A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL:

A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL:

from The ARRL Letter on May 29, 2014
Website: http://www.arrl.org/

A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL:
For many years, there had been talk about creating an entry-level ham license, first between the ARRL and the FCC, and later within the amateur community. Many who wanted to become hams viewed the 13 WPM Morse code test as an insurmountable obstacle. After much deliberation, the FCC decided to create a new “Novice” license class. The Commission began issuing Novice tickets on July 1, 1951.

In those early years, Novice licensees were allowed to operate CW on sub-bands in 80, 11 (yes, 11!), and 2 meters, and AM voice on a segment of 2 meters. Novices were restricted to crystal-controlled operation at an input power of 75 W.

Novice applicants had to pass a 5 WPM code test — both sending and receiving. At first, the receiving test was made up of only 5-character words, making it an ever easier test. Early examinations consisted of 25 multiple-choice questions; the FCC would mail the test materials in a sealed envelope, and a local General or higher class licensee would administer the written and code exams to the applicant.

The original Novice license had a 1-year, nonrenewable term, since it was anticipated that Novices could get their code speed up to 13 WPM and acquire the technical knowledge required to pass the General exam within that period. Earlier Novice call signs included an “N” after the W or K prefix. Upgrading to General often was referred to as “dropping the N.” Later Novice designators included a “V” after the prefix, which became an “A” after the holder upgraded. The FCC eventually did away with special Novice call signs altogether.

One amusing aspect of that early Novice 80 meter operation: World War II crystals were abundant and inexpensive. Wartime military operation had been channelized, mostly using crystal control, and one surplus crystal frequency fell within the 80 meter Novice band — 3735 kHz. As you tuned across the 80 meter Novice band back then, it sounded like a full-blown DX pileup, 24 hours a day, when you reached 3735 kHz (known in that era as “kc”).

In later years Novice licenses were issued for 2-year non-renewable terms, and later still for 5-year renewable terms. More questions were added to the written exam. Other sub-bands were opened for Novices on 40 and 15 meters, 2 meter Novice operation was eliminated, and 11 meters was turned over to the Citizens Band. The FCC eventually allowed Novices to use VFOs.

On April 15, 2000, the FCC stopped issuing the Novice license. The Novice era had come to a close. A small number of Novices remain, but most upgraded long ago.

The aim of the Novice license had been accomplished: Opening access for more people to become part of the Amateur Radio community.

Next week: The Technician ticket arrives. — Al Brogdon, W1AB


The ARRL Letter