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Again? Seriously?

After I passed the General exam a few weeks ago (the actual license came in the post yesterday, by the way), a friend of mine in Indiana decided that he was interested in amateur radio (looking for a hobby he could do while recovering from knee surgery this summer, actually), and he went out last weekend and also got his General license.

Meanwhile, my son (who’s a math major at the University of Texas, San Antonio) also got interested, and he’s been studying, so he’ll take his Technician (and probably General, too) examination tomorrow (as soon as he finishes one of his final examinations early, early in the morning).

This was all so inspiring that I started (again at to study for my Amateur Extra exam. I’ve passed the practice exam a couple of times, but just barely. The Extra exam is significantly more difficult than the General, and requires the memorization and use of a number of formulas; I have a few of them down, but not all, and so I’m not nearly so confident as I was when I took the General. The hardest part for me are the electrical circuit questions: I suppose that I don’t have a head for formulas, and they’re coming very, very slowly for me. So, I think I have a reasonable chance of passing, but I’m also certain that I will not pass with 100%.

The good thing is that, should I pass, I’ll never have to take another exam for the FCC (unless required to undergo a re-examination as allowed by certain parts of the rules).

I have seen comments on other forums bemoaning the fact that people can actually pass these tests by memorizing answers and not actually knowing the material in depth. I sympathize with that, but here’s my response: the FCC does not require you to have an Electrical Engineering degree to get an amateur radio license. They only require the passing of an examination. And, not surprisingly, one can learn an immense amount by studying for that examination. If they raise the bar too high, they’ll do nothing but reduce the pool of radio amateurs.

Yes, I’ve never operated on HF; I don’t even own any HF equipment. My son and I hope to actually build our own rig, and we’re looking forward to continually learning. Getting a ham license is not like becoming a doctor or even a plumber; it’s intended for people to have enough information to prevent abuse and to ensure that they can operate responsibly to protect the public from problems. It is not a certification system to ensure a minimal (high) standard of skills. It’s the start of a process of continuous learning and enjoyment.

I look forward to the journey.

Glen Campbell
May 2, 2014