The WIA Centenary Patron
An early exposure to radio had a lasting impact on Dick Smith VK2DIK, helping him achieve business and other successes. In his speech, during the WIA Centenary Dinner in Canberra on 29 May, he described how he explored the contents of his Uncle Harold’s radio room in the northern Sydney suburb of Roseville. That was about ten years after his uncle was killed overseas during World War II. Looking at the bits and pieces in that room inspired him resulting in Dick building his first crystal radio set at the age of eight or nine.
Jim Linton - VK3PC
As a young boy with a speech impediment, the other students would laugh at him, leading to an inferiority complex, and he left school aged 15 years. A crucial career move was to take a job at Weston Radio that was doing well with selling and installing two-way radio sets in taxis and the like. Then he heard about Findlay Electronics, owned by Maurie Findlay. At age 17, Dick contacted him and talked his way into a new job. Another key mentor in his life was Tony Balthasar VK2IH (sk), an avid radio amateur and rover scout adviser at the 1st East Roseville troop.
At the age of 22 he returned from an overseas holiday and went back to Weston Radio as a salesman. Upon learning that the company would no longer repair taxi radios Dick saw the chance to get into that business. Borrowing $6,000 he started Dick Smith Car Radio, selling and repairing two-way radios. The young businessman then began another enterprise of selling electronic components, followed by the first self-serve electronics centre. The company then rode the CB radio boom. Soon after he imported ICOM radios and then the Yaesu brand and setting up the Dick Smith Electronics ham radio department. To promote the business he deployed several publicity stunts, including the importation of petrol powered pogo sticks, and towing a fake iceberg into Sydney harbour on April Fool’s Day 1978.
Then wanting a change in lifestyle he sold the business to Woolworths, and went adventuring including flying his helicopter solo around the world. In concluding his dinner speech, Dick said he was honoured to be involved with the Wireless Institute of Australia, a wonderful organisation that is 100 years old.
Dick generously made available his Bowylie Flying Club at Gundaroo for the WIA Centenary BBQ on Sunday 30 May, during which he gave another speech, this time detailing his solo world helicopter trip in 1983. That adventure used amateur radio as its communications medium with VK2DIK. This was crucial after Dick left Japan to rendezvous a pre-arranged refuelling landing on a cargo ship that was also carrying a ham radio friend. At the end of the speech members of the audience asked: “What’s your next adventure?” Dick dismissed it by saying he was too old for such things.
This great Australian is still doing plenty and currently taking a lead in the debate about our nation’s population growth, saying he’s concerned that government has it headed for 36 million people by 2050, without a plan to show how it could be sustainable.
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