back to article Hams: We're good in a disaster – UK Radio Society boss

They look unassuming, but these quiet types murmuring strings of numbers and letters into their transceivers are manning back-up comms for the world, the communication system most likely to survive an apocalyptic event. These are the people who maintain the kit we fall back on when masts jam, cables break and global comms fail …


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  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    All ur comms are belong to us!

    sorry, couldn't resist

    1. LarsG


      Are the people with 'very large aerials!'

  2. The BigYin

    We are relying on a bunch of amateurs for this critical work?

    What we need are actual trained professionals who know what they are doing and can work well in a cross-disciplinary manner. They should be managed by a consortium with a proven track record in working within demanding environments and under the strict control of contractual obligations to provide the required level of service. Reward should be base don delivery.

    Just as private-sector involvement works well for other aspects of national and emergency infrastructure; the strict rigour and standards that only the private sector can bring should be implemented for disaster communications.

    No more should we rely on enthusiastic but unqualified amateurs. can be sure that some ConDem or Labour, PFI-loving ass-hat is going to say something like that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We are relying on a bunch of amateurs for this critical work?

      There was an argument going around that after Raynet provided the communications glue between all the services during the Lockerbie incident, that the police kicked the government into finally starting the TETRA system. And then forcing all emergency services onto it.

      The big problem at Lockerbie was that no service could communicate with any other, because they each had different assigned bands. TETRA overcomes this now because all TETRA radios can communicate with any other. At Lockerbie this function was performed by a hairy arsed (and likely bearded) radio amateur being attached to each team all talking to "control" stations manned by more Raynet personnel. Needless to say the police *hated* this, as they do like to be "in control". Hence them demanding a "solution".

      Some of the reasons that Raynet members are useful is that radio amateurs can use much higher power (400w as opposed to 5-25w), a wide selection of bands with different (useful) propagation characteristics, together with no aerial or significant crossband repeater restrictions - and we can fiddle and improvise to our hearts' content. For normal users of radios for such situations all of these things are nailed down hard, no user serviceable parts. This meant that it was possible for Raynet, quickly and efficiently, to establish ad hoc or semi-permanent repeaters to far flung areas of inhospitable terrain to maintain contact with every team (and there were many of them). And all it cost the government was tea and wad money + one MBE (for the local Raynet "controller").

      Unfortunately, if the same thing happened, in the same place, it is unlikely that TETRA would be able to cope because it still requires fixed infrastructure and there isn't enough there to handle the traffic. The operator doesn't have the number of mobile units sufficient to fill in the gaps and even if it did, the microwave links could not handle the terrain. Guess what happens then :-)

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: We are relying on a bunch of amateurs for this critical work?

        My father can remember when the Police had to rely on Boy Scouts with semaphore flags.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Re: We are relying on a bunch of amateurs for this critical work?

      ABSOLUTELY!!. They're called the police secret service, armed forces and any other bunch of muppets with an official title. But when thieir commercial, preciously expensive, digitally reliant technology goes tits-up after a major disaster, they'll be crawling to the bloke down the street who can still handle a morse key and a soldering iron with enough bits in his shed to create some kind of comms.

      Huh, 'unqualified amateurs'? "You know nothing, Glasshopper!"

  3. Frederic Bloggs


    As a fully qualified (potentially) bearded nerd that does this sort of thing, they are QSL "cards" not "codes". There simply aren't enough Q "codes" to collect ("QSL" being one of them). What lot of QRN the final part of that article is!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cough...

      I think you'll find it's QRM in this case OM. 73 de pse k

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QSL codes?

    "Often, they're just swapping codes: each time an amateur radio centre connects to another one, they swap codes (QSL codes) identifying the centre they are talking to. There are competitions where hams battle it out to log as many codes as possible within a certain time span.

    And even when they're not competing, amateur radio enthusiasts like to collect the QSL codes, display them on their walls, and even post cards of the QSL codes of people they talk to through a specially set up amateur radio mail system."

    WTF? This author clearly has no idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: QSL codes?

      I have been in Ham radio since 1961. The problem is that radio amateurs are not active in selling ham radio as a hobby. Ham clubs are populated by 'white heads' and somehow the young are not being won. When I was a boy, having my first QSO with a foreign station (in Canada, VE7***) was one of the most exciting things in my life. Yes, I have my own collection of QSL cards. With each card, there is a memory.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Re: QSL codes?

      In fairness, it was probably an initial typo, 'propagated' by good ol' cut'n'paste.

      Reg. hacks do tend to do their homework, I believe. (QSL cards is correct)

      Wikipedia: "In this case, QSL? means "do you confirm receipt of my transmission?" while QSL means "I confirm receipt of your transmission"". The card is a politely requested, happily received memento of the exchange between them.

      Conversation at the end of a chat goes something like: "QSL?" "OK QSL" = "Would you send me a card?" "Sure, happy to oblige!"

      Andus (G4GKB).

  5. The last doughnut

    Fascinating once you get into it

    HF is still hugely important for military comms, and is the only method available for long-distance ground-air communications by airliners.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dads Army

    When I was dabbling in amateur radio I remember RAYNET being referred to as PLAYNET. This was due to the large number of high-vis jacket wearing type of self important idiots. This kind of outfit is like a magnet to Captain Mainwaring wannabes :D

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dads Army

      There are local variations: "HAIRNET" is very popular in the London area.

      But you are right about the self important idiots. Sadly they still exist and, in fact, caused a huge rift between them's that wanted a "structure" with "officers" and the rest of us that simply went out, when needed, and got on with it.

