Received a nice e-mail from another ham with a different viewpoint. Nice to get responses written by intelligent thinking people rather than the usual "you're an idiot who can't learn code" response. I've posted his comments and my further thoughts. (My comments are in red italics)
Browsing your website, I came across your piece on the morse code requirements for higher-class licensing. I happen to be a ham too. I just wanted to make a small comment on your piece:
I've heard a lot of the same arguments for keeping morse code, but there is only one reason that the FCC keeps the requirement as far as I know. The real reason is that we have an international agreement to require a basic knowledge of morse code for anyone using the HF bands. I haven't been active for a while, so maybe This has changed. But at least it was the case when I was a volunteer examiner, in the early 90's.
Of course, "basic knowledge" is open to interpretation. Some countries simply test for knowledge of a small set of recognized international code symbols, like "SOS".
Correct. At this time the ITU requires 5 WPM for operation below 30 MHz. However the requirements have been reduced at each meeting and support is gathering for elimination of morse requirements for any level of license. I still find it interesting that I can operate code about 30MHz even though I don't KNOW the code!
The following are not arguments for keeping the code requirement, just some personal feelings in response to some of the things you said:
I do believe knowing code has helped me foster international goodwill [Part 97, 97.1(e)]. I've been able to communicate with people around the world that I probably never would have been able to contact without using cw. Voice gets pretty garbled and attenuated after a few bounces through the ionosphere.
I've been able to converse (to a limited extent) with people that do not speak English, using Q codes and some commonly used abbreviations. There are many countries in the world where only the rich can afford factory built radios, and most of the amateurs have to make do building their own rigs. CW rigs are a lot simpler and cheaper to build than SSB.
I certainly agree that code signals can get thru when voice cannot. But I've also witnessed digital communications take place thru static and noise so severe that to the human ear there was no signal there. Digital modes can literally pull data from the noise. When CW can't be heard, digital can be. I've watched it happen. With digital modes you can also communicate with people with little or no understanding of English. You can of course also use the same Q signals with voice. CW transmitters are indeed easy to build. I've built dozens of them for others. In fact I offer a complete set of plans for a nice retro two tube CW 40/80 meter transmitter for sale. (E-mail for info). You can indeed build very inexpensive CW transmitters. The the QRP possibilities are endless. But to REQUIRE someone to be able to use code so they can build cheap transmitters is silly.
I think you're being a bit hard on the "old timers" too. In my experience, the ones who object to removing the code requirements are in the minority. I do believe I've gotten more respect (as a relative "newbie" - licensed in 1990) from them for having learned code. It's a shared experience and a rite of passage. I'm not using this as an argument for keeping the code requirement - just explaining why I think some "old timers" get so emotional about it.
I probably get as emotional about not having code as the old-timers are about requiring it.
Also, most of the "old timers" I know were some of the first to embrace new modes, like packet radio. And to set up local FM repeaters, to bring the question pools for testing up to date, to buy personal computers, to acquire or build hardware and software for packet, RTTY, SSTV, ATV, etc. Despite the handicap of being able to send at 30 WPM. ;-)
Lots of these modes were probably worked up by old-timers simply because they had access to the frequencies after learning code. Lord knows there is a huge majority of experienced hams that have learned the code and were responsible for many of the great advances in the hobby today. But did knowing code help them learn about RTTY? SSTV? Repeaters? What will happen with no code is thousands of hams who are prevented from many activities now will be able to advance the technical aspects of the hobby without the rite of passage called morse code. Lots of minds who would rather design a transmitter than do code are just waiting for the restriction to be lifted so they can spread their antennas and fly.
I agree that requiring morse code doesn't keep jerks and idiots off the HF bands. But if you want to get away from most of the rude jerks and idiots, some of the most friendly, knowledgeable, polite, and experienced operators I've met have been operating on CW.
Maybe because it's because being an idiot on CW is just too inefficient!