Sunday, December 17, 2006

FCC Drops Morse Code Requirment for Ham Radio

The FCC is finally dropping the Morse code (AKA "CW") requirement for all classes of amateur radio license. The official license is here (PDF document). The international governing body for amateur radio dropped the requirement several years ago, and several countries had already followed suit, e.g., Germany and Italy, IIRC.

IMHO, this is a good thing. CW is a mode of operation, not a guarantee that someone isn't a schmuck. Yes, CW is useful and I'm glad that portions of the bands are still reserved for CW. But not everyone is interested in it, and many people just cannot learn it even with a lot of study. I've spoken with several General Class hams who've not used it since getting their license. Operators will still need to pass the written exams on radio technology and proper operating procedures before getting a licence.

One reason many hams didn't want the code requirement dropped is because CW can get through poor conditions better than voice on AM or Single Side Band. However, there are new operating modes, such as PSK-31, which use as little bandwidth as CW, perhaps even less, so they work as well in adverse conditions as CW. (I'm especially interested in PSK-31 since it's a way to bridge my interests in computers and radio.)

Time for me to start studying for the Element 3 exam.

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