      We all still wear the high-viz clobber though (but not necessarily the navy blue pullies that the head bangers like to wear) 'elf an safety an all that you know. It has the useful side benefit that the signaller is easy to spot when you need her (yes, we do have them).

  7. JohnG

    Breaker, breaker....

    I always thought this CB radio stuff was a bit sad but its nice to know it has some use.....

    1. Hoagiebot

      Re: Breaker, breaker....

      @JohnG: I realize from your icon that you're trolling, but I'll quickly feed the troll anyway for anyone here that may not actually know the difference between Amateur Radio and CB. As a licensed U.S. amateur radio operator, I can only speak knowledgeably about how things are done here in the U.S. In our case, there is a huge difference between Citizen's Band (CB) radio and amateur radio. Without getting too specific, CB radio is for the most part limited to 40-voice channels on a single band (the 11m band), and 4-watts of transmitting power on AM (or 12-watts if you are transmitting using single-side-band.) CB Radio can be used by anyone in the U.S. without needing to pass any kind of exams or earn a license, and while there are rules regarding its use, frankly the enforcement of those rules is pretty lacking so the CB radio landscape is very much a disorganized free-for-all.

      Amateur radio operators, in contrast, can operate on several different radio bands. In the U.S. there are amateur radio bands ranging from the 160m band at the lowest reaches of the shortwave portion of the spectrum to bands located all the way up in the microwave portion of the spectrum. Depending on the frequency band and the privileges of the class of license that an amateur radio operator holds, a U.S. amateur radio operator may transmit using up to 1500-watts of power, which is more than powerful enough to literally bounce radio signals off of the moon and back. With all of that power however comes much greater responsibility, which is why amateur radio operators are tested thoroughly on radio law, radio theory, basic electronics, and other related topics, and are granted licenses by their respective governments. Unlike with CB radio, the rules of the Amateur Service are strongly enforced, and in addition to that are self-policed by amateur radio operators themselves as well.

      It is partially because amateur radio operators have capable radio gear and partly because of our training and discipline that we become such a valuable fall-back communications asset during times of national disaster or emergency. In the U.S., amateur radio operators even hold what they call a "field day," which is where they practice running their amateur radio equipment in remote areas off of batteries and generator sets to practice operating during emergency conditions when mains power isn't available. U.S. amateur radio operators also maintain dedicated "ARES" groups, which are amateur radio operators formally trained in providing public service and emergency communications and sponsored by the ARRL. I myself am a trained severe weather spotter and volunteer my services to my local National Weather Service office during severe weather outbreaks. I do this by being part of an amateur radio "severe weather net," were dozens of hams spread across the effected area with mobile radios, maintain contact with each other and the National Weather Service and provide "eyes on the ground" to report severe weather events such as tornadic activity, large hail, damaging winds, fallen trees, and flash floods. I am sure that the U.S. is not unique in these efforts, and that UK hams probably have similar services setup as well.

      So amateur radio operators truly are useful to have around as a backup emergency communications service. While there are a few "strange creatures" involved in amateur radio, the vast majority of us are very civic-minded and willing to help our communities, and when other more conventional forms of communication fail our gear and people can still get the job done and the message out. And as one AC above me already mentioned, since amateur radio operators are already trained and buy their own gear, we don't cost the government a thing when they need to use us. So whether you think that we're all a bunch of bearded weirdos or not, like the article states we're good to have around.

  8. gaz 7

    "Amateur radio fans say they can spend hours tweaking aerials"

    Fnarr Fnarr

    You owe me a keyboard! Nowt wrong with being a Ham though, thought about it myself a few times.

  9. Mike Flex

    Vision too.

    > their conversations seem like a crackly, unreliable audio-only version of Skype

    Vision is possible too, if that's your thing:

    British Amateur Television Club

    Amateur television on wikipedia

    For the Left-Pondian readers

    Rather sketchy research on this article.

  10. the psycho sparkie


    Amateur radio has been of bugger all use in emergencies for years.

    Think semiconductor based mobiles, trunking radio and then cellphones. Then there's the net.

    That said, if all the radio hams died, the internet would surely stop.

    Current projections based on the dwindling numbers of hams put this around the year 2600.

    1. Ploughmans Lunch

      Re: piffle

      Epic fail psycho dude!

      The Japanese tsunami disaster rescue operation had massive input from hundreds of Japanese amateur operators.

      Many lives were saved thanks to their efforts.

      The main technology used was good old fashioned shortwave radio communications.

      Put that in your pipe & smoke it ducky.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Amateuer Radio, Internet & Disasters

    First, the Amateur Radio people often have some kind of aversion against "computers" and the internet. Which I find mostly irrational. Computers can do magnificent signal processing and if you combine that with good antennas, good transmitters and receivers wholly new things should be possible. Imagine CDMA over HF at very low power levels and distances around half the globe. Some amateurs now do Software Defined Radios (which are also cheaper at same performance levels), though.

    Secondly, I have some doubts about them being "essential" to provide emergency communication services. Some countries do actually have properly functioning emergency services and functioning electronic warfare units to help out in case that is required. Imagine a Breguet Atlantique at 10kms height acting as a communications center. They can easily reach any little 2m band handheld radio in a radius of 50km. This a/c can circle for hours until its replacement takes over.

    Every proper fire service does have dedicated command&control units and using a CH53, it can be deployed anywhere. Some countries then have an additional National Disaster Recovery Service, who have their own communications units (equipment on large, all-wheel propelled trucks), who can even set up internet connectivity in a matter of hours by means of directional microwave links.

