Ham radio operators in tune for 50th birthday celebrations
GOLD Coast Amateur Radio Society clocks up its 50th year in 2020 and members are keen to share the fun of being able to talk to anyone anywhere in the world.
That might not seem such a huge feat in today's hi-tech world but "ham radio" buff John Oestergaard, who has been involved in the hobby for 60 years, said amateur radio had survived and embraced many of those technological changes, while remaining true to its classic wireless heritage.
John combines internet and radio to speak to his former countrymen in Denmark, but said part of the fun could be just turning the knob to see who you make contact with on the other end.
In fact, amateur radio, which dates back more than 100 years, has been described as the original social network, giving you immediate access to friends and what they are up to.
While a station can be set up anywhere, amateur radio has proven vital in emergency situations, and in times past when phoning interstate or overseas could cost a small fortune, it was also a cheap and easy way to stay in contact.
But what exactly is it?
The simple answer is it involves transmitting radio signals on a number of frequency bands allocated specifically for amateur radio use, whether high frequency, very high or ultra-high.
Every operator has a code, which is apparently where the name "ham" comes from, referring to the station call of the first amateurs at the Harvard Radio Club in 1908, comprised of the first letters of their names.
But according to Gold Coast Amateur Radio Society member Brian McCarthy, amateur radio means different things to different people.
Some just like to talk, while others like to build, repair and test equipment.
Some talk locally, others with people around the world or even to the International Space Station.
Still others use Morse code, although this is no longer a requirement for licensing as it once was.
The choice is yours, and the fact there are so many facets to amateur radio is part of the attraction.
Brian said it was a hobby that "stays with you for life", and many seniors were involved, finding it particularly useful to stay in touch when they perhaps couldn't get out as much as before.
And while John said there was still more to learn even after 60 years in amateur radio, the social angle of sharing an interest with like-minded people was equally important.
About 20,000 Australians are ham radio operators, and three million people worldwide, so you're never short of someone to talk to.
If you are interested, the society holds classes towards gaining your amateur radio licence, and has been responsible in recent years for inducting more people into the hobby than any other organisation in Australia.
To find out more, go to gcars.com.au or visit the club rooms at 85 Harper St, Molendinar on Saturdays from 1.30-4pm.