Grampian Hilltoppers is an Amateur Radio group based in the North East of Scotland
What is amateur radio?
For those involved it is fun, a way to learn about radio technology and make new friends. It is a technical communications hobby and a recreational activity that provides a true sense of personal achievement.
While we commonly hear about Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, long before they came along amateur radio was the world’s first social media network and it continues to provide that role today.
While many talk on amateur radio, across town or around the world, radio amateurs also communicate in other interesting ways – using computer controlled data, television and, of course, Morse Code.
There is also a serious side to it, with radio amateurs providing emergency communications. When disaster strikes, the telephone, mobile phone and internet connections often fail or are overloaded. This aspect of amateur radio, that gives support to rescue, relief and recovery efforts and saves lives, was witnessed following earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis in recent years including those in China, Indonesia, Italy, Haiti and Chile.
Around the world regular training occurs so radio amateurs can be prepared to use their emergency capabilities when required.
Finally, amateur radio develops personal skills in the technology of radio communication. Employers in high technology industries often seek people who combine the theoretical understanding of electronics with the practical ability to “make it happen”. By becoming a Radio Amateur, and with the right interest, a lifetime of personal growth lies ahead in the field of electronics and radio communication. Many people holding senior roles today in the high technology industries owe their careers to an early interest in amateur radio.
What’s the attraction of amateur radio?
Some are attracted by the ability to generate radio signals and communicate across town, around the world, and even with astronauts on the International Space Station. Others bounce signals off the moon or meteor trails or communicate via satellites.
Some like to build their own equipment, accessories and antennas or experiment with leading edge technical developments. Some connect a computer to a radio to communicate via a keyboard, or send and receive images and amateur television signals.
For the young interested in any kind of technical or science career there is no better personal activity than amateur radio to give them hands-on experience of high technology and to stimulates their minds.
It has led many into technical careers, including leaders in their fields who have obtained the Nobel Prize and credit their early interest in amateur radio as a contributing factor to their success.
The amateur radio community in the 21st century includes those experimenting with the latest electronics and advanced technologies, such as wireless digital communications, software defined radios (SDR), long-distance digital and image transmissions.
Others enjoy keeping the original communication system, Morse code, on the airwaves and are just as skilled as the earlier wireless telegraphers who began it all in the late 1890s.
Who are these radio amateurs?
There are 65,000 radio amateurs in UK and some three million across the world. They come from all walks of life – students, retirees, professional people, truck drivers, tradespeople, hospitality staff, musicians, entertainers and others engaged in diverse communications occupations.
They are part of the world-wide amateur radio community that includes people of all ages with a common interest in radio communication, a good knowledge of today’s’ radio technologies, regulations and operating protocols.
Why a licence?
For more than a century those engaged in amateur radio have needed to demonstrate their knowledge in basic technical matters and the rules of the airwaves or regulations. They obtain an internationally recognised licence and their own personal radio callsign to operate.
Because radio does not stop at international borders it is subject to an international treaty through the ITU (International Telecommunications Union – a specialized agency of the United Nations ), to which the UK is a signatory. An amateur radio licence is like an international passport, except rather than personally travelling to other countries, it is done via the airwaves.
The radio amateur makes friends in other countries. Radio amateurs have an opportunity to learn more about other cultures, and thus contribute to international goodwill.