    See this Unit of the Technisches Hilfswerk (there are several of these):

    Apparently, they can even do strategic communications, if required.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      More THW Communications Equipment

  12. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    Amatuer radio, the cheapest emergency networks around

    These are unsung hero's.

    Living in a country where the are very few amateurs, authorities are often left bereft of communications other than cell.

    Morse code might sound dated, but minimal equipment is all that is needed to communicate. Many commercial designers rely on amateur radio technical handbooks to keep up with the latest techniques that work.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I belong to my city's emergency program. As amateur radio operators we are expected to man community centre amateur radios and provide health and welfare messages, as required, via a local amateur repeater that has been co-opted for this purpose. The community centres are where members of the public will congregate following our much anticipated, and overdue, mag 7 or 8 earthquake. Other locations amateurs are expected to operate include hospitals and EOCs. Amateurs will also provide digital connectivity and email via radio, as well as HF. We do not expect electricity, cellphone networks and the internet to be functional. The city, in fact, has a number of satellite phones as well. FWIW, we are not expected to take part in first responder type activities.

    As for aversion against computers, as someone suggested....

    My station, as small as it is, has a quad core desktop running Win-7 which not only controls my radio but also allows for digital communications on HF using one of several available modes. Not to mention running a SDR receiver. Also handheld radios have begun to use digital modes such as D-Star. Heck, even my iPad currently has 8 amateur radio apps running on it. There might still be a small number of hams who will operate only using morse, and avoid computers, but the most of us have embraced the latest available digital technology.

    Finally, my estrogen prevents the growing of facial hair. There are a few of us around today.

    Thanks for reading.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was one once

    I regret letting my ham radio license expire. KC8PJY used to be me, but not anymore.

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Re: I was one once

      Sadly, that means you aren't anonymous Tony.

      Anyway can't you just get it back? I thought passing the exams lasted for life? They do here in the UK.

      1. tschluter

        Re: I was one once

        US Amateur Operator licenses are granted for ten years renewable at no cost. So, they're good for life as long as we check in with the Federal Communications Commission every ten years and fill out an online form.

        73 de KB8UXS

      2. JohnMurray

        Re: I was one once

        Remember to renew it though. Once lapsed you have to show your pass certificates in the exam or you go back to square one.

      3. Graham Wilson

        @Frederic Bloggs - Re: I was one once

        Funny that, callsigns are like fingerprints - yuh can't get rid of 'em easily.

  15. Antony Shepherd

    Is it raining in Tokyo?

    1. Ploughmans Lunch

      Ah so Shepherd san

      It is not raining in Tokyo now.

      81F and very humid, Sayonara old man.


  16. saundby

    No Aversion to Computers Around Here

    Digital radio modes were a close second to phone (voice) contacts in our local group's "Field Day" outing this year (Amateur radio emergency preparedness exercise held each year.) The people running these stations look like they're using radios out of The Matrix (but with more colours than green.)

    Those on voice were using computers to log and find contacts, and to monitor and manage the power systems (solar, battery, etc.)

    There is plenty of white hair at the meetings, but a good cadre of 20- and 30-somethings, too. About half.

    There are more licensed amateurs now than any prior time in my life, and the number of new licensees is growing each year.

    Time to update your views on amateur radio. ;)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QSL Codes??

    QSL Cards! Not Codes... <-- Those things, they're called "cards", they come on bits of cardboard, like a post card. :-)

    1. saundby
      Thumb Up

      Re: QSL Codes??

      QSL cards on paper are becoming rare, as those hams and their supposed "aversion" to computers take up eQSL and similar services. ;)

  18. Rob2621

    Ex G1ZXG and MFL49

    Mr Torx

    How can you claim that radio amateurs have have a aversion to computers?

    So Packet radio, RTTY, Amtor and a whole raft of other protocols that require computers to communicate is an aversion?

    I suggest that you look into this a touch further OM

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RAYNET? Don't make me laugh

    "You get some strange creatures in amateur radio"

    Well isn't that the truth.

    There are more radio hams on CB and PMR446 than there are on 2m and 70cm. And the standard of operating procedure in the UK is generally terrible. Some of the worst operators around where I live are the local repeater keepers! The Foundation licence is easy to get yet newcomers are put off by the older hams attitude. Any new hams using simplex as VHF/UHF CB for example get key keyed over and generally abused. The local repeaters are a magnet for trouble. There could be hundreds of people listening on VHF/UHF but only a tiny proportion actually pick up the mic to talk.

    And Raynet are the biggest bunch of self-important yet so completely incompetent it beggars belief IMHO.

    Best 73's and warm regards to the family

  20. CNS

    "There is plenty of white hair at the meetings"

    They're called Q-tips around these parts of Canada

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Generals License

    I could ace the Generals. Yet I decided to stay under the radar. Love all transmitters and receivers. I Love them. I feel like in recent years ARRL has been less visible. I guess it's all these people with mobile phones now. I used to see ARRL ad's somewhere at least three times a year. Now not so much. Kids don't solder or do electronics anymore, since surface mount garbage came out, look at the Radio Shack, what once was a sprawling hackers paradise, (even military hackers!!! Yes I know people who took off the shelf parts and fixed spy aircraft - later a TCTO), is now reduced to a mobile phone store, with four drawers of limited parts. I'll make a warning to mobile phone lovers, you better not forget your past. The past may look like a god damn caveman, but that caveman really represents first level logic with analog fine tuning. You have forgotten the truth tables which one day will turn, and back you will come for your raw parts, whining babies from the copyright police, only to find they were systematically destroyed.

