CW, the Expansion of Phone and Amateur Radio

Gary Carter gcarter01 at TRIAD.RR.COM
Sat Dec 16 12:07:34 EST 2006

    I have been an amateur radio operator for over 32 years. In that 
time I have enjoyed working various modes such as CW, SSB, AM, PSK31, 
SSTV, FM, etc. I have never been an ardent "flag waver" for any 
particular mode. I enjoy them all, because I enjoy amateur radio in general.
    In the first few months as a Novice, before I upgraded to General at 
the FCC regional office using the 13 WPM CW door, I would spend evenings 
working CW stations that were packed from one end of that tiny 50 kHz 
sliver of a band to the other. Every night that little segment was 
filled with signals of stations from all over the country, and some from 
outside of it!
    Since that time I have gone on to enjoy many modes of communication 
in amateur radio, as I mentioned earlier. Occasionally I will work some 
CW just to keep my hand in, and because I enjoy it. Starting about 10 or 
15 years ago I started noticing a change in band usage. Just for grins I 
would go over to my old Novice stomping grounds on 80 and 40 meters, 
scan the frequencies and hear...........two, maybe three CW QSOs on a 
good day. And down below the old Novice segment on 80 meters it was 
worse! A veritable no mans land between 3.6 and 3.7 MHz, except for the 
odd digital signal or two. I know a  lot of this was due to the phasing 
out of the Novice license and the popularity of the Technician license 
as the preferred means of entry into amateur radio.
    With the expansion of the phone bands into segments once teaming 
with CW signals the cry has gone up "they can't do this to us!", 
"they're cramming CW into a tiny 75 kHz window", etc. Funny, seems that 
when I've operated CW in the past 15 years that's where almost all the 
activity has been anyway. Seems to me this "they shall not pass" 
attitude doesn't appear to have the operational record to backup such a 
stance. Remember the whole "use it or lose it" campaign for 10 meters 
sometime in the mid to late 1970's? 'Nuff said!
    I for one welcome the expansion of the phone bands into the under 
utilized frequencies. The Canadians have been enjoying voice 
communications on some of those frequencies for decades, and it will be 
a nice change to be able to work European stations on 75 and 40 meters 
SSB and AM without having to work split frequency.
    As to the subject of the elimination of the CW requirement for 
operation below 30 MHz, this has been coming for decades. It has NEVER 
been a barrier to keep the LID operator and card carrying moron from 
joining our ranks, contrary to the misguided belief of some. Do a bit 
research into the history of amateur radio. The LID and lunatic have 
been with us since 1906. I have seen it proved time and time again that 
the ability to pass an Extra Class exam with the difficulty level of an 
EE doctorate (no matter what decade you passed it in), and then be able 
to send and receive CW anywhere from 20 to 20,000 WPM *DOES NOT* 
guarantee that the licensee is either intelligent or a good and 
courteous operator. Those qualities are not arrived at through mere tests.
    What are those of us who enjoy using CW to do? I'll tell you. Stop 
treating it as a requirement, some testosterone-soaked right of passage 
that "manly" ham operators should do in order to prove they're a "real" 
ham (whatever THAT is), and instead look at it, and encourage use of it 
for what it really is and has been for over 100 years: an art form. Yes, 
an art form. A mode of communication that demands a level of skill from 
it's operator that is not required by any other mode. Also emphasize to 
any prospective ham what a fun mode it is! A code that you can actually 
keep in your head and spout about without assistance from a computer.
    This is not the end of amateur radio. The "sky is falling" faction 
has always been out there. They screamed during the transition from 
spark to CW, they bellowed their disgust when AM joined CW, they kicked 
at SSB, and they've lamented anything that has the word "digital" 
associated with it.
    Am I denouncing tradition and all that has made amateur radio great 
to the present day, throwing it away as old and useless? Not a bit of 
it! I relish operating my homebrew one tube 1929 replica CW transmitter. 
I delight in making AM contacts with my boatanchor station from the 
1950s. But I also enjoy running PSK31. I marvel at those hams who are 
into moonbounce, microwaves and satellites. To those experimenting with 
digital voice I say "go forward"! We amateur radio types are not a 
stagnant bunch, and we never shall be. The day we do become stationary 
in experimenting with technology and providing value to the nation 
through our public service work, that will be the day the FCC pulls the 
plug on us. And we'll deserve it.


Gary Carter - WA4IAM
Amateur Extra Class (and still damn proud of it!)

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