good thing, even though I learned code to get a general license when about 13 years old. It was easy for me to learn, but really isn't necessary if the potential licensee wants to experiment with radio -- there are many ways to do that without code: packet radio, rtty, tv, ham satellite, vhf/uhf/shf/ehf.
  • As a kid... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Funksaw (636954) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:20AM (#6887639)
    As a kid, I was actually pretty interested in the idea of ham-radio. I loved the idea of communicating worldwide with people. (I suppose that's when the Internet came along, I took to it like a duck to water...) But, honestly, I couldn't get the morse code requirement. The way my brain works, it's hard for me to, well, memorize stuff. Calling it up on command would be even sillier. So I never got into it. Here's the thing though. We have typewriters. We have computers. You can still *use* morse code without *knowing* morse code - simply hook up a computer on your line, type your message, and have the computer encode all of the message to Morse. If one wants to recieve, that can be translated by computer also. Morse is a great transmission type - and great for redundancy in emergencies - but it's hard to learn and use. Instead, why not keep the positives of morse code, while taking away it's negative - it's hard-to-learn status? -- Funksaw
  • by blair1q (305137) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:23AM (#6887657) Journal
    CM (Carrier Modulation: turning the signal on and off manually) is the most basic mode of radio communication.

    When you're sinking at sea and the boiler explosion has thrown your microphone and keyboard over the side, you'll still be able to call for help, give your position, and ask for clean drawers by plugging and unplugging the antenna lead.

    If the FCC wants to create a new class of licenses for selfish, aloof operators who "just don't want to get involved", well, that's what the Radiotelephone licenses are for.
  • I've been thinking about getting a license for a few weeks now. Some of my friends have radios, and as the NY blackout is still in mind and hurricane season in South Florida upon us, it seems it could even be useful (and marginally justifiable as opposed to yet another dumb computer hobby of mine).

    I don't know what to make of it really. As far as the Internet is concerned I am usually in favor of removing barriers to entry for all. This means that I fully support cheap PCs, free and open software, public b
  • It's not like they can program or anything....

    (yeah, I'm a ham too. bad joke)
  • Why Morse? (Score:5, Informative)

    by eriko (35554) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:38AM (#6887733) Homepage
    Well, the historical reasons for morse are many, but the reason for the 5WPM requirement (and it used to much harder -- the top classes required 20WPM) was treaty.

    Long distance HF bands aren't useful, unless everyone agrees what those bands are -- no use having the US hams on 40M, if the UK is using that same band for broadcast. So, the amatuer bands were set by treaty. This treaty also had a morse requirement. However, this year, the World Radiocommuncation Conference, held every so often to review things like this, dropped the code requirements for the HF bands.

    I agree that Morse as a requirement has passed it's time. It is a bandwidth efficent and noise resistant mode -- but there are better now, such as PSK31. I've copied 90% of a PSK31 transmission that was so weak I could barely see it on a waterfall display -- never mind actually hearing it.

    Note that eliminating the Morse code requirement wouldn't eliminate Morse code from the bands. There are segements of the ham bands that are CW only. Those who work with low power (QRP) are very fond of CW morse.
    • Re:Why Morse? (Score:3, Interesting)

      While I agree with you that dropping the Morse requirement by itself won't signal the end of using Morse on the bands, it will signal the beginning of the end. Without the license requirement, what incentive is there to learn and use Morse? It will just become another "legacy" mode, a reminder of the good old days of hamming, sort of like AM.

      And, as those who have used and loved it move on to other pursuits, pass away or whatever, the number of CW operators is going to drop until there will be no further j
  • This is a rather alarming trend in most parts of society today.

    Instead of continuing to require a level of competency, just lower the bar to include more people. Eventually there will be no expectations to meet at all.

    As related to amateur bands, this will be another step in reducing it to the level of the citizens bands..

    Great. Just what we need. A bunch of incompetent's clogging the airwaves..
  • Good and Bad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rikun (704741)
    I'm somewhat torn on this entire idea. First, I do agree with many people who believe that it's definitely quite old and not really neccesary at this point, however, I also agree with those who are saying that it COULD be useful. It is universal to some degree, and it doesn't require a huge degree of electronics to use. In any case, how much longer do you think radio stations and whatnot will even be AROUND? I've already seen some internet-based radio parts... it's probably only a matter of time. They're g
  • by MsWillow (17812) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @11:44AM (#6887763) Homepage Journal
    As a former ham radio geek, I too had to learn CW, at least 5wpm - back then, it was a requirement to be able to use much above 30mHz. I survived the test, and forgot nearly everything about CW after that, workig on packet radio, satellite and 6m ssb dxing.

    My partner also learned CW, and loves it, eventually getting her Extra-class license. As we now live in an apartment, antennas are not allowed, so we both gave up on ham radio. However, she hasn't given up on CW.

    She's found a new program - IRCQ - that uses CW over the Net. Yikes! :) So, while the FCC is finally hoping to abolish CW for more technologically-advanced communications, the old curmudgeons can still use their dinosaur-mode skillset.