    Don't kick the CB'ers out. They have been consistent and made use of their band. They have ALSO setup REACT for emergencies. Instead, give them more rights, more SPECTRUM. we all know the spectrum likes upper and lower on CB, we all know the 10 Meter 11 Meter conflict, we are adults, open the damn thing up for experimenting. CB should slide from 24 MHz to 30MHz AM/FM/USB/LSB/Code/or even a spread spectrum tick lol Now all those people on channel 17 have to move to channel 23 those loudies on 6 move to 40, the technical guys on 2 move to 4, and the arabs on 5 can stay where they are. You see I have it all figured out.

    A HAM License, should be mainly so people understand power and frequency, just like the (Now fascist controlled FCC), except actually in the public interest like the original FCC mission statement. You don't want your eyes burned purposely do you? You don't want noise on your 117 VAC from unfiltered internet over powerlines. You don't want to be spied by SMART METER. You don't want to annoy your neighbor like a psychopath. So LEARN it. But where? Someone's boxed kit? That's a joke. If all the smart people died suddenly, this world would be in a WORLD OF HURT.

    I see the writing on the wall, conflict, it's what's for dinner

    I'll give respect to you if you hold a valid Generals License and you didn't just prep for answers. It means you actually visualize power and frequency, you know the math, there is no thing you can't design, or problem you can not SOLVE.

    About all I can do is Pass on my old shit to someone else. That's it, one lucky person in the end. Hopefully they have a passion for playing with parts that I spent day after day unsoldering from boards with a propane torch.

    I can hear the little greenhorns now..

    "Gee Sir, why do you have so many boxes and boxes of RF Finals?"

    Uh, Son, it's cause uh, to squish HAARP with. Ya see the ionisphere can act like a giant tarp, no not that TARP. Imagine your city is sitting on a pick-nick table, here you come with your giant tarp. Whoosh, welcome to the freshly cleaned pick-nick table

    The way government is now, I wonder if holding a General's isn't a target of some black budget part of government. Just sayin. POWER to the UK HAMS, I don't give a shit about society. People have proven time over they are shit. I'll stay under the radar for now. Rabbit hunters and all be it.

    Also, Respect must be given to the men who do aerials. ! Holy crap.

    I can cut a wire to have flat swr on a coax in a pinch, but these dudes climb some insane towers, and more than likely just get radiated up there..

    1. Tank boy
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Generals License

      Someone has their tinfoil hat cinched a bit too tight.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Re: Generals License

      Do us all a favour. Grab a couple of in-use, powered up 4CX250B's and wait. Shouldn't take long

    3. Andus McCoatover

      @AC at 16:37----

      Bejeezus, you really and I mean REALLY should go and see a vetinary surgeon. They'll help you lose - what - about 20 grams in weight. Come back when the stitches have been removed. Ta Muchly.

    4. Graham Wilson

      @A.C. - - Re: Generals License

      Can anyone tell me why radio amateurs actually seem to like the term 'HAM'? To me, the word 'HAM' is derogatory, demeaning, etc. and debases the hobby.

  22. Tony 16

    Learning about Amateur radio

    Part 1: de..(a morse code term meaning "transmisison from ) VK2MS: It's unfortunate the posts are degenerating into ignorance, however some valid points are made even by the detractors, other than the "Big Yin" who might have at least researched before opening his Big Yap.

    The term "Amateur" is a sort of wry smile...these men and women were and in some cases still are, at least and in vastly greater numbers at the very least when 'full calls" as competent as any professional broadcaster or military operator however it is not their PAID profession. The term "Amateur Operator " was once one of immense achievement before the termites got into the woodwork. The examinations were stiff, of a high demand and it was not easy to join the elite..not 'elitist" fraternity/soriety.

    Yes, "QSL" cards are an acknowledgement of contact between Amateur stations and whilst optional (some choose not to "QSL" they are essential records of contact in competitions. Whilst some QSL cards are plain design or from Radio Societies and "all the same" the art, even humour on thousands of QSL cards makes then an artistic joy and adorned walls of radio "shacks". less as trophies than able to confirm a previous contact without scavenging through the utterly essential in law, transmission log book. Computers now can keep records and find them quickly and as someone indicated many Amateur radio types do use computers in simple or extremely difficult tasks and many do create their own software.

    The "Q" code is a set of questions/ answers used as shorthand and are convenient to use in poor conditions. One of the essentials of Ham Radio is identification and so QRV?...QRV?..."by whom am I being called" will not be replied to by "QRV" but station Identification...if not a "pirate"..and many others impinge o our already small boats and recreational 'boaties' are common mis-users of ham bands and with eBay in particular making no effort to stop unlawful sales of transmitting equipment the problem worsens.

    The most common Q use is surely in "QSL"(can you acknowledge receipt) finishing a contact, which might only be a few seconds in competition the contact might be " ok VK2MS you are 4.7.9...QSL..QSL?...the response "QSL via bureau'. and the contact also logged...the QSL card being solid evidence of contact and usually states times, nature of equipment (incl antenna) other party's signal strength and intelligibility reports. Often the front may be a photo of the operator or station or some thing he/she chooses to express something of from when a much smaller number of Hams made real more ways than simple conversation. (see for example, The so called "own post" is actually an amateur service, provided mostly by volunteers, in which a "Bureau" handles and passes on QSL cards to the intended recipient...rather than addresses be exchanged over the air..though some do do it that way.In a competition, especially . "QSL via bureau is faster and less fatiguing" than repeating and often several times repeating, still with errors, a home address. It also frees band-space when hundreds of Hams are trying to find a clear spot in a narrow frequency allowance to just make contacts, log it and move on...

