When the FCC removed the requirement to demonstrate an ability to receive Morse code there were many of us who thought it was a bad move and would really lower the standards of ham radio. We feared the ham bands would soon be like the CB band. I said, “Us” and “We”, because I was one of those who seriously believed that’s what would happen.
On February 14, 1991 the FCC dropped the demonstration of proficiency in Morse code requirement from the Technician class test. Then on February 23, 2007 all classes of amateur radio license applicants no longer needed to demonstrate their proficiency in Morse code.
Before the code requirement was dropped the law was that when an amateur radio operator upgraded his or her license that person was required to be able to send and receive Morse code at the speed necessary to pass that class exam. No new test was required it was just by applying for the license renewal that ham was saying, “I am still at or above the code proficiency required for that class of license(I am not sure but I think there was a box to mark an X in verifying that person still had the necessary code proficiency). The truth was that most hams, once the upgraded to general, packed up their CW key so they were not practicing the skill and they couldn’t operate at the required speed. One thing removing the code requirement did was made a lot of hams more honest when the renewed their license.
Sense the code requirement was dropped I personally have not noticed a significant drop in the quality of the new hams. Now I will say that sense 1960, when I was first licensed, up to now there has been a significant deterioration of the quality of operations but I have not seen an acceleration of that deterioration sense the dropping of code requirement to become a ham.
It would seem to me that there is even a greater interest in CW then there was before. It is not unusual to look across 80 and 40 meters and hear more CW operation then phone. There are many of the new hams that have expressed a desire to learn Morse code.
So pass the crow because I have to admit I was wrong.
Just as a side note: there are many good web sites for learning Morse code but one of the best I have found is http://lcwo.net/main (lcwo – Learn Continuous Wave Online).