Did any of you catch the latest "It Seems To Us" in the March 2008 issue of QST?
Basically, it's an upbeat letter about how "There has never been a better time to share your passion for Amateur Radio with your friends and family members". And it goes on to list some great points. I paraphrase:
1) Our stations are no longer bulky boat anchors confined to the garage or basement.
2) There's a digital revolution in consumer electronics that's bringing exciting changes to Amateur Radio.
3) Computers enhance our operating.
4) The Internet enhances our operating.
5) Amateur Radio is the last communications link "When all else fails".
And these are all very good and valid points. However, it's Number 6 that rubbed me the wrong way. And here I will stop paraphrasing and will directly quote the bullet point:
6) Do they know that knowledge of the Morse Code is no longer a requirement for any class of FCC amateur license
But here they throw a bone at the roughly half of us who still think that Morse Code is relevant and important:
(but that CW continues to be one of the most popular operating modes)?
Now why am I not surprised by this two-faced clap trap? The ARRL has been ignoring the advocates for Morse Code for years. "Get rid of it and watch our numbers grow (and the ARRL's coffers swell!)." While they didn't actively lobby AGAINST Morse Code, I begrudgingly admit, they didn't openly lobby FOR it, either.
Ohhhhhh, and look at the tidal wave of new applicants just rushing in beating down the doors for their licenses! Look how our ranks have swelled to the newest and greatest of heights because we got rid of that nasty ol' Morris Code! All those poor, poor people who were denied their "right" to a license because no matter what they did, they just couldn't master Morse Code.
What a bunch of crap! Maybe, just maybe, if we had stuck to our guns; and didn't let the VEC dictate policy, we'd have an Amateur Radio license structure that means something more than it currently does. Something that you could be most definitely proud of and point to; and you'd be able to say, "Look at what I learned!" instead of "Look at what I memorized!".
I know there are still a bunch of folks out there (probably the majority) who studied hard and actually took the time to learn the theory; and to those I send my heartiest congratulations and "Welcome to the hobby". Fortunately, I've taught enough Amateur Radio classes to have actually have known people who fit this bill. They are a credit to our hobby; and they have truly earned their licenses.
But, on the other hand, I've also been a VE for over 15 years; and I personally know the other seamy side of the story. Folks who come in and take an exam and pass because they are good at memorizing answers. Folks who, if you re-phrased the questions they had just answered correctly, would give you a "deer in the headlights" look; or like you had three eyes or something. Folks, who if asked, don't really know the difference between an ohm and an amp.
And that is sad. Maybe we should be more concerned that quality should trump quantity; and that we shouldn't pander just for a "false" rise in statistical numbers. Which hasn't seemed to happen, anyway.
73 de Larry W2LJ