    One of the most misused terms is "73's" or even its more correct "73" when used in vox (voice contact). Amateur radio commenced with Morse code, or "cw"...continuous wave...a continuous signal broken up into dits and dahs...or if you like a continuous silence with "'dot" and "dashes" impinged on it. A whole series of shorthand terms grew with it.

    One of many was "73" ..a cw operator's term which is in my view embarrassingly ostentatious when used in written or oral conversation. Personally I have never used it that way or replied "73" to an oral "73' or even worse "73's)There are many arguments about the meaning and origin of cw codes however for me some of the interpretation is infantile. 73 may be interpreted as "Best regards" or my compliments but using a number code alone would be confusing when numbers are also sent eg. 73 battalions approaching"..."ok 73......what's that about the battalions" or it is ignored as prattle in a closing statement...?

    Personally I use 73 as meaning "good contact"...(7th and 3rd letters of alphabet) and I doubt anyone today would confuse cw by using some number codes...whereas once it was a code sent over telegraph and very much between a small number of manned relay stations, where people knew each other well.This raises an issue of tradition...something almost non existent and hardly mentioned in the virtual "CB" exams today called the "Foundation Licence".

    The tradition of Amateur Radio was a most professional operator standard of men and women examined to a very high degree of technical ability and knowledge, able to read and understand and design radio circuits .The had to be high in knowledge of the operating conditions and law as applied to them.They were rightly proud of their being accepted into a large fraternity of what were largely radio scientists, whence came the radio broadcasting as we know it today. It flourished as an aside to broadcasting.

    Post WW11 when the massive contribution of radio operators...including "Hams" was undeniably prime to success they ought to have demanded of governments , a permenancy of allocated frequencies. They didn't and so now have become generally "secondary services" instead of just being over-ridden by commercial services on the 'ham bands". Then money became supreme in our world and a force of destructon through it's use by psycopathic if not pure-evil power-brokers.

    Narrowing frequency needs from double sideband to single side-band mostly by Amateurs lead eventually with binary exploitation into digital communications ...a system with many benefits...often confused with straight binary...but one which has lead to a new breed of 'off the shelf" so called "Hams" who restrict themselves to digital modes and computer intervention.

    We began part of the rot using computers or readers to translate morse rather than doing it ourselves. Real hams, traditional Hams are a national treasure being dragged down into 'anachronism' by their own 5th columnists and greedy government, happy to allow excessive commercial channeling which seeks to support itself through sending 'entertainment ' drivel such as "reality' TV..peurile but mind controlling ugliness based on the CIA's most dangerous psychiatric controls (read on MK Ultra and Operation paperclip) violence and sexual exploitation to the softened, instant-gratification seeking brains of the new-order zombies.

    We explored moon bounce and bouncing off satellites to further communications. We contributed more knowledge than any other instrument to radio comms and technology. We went, as Amateurs once did in devising and exploring new transmission and receiving facilities but now some are in varying degrees of expertise, little more than CB radio operators with a call sign...We have people claiming they cannot learn morse code, utter rot, or demanding licences without it on the basis of "it's my right" ...thus the "Z" call from the 1960's was the beginning of the end, alongside it the fears over the novice licence were ill founded. Silly as the Novice Licence was you still had to have some knowledge, and people built equipment and kitsets were offered for that. Now we have degenerated into "foundation" licensing in which the examinations are at a level just mildly above the CB 'know nothing'.

    The technically adept ham is a dying breed...though still in force and many are vastly technically more competent than I am as an engineer. We now have repeaters on VHF, used for almost everything the rules denied to us in the past and whilst some operators are dedicated and stick to the rules, the VHF system has become glorified CB.Yes, there is also slow scan and other Amateur TV...Hams are always somewhere into the technical arts and I recall well that as soon as some of the radar equipment hit the post WW11 "disposals market" within months articles on converting it to receiving TV were permeating the Ham publications.Whilst rung some sets as "collectible" as they now are, some Ham redesigned and created power supply and control equipment and thus turned military radios into superb communications receivers coping with more than being a part of the limitations and special needs of bomber and fighter command.

    The designers of military radio were commonly Hams an their expertise in designing testing and using equipment in the secret war was indispensable.Only when your experience is limited can you believe today's communications have made traditional Hams, "Amateur" Operators redundant.

    Radio equipment of the 30' and 40's is again on the move valves...which looked as though they'd had their day... are highly sought after for new building and for replacements in military and early receivers and transmitters.and many types manufactured in Russia and China now, for example. Russian tubes are of extremely high quality irrespective of the postulations of 'expert' Audiophiles, who simply pass on unoriginal, derogatory comments of no expert substance to others. For them the cold war is still on even though Russia and USA were both controlled by the same financiers since 1917.

    The tradition has been murdered through ignorance and government greed and power-brokers inside the service going off the rails as well as ever decreasing levels of competency in exams..because governments threaten to take back allocated bands and because a new breed of hierarchy sees power and profit in continuing to encourage Hams to use "off the shelf" gear and to build nothing of any indication they have competence. They are just radio operators and little more....maybe able to build an antenna (and some of the core hams are just brilliant and enthusiastic people). end pt 1

    1. Graham Wilson

      @Tony 16 - - Re: Learning about Amateur radio [...and other skills.]

      "The technically adept ham is a dying breed...though still in force and many are vastly technically more competent than I am as an engineer."

