Technician Class Survivor Challenge

H. Wesley Boyd, W8IZC

Technicians licensed before March 21, 1987 are grandfather Generals.

On December 15, 2006, The FCC acted to drop the Morse code requirement for all Amateur Radio license classes. The public notice is located at This change had the effect of making “grandfathers” out of all Technicians licensed before March 21, 1987.

Over the last 10 years the FCC has restructured the requirements for the various classes of amateur licenses. Under the old system, the written examinations for Technician and General class licenses existed as one large exam, the only difference was that Technicians had to pass a 5 WPM Morse code test, while Generals had to pass a 13 WPM test. Now that the Morse code requirement no longer exists, those who held a Technician class license before March 21, 1987, having already passed the General theory exam, can upgrade to General class without further testing (see Figure 1).

In that era many wives or children of amateurs became licensed, mostly to please a spouse, parent or grandparent. Unfortunately, many of those amateurs lost interest and let their license lapse. However, some remain active as Technicians today. My “survivor challenge” is aimed at these Technicians.

Fee Only Upgrade

To get this upgrade the Technician must show:

proof of that 1987 or earlier Technician license

that they are presently licensed as a Technician

and pay the Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC) licensing fee.

See the ARRL® website ( for upgrading details.

So, if a currently licensed Technician has a copy of their original pre-March 21, 1987 Technician class license, they may claim credit for a new General class license without additional testing. The upgrade is not automatic, however. The Technician has to apply to a Volunteer Examiner at a test session, complete Form 605 (see Figure 2), attach documentary proof listed above and pay an application fee, if any, to the VEC involved.

An original or a copy of your Technician license issued any time prior to March 21, 1987, would suffice. Other documentary evidence could include:

an FCC letter verifying your having held a Technician license prior to March 21, 1987

a verification document from the FCC’s contractor, ITS Inc

a Callbook listing dated prior to March 21, 1987, indicating your license class as Technician (see Figure 3).

Searching for Survivors

In Mahoning County, Ohio I searched the FCC ULS database by zip codes and looked at call signs that appeared to be pre 1987. Once you start looking, these older calls are obvious. However, some of these older calls may have been issued recently through the FCCs vanity call sign program. Next, crosscheck those call signs at a website that shows operator licensing information dating back to the early 1980s. I use, but I’m sure there other sites with the same information.

The first problem in the challenge is that some of the present day Technicians were licensed as a Novice and didn’t upgrade to Technician until after 1987, making them ineligible for this upgrade. The next problem is that someone who was a Technician before 1987 may not be licensed now, but upon becoming relicensed as a Technician, they can use the old license to upgrade.

Armed with this information, your survivor challenge is to continue the search to contact as many of these “pre 1987 Technicians” as possible and inform them of the upgrade that they are eligible for. This process can seem time consuming but if I can do it single handed you can too and a club effort could do meet the challenge in a much shorter time.

Contacting Eligible Technicians

Upon locating eligible Technicians in the area, I prepared the following letter that informed them of their eligibility for the automatic upgrade and provided information on how to go about upgrading:


While doing some Internet web surfing I came across you and found you held a Amateur Radio Technician license before 1987. At that time you were required to take the 50 question Technician/General class theory exam and pass a 5 WPM Morse code test to be licensed as a Technician.

Much has happened over the years and now your pre 1987 Technician license makes you eligible for instant upgrading to General class for a $15 VEC filing fee.

To upgrade, all you need do is go to a local examination session (Testing is now done by Volunteer Examiners, often through local clubs.), with proof of holding a Technician license before 1987, your current Technician license and a copy of the current license as documentation. You will also need two forms of ID (one being a photo ID) and a completed NCVEC Form 605, which is available at the session or can be downloaded from the ARRL website

When you get to the test session, the Volunteer Examiners will review all your documents to verify that you are entitled to the credit. For the General written exam (Element 3) credit, persons who took the 50 question Technician/General written exam before March 21, 1987 receive grandfathered Element 3 credit per FCC Rules.

As proof of being licensed before 1987, I have a 1987 Amateur Radio Callbook that shows you as meeting the “instant upgrade” requirements. I can supply you with a copy of the page that your call sign appears on, if you wish.

If you have an interest in worldwide communications, this is your opportunity to become active on the HF bands. Information is available at

Local exams conducted by the Mahoning Valley ARA ( are at the YSU maintenance building on Wood Street, at 7 PM, on the third Thursday of “odd” months. The Western Reserve ARC ( has VE exams at the Mahoning County EMA building on Industrial Rd, at 7 PM on the third Wednesday of “even” months. Other area clubs also offer such testing events and can be found at

If you are interested, members of these clubs would be more than willing to assist you with your upgrade. If you would like more information, you can contact me directly: Wes Boyd, W8IZC, at or 330-565-5129.

Helping Hams, Helping Clubs

The challenge can benefit not only local Technicians but also local clubs. I did my best to include several area clubs as locations for Volunteer Exams. My letter is non club specific and offers information on two local club’s websites, the ARRL website and even the FCC website.

I doubt you will receive responses from 6 of 18 letters. Typically, I’m told, a 10 % response is considered amazing. Hopefully, I can convince some area clubs to assist me on continuing my challenge. I still have several adjoining counties to search for “pre 1987 Technicians” and more letters to mail!

My local efforts discovered 18 eligible Technician licensees. I’m happy to report I have received responses from 10, of which six upgraded to General within a month of receiving the letter. One turned out to be an old acquaintance of mine who had no idea such an upgrade was available. Another licensee was the wife of an amateur who had passed away over 10 years ago. She was very excited to learn of the upgrade and was looking forward to getting on HF and perfecting her CW skills. I even found an old high school classmate, now living in Maryland, who was able to upgrade. In all cases the results are more than gratifying.

Thanks For the Upgrade

I received this e-mail from one of the amateurs I was able to contact and help upgrade:

“I want to thank you and all your friends that helped for all the generous work that you had to go through to find all the people in the area that could get a license upgrade or enthuse them about ham radio.

“I met up, this morning, with some friends I haven’t seen in many years and even since I got your first letter, about an upgrade, it made me wonder how you knew I could be upgraded.

“Someone went through a lot of time and trouble to do this. I thank you and your helpers for all their efforts.”

H. Wesley Boyd, W8IZC, an ARRL member, has been a commercial broadcast engineering since 1960. He was first licensed as KN3VPK / K3VPK in February 1962. Wes moved to Youngstown, Ohio in the fall of 1964 and was issued the W8IZC call in 1967. Wes is an ARRL and W5YI VEC, a member of the Mahoning Valley ARA and Western Reserve ARC and the ARRL-ARES Mahoning County EC. Wes can be contacted at 2699 W Liberty St, Girard, OH 44420-3166,