Quick thought: Amateur Radio and education?

I was speaking on IRC at the ham radio channel on freenode. I was asking about how to bring in more youth to the hobby until the discussion changed into that of volcanoes and geography.

I was thinking, if people are interested in amateur radio, especially in how radio waves propagate and all that, wouldn’t people self-educate themselves on geography, physics and math?

Just a quick thought… 😛
Comments on this? Write them below!

Thanks for reading!

Amateur Radio and its value

All you amateur operators out there, what does your hobby of amateur radio mean to you? Just a hobby involving telecommunications? Or so much more than that?

In the amateur radio handbook published by the IDA of Singapore, it is stated that:
“The Amateur Service is a radio-communication service for the purpose of self-
training, inter-communication and technical investigations carried out by
amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely
with a personal aim and without pecuniary (monetary) interest.”

People may say: “Oh c’mon, you old amateur radio operators! Who needs radio to communicate when I can just pick up my phone (also a radio!) and call people, even when they are overseas? Give up! Your precious hobby is dying, and so are you!”
To people who say this, look: What happens if a disaster, natural or man-made were to take out all of the cell-towers and the Internet Service Providers? How is your smart phone or laptop going to call anyone or access the ‘net now?

When I was a nine year old child, whenever I went to my uncle’s place, I’d notice a copper pole of some sort connected to huge looking equipment, sticking out my uncle’s window. I asked my dad about it, and he told me this: “With that equipment, even if the whole Internet were to go down, your uncle could pick the microphone and say ‘hello’ to the other side of the world.” I had unwittingly stumbled on amateur radio, without realizing it until now.

Thinking about it, what my dad had said then still holds true. In a major disaster, amateur radio operators can set-up a few dipole antennas, tune it, and voila! Regional communications could be easily set-up within hours of the on-set of a disaster.

You may then say: “I guess its true if you live in a disaster prone area, but in Singapore, we ain’t going to face any natural disaster for at least a few million years, when the tectonic plates shift! As I said, just give up!”

Wait a minute! Did you know that when flight MH370 was found missing, radio amateurs were helping out to try to find any trace of the plane? Yes, the plane is still not found, but, it shows that no-matter what happens, most radio amateurs are ready to help and serve the community!

“Yeah” you say, “But what about in non-emergency situations? Is amateur radio of ANY use at all?”

Read the definition of the amateur service that I posted above. It is stated that: “
technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique”.

Did you realize that in order to become an amateur radio operator, you need to be licensed?
And to get a license entails taking an exam, which is about radio communication and electronics? Do you see where I am going here? Many of the amateur radio operators I have met at SARTS are actually involved in electronics engineering. So, for those operators who started getting involved in the hobby when they are young, what are the odds that they grow up to work in electronics engineering, which in turn, create the laptops and phones you talk about now?

As for the amateurs reading this, we as amateur radio operators must pull ourselves together. We must learn to accept and embrace new technology and work on it, not say that radio is radio and computers are computers, and treat them as if they had nothing to do with each other. We must learn to work with new technologies, so as to be able to experiment further, and create new technologies that benefit people, including those outside the field.

Thanks for reading my article! ^.^

Transmitting morse code for the first time

Hi, has anyone seen this before, especially the youth out there?

 

 

 

If you said ‘telegraph key’, then you are right. I was on the radio last night transmitting Morse code. Before you say: “Wait! Isn’t that outdated?!? Who in the world uses this anymore?”, I guarantee you, people still use Morse code, at least radio amateurs anyway. And hey, on a noisy channel, what can you hear best from a fading station? A voice call? Or the tones from a station transmitting in Morse code?

A month before I took the Radio Amateur Exam here in Singapore, I read up the Amateur Handbook posted by IDA, the governing authority here. It was stated that new licensees may be restricted to transmit using only Morse code for the first year of getting their license.

So I thought, “Okay, why not learn the code?”. And I went on to do just that. I spent a few weeks, learning the code on and off (no pun intended!), using whatever spare time I had on the way from school, back, and so on. I did not just learn the code. I was hooked to it!

Each character, be it a letter of the alphabet, a number, or punctuation, had a specific rhythm to it. Using a song that I found titled ‘The Rhythm Of The Code”, which you could find on Youtube, I learned the code for all of the alphabets and numbers, but not punctuation, yet.

So, I got an old military telegraph key from Mr Yong Fu at NUS. After cutting and soldering up a new wire to go with his Yaesu FT-897, I decided to go on air and transmit messages using Morse code. I turned on the radio, tuned to an unused channel, listened a little and transmitted QRL, which meant: ‘Is the frequency in use?’.