      It's not only radio amateurs who are losing practical skills, people are losing skills in every walk of life. I find this deeply disturbing. For most of my working life I've been either desk-bound or I've worked with hi-tech scientific/engineering instrumentation but at school I learned trades, woodwork and metalwork, and once long ago I've even worked in machine shops. For me, hands on practical skills are just as important as theoretical understanding--to be able to go to a measuring instrument, say a spectrum analyser and measure harmonics of a RF device at so many dBs down then tweak and improve it is just as important as writing a computer program that controls hardware which I might never go near or see operating.

      The best engineers and scientists usually have a excellent understanding and feel for the practical world around them. A wonderful example of this is the great theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, who in his autobiography 'Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman' describes how, as a kid, 'He Fixes Radios by Thinking!' about them (a marvelous book truly worth reading). Today, however, the emphasis in professions is on a much more narrow and specific view of the world (for example, I'm aware of a case where a PhD candidate whose specialty was light emitting diodes. At his PhD evaluation he was asked a question out of left field about some aspect of how a junction transistor worked and he didn't have a clue. It's not always this way, but that's the trend nowadays.)

      Once--in the 19th C. and earlier--we had guilds where tradesmen learned the craft of their profession and in this special milieu they also learned by example from their teachers what it meant to be highly skilled and be truly professional about their work--both environment and peer pressure inculcated a sense of pride and professionalism in one's work. Unfortunately, guilds and rigid master/apprenticeship training fell apart about WWI (most likely because most of those buried in Flanders and other WWI battlefields were highly skilled tradesmen and the shortage after the War changed everything).

      I could spend ages on this but it's better that I refer you to an expert in such matters. I suggest you read 'The Craftsman' by Richard Sennett. Here's the Guardian's review: .

      Here also is an audio interview with Sennett on Australian ABC radio: (MP3 podcast).

      1. Andus McCoatover

        Re: @Tony 16 - - Learning about Amateur radio [...and other skills.]

        Completely and totally agree.

        A friend of mine - I had the honour of being his "best man" at his wedding - was studying FET's (Field Effect Transistors) at University.

        He 'fessed up to me one day that he'd never seen one. Following day, I went to work and popped a 3N109 (J-FET) in my jacket pocket. Took it to his place to show him, he was gobsmacked he'd spent so long learning about something that wasn't much bigger than a match-head.

        I never went to University, but I learned by doing, not by being told how to.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Graham Wilson

          @Andus McCoatover - Re: @Tony 16 - - Learning about Amateur radio [...and other skills.]

          Tragic really. I could say "I'm damned if I know what went wrong" but I actually do. Curiosity no longer starts with hands-on or pulling things apart as kids no longer get the chance; society is now paranoid that Little Johnnie might electrocute himself, or get poisoned when playing with mercury thermometers, or blow himself up if given a chemistry set (that's if they were still available), etc., etc.

          And schools perpetuate this hands-off nonsense and have done so for over 30 years.

          Oh, and since the late 1970s universities have moved on from "learning for learning's sake, knowledge for knowledge's sake" to degree-churners whose main purpose is to satisfy a narrow job market.

          Moreover, your example is not uncommon these days and it says much about the interests of students who now attend university and the reason for why they're there. When I was at university, studying say the theoretical aspects of a FET without also encountering it in lab as prac work would have been inconceivable.

          No wonder Asia Inc. is walking all over us.


          1. Andus McCoatover

            Re: @Andus McCoatover - @Tony 16 - - Learning about Amateur radio [...and other skills.]

            Know what you mean, Graham.

            Almost got my ears pulled off as a 12-year-old for taking my sister's portable gramophone apart, just to see how it worked. (2 valves - ECC83 and an ECF80, if I remember correctly. Heaters fed from a tap on the motor...Yep, I knew that, even then.)

            Amazingly, I managed to put it back together again.

            My dad wasn't too pleased when I ripped the family 'wireless' apart about a year later, but the wire in the speaker coil got me listening to the world on a O-V-O (one valve super-regenarative) radio, so not a complete failure....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Learning about Amateur radio

      I can tell you are a ham, waffling on and on like that

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Ploughmans Lunch

      Re: Learning about Amateur radio

      Good grief old man you really like to monopolise the frequency.

      Do you find other amateurs seem to vanish after you pass the transmission back to them?

      I'll send you a tray of bread pudding to calm you down a bit.

      Would you like sugar on it?

      73 es gd dx om.

    4. Andus McCoatover

      Re: Learning about Amateur radio

      I cannot believe some muppets downvoted this.

      I read it several times, I thought it was about the most poignant post I have read. Ever. Thank You very much for that.

      Reminiscent of G3VA's Tech Topics in RadComm...

  23. Tony 16

    Part 2:Whether Icom or Kenwood or Ten Tec or others would survive without Hams is highly unlikely. Codan might as its market is purely commercial and it has seduced the Navy from high quality Mil-Spec equipment to using throw away commercial sets. . Whether or not you agree entirely with me..., the ideas perpetrated in this post of "Hams" are often completely facetious...Traditional Hams were and are more likely to be fresh faced, lively, extremely intelligent men and often the same but whether beautiful or 'average' women, women of great substance, always ready to serve in emergency...and when power goes out commercial and even military service sometimes crashes. In places like Vanuatu, for example, the demise of Hams sees an "impossible to find" Amateur Radio emergency service there, and it is a duller place and one which is a disaster waiting to happen without a strong Amateur radio service.

