Ham Radio: Got My Amateur Extra License

I got my Technician license at the end of March and given that the material covered in the General and Amateur Extra licenses builds on the previous material, I decided to continue on over the next two test dates to upgrade to these as well. There are many sources to study for the exams. For me, the Amateur Radio Relay League’s study guides and the online study tools at HamStudy.org made preparation both informative and easy. I also found the flash cards at HamExam.org useful especially when the algorithms used in HamStudy.org seemed to get stuck and kept repeating the same questions too frequently during study sessions.

I didn’t have the time to get my license back in the 1970-80s when I was studying radio electronics, mostly because of the morse code requirement in place at the time. With that now gone, it’s doesn’t take much effort to get licensed. Even my non-technical wife is interested in getting her Technician license so she can volunteer on communications at long distance trail races. Given the structure of the band rights now, she won’t need to ever upgrade to pursue her interests in this area.

I’ve seen discussions online regarding the differences in licensing over the years, usually with long-time hobbyists lamenting the lack of knowledge of those getting licensed today. Times have definitely changed regarding licensing. As a key hurdle for many, in the old days, upgrading involved demonstrating successively faster morse code speeds which naturally required time to develop proficiency. Along the way you probably also developed a better understanding of the technical/operating aspects of the hobby. As such an upgraded license back then usually meant that the holder had developed some level of proficiency. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Gaining a license today could simply mean that you were able to memorize enough answers in a public pool of multiple-choice questions to get a score of 74% on a random sample of them. Whether you have any real technical/operating knowledge isn’t essential. I don’t think that’s necessarily good or bad. It’s definitely different.

I haven’t retained a great deal of the technical knowledge I built up in the 1970-80s, but what I have retained made studying for the existing licensing exams easier. Still, I’ll be the first to admit that even though I’m now licensed as an Amateur Extra, I still have just barely scratched the surface of this hobby and I’m bound to have some old-timers rolling their eyes at my lack of experience.