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New Year Greetings: It’s that time of year again when we had all hoped someone had been thinking of us sufficiently to supply more radio and electronics goodies for us to enjoy. For some of us, during our work, school, college or university holidays, it’s been a time to get all the components together to build up that latest Arduino kit, or to connect up all those pre-assembled boards we purchased from China, or restart communication with that CubeSat we had launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, Rocket Lab’s site at Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, or Plezetsk in Russia.
For many, holidays are almost a memory; did you collect all those components for building an RF amplifier, assembling a UHF high-gain antenna, making up an interface kit for connecting your transceiver to a tablet and testing that latest digital mode with all that new software? Perhaps you got out all that Field Day gear to test it to make sure it would be operational for the next contest – spare fuses, cables, headphones and microphones, fully-charged batteries, all the parts for the antenna, a battery or gas powered soldering iron?
Radio Amateur Service: In January 2004, the predecessor to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA ) agreed with the removal of the need for Morse Code competence; it was anticipated this would lead to an increase in numbers of radio amateurs, and it did. In October 2005, under the new ACMA, the restructuring of the multitude of other licence categories (e.g. Novice, Limited) into just two was permitted; this change was also expected to be accompanied by a further increase in numbers of radio amateurs; Standard Licence holder numbers shifted up by 9, Advanced retreated by 230. When the WIA bought the Foundation Licence package from the RSGB in January 2006, this turned out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread! 915 new radio amateurs gained their Foundation Licence holder in the initial year.
After the introduction of the Foundation Licence, there was a 6-year period of year-on-year growth in Foundation and Standard licence holders and a continuing fall in Advanced Licence holders. The fall in Advanced Licence holder numbers has not abated since 2005. The upward change in Standard Licence holder numbers has hovered around 3 per annum. The numbers of Foundation and Standard Licence holders upgrading has hovered between 50 and 100 per annum, ie, about 0.35 to 0.7% of total radio amateurs per annum. So, the dream of a ‘pipeline’ of Foundation Licence holders converting to Standard and Advanced levels is not really happening. When your dream does not become reality, what do you do? Kid yourself the numbers are ‘statistics, bloody statistics’ (the Winston Churchill defence), change your expectations, or change your licence upgrade plan?
Time for Reinvention: Almost all countries’ national Amateur Radio associations have the word ‘radio’ in their title. If you ask any youngster what is understood by ‘radio’, you will get a blank look. But mention ‘electronics’, ‘wireless’ ,’coding’ and ‘Information Technology’, and suddenly the eyes light up. Is it time to refashion ourselves as the experts in electronics, wireless and IT? The WIA is already along the path with its name; is it time to change the name of its flagship magazine to attract more members? Changing the WIA’s media image is one thing; but how effective will that be without some other motivators? In at least one country, school children start playing with small, pre-assembled printed wiring boards to make their own projects, such as light shows or operate robots or drones. In other words, these school children meet electronics and wireless communication at a very early age.
Next Steps: In preparation for a series of editorials on this topic, I have made contact with the Presidents, Vice-presidents and Youth organisers of WIA-like associations in China, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (South mainly because there are only 3 radio amateurs in North Korea), New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan. I have asked them:
1. What is the Chinese Radio Sports Association (CRSA) doing to attract members?
2. What proportion of Chinese radio amateurs are members of the CRSA?
3. At what rate and in what direction is CRSA membership going?
4. What does the CRSA do to debrief members who choose to leave?
Instead of CRSA, I have substituted DARC, ORARI, JARL, KARL, NZART and so on. Like the WIA, office bearers in all these organisations are volunteers. So, it may be a wee while before I have some suggestions. I hope to have more for you in the next edition.
Stop Press: It is with great sadness we advise our readers of the recent (15 January) passing of Kaye Wright VK3FKDW, having lost her battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Kaye was a respected member of the Amateur Radio Community - contributing substantively not only to the WIA but also ALARA and her home club the Moorabbin and District Radio Club. She was the long serving secretary of this magazine’s publishing team known as ‘PubComm’ and only stepped down from this volunteer role a few months ago. Kaye was the unsung hero of this group. Her organising skills were amazing, her persistence, good humour and commitment to keeping the team on track - akin to ‘herding cats’ apparently – will be sorely missed.
WIA President's Comment
WIA President's Comment
Welcome to 2020, another year has just flown by! I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year for 2020.
110 Year WIA Anniversary: The WIA looks forward to a significant anniversary in 2020 – 110 years young! Few organisations have such longevity – especially a not-for-profit, volunteer organisation in a rapidly evolving electro-technology sector. Remember the WIA is a member based organisation – the WIA is you and only exists to support the Australian Radio Amateur Service cohort nationally and internationally. The WIA board thanks the membership for their continued support.
Whilst the current national WIA was incorporated as a public company relatively recently in 2004 – superseding the prior state based federated model - the WIA’s formation dates back to 1910. The magazine will be running a number of historical articles during the year highlighting events across this timeline, starting this issue with the history of the ‘callbook’ that we hope you find interesting and informative.