    Traditional Amateurs have communication, adaptability and organisational skills which can see them quickly if not instantly of use in Military needs in the event of war or disaster. As far as the de-emphasising of Morse code goes....that is one of the most stupid things any radio society has ever suppoted or any government has ever done. I will not embark on the importance and advantages of morse code here, suffice it to say it was of critical value in both World wars, forward (pioneer) radios in Vietnam were cw only but some with an 'AM' (analogue double side-band) receive facility but not on transmit. Fortunately thousands of Hams have kept the skills and hundreds use them....although personally I am not a fan of vibroplex , I think straight key...but I hold my greatest disgust for amateurs who use a keyboard and computer to send morse....or a 'reader' to read it....such has the so called "Ham" devolved in some cases .

    My experience in Vanuatu was one of complete disappointment in the dormant Amateur Radio service. On the other hand really isolated islands in the Pacific and elsewhere so very often saw Methodist and other religious servants on the air and making contact regularly with the outside world and from them a QSL card was highly sought after. Whilst as someone stated power in USA can be up to 1500Watts PEP many of us are seeking our enjoyment from QRP (reduced power) of 5 watts or less. The idea that 1500 watts is 300 times more effective than 5 watts is completely wrong, however for many years it was extremely frustrating to have one's low power signal lost under the 1000Watts and a 12dB gain beam antenna of "I have the best" Americans in particular.Now the real traditionalist is using QRP and CW or home brew, sometimes bought and restored, 1930's -1950's restored gear, and WW11 military gear..which often pops up just for use on WW11 commemoration days .Unfortunately in some ways spark transmitter are no longer permitted!!

    Yes, I am not entirely free of the black box sickness...apart from a Kenwood 820S (currently about to have its VCO repaired!when I get some work finished.

    Kenwood-Trio or "Kenwood" after overshadowing "Trio" turned out some bad manufacturing faults (see eHam reviews) and some design errors which Hams rapidly found and fixed and reported upon )..I only have it because it uses tube 'finals' and because I have put narrow cw filters into my 2 Kenwoods. and so I feel some affection for them and they ARE about 30 years old.

    My second and favorite is Kenwood TS 130S I use for QRP, a couple of home-brew QRP transceivers I have been unable to operate owing to body corporate Kapo's with their anti-antenna fetishes...about to be circumvented .. BC 348's, ART-13, BC 342, ZC1 Mk2 and various other command sets including the superbly made 1930's aircraft radios..who's limitations on SSB are more noted than in more sophisticated radios but those of the SCR/ARC 5 series were of enormous interest to Amateurs and evoke some kind of 'genetic' does say a Californian bungalow or a Federation home or 'Ranch Style'...or even a cave... .

    Modern and even traditional hams compare these more basic radio sets with the modern IC based factory built transceivers, and they have a point far as I am concerned and rrespective of the old and sometimes counterproductive rule against criticising another Ham...back 'then", it is certainly well deserved today. is wrong to be silent as Ham radio slides and is pushed by wireless society powre-brokers into being a more versatile CB radio avenue of sometimes CB styled sewer talk, bickering, band hogging, identification avoiding tradition-less, engineeringly sterile, 3rd party message carrying, black box society.

    They have 'lost it"..they are armchair chatterboxes who demand they have a box of electronics to cover every possible need to have a QSO, other than incorporating a coffee maker and biscuit tin...

    There IS such a thing as actually missing a contact without life as we know it crashing and burning. The self discipline and expertise on the air and the work it can take to get communication using old equipment which one has worked upon to improve or restore or even just get working is what makes a Ham, a Ham.

    Any fool can pass a foundation licence and operate and any lazy minded Ham can use store bought gear and the richer the Ham the flasher the gear. Yes that may be handy in some emergency but it's not really the art of Ham radio personified. Not in my book anyway. Does that however prove in anyway that Amateur radio should be relegated to the tip and commercial services be all we should tolerate? The answer is no, and in the future, so long as the traditional Ham can be found important to this world has been Amateur radio and its operators.

    That which makes the Amateur radio service what it was and should be are the communication skills, enterprise, dogged determination, experimentation, research, creativity, performance in emergencies including wartime, depth of engineering ability and brotherly assistance, the construction of or modification to traditional radio, the expertise in morse code to hold communication open in the worst operating conditions....

    The idea that Hams should be "right up there with modern technology has a point but when the idea was promulgated the "black box" radio service was only a PART of Amateur radio, and as I said Hams could buy kit-sets and build them as well as building from and improving on designs of other Hams from the ARRL and RSGB handbooks, QST, CQ, Practical Wireless, Radio and Hobbies and other interesting and absorbing Ham Radio Operator produced periodicals.

    The "off the shelf" operator today who is not an experimenter is a self deluded product of lazy minded, over paid and tradition-less operator ..maybe one simply bored with his old challenges...or one who likes to boast about the store bought gear he uses...a sort of ego trip... seeking easy QSL recognition and avoiding almost anything a Ham should be doing to maintain traditions ...... but be that as it may they can still contribute in emergencies, are still lawfully "Hams" and are generally very decent fellows and ladies. I hope I never join their superficiality based ranks....and so keep at the Military reconstructions and the home-brew.

    The Collins URR 390/391 tube radios were of such magnificence technically and in use that though designed in 1949 and built until at least 1954 the US pulled some out of storage and restored them for use in NASA and in the stage 1 "TV entertainment/propaganda based" invasion of Iraq. Nothing else could, it seems, reliably handle the conditions and the demands. If that doesn't make you think, I suggest you do some research on these sets an that situation.