    So, I guess that CW won't die, despite the FCC's wishes. I personally won't mourn iys passing, but I do see how it can be useful in a very tight situation. Maybe I'll even give ITCQ a try some day,

    73 de N9JZW
  • There's already a no-code service. It's called CB.
  • A few of my friends participate in this hobby, meaning that I've found out just enough about it to be curious. And one thing I'm curious about is, why do they require the licenses at all?

    Better yet, why does demonstrating additional proficiency give you access to more frequencies? Why exactly would you need to know more to successfully use one frequency, than another?
  • by alexburke (119254) *
    the high frequency bands (below 30Mhz)

    Is it just me, or did nearly everyone snicker at this (or think it was a typo)?
    • by Oswald (235719)
      I think it's just you. It should probably say "High Frequency band" instead of "high frequency bands," but I've seen funnier stuff.
  • by epicstruggle (311178) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @12:23PM (#6887978)
    Getting rid of mc just shows me that seti will more than likely never fullfil its goal of finding intelligent life outside this planet through radio waves (and/or other part of the spectrum). We have just shown that as we advance our knowledge we get rid of old forms of communications for far superior forms.

    So its concievable that within 100 years that we will not be using any current communication median, or at a minimum that we encrypt it to almost sound like static (military is/has moving to this).

    just my 2 cents,
  • Dropping the morse requirement reminds me of when AOL joined the internet and usenet.
    Was eliminating that form of a "cluelessness filter" end up being a good thing for the communities?
  • by IvyMike (178408) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @12:37PM (#6888057)

    A bit of trivia: Bruce Perens [perens.com] of Open Source fame founded No-Code International [nocode.org], "a norganization dedicated to the abolition of the Morse code testing requirement as a prerequisite for any class of Amateur Radio license." I didn't see NCI mentioned anywhere in the article, but they're pretty much responsible for the last overhaul of Morse requirements.

    A good article summarizing his No-Code work is Bruce's own article,"No-Code: The End-Game" [perens.com].

  • like vi (Score:4, Funny)

    by CaptnMArk (9003) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @01:17PM (#6888300)
    This would be like using "unix" without learning vi or ed. Never! :)
  • by coyote-san (38515) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @06:00PM (#6889853)
    If anyone thinks the ability to understand Morse code means anything today, do a quick experiment.

    1) Try teaching somebody to understand Morse code at 5 WPM, then 12, then 20.

    2) Try teaching somebody to understand Morse code starting at 20 WPM, or better yet 30 WPM.

    The first is difficult - learning "dot dot dot dash" is a "V" at 5 WPM does NOT translate to faster speeds.

    The second is actually fairly easy. You don't hear the individual tones, you hear didididah and it doesn't take long for people to learn to spell out words (spoken and heard) with the new synonyms.

    The problem? The people who learn to understand Morse at 30 WPM can speak it, but they can't key it... especially with the dead cat and two pieces of piano wire that the Old Farts(TM) use as an example of the type of equipment a ham should be able to use in an emergency. Worse, they can't understand or key it at 5 WPM either since that's s






    that it would be as meaningless as human speech would be to you if it was slowed down by a factor of 6 or more.
  • Its about time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thogard (43403) on Saturday September 06, 2003 @08:41PM (#6890611) Homepage
    At one time I was the thrid or 4th youngest person to ever pass the written test but I can't copy morse at a rate fast enough for the adanced licenses. The result of the stupid requirement is that I never did much with radio and I didn't do any research at all even though I grew up in a house where I had all the tools including good scopes and spectrum analizers and I had access to the best test gear that exists. However the "old boys club" rules about morse keep me from using any of the frequency that was allocated for research. Once the no-code frequencies came it, it just was a 2 meter CB system and you couldn't do any cool stuff like APRS until it had become mainstream. Now if the numebrs of members don't increase quickly soon, all the frequency will get allocated to other things. That will be bad for research but how many hams do that? The EE's I knew that were all the Extras are no longer with us and I don't know too many General class people who could still pass the CW test.
  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Sunday September 07, 2003 @01:12PM (#6894219) Homepage
    The morse code requirement was part of an international agreement between the US and many other countries -- a treaty. So, it wasn't always up to the FCC to remove it -- only in the last few months has it become an option, because --
    A major step forward occured on July 5, 2003, when WRC-03 adopted changes to the ITU Radio Regulations that remove the international requirement that all administrations require Morse tests, leaving that determination to the individual administrations, but the work does not end there.
    (from nocode.org)

    Other countries are already moving in this direction, so it sounds like it's just a matter of time before morse code is removed entirely or reduced even more.

    More details here [arrl.org] and here [perens.com] and here [nocode.org].

    For the sake of completeness, I'm KD5YRD, just Technician class. I've passed the General and Extra tests, but failed the Morse code test when I tried it (yesterday!) ... so I'll need to work on it bit more (perhaps in two weeks I'll try again.) The written tests are quite simple, especially since you have access to all possible test questions, but the morse code part can be a lot harder for many people, even though 5 wpm is extremely slow.

    In any event, don't get the idea that you need to know morse code to do ham radio, even today. You absolutely do not -- the Technician class license does not require it, and gets you access to many (most?) of the `fun' things that ham radio has to offer. But you may want to learn it eventually -- you'll hear a lot of it even mixed in with voice communications.

Nothing in progression can rest on its original plan. We may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant. -- Edmund Burke