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13 Feb 2019, 16:08

"Hello CQ, Hello CQ it's International radio Day"

As a kid growing up in the late '70s and early '80s, modern communications as we know them today were pretty much Science Fiction.

My best friend at the time lived next door and our bedroom windows were on opposite sides of the house. Like most 8-year-old friendships, we were inseparable partners of mischief and wanted to chat secretly when we were supposed to be in bed. So thanks to Grandad's suggestion, we experimented with "the bean can and string telephone". We stretched string out of our bedroom windows and created our own person chatline.  The problem was it wasn't very effective and you had to almost shout into the can.  This meant conversations weren't very secret and the shouts of "go to sleep, it's bedtime!" would come from my parents downstairs. Then that Christmas I got a set of wired Walkie Talkies with Morse code, and this is where my journey into radio began.

Then in 1983 inspired by the movie BMX Bandits, I just had to have a set of Wallie Talkies, So I started to save all my pocket money. Some friends of mine got into CB Radio's and I'd go over to there house and we'd chat to other CBers for hours.

At the time Walkie Talkie sets and CB Radio's were quite expensive, and by the time I'd saved up enough money I was almost in my teens. By then my priorities had changed, so I bought a Ghetto Blaster instead and went down the local community centre to embrace the Breakdancing craze.

My interest in radio didn't renew itself until a few years ago. The Internet and Mobile Phones were established methods of communication and I didn't really have any need.  Then holidaying in places like Devon and Cornwall and walking in the hills, the lack of mobile phone signal, led me to purchase a set of PMR Radios so our group of friends and family could stay in contact when we were exploring.

PMR Radio's (In Europe and similar to FMR in the US) are unlicensed Radios on the PMR 446 band.  They are analogue radios and licence free and anyone can use them. They work well for leisure use, but they are limited to 0.5 watts output power, so the range isn't great, maybe a few kilometres if you're lucky on open ground.

In 2016 Netflix released Stranger Things.  Growing up in the 1980s, this was a huge trip down memory lane for me.  Watching those kids use Walkie Talkies to talk to each other reminded me of my own childhood.  Today, my own kids enjoy playing with my PMR Radio's and this is the point where I wanted to find out more about getting into Ham Radio. 

I first started tinkering with the SDRplay RSP1A box.  This is a cool inexpensive Software Defined Radio receiver box that you hook up to your computer.  You also need an antenna. It covers the complete radio spectrum from 1kHz (VLF) to 2GHz and is a great introduction to the world of radio.  Here's a video me below with Jon Hudson of SDRplay on the RS Components HQ in London back in the Summer last year.  We set up an RSP1A to see what we could pick up.

Then in November last year, I took my Foundation Level Radio Licence in the UK and passed!  This allows me to transmit up to 10 Watts.  I've got a couple of handheld radio's that cover the 2M and 70Cm bands and so far haven't done much,  However, I'm planning on getting a proper fixed call station set up soon, and I'm also thinking about learning Morse code.

Yes, you can use the internet to talk to people all over the world, but there is something about tinkering with and using radios that I really enjoy, it's a fun hobby.

M7PNW signing out...

Geek, Blogger, Gadget Junkie, Crisp addict, Technology Evangelist. ***If you meet me, ask me for the Pete and Greet Badge code.*** DesignSpark Team. twitter - @petenwood

13 Feb 2019, 16:08


February 15, 2019 11:24

Thanks Peter! One of my goals is to try and make contact with the ISS. I have an app on my phone showing when it's over my house, but so far I haven't been home when it's over.

0 Votes

February 15, 2019 11:25

Great article Pete , nice to see amateur radio being given some air time.
Its such a diverse hobby there is almost no limit from working long distance SSB on 5W to SSTV with the International Space Station

73 de G7MMW ..... Peter