December 1967 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
In this saga of YL (young lady) and OM (old man) Ham radio operators, General license holder Carole H. Allen (W5NOQ/K9AMD) elucidates, with a touch of humor, the woes beset upon women pertaining to repairing radio equipment. Mrs. Allen's lament is in fact not the treatment of women participating in the communication aspect of Ham radio, but the reluctance of men to allow them to engage in the technical aspects of the electronic equipment. From an operator standpoint, guessing the gender of the Ham on the other end of the signal can be nearly impossible, particularly with CW (Morse code). Poor transmission quality can make phone (voice) determination of YL or OM difficult sometimes as well. Back in the 1960s it was not possible to simply surf to the FCC's Universal License System (ULS) website to look up a licensee's name to determine male or female. The American Radio Relay Leagues' (ARRL's) QST magazine had a monthly column titled "YL News and Views" highlighting activities of female (young and old) Amateur Radio operators. According to the Wikipedia page, about 15% of today's licensed operators are female. Check out the Young Ladies Radio League (YLRL) website for more information.
Why Not a Ham License Just for Ladies?
Or Who Wants to Be an Electronics Technician Anyhow?
By Carole H. Allen W5NOQ/K9AMD
Illustration by Mort Gerberg
"But, Bill," I wailed, "You told me if I worked real hard and got my General ticket I'd be set for life! You should hear all the talk on twenty about the new licenses. I'm going to be a 'second-class' ham if I don't get another license!"
My OM shrugged his shoulders and sighed, probably in chorus with hundreds of other shrugging, sighing husbands around the country. I'm no dumb brunette, but I'm not exactly a Madame Curie-type either, and learning what makes a ham rig run took more than just reading the ARRL Handbook. There were hours of study, evenings of talk sessions, many visual aids, and countless prayers, before I was ready to go before the examiner. The License Manual I studied looked shaggier than a public phone directory when I finished, and my code records wore thinner than my husband's patience.
But now what do I hear? My precious "General Class" will become the lesser-license as others attain the Advanced and Amateur Extras and move to their exclusive areas of the bands. This drastic action by the powers-that-be is forcing my hand! Maybe no one in a high place will admit it, but I contend there is a minority group that will be discriminated against even more in the future than in the past. Who? The licensed ladies, of course!
Granted, every gal on the air should know every rule and regulation, and I for one am glad I studied inductance, capacitance, transformers, swinging chokes, and the whole works. But from now on, there really is no point in my burning the midnight oil to study for a more difficult examination. One rarely works for skills and knowledge he will not put to use; and let's face it-how many women would really use the highly technical data required to pass the new examinations? No, I don't know what the questions will be, but I can guess.
Frankly, it wouldn't matter if I had a First Class Commercial license, an Amateur Extra, and had orbited the earth - my OM wouldn't allow me to modify, repair, or do anything but turn the knobs of his super-sophisticated transceiver. Furthermore, he doesn't particularly appreciate my opinions when there is a rig breakdown, even if it's just a blown fuse. Not that he resents my having a license - not in the least. He encourages me to use the equipment every day and actually goads me into working DX and entering contests. But when it comes to touching the equipment with anything other than my pinky, well, that's his department.
And practically every male operator on the bands today would never ask a YL or an XYL for a technical opinion other than a modulation report, and wouldn't believe her answer if he did. So, why should I leave the dirty dishes in the sink, have peanut butter sandwiches for weeks, and develop tension headaches to get an Advanced or Amateur Extra license? However, I would do all that and more if there were a license for the minority group of lady operators that we could really use. And there could be such a license.
It's a well-known fact that most ladies promote a more appealing image of ham radio and of the United States than men do. And aren't these skills needed as desperately today as the ability to repair radar and work a formula a foot long? Where but on the ham radio bands can there be casual people-to-people contacts with other countries of the world? One QSO between a friendly Yankee and a resident of an iron-curtain country can probably help the U.S. image more than tons of propaganda brochures.
Why can't we ladies officially be given this assignment? We'll tackle it with more pep than we use behind the scrub mop. We'll study a public relations manual a foot thick to pass a day-long exam for a license we can really use. We'll take the Novice, the General, and then the Ambassador Class license, if there could be one.
And we'll train especially well for handling disaster traffic and maintaining communications to earthquake, flood, tornado, and hurricane-ravaged areas. After all, a lot of women are free to stay at a rig during the hours when their OM's are working at their jobs.
In conclusion, I'm only asking that lady hams be allowed to do what they can do better than anyone else . Let us be Ambassadors for Uncle Sam while performing the public services for which ham radio has earned such a fine reputation.
Posted October 24, 2018