Saturday, June 13, 2009

30th Year as an Extra

I was writing a note in reply to a ham who was upset that a certain DXpedition had posted operating frequencies that were all in the Extra and Advanced-class portions of the bands. He was worried that as a General-class licensee, he wouldn't have the opportunity to work the expedition.

Of course, he had nothing to worry about. These expeditions regularly listen for callers in the General-class portions of the bands. I did point out to him that between now and the time of the expedition, he had plenty of time to upgrade.

Then, it hit me. It has been 29 years since I took the Amateur Extra-Class exam.

Exams these days are pretty easy, compared to conditions years ago. Back in 1980, the FCC still administered the exams. For Extra class, code was 20 wpm, and you had to take a total of three written tests -- one for General, Advanced and then Extra. Plus, the exams were only given at FCC offices at major cities -- so, if you lived far away, you faced quite a road trip.

It was the end of my Freshman year at Georgia Tech. My family had come down to visit my grandparents, and take be back to West Virginia after finals. My brother, then KA8DTD, figured he might be able to schedule an upgrade exam before the week was out. Sure enough, amateur exams were available on Friday. Ben had a Conditional class license, and I was a General, having been tested at a hamfest just a year before. So, he scheduled both of us to take the Extra exam. Friday, June 13, 1980.

Neither of us was terribly worried about the code test, although I hadn't been down to the club station in weeks. I did borrow his Extra-Class Study Guide for that week, and managed to go over it in the midst of studying for and taking final exams.

Friday morning came, and our father dropped us off at the FCC examination building. We filled out paperwork and sat for the code test. I sweated it a little, but passed. Ben passed with no problems.

Then came the Advanced written examination. I figured it would be easy, since I studied for my Extra. Wrongo -- the old Advanced test was the largest of the bunch, with 50 questions, all of them tough. Only my private pilot's written exam was harder. 

We both passed the Advanced written, and so far it had been worth the trip -- we were both guaranteed an upgrade. After the Advanced, I was convinced I was going to flunk the Extra -- but the test turned out to be a lot easier -- only 40 questions, and most of them I studied for.

After sitting through three exams over several hours, I got the news. I had passed! I was an Amateur Extra class. Ben didn't fare so well -- he had missed the Extra by one question. And that was probably because I "borrowed" his study guide all week.

So, this begins my 30th year as an Amateur Extra-Class. Hard to believe it has been so long ago.

1 comment:

  1. You made me go dig up my paper logs from back then to verify things, but I do have a correction. I was an Advanced class when we both took that test, having gone from Novice to Advanced at the same hamfest where you got your General. So I didn't walk away from that exam with an upgrade.

    I ended up getting my Extra 4 years later (June 30, 1984), when the FCC first started the Volunteer Examiner program (it was probably my next chance at another attempt without having to travel). But at least I can say that I passed the 20wpm code test under the "steely eyes of an FCC examiner".