1951 - The Beginning
A Very Strong Beginning for the Novice License - In the new licensing system put into place on July 1, 1951, there were: Novice, Technician, Conditional, General, and Amateur Extra Class licenses. This was the first introduction of the Novice. The Novices license was originally introduced a one-year, non-renewable license. One could only hold the Novice once. That is, if one had a Novice and did not upgrade before expiration, one was not allowed to get another Novice. The Novice was a learner’s permit in an upward or outward system designed to compel upgrading.
The Novice tests were originally given by FCC inspectors. An applicant had to pass a 5 words per minute Morse code receiving and sending test, Element 1A. The receiving test consisted of 5 minutes of Morse code. To pass, an applicant had to perfectly copy at least 1 minute of the five minutes. That is, no mistakes were allowed in a one minute period. The sending test was the same. Typically, the examiner would stop and pass the applicant once they sent 1 minute perfectly. The written test, Element 2, consisted of 20 questions.
As a learner’s permit, Novices were strictly limited as to reduce the interference and trouble they could cause. Novices were limited to 75 watts and had to be crystal controlled. They had limited code privileges 3.700 to 3.750mc and for a brief time 26.960 to 27.230mc. They had phone privileges on 2 meters. Since Novices were rock bound they had to their receivers up or down from their transmitting frequency to listen for other Novices who may not have the same frequency crystal.
Novices were issued a distinctive 2x3 call sign, WN followed by the call district number and three letters. W is a designation for radio amateurs in the U.S. N stood for Novice. A typical Novice call was WN6###. When the Novice upgraded, the new higher license usually had a call sign in which N was dropped, and a A or B was substituted, i.e. WA6###.
Novices in the U.S. territories did not have N call signs. The territories used K prefixes. Novices were given a W prefix. When they upgraded, the W was converted to a K.
1952 - 40 meters became available for amateur use.
1953 - Novices got a small sub-band on 40 meters.
Novices got a small sub-band on 40 meters. About this time, the FCC started reissuing calls. Previous to this point, call signs were originally issued; that is no one had the call previously.
ARRL publishes its first Novice license manual. The actual examination questions and answers were not published. ARRL wrote sample questions.
1954 - Novice/Technicians license given through proctors
Due to overwhelming popularity, the Novice and Technicians license were given by mail through proctors only. The term Volunteer Examiner (VE) was not in use until 1983. The proctor was a ham with a General or higher license and was 18 or more years old.
1955 - K/KN call signs issued
There was already a call sign shortage in the second and sixth call district. By the mid-w1950s the shortage reach the rest of the U.S. mainland. FCC started to issue K call signs on the U.S. mainland. Novices were issued KN call signs.
1956 - Over 140,000 U.S. Hams
The population of hams in the U.S. is over 140,000.
1958 - Novice Frequency Privileges
Novice Frequency Privileges:
- 3.7 to 3.75mc CW.
- 7.15 to 7.2mc, CW.
- 21.1 to 21.145mc, CW.
- 144-148mc, CW and phone.
There were some complaints from some Generals, Advanced and Amateur Extras that Novices should not be allowed on the new 15 meter band.
1960 - FCC stopped issuing WV# Novice calls
FCC stopped issuing WV# Novice call signs and went to WN call signs.
1962 - Technicians denied full privileges on 10 meters
FCC denied petition for rulemaking which sought to give Technicians full privileges on 10 meters. FCC reaffirmed its policy that Technicians are VHF/UHF experimenters and not communicators. The next step for Novices is to upgrade to General and not to Technician.
A new magazine called VHF Horizons started publishing. The magazine was devoted to 50mc and above. Its editorial policy called for the FFC to change its policy and let Technicians become communicators, not just experimenters. While Technicians liked the magazine and its editorial policy, higher class license holders did not. Generals, Advanced and Extras sided with FCC policy and favored Novices upgrading to General and bypassing Technician.
1963 - CB’ers outnumber hams
1964 - VHF Horizons ceased publication
VHF Horizons ceased publication due to insolvency. There were over 250,000 hams in the U.S. 60,000 of them were members of the American Radio Relay League. FCC proposed licensing fees of between $5 to $10. Notarization in which applicants for both ham and CB licenses swore they were providing accurate information was dropped. WB call signs had started to be issued by the FCC in the second and sixth call districts.
1967 - New incentive licensing system
FCC introduced a new incentive licensing system. Novices lost 2 meter phone privileges for Novices were talking on 2 meters phone, not increasing their code speed and upgrading only to Technician. FCC restated that the next step for Novices is the General class license. The Technician class license is for VHF/UHF experimentation. It is not the next step up for Novices. FCC revoked the privilege of hams being able to simultaneously hold both the Novice and Technician. FCC extended the Novice license to 2 years. This license could not be renewed.
1969 - ARRL asks FCC to let hams hold both Technician and Novice licenses
In QST magazine, the American Radio Relay League published its new policy which recognized the fact that large numbers of new Technicians were communicators and not experimenters. ARRL called on the FCC to allow hams to simultaneously hold both Technician and Novice licenses, give Technicians full 2 meter privileges as well as 29.5 to 29.7 mc.
1970 - U.S. ham population stagnates at about 250,000
1971 - FCC nixes ARRL’s 1969 proposal
FCC finally responded to ARRL’s 1969 proposal which it mostly denied. Technicians were denied Novice privileges.
1972 - Novices allowed VFOs, frequency privileges change
Novices were permitted to use Variable frequency oscillators (VFO) but the VFO had to be FCC Type A accepted. The WB prefix was exhausted in most call districts.
Novice Frequency Privileges:
- 3.7 to 3.75mc CW.
