New Directions Radio: Getting a Ham Radio License

New Directions Radio shares news about getting a ham radio license, discusses how complicated licensing procedures are for the station operator compared to CB radios, the five classes for a ham license and ham radio tests.

| July/August 1977

  • New Directions radio shares information about the process of getting a ham radio license.
    New Directions radio shares information about the process of getting a ham radio license.

  • New Directions radio shares information about the process of getting a ham radio license.

The New Directions Radio column shares the latest on radio activities, this issue covers getting a ham radio license.

Copthorne Macdonald is an amateur radio enthusiast, inventor of slow scan television, a method of amateur radio transmission that allows ham operators to both hear and see each other during shortwave broadcasts, and founder of New Directions Radio. New Directions Radio article MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 46, July/August 1977.

Getting a Ham Radio License

Citizen's band radio — which we discussed last time around In this column — is a tremendously useful form of short-range (up to 20 miles) radio communication. Nonetheless, the fact that it is short-range limits its usefulness.

To communicate via radio across hundreds or even thousands of miles, it's necessary to turn to amateur ("ham") radio. Of course, long distance costs more: In this case, the higher "price" is a more complicated (compared to CB) licensing procedure for the station operator.

At present, there are five classes of ham license: Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Extra (see the accompanying table). Persons wishing to obtain any of these licenses must pass both a practical test on Morse code and a written test covering radio theory and FCC (Federal Communications Commission) rules. The higher the license class, the more difficult the exam . . . and the more privileges — in the form of additional modes of transmission and a greater number of available frequencies — conferred upon the licensee.

Note: The information contained in the accompanying table is subject to change. There has been talk of the FCC reducing the General Class code speed requirement from 13 to 10 words per minute and eliminating the speed requirement from the Novice code test altogether. (As of this writing, however, these changes have not been made.)


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