In the June 1997 issue of its journal Amateur Radio the Wireless Institute of Australia included a survey asking members whether they believed that the international requirement for morse code testing should be retained.
The text of the survey is repeated below, essentially unaltered except for explanatory notes added in square brackets .
------------------------------------------------------------ [start quote] WIA Federal MORSE CODE A COMPULSORY INTERNATIONAL REQUIREMENT WE NEED YOUR OPINION Regulation S25.5 of the ITU Radio Regulations, an international treaty, makes it an obligation for countries to test morse code ability before granting an amtaeur licence allowing operation below 30 MHz. The WIA has the results of the previous questionnaire which confirms that a majority of WIA members wish to see Morse Code retained as an examination requirement in Australia. Any change to the international regulations would not necessarily require Australia to drop the Morse Code Exam requirement. As explained in Amateur Radio, April, 1997, Article S25 in the ITU International Radio Regulations dealing with the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Service is to be reviewed at the Word Radio Conference in 1999, the first time since 1979. It is unlikely that there will be any review of the amateur service regulations again for many years. In the replies received in response to our discussion paper there were a number which while supporting morse code as a national examination requirement, did not see the necessity of it continuing to be an international treaty obligation. As the FASC Report is on the agenda for the IARU R3 Conference to be held in Beijing in September this year, We [the WIA] would like an answer to the following further question: Do you consider that S25.5 [a section of the ITU radio regulations which currently reads as follows:] "Any person seeking a licence to operate the apparatus of an amateur station shall prove that he is able to send correctly by hand and to receive correctly by ear, texts in Morse code signals. The administrations concerned may, however, waive this requirement in the case of stations making use exclusively of frequencies above 30 MHz." should be maintained as an international treaty obligation on administrations, noting that removal does not preclude local [specific countries'] regulators from continuing to test for morse code knowledge? [ ] Yes [ ] No [ ] No Opinion Callsign _____________ (optional) please tick one Please return this survey to PO Box 2175 Caulfield Junction, 3161 by June 30th 1997. [end quote]
This raises many questions, including
I fully agree with these feelings about the use of the mode. But many of those authors then make a superb leap of logic in claiming that because of all those wonderful attributes, all amateur radio licencees (subject to the band restrictions of various licence classes) must be examined in morse code.
What is missing from the "logic" of their arguments, consistently, is a link between the advantages of using morse and being examined in morse.
They don't address these issues, for example:
We all know of many licenced amateurs who have passed their full call morse test yet proudly state that after passing the exam they put the morse key away, or sold it, and never intend to use it again in their life.
There are plenty of examples of people without morse qualifications but who are leaders in their professional fields. There are also plenty of examples of amateurs who are leaders in amateur VHF/UHF communications. To risk losing such people to other hobbies in 1997 because of a requirement to pass a practical test in the communications technology of 1920 is ludicrous.
There must be many people whose ambitions for using amateur radio have been thwarted by the morse test requirement. The movement needs all the numbers it can get. Again, to lose such people to other hobbies because of a slavish adherence to the rules of a bygone era is shortsighted.
One writer claimed that the government needed to limit the number of HF licencees because otherwise the bands would be too crowded. Other claims are based on the essential excellence of morse and that people passing a morse exam have proved they are the right kind of people to allow on the air.
My response to that argument: take a listen to HF. All those people chatting about the faults of the government, their arthritis, their latest car or, these days, their computer (!) all passed a morse exam! Did the filter work?
And the people using bad language, which used to be frowned upon back in those oh-so-good old days, all passed morse exams too. So this claim is also spurious.
I think the answer is that there is no good reason why skills in morse alone are examined.
When an expedition sailed across the Pacific on a balsawood raft, the operator had a ham radio transceiver on board. He used voice. He did not have a morse key. When the microphone failed, he clicked the transmitter on and off using the PTT switch of the microphone. Listeners heard clicks. But he did not use morse, because he did not know it. [why was he on the amateur bands? beats me]. It was communication at its most primitive. A triumph of amateur communication? No, more like illegal use of amateur bands.
My opinions on this subject are clear. I do not support the compulsory examination of amateur radio licence applicants in morse code. I do support the use of morse code on the air. I like it, in fact. But I respect your right not to use it if you don't want to, and will support your right to gain a radio licence without passing a test in morse.