- 7.1 to 7.150mc, CW.
- 21.1 to 21.145mc, CW.
- 28.1 to 28.2mc, CW.
Note - the 40M Novice band moved down 50kc. This may have been a hardship since Novices were crystal controlled. The move was due to the bands being reallocated to increase the size of phone bands. Incentive licensing created more demand for phone bands. Novices lost all 2 meter privileges.
1974 - FCC proposes a code-free Communicator license
FCC proposes a code-free Communicator license. Electronics Industry Assn. proposes to take 2mhz from the 220mhz band to create a Class E CB band. The proposals are not adopted.FCC begins assigning hams call signs from the N and AA to AL prefixes.
CB craze begins. Prior to this the CB population was stable at 800,000.
1975 - Technicians were granted Novice privileges
1976 - U.S. Hams allowed special bicentennial prefixes
American Bicentennial. Ham could at their discretion change their prefixes to special bicentennial prefixes. WN calls were changed to AK call signs. Novices could use either WN or AK. AN prefixes were not issues for A call signs are shared. The U.S. may only issue the AA to AL prefixes.
The FCC cut the bicentennial celebration short for Novices by recalling WN call signs on October 1, 1976. Novices instead were issued sequential call signs The FCC said they were having difficulty processing distinctive N call signs.
1977 - No license fees, Novice power to 250w
Licensing fees were eliminated. Novice licenses used to cost $9.
Novice power limited increased to 250 watts input. All hams were restricted to 250 watts input when operating on Novice sub-bands. Code sending test is eliminated.
To deal with the problem of CBer’s modifying ham amplifiers onto their band, FCC started a Type Acceptance program from amplifiers capable of operating below 144mc. Hams objected saying they were being punished for CBer’s illegal operations.
There were 327,000 hams in the U.S.
FCC is overwhelmed by CB license applications at the rate of 500,000 per month.
FCC expands CB from 23 channels to 40 channels. 10M CB licenses were issued.
1978 - Novices given renewable 5 year licenses
Novices license term was extended to 5 years. Novices could renew their licenses.
FCC started a new call sign grouping system. Novices were in Group D. There were no WA and WB or even WD calls left. Novices were issued KA#xxx, KB#xxx and so on.
To combat the problem of CBers operating using illegally high power, FCC banned the sale of amplifiers which could operate between 24mc and 34 mc.
There were 330,000 hams in the U.S.; 165,000 of them were ARRL members.
FCC started issuing KA prefix call signs.
1983 - Cellular telephone networks start
Cellular telephone networks start in the U.S. Power limit for higher class license holders changed from 1000 input to 1500 peak input. A proposal for a code-free license emerges. Hams overwhelming oppose and defeat the proposal.
1984 - Volunteer Examiner program starts
There are about 410,000 hams in the U.S.
FCC publishes examination questions and answers.
Volunteer Examiner program starts.
1985 - FCC issues PRB-1
FCC issues PRB-1 requiring reasonable accommodation of amateur radio antennas.
1987 - Novice phone privileges on 220mhz and 1.2mhz
Novice Enhancement grants Novices phone privileges on 220mhz and 1.2mhz. The Novice written examination, Element 2, was increased from 20 questions to 30 questions.
Novices and Technicians granted 10 meter SSB privileges, 28.3 to 28.5mhz.
Novice and Technician Frequency Privileges:
- 3.7 to 3.75mhz CW.
- 7.1 to 7.150mhz, CW.
- 21.1 to 21.2mhz, CW.
- 28.1 to 28.5mhz, CW.
- 28.3 to 28.5 Phone
- 222.1-223.91 CW/Phone
- 1240-1300 CW/Phone
Note Technicians had additional privileges over what Novices were allocated. Novices and Technicians gained an additional 65mhz on 15 meters, and 300mhz on 10 meters CW. Novices gained voice privileges on 220mhz and 1.2ghz.
1988 - IMO and military drop CW
The International Marine Organization, an agency of the United Nations which regulates international shipping phased out CW and adopted the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) which uses digital and voice modes via satellites. The military did likewise. Not only were telegraphers, many of our most skilled and experienced ham, laid-off, their entire occupation was eliminated.
1989 - Over 500,000 hams in U.S.
The population of hams in the U.S. is over 500,000.
American Radio Relay League (ARRL) proposes a code-free license that does not have voice privileges on 2 meters.
1991 - FCC adopts the (code-free) Technician license
FCC adopts the (code-free) Technician license. Existing Technicians and new one who passed a 5 word per minute Morse code test became Technician Pluses and had Novice HF privileges. The new code-free Technicians had privileges on VHF and UHF.
The Novice written examination, Element 2, was increased to 35 questions.
1993 - Coast Guard stops monitoring the International Distress Freq.
Due to the GMDSS, the U.S Coast Guard stops monitoring the International Distress Frequency 500khz.
1997 - Over 678,473 hams in U.S.
The population of hams in the U.S. is over 678,473. There were 3M in Japan; total population of 124M.
1998 - Over 740,000 hams in U.S.
There are over 740,000 hams in the U.S. Japan has about twice the number of hams.
2000 - FCC restructures amateur radio licenses
FCC restructures amateur radio licenses. FCC stops issuing new Novice and Advanced licenses. Current holders may use and renew their licenses. Element 1B, 13 word per minute Morse code requirement, and Element 1C, 20 words per minute were eliminated. General required 5 words per minute Morse code receiving test, (new) Element 1. Extras were required to pass Element 1.
The Technician written test was now designated Element 2 by the FCC. Prior to this point, Element 2 was the FCC designation for the Novice written test.