[AMRadio] Good or bad?

D. Chester k4kyv at charter.net
Thu Apr 30 13:36:52 EDT 2009

> The lead article on the ARRL website today is one about a group of hikers 
> encouraged to get ham tickets so that they can run their own 
> communications.  The club that sponsored it reports that after a one day 
> class, they all passed their Technician tests.
> When I think of how and why  I got into this game, that story made me sort 
> of sad.
> Charlie, W4MEC in NC

I agree.  While I think it is a  good thing to introduce  younger people to 
amateur radio (let me qualify "younger"; in this case we are talking about 
people who are still physically capable of even going on hikes), it seems to 
me that this story is a clear-cut example of using amateur radio as a 
personal communications service by people who otherwise have no interest in 
the nuts and bolts of radio.  The League unabashedly caved in to that 
philosophy  years ago when they took most of the technical articles out of 
QST and crammed them away in that other publication, QEX, that even full 
members have to pay extra for.  Their justification, which I have heard 
repeatedly, is that technical articles are of "limited interest" to 
present-day QST readers.

"...we were approached by members of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy a 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania group. They were looking for radio amateurs to 
provide communications for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, a 34 mile 
long, 1 day, sunrise to sunset endurance hike...  After a couple of years of 
working the hike we decided to ask the event coordinators if they might be 
interested in obtaining an Amateur Radio license. After some thought and 
discussion, they agreed. We had a 1 day class at our club, the Skyview Radio 
Society, and by the end of the day all the attendees had passed their 
Technician class tests... While we were doing the class, we knew that their 
main interest in getting the license was for the purpose of communications 
for their event."

This reminds me of recent stories about police and fire departments 
requiring their officers and employees to get amateur radio licences so they 
can use the radios as part of their jobs. What does it say about to-day's 
licence exam, if people who are totally unfamiliar with, and have little 
interest in, the workings of radio, are able to pass the Technician exam 
after a one-day class?  I can recall when one studied for weeks, if not 
months, to pass that test. At the very least, that says that the nature of 
the licence has changed so that the name of the licence class, "Technician" 
is now a misnomer and should be changed to "Communicator Class".

If even one of those hikers develops a genuine interest in amateur radio, I 
would be the first to concede that the positive outcome made the effort 
worthwhile.  But I also see the potential for this sort of thing being 
promoted, gaining in popularity and taking AR even further away from its 
fundamental basis and purpose, with the "communicators" and their 
type-accepted equipment eventually shoving the nuts-and-bolts hams out the 
door.  Canada and UK are already headed in that direction, with a "Basic" 
entry-level licence class under which building, modifying or otherwise 
working on transmitting equipment is prohibited.

Why do we still have the remaining  vestiges of incentive licensing, 
particularly all that segmentation of the bands into restrictive subbands 
and sub-subbands, when incentive licensing was clearly a dismal failure in 
terms of its originally stated purpose, to enhance the knowledge and 
technical skills of the amateur radio community?  If you are not already 
convinced, look at any issue of QST, 73 or CQ from the pre-incentive 
licensing days, and compare the content to what you see in an issue of QST 
or CQ to-day.

Here is a link to the ARRL article. 

Don k4kyv

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