HAMNET Report 11th October 2020

Greg Mossop, G0DUB, has reported on the IARU Region One virtual meeting held 2 weeks ago. He notes that 17 countries were represented amongst the attendees. Attention was given to possible applications for space at 40 and 60 MHz for emergency communications. Time was spent discussing upcoming events and exercises, especially a German exercise from 13th to 15th November, and which will involve 5 countries.

Data modes are being explored, especially JS8Call, FSQ, ARDOP and GARIM on HF, and New Packet Radio using higher speed data modes if microwave mesh networks are not available. Discussion around software to use to dispatch operators to important sites took place, but no definite favourites were identified.

IARU Region One is very diverse, with large organizations of up to 1700 members in some countries, while others have 10 in their whole country. All areas reported that the number of active operators is far less than the number of registered operators.

Thank you, Greg, for allowing me to present these few notes.

Hamnet in the Western Cape was invited to participate in a City of Cape Town Disaster Simulation Exercise again this year, yet again practising the management of a nuclear power station disaster at Koeberg. This took place on Thursday the 8th, and we had operators stationed at Koeberg power station, as well as at the Disaster Management Centre at Goodwood. Our mobile UHF repeater was installed on a high site in Green point, and was accessible from both operations centres, while the 145.750 repeater on Kanonkop in Tygerberg was also used. Useful experience was gained, and valuable input from our operators provided to the City.

Tropical Cyclone Delta-20 has been threatening the Caribbean islands and the Bay of Mexico since Monday. Maximum windspeeds of up to 174 km/h were forecast, and Mexico, the US, Cuba, and the Cayman Islands were at greatest risk. By Wednesday the forecast was for 231km/h winds and more than a million lives under threat. The hurricane was expected to make landfall sometime on Friday night, our time and the Hurricane Watch Net started its watch operations at 12h00 zulu on Friday. We have watched with baited breath.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that Thailand’s communications authority, the NBCT Secretariat, and the Radio Amateur Society of Thailand (RAST), which is under the patronage of His Majesty the King, participated in a ceremony for His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn to present an advanced class amateur radio licence and the call-sign HS10A to His Majesty at Dusit Palace on the 24th of September 2020.

The Society, with the support of G Simon Radio Company Ltd also donated amateur radio equipment, being an Icom IC-7300 HF transceiver and an IC-9700 VHF/UHF transceiver, along with antennas and other equipment, to His Majesty the King. Amateur radio has been lucky enough to have royalty involved in many countries over the last 60 years or so, and the patronage of His Majesty in Thailand bodes well for the principles of, and regulations for, amateur radio there.

Writing in Radioworld, James E. O’Neal notes that, by the end of the 20th century’s second decade, three key elements were in place to fuel radio broadcasting: namely resonant circuitry, a practical means for generating a carrier wave, and methodology for impressing speech and music on that carrier.

These waited only for someone to combine them in an effective way.

A number of individuals — most notably Reginald Fessenden, Lee de Forest and Charles Herrold — had made varying attempts at broadcasting. None took root.

There was little effort to stimulate interest among the public. Early transmissions of speech and music were directed to radio amateurs. There also was little or no notification of how to “listen in.” Nor were there regular operating schedules, nor readily available receivers for the general public. Radio sets were marketed to commercial enterprises, the military and radio amateurs.

The First World War indirectly advanced radio broadcasting. After the war, the government lifted patent restrictions on various communication technologies including the vacuum tube, which allowed multiple companies to manufacture radio gear for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Also, large numbers of young men received Signal Corps training in radio, providing a talent pool that would help fuel broadcasting’s launch.

Corporate developments in America, involving, amongst others, the giant Westinghouse, which melded in the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), became very complicated, but didn’t deter a young self-taught electronics engineer called Frank Conrad.  He had helped his company develop military radio gear, and he continued to experiment with radio on his own time through his amateur radio station. Conrad joined with many other pre-war “hams” in taking to the airwaves. However, he enjoyed an advantage not available to most of his fellow amateur operators: ready access to Westinghouse vacuum tubes.

This allowed Conrad to cobble up a radiotelephone transmitter based on Raymond Heising’s “constant current” modulation system. Tinkerer that he was, Conrad wished to monitor the performance of his station and appropriated the family phonograph as a source of audio while he stepped away to do listening tests.

Other “hams” heard the music and encouraged Conrad to provide more such “entertainment,” often requesting specific records. He soon tired of responding to individual requests and decided instead to air a “concert” on a regular basis. A local music store even began contributing new records in exchange for on-air “plugs.”

By the autumn of 1919, Conrad’s broadcasts were attracting an estimated audience of some 400 to 500. An area newspaper took interest in the activity, and a Pittsburgh department store began marketing inexpensive receivers to those wishing to enjoy Conrad’s music programs.

Westinghouse’s vice president, Harry P. Davis, took notice of the attention being generated by Conrad’s “wireless musicales,” and encouraged Conrad to continue his experimentation on company time, with the installation of a 100-Watt transmitting station at Westinghouse’s East Pittsburgh plant.

And so it was that the beginning of November 1920 marked the start of regular radio broadcasts from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, 100 years ago next month.

Thank you to Radioworld for excerpts from their article.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.