After tuning into many channels, and after many ‘CQ’ messages later, I got no response. By 9:45 PM, I decided it was very late and went home.

Even though I didn’t manage to make any contact, it was a fun session on air. There are a few things to look out for, one of them being not to transmit faster than you can copy and all that. I guess, when I go down to the lab the next time, I will try again.

Anyway, many thanks for taking the time to read this little blog of mine! ^.^

 

Radio Technology in today’s world

Hi, for many of you youth out there, you may wonder: ‘Is radio even a significant thing now? It’s soooo old-school! My family does not even own a radio receiver anymore!’

If you think so, perhaps you might want to consider. Technology has advanced, with no doubt, but radio technology is getting more advanced as well. You may not even know you own a radio, do you? 😉

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, radio is defined as ‘A system or process that is used for sending and receiving signals through the air without using wires’.

So, based on this definition, do you change your mind about the use of radio technology? If not, here are a few examples for you to consider.

For most of you, you may be reading this article of mine on a smartphone, or a computer connected to a wireless network. So, if you do not use wires to connect to the world wide web, so how could you be reading the article? Simple, by definition, your ‘3G/4G’ phones or ‘WiFi’ computers are radios, connected to a network of other radio equipment, sending and receiving data using radio signals.

In Singapore, and probably many other places in the world, payment services exist that use cashless payment. Of course, debit or credit cards use magnetic strips to store data, but what about certain other services like the tap and go tickets used in public transportation, such as payment for a train ride? They make use of radio signals to modify the data stored in the card, such as deducting the overall value ‘stored’ in the card. This is again, another use of radio technology in everyday life.

Hungry? Thinking of ordering a pizza over the phone? The fact is, your cell phone is a small radio transmitter and receiver, sending your voice over the air and receiving the voice of the operator over at the other end.

“I get it, I get it”, you say. My point is, that radio communication is used in so many applications that it becomes inseparable from everyday life. Now you know better than the people who say that radio communications and technology is outdated, and ‘old-school’.

So, now that you know that such technology is still in use, and is becoming more widespread than ever, why not learn a little bit about it? Why not try and build even a simple radio receiver? I am not trying to ask everyone to become radio engineers, or even radio amateurs (though the more the merrier! :P), but why not learn something about it, and appreciate it for what it is?

Again, thanks for taking your time to read my article 😀

Trip to National University of Singapore’s Lab and SARTS meeting

Hi, Joyce here. This blog would be for me to share my experiences in the hobby of amateur radio. For those of you wondering what it is about, it is a hobby involving communication over the radio. Or in simpler terms, your own radio station that can be used to talk to someone else.

My blog will talk about my experiences that I have encountered, from the general stuff to the weird quirks that happen.

Now, last week and today, I managed to go to the National University of Singapore’s laboratory. More specifically, the electronics laboratory.

I met Dr Yong Fu, who does research there (I think? :P), and also operates an amateur radio station there. His set-up is a Yaesu FT-897, connected to an end-fed wire as an antenna, tuned using a manual tuner. Here is his radio station connected to the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also met a person named Mr Frankie, who was operating on the radio station to make a QSO (contact) with someone in the Philippines. This is Mr Frankie ‘on air’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, this is the antennatuner that Dr Yongfu uses. It must be manually tuned. And we were outside, at the roof, tuning the antenna (Yikes! I am afraid of heights! =( ) .  There is a term called SWR, or Standing Wave Ratio. Basically, it’s the ratio of the power being transmitted to the power being
reflected back to you. We always aim to get a SWR reading as close to 1:1 as possible so that all the power used to transmit the signal gets transmitted. However, that is not always possible. Anyway, here is the antenna tuner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope to be there again soon. Dr Yong Fu also told us about Micro-controllers and FPGA’s. He has quite
a a lot of stuff in the lab. More to come soon.

Anyway, last month, and the month before, I went to the Singapore Amateur Radio Transmitting Society’s (SARTS) meeting. The previous meeting I went to about 2 – 3 weeks ago, was about the 2 meter repeater in Singapore, which was down for about 2 years. They had plans to revive it. Also,
there were more serious issues such as IDA of Singapore planning to take some of
the frequencies for other commercial telecommunications uses.

I met people over there, one being Mr Jeff, and the other being Mr Frank, an old-timer here.
Here is me speaking to Mr Frankie and Mr Frank.

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in Amateur Radio, why not go down to one of their meetings?

Anyway this is all I have for now. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.