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Sunday, December 17, 2006

FCC drops Morse code requirement for "ham" radio licenses

Wow, this is really upsetting. It seems that amateur radio operators no longer have to pass a Morse code test as part of the licensing exam. I was a ham radio operator in my younger days. My call sign was WB2AKB, my father was WA2SMB, and my uncle was K2JXP. A couple of friends and I took great pride in our knowledge of CW (which stands for "carrier wave", the ham-geek term for Morse code) and how many WPM (words per minute) we could handle. You could get a Novice license at 5 WPM and then for the General through Extra "tickets" you had to be faster and faster. I think I was up somewhere above 20 WPM when I finally gave up the hobby. And I can still read Morse code to this day, although not at 20 WPM...

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) site called this the end of an era. I agree...

.-- --- .-- --..-- .-- .... .- - .- -.-. --- --- .-.. ... -.- .. .-.. .-.. - --- .... .- ...- . .-.-.- .. .... .- -.. - --- ..- ... . .... - - .--. ---... -..-. -..-. .-- .-- .-- .-.-.- --- -. .-.. .. -. . -.-. --- -. ...- . .-. ... .. --- -. .-.-.- -.-. --- -- -..-. -- --- .-. ... . -.-. --- -.. . .-.-.- .... - --
To Brian, AKA "The Harmonic".

Dad would have approved I think. He thought that the Morse code thing was elitist. But he certainly loved the technology of it, and loved talking to the guys on the 2 meter rig. What is it called when you actually talk, which of course is considered to be a lower calling? The lowest of them all is when you actually meet the people face to face and have a party . Eye-ball q-so?
For those of you who are wondering, "harmonic" was the ham radio term for a child. Years ago, my father used to belong to a group of ham radio operators (a "net") called "the insulting net" because they insulted anyone else who tried to join. The rest of them could hear me making baby noises in the background and so I became known as "the harmonic."

A QSO (pronounced q-soh" is shorthand for a conversation. So getting together in person became an "eyeball QSO." There are a number of other shorthand codes that were originally designed to reduce the amount you had to send in Morse code. For example, an unmarried woman was a YL (young lady). A married woman was a...you guessed it...XYL. This led to some fun exchanges such as, "Enjoyed the
QSO, but I have to QRT now. The XYL wants me to take care of the harmonic."
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