Bushfire Emergencies: At this time bushfires are raging widely across large areas of Australia with the loss of both life and property. This is occurring on an unprecedented scale due to the catastrophic combination of record low rainfall, heatwave conditions and high fuel loads – and increasing average temperatures due to climate change.
As a society, we continue to be indebted to the emergency services personnel and many volunteers involved in fighting these fires and assisting the many communities directly impacted. And special thanks to those radio amateurs volunteering either directly or via organisations such as WICEN. I sincerely thank those in our emergency services who often put their own lives at risk to protect our society.
Bushfires have now decimated vast tracts Australia across most states, with many tragic deaths of both residents and emergency services personnel, the loss of thousands of homes, infrastructure, crops and farm equipment. The short and long term impacts on the native flora and fauna are at a scale it is difficult if not impossible to comprehend. The likely economic impacts are only now beginning to be quantified. Whilst the weather conditions have eased somewhat in the last week with lower temperatures and higher humidity, the fires continue to burn. Over 100 fires are still burning in my state and 40 of those still uncontained at the time this news item was composed. If and when it rains water supplies are likely to become contaminated from the fire residue. Smoke is at hazardous levels in many areas. This is hardly a happy New Year for many.
Governments, especially the Federal Government, have been slow to react to the unfolding national disaster but are now starting to act with urgency. At my location in regional NSW in the Southern Highlands, the fires have twice come within a few kilometres from different directions over a two-week period. The whole town has been seen subject to emergency evacuation notices on each occasion. Whilst my residence has so far been unscathed, other neighbours have not been so fortunate. The anxiety of not knowing whether it will be there when you return takes a heavy toll. And the bushfire season is far from over. And then there is the smoke!
What the bushfires have shown the wider population is how fragile our communications and energy infrastructure are when subject to extreme events. Loss of power will result in most networks exhausting battery supplies in 6 – 8 hours. It was telling to see photos of people queuing to use the one or two public phones still working in some of the isolated townships, with no mobile phone, power or internet.
The only phones operating at that time were POTS phones – those still using 100-year-old copper line technology. Satellite phones were dropped into these areas, but some days after they were isolated. The lack of access to email was raised as a concern by those isolated. This is where early access to WINLINK1 by those isolated would have been so useful to contact emergency services, relatives and workplaces.
Call to Action: How relevant is Amateur Radio today in Australia for last-resort emergency communications? In other countries it remains very relevant, due in no small part to regular natural disasters. For example, regular EMCOMM tests are held in the US which have two benefits, one is it educates politicians, the public and emergency services of what Amateur Radio is and it formalizes the mechanisms to instantiate an EMCOMM response to a disaster.
This AR engagement would most likely be more feasible here with local councils and their emergency response representatives, rather than state or federal government. This should be a distributed model, where local clubs (singularly or jointly) could assist. This would be most effective if there was a standard framework of EMCOMM capabilities to start the dialogue and facilitate interoperation. The WIA proposed a framework some years ago called RAVEN (Radio Amateur Volunteer Emergency Network), but it didn’t gain traction from members at the time – I believe now a window of opportunity exists for a year or two to establish an EMCOMM frame work that will help with the long term relevance of the Radio Amateur Service. Your constructive input will be greatly appreciated, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
ACMA Syllabus Review: The ACMA Syllabus review panel is meeting for the first time at the end of January. The WIA has three representatives from our Education Team on the Panel. The WIA goal is to update the syllabus for the three licence classes in line with current technology (eg. digital modes) and ensure compliance with HAREC requirements for at least the Advanced Licence class. The RSGB has just completed a review and update of their three licence classes, which came into effect in the UK last September. The RSGB update was the result of thousands of hours of volunteer effort.
Nomination for Directors: By the time you read this, nominations would have either closed or be about to close at the end of January for the half-board election. If there are sufficient nominations that exceed the available vacancies, an election will ensue.
WIA 2020 Convention Hobart: Don’t forget to register, it is May 8 -10. This is an important yearly forum for members to provide input and feedback to the incoming WIA Board. Plus lots of great tech-talks and events and tours. It is also a great opportunity to spend some time in the island state, so if you can make it, see you there!
1 WINLINK is a worldwide system for reliably sending and receiving e-mail via radio in the AR RF spectrum. It is used extensively in maritime by sailors in the AR bands and in other RF spectrum by specialist agencies, such as MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio Service) in the US.
Table Of Contents
WICEN and 2019-20 bushfires - Neil Fallshaw VK2XNF
Callbooks: Their continuing value - Peter Wolfenden VK3RV
WIA Conference Weekend - WIA
Amateur Foundations - How far can I talk on radio? Onno Benschop VK6FLAB
Australia wins Commonwealth Contest again - Allan Mason VK2GR
Homebrew HF Transceiver Part 2 Receiver Luigi Destefano VK3AQZ
Wide Band RF Power Meter: 50 MHz to 10.4 GHz - Jim Henderson VK1AT
The JS Eight Zero: Simple 3.5 MHz JS8 receiver uses cheap crystals - Peter Parker VK3YE
IRLP Node based on Raspberry - Robert Campiciano VK2YMU
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