USA: New very basic licence?

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Re: USA: New very basic licence?

Postby lars » Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:07 pm

"My eldest daughter gained her foundation exam aged 9,..."

I suspect that my eldest daughter would never pass even the foundation exam, even if she wanted to. She can do things that seem to me to be stupifyingly difficult, but she doesn't have the systematic, bottom-up way of looking at problems that physicists and engineers (amateur or professional) seem to have instinctively. I spent about a month trying to explain to her what "voltage" and "current" mean, when she was studying for GCSE exams, and how the are related; I'm not sure I ever succeeded.

My son is similar -- he's a tremendous musician and artist, but the very idea that phenomena in the natural world can be related to one another in systematic, mathematical ways is completely alien to him. When I have to try to help him with chemistry or physics, it's really like we're talking different languages.

It worries me that people like me -- probably people like everybody on this forum -- people who are systematic, reductionist thinkers don't really understand how rare such a mind-set is in the world. We perhaps don't even understand that there even are different ways of thinking.

The amateur radio exams are set by people who passed amateur radio exams (or, at least, similar exams). They make sense to, and are comprehensible by, people who think in particular ways. I don't mind hard study, but I accept that there are things that will never be comprehensible to me -- dance, for example -- however hard I study. There are people in my household -- smart, diligent people -- who could not gain an amateur radio foundation licence even if they studied for a thousand years. We need to keep sight of the fact that people aren't all the same.
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Re: USA: New very basic licence?

Postby Sjmmarsh » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:11 am

An interesting discussion.

I first looked at ham radio when I was at school and playing with electronics. I never took it up as I decided the CW element was going to take too much time (and money) given everything else I was doing.

40 years on, things have changed - I now have the time and can afford to get the equipment if I wanted. However, the original benefits of ham radio have declined massively over those 40 years. Then, it was the only way to communicate remotely or over long distances - now, mobiles and the internet make it really easy. The prime USPs or ham radio have disappeared, making the main interest DX competitions and technical aspects of aerials and transmitters. Fine if you are already licensed, but this is likely to be of limited interest to most who are new to the hobby.

Removing barriers to entry has to be a good way to get others into this hobby. A simple basic licence that gives more privileges than CB/PMR can act as a way to entice people in. Once they are in, that is the time to get them into the intermediate and full licences.

A parallel would be to say that you could only get a driving licence if you understood the mechanics of the internal combustion engine and how to rebuild a gearbox...

I would love to get started in this hobby - having completed an online course and listened to local 2m chat on repeaters and the V bands, I don't think that I am any less competent now (using a Baofeng UV-5R) than I will be once I have passed the exam. The danger is that it takes me so long that I just give up - or take the route of some I spoke to at the local club who admitted to just using a made-up callsign before they got their licence. A simple basic licence would help tremendously and allow me to increase my enthusiasm by talking regularly to other licenced users!

As an aside, my first experience of the nearest club didn't inspire me to go back there...
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Re: USA: New very basic licence?

Postby lars » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:05 pm

Yeah. My interest in radio is wholly technical. I'm fascinated by the idea that I can get long(-ish) distance communication using self-contained equipment that I built myself, and that requires no external infrastructure; and I'm willing to put the effort into making that happen.

But amateur radio and CB (and similar techologies) do still have, I think, one great advantage over the alternatives -- you can have a long-term (hours), real-time, multi-party conversation. This is difficult (and expensive) using mobile phones, even in places where there is mobile phone coverage. This is exactly the kind of thing that the voluntary organization I work for needs to do. In principle, we do have an official business frequency allocation in the 2m band, but nobody uses it -- we all use CB. The line-of-site thing can be a real bear at VHF, particularly with the power we are allowed to use.

So I can sort-of envisage a need to provide amateur-type access to people with no great technical interest; to be honest, however, I'm stumped to come up with any practical applications that aren't covered just as well by CB as they would be by a foundation-type licence. As Sjmmarsh says, nearly all practical communications are better handled with consumer technologies these days (or so it seems to me.)
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