In the "Golden Age" of Ham Radio, things were harder. The testing procedure was different. In most cases, if you wanted to take an Amateur Radio test, you had to travel to an FCC Field Office to take the exam under the watchful eye of a hard core professional test giver.
After you passed your test, you had no place like HRO or Amateur Electronic Supply where you could dial up an 800 number, whip out your credit card and have a new rig delivered to you in a matter of days. You had to "roll your own" as it were; or save up your hard earned cash for whatever was available "du jour". It was not uncommon to scavenge parts from discarded radios, cars and whatever to homebrew a rig that put out just a few Watts in order to communicate with the world. Not that it couldn't be done; but it wasn't as "easy" or elegant as it is today.
On the other hand, today we have it made ..... right? There are ample opportunities to take an Amateur Radio exam just about anytime and any place that you want. We have computers to aid us in studying Morse Code and the exams themselves. There are places on the Web where you can take practice exams as many times as you want, until your confidence level is at 1000000%.
Today we have rigs that will practically let you contest or operate almost without you having to be there. The bells and whistles have developed to the point where Hams from years ago couldn't have even envisioned them. The latest IcoYaesWood radio will almost walk your dog for you, if you ask it politely.
On the other hand ...... we have enough RFI pollution where sometimes it is impossible to find a quiet band on which to operate. There are enough wireless gadgets, plasma TVs, thermostats, furnaces, CFLs, etc, that make so much hash that you just want to scream about the 40 over 9 QRN that is covering up that DXpedition that you so much wanted to put in the log. Today, there are enough HOAs, covenants and other difficulties in place that make even thinking about putting up an outdoor antenna a traumatic event. Years ago, no one really gave you a second look when you ran a wire from your trees to your house. Unless you screwed up their TV reception, no one cared what you did in your house, on your property.
So who has it better? The Hams of old who had more "primitive" equipment; but had seemingly more freedom, quieter bands and plentifully populated bands to operate on? Or the Hams of today, who have more opportunity, better equipment, better resources - but who have to suffer with more inherent QRN, and when the bands are quiet for a change - can call CQ for an hour because there's no one on?
This post isn't meant to stir up a hornet's nest or start a big debate - just to let you know about some things I've been thinking about on the ride to and home from work. So, did "they" have it better; or do "we" have it better? When it comes right down to it, it's probably a wash.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!