When I took the Extra Class exam in 1976, it was almost as difficult as the commercial radio operator exam. Thanks to cram sessions, the license means nothing today. The broadcast industry had problems with cram schools that cranked out "six week wonders" who needed the First Class commercial license in order to run the transmitter and take meter readings at directional AM stations, who knew nothing, and who would sometimes totally mess up the transmitter or the phasing system for the antenna.
So the FCC responded by (1) deregulating the broadcast service so that an FCC commercial ticket is no longer required for most engineering and technical duties, and (2) discontinuing the First Class Radiotelephone licence itself, replacing it with that ugly yellow "General Radiotelephone" certificate, good for life, and absolutely worthless for anything.
Dick Bash exasperated the FCC with his cram books, so the FCC "solved" the problem by allowing the publication of their own cram book, releasing to the public, verbatim, the entire pool of Questions-Answers used to make up the exams.
In response to complaints that the 13/20 wpm code tests were discriminatory against persons with certain disabilities, the FCC offered a "waiver" to allow such individuals to become licensed with only a 5 wpm code test, if they presented a doctor's note attesting that their "disability" hampered or precluded their learning the code. There turned out to be widespread fraud, from physicians who inadvertently and who wilfully wrote and signed notes. So what did the FCC do? They "solved" the problem by giving everyone a blanket waiver without a doctor's note, by reducing the code requirement for all classes to 5 wpm. This became a moot point when the code test formality was discontinued altogether.
So what's next? ...I'm regularly seeing opinions posted on sites like QRZ.com and eHam that since the vast majority of hams now buy everything from antenna all the way to microphone and key, ready-built from the factory, there is no longer any need for technical questions on the written exam; just FCC rules, common operating practice and basic electrical safety - and of course, detailed knowledge of all the "subbands" and sub-sub bands.