    Having said that, there are many far greater and more active Hams than I am and so for me It is gratifying, stimulating, exciting, to see the extraordinary skill and detail proud restoration work of US amateurs in particular in finding and rebuilding old spark gap radios...they are a the internet yourself for photos...and in restoring military radios from WW1 and WW11 of which the HRO-W built at the end of WW11 and the numerous and varied National HRO sets built before it back into the 1930's.

    The HRO valve/tube receiver in its many guises is one of the most deservedly famed wireless receivers of WW11secret service as in enigma and code breaking but so also is the wonderful and more prolific..and much lighter... BC 348 which though a lesser set than the BC342 is the most well known of all WW11 bomber command wireless all its guises and variations.Both are still in high demand today.

    There must still be such spark gap and early (pre-1930) radio transmitting and receiving equipment lying in cases in attics in every country of the world which had WW1 military action or had an Amateur Service and if you find something that looks like it could be an antique Radio "thingo" even if found when demolishing an house.....please, please, contact one of these groups and pass it on to a restorer....even with your name on a plaque when it is restored, should see you bursting with pride....or you can commission a restoration , or even just ask for a photo-set of the whole restoration. Join us in learning what real Amateur radio is all about...even if you are not ever going to become one...

    Ok, this is Victor Kilo two, Mike Sierra standing by........QSL..?..QTX..?.


    1. Andus McCoatover

      Not exactly fresh-faced....

      but You can bet we'll crawl out of the woodwork when we're needed. We need no creed, no 'call to arms', no salute of any flag, but we'll be there. Mercifully, the world can depend on it.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Got me searching eBay for an HW8.....$40 is OK...

      Bit of wire stuck into that damn RCA socket at the back, the wire tossed over a tree, then make friends all over the world. 1.5 watts - YESS!!! That's RADIO. Facebook? Eff off!

    3. Andus McCoatover

      Icom? Ten-tec? Kenwood?

      I'd add Wood + Douglas and Datong** to that list.

      Both started as serving the 'Ham' community*, now successfully supplying serious comms. stuff to the military.

      Datong's history (Started by Dr. D.A.Tong - hence the name) is really worth a read....

      *I tested the prototype to their 2-metre transciever home-built kit way-back.

      ** Audio filters, and advanced direction-finding kit - latter so advanced, the MOD blocked it for awhile. Almost killed the company.

  24. Tony 16

    Look further

    By the way, error, that's a TS130V QRP Kenwood I have (see Pt 2 )

    There are various sites showing Americans fantastically restoring old radio transmitters, some extremely important history, discovered in estate sales etc . These below are not those but are very interesting to cover many tastes.

    Here are some sites with terribly interesting information and photos:

    Fascinating find!!..restored..great stoty ......(fascinating recording of historical messages.)

    More modern War)

    more modern but beautiful...

    If you want to discuss such gear in Australia or have some then contact me on

    Cheers Tony VK2MS

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Re: Look further

      TS120V? 20 watts? You call that QRP? I call that 'shouting!' ;-) If I can't power the thing off a bike battery, I aint playing...

      My point is, any idiot with a licence and sufficient money can chuck 400 watts up a pole into an expensive Yagi antenna and shout CQ CONTEST!! CQ DX!!! That aint amateur radio. It's verging on professional, which is not what our hobby is about.

      But if you're running the thing on a battery, and trying to listen to the weakest Morse signal amongst all the rest of the crap, one learns far more, and gains some real skills.

      (I wanted to play with tunnel-diode transmitters when I was a kid, after I read an article in an old ARRL handbook, but no way to get one from the US in those days....)

  25. cortland

    Something not often bruited about is that Amateur Radio was for many of us a door into science and technology and, indeed, to lifelong learning. Amo, amas, amat... amateur; someone who loves what he does. Some of us went on to get paid for being technologically savvy, which is something much of the US public (and possiblys the Uk's) aren't.

    Perhaps people are afraid of getting a reputation as enthusiasts.

    1. Andus McCoatover

      Amo, amas, amat....amabunt! (3rd pl. future indicative)

      But wouldn't really use it...

      "Would you decline a Tequila?"

      "Tequilam, tequilas, tequilat..."(haven't used Latin for 40 years, probably got it wrong...)

  26. Ploughmans Lunch
    Paris Hilton

    The Boss, really?

    No he isn't, he's the son in law of the disgraced ex general manager of the RSGB who was/is involved in the recent court procedings for financial irregularities in the RSGB.

    His title "Amateur Radio Manager - Carlos Eavis, G0AKI" as seen on the RSGB website seems to lack a description of his function.

    What exactly does he do?

    Uhhh answers please on a postcard....

    Paris Hilton, well she hasn't a clue either.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CQ CQ


    1. Andus McCoatover

      Re: CQ CQ

      PSE QST!

      1. Andus McCoatover

        Re: CQ CQ

        (QST == STFU!!!!)

    2. Graham Wilson

      @AC - Re: CQ CQ

      Gawd blimey, out of the bloody woodwork they come.

      Next you'll be squawking out "dah-dit-dah-dit dah-dah-dit-dah" ad nauseum.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CQ CQ


  28. Andus McCoatover

    Radio Ham?

    Spread Spectrum? YEP! Girls forging the frontiers? YEP!

    Try Hedy Lamarr. Now THAT'S a real Radio Ham...

    (Hey, folks, how's your 3G phone? Oh, if it's working, raise a glass to Ms. Lamarr...)

  29. Andus McCoatover

    Effing good read, FFS!!!!

    Didn't you ever learn anything by reading some writing by someone wiser, more experienced and more learned than you may ever become?

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