Tag Archives: Amateur radio licence

Single exam for Full UK licence?

iStock_000007991360XSmall cross businesswoman

In the 2019 Report of the RSGB Examinations Standards Committee there is the following extract:

“4.3 Single exam for Full licence

The Examinations Group have prepared a draft syllabus, based on Syllabus 2019, for an exam that will provide direct entry to a Full licence, like the old RAE. This has now become possible due to the availability of online exams, which facilitates the construction of different types of exam from the questions in the bank. The ESC has agreed that the syllabus will be put out for consultation in the UK amateur radio community. This consultation will take place later in 2019. An important question, which is yet to be resolved in EG and ESC, concerns what form any practical examination might take, and we will look to the wider community for guidance on this.”

I was listening to a net the other day during which someone suggested that this approach might be “elitist”; in other words someone who gained a full licence in one go might be considered “superior” to those who had taken the current Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced exams to get a UK amateur radio licence.

I think it would suit some to take one exam and do not think anyone being successful by this method would be seen as elite. When I took the old RAE in 1975, I gained a Class B licence, which was for 144 MHz and up. I had not passed the Morse test and so my licence was restricted, but I was never treated as inferior by Class A amateurs. I did take the Morse test in 1981 to work more DX on VHF, but that was the only reason; not because of an inferiority complex.

In order to pass the RAE, I took a year’s weekly evening class at Southend College, commuting to Southend weekly on the train straight from my job in the City. The course was taught by Charlie, G8GUO. I wish I knew what happened to him, so if anyone knows, please put me in the picture. Did he give up radio, get a new callsign, even emigrate. I wonder? I was very grateful to him for getting me through the exam, of which I have a copy, and which I might have difficulty passing now! 😊

I do not think it matters how a new amateur gets a licence. I welcome the Foundation exam as a way of coaxing in new amateurs. We need the new blood and it is great how the clubs are organising courses which did not happen under the old system. However, if someone puts in the work to pass a RAE style exam in one go, who are we to criticise?

Advertisements

A few thoughts of then and now….

No electrical junk shops

When I was a lad there was an electrical junk shop in Brentwood and some of us boys used to go there after school. I suppose working electrical items were for sale, but we foraged for old capacitors and transformers and other bits. We built things from the bits, such as power supplies for our army surplus equipment.

Now, every component we need is small and comes in a small plastic bag. We did have small plastic bags back in the Sixties of course. I bought silicon rectifier diodes in them for the aforementioned power supplies. However, I miss the junk, and having to send off for new everything, even though it is cheap and easily obtainable from eBay. It is just not so much fun, though.

UK amateur radio licencing

One of the biggest changes for one who has been absent from amateur radio for so long is the changing to the system, such that there are three tiers of licence, Foundation, Intermediate and Full. I can understand that people need to be encouraged into our hobby. After all, there are so many other geeky type things to do, the SWL path so many of us followed is not there in the same way (“hello to the listeners”) and broadcast DX is less abundant. That was a useful indicator of conditions.

The first two tiers are I assume easier to attain than passing the old RAE. Why are there so many M3s, M6s and 2 type call signs who have not upgraded to full after quite a few years, though? (Ducks head to avoid missiles.)

OK, the May 1975 RAE I passed was jolly hard. I have a pdf copy of it now. I did a full year of evening classes at Southend Technical College to get it, too. Whatever happened to my teacher, Charlie G8GUO?

Two metres and above

The other major licence change is allowing all licencees to venture onto the HF bands, or at least nearly all the bands below 144 MHz in frequency. That seems harmless; even sensible with the abolition of the Morse test requirement.

The bad news is that 2 metres and above see far less activity. After I passed my RAE I initially balked at the Morse test. I had a Class B ticket, G8LFJ. (I wish I could still have the call sign, but apparently not.)

Anyway, I served an apprenticeship on 2 metres and 70 cms, and learned how fascinating those bands were with exciting propagation; tropo, aurora and Sporadic E. I passed the Morse test in 1981 simply to work more DX on 144 and above. However, no one seems so interested in the higher frequencies when they can work longer distances on the lower ones using a piece of wet string as an antenna. These newcomers do not know what they are missing.

Digital and so on

I am not sure I am very interested in digital repeaters. Repeaters have their uses for mobiles and for local social ham gatherings. Weak signal work using digital modes is another interesting ballgame though. As an ex-high-speed Morse enthusiast for meteor scatter this sounds a fascinating possibility. I am not a total Luddite, you see, and am quite good at software techie stuff. I may need some help of course.

What is amateur radio, then?

It is not one hobby but many, or it is an umbrella term for many different niches, and many more than it used to be.  Assuming we stick together and hold our territory when so many other forces vie for our bits of the electromagnetic spectrum, we should be OK. Let’s not be complacent, but use it so we don’t lose it, especially above 30MHz.