The Second Fifty Years of Amateur Radio

The war against Hitlers Germany ended, officially at one minute past midnight on Tuesday, May 8, 1945, but the struggle against Japan  continued until August 14, 1945. During  the weeks that  followed, conditions  near  to chaos existed on the amateur  bands,  mainly because  certain  allied  military commanders  in   widely different parts of  the  world  had given  permission for pre-war licence holders to operate service transmitting equipment. This was a direct contravention to the law,
but was done to boost morale.
In June 1946,  the Post Office invited holders of  pre-war transmitting licences by the Postmaster General  to apply for  a  Post-war  licence. Three months later a similar invitation was directed  to those who had held  pre-war "Artificial Aerial"
licences. The  new  licence  was  a  marked  improvement  in  respect  of  terms, conditions and limitations over  the pre-war  licence. For example, the new licence authorized the establishment of an  amateur, as distinct from an experimental station;  it authorized the use of "CQ" in  place of "Test" as the general call; and it removed restrictions on  the length and  height of aerials.  It did  make it obligatory however, for the licensee to possess frequency measuring equipment. Pre-war limitations on sending periods (four hours each day) had disappeared, and anyone could use the station provided it was done under supervision of the licensee.
In order  o satisfy the Post Office that an applicant had sufficient technical knowledge to be granted a licence, he/she had now to obtain a "pass" in both the new Radio Amateurs' Examination and the Morse Test.
Exemptions from the Morse Test and  / or  the Radio Amateurs'  Examination were available to those who had served in certain signals "trades" during the war.
                         OS4GG  -  Special  prefix QSL card to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberationof  Belgium by Allied Forces.
In  March 1946, questions were  asked  in Parliament as to the sale of Government surplus radio equipment to amateurs. Already much use of  the surplus apparatus had been purchased in  large quantities at ridiculously low prices by dealers who had offered it for sale to show high profits. Three months later, the Admiralty announced that "electronic scrap" would become available to radio amateurs from Naval depots at a price of  fifty shillings a hundredweight. (£2.50)  How many complete receivers, transmitters  and  items of expensive  measuring equipment was sold in brand new condition as "electronic scrap", no one can even hazard a guess, but fair minded amateurs regretted that due to abuse, this scheme was abandoned within six months.
©Photo taken and processed by G3NGD.
 19 set owned by G3NGD in 1958 converted to Top Band 1.8 - 2.0 MHz

Many radio operators from the war became interested in amateur radio and applied for licences. People tuning the short-waves on domestic receivers discovered the world of amateur radio and became fascinated.  By  1947, more than five and a half thousand transmitting licences were in force compared with three thousand eight hundred a year earlier; and so the number grew.


                         Licence figures

                        The  UK  licence figures  for  1954 - 1978 showed an increase each year, and were as listed below.
1954 -   7708  1963 - 12049 1971 - 20489
1955 -   7702 1964 - 13067 1972 - 22076
1956 -   7925 1965 - 13987 1973 - 23756
1957 -   8234 1966 - 14934  1974 - 25499
1958 -   9116 1967 - 15933 1975 - 27750
1959 -   9539  1968 - 17338 1976 - 29052
1960 - 10006 1969 - 18281 1977 - 23237
1961 - 10504 1970 - 19351 1978 - 24711
1962 - 11289
                                              As an update, I give the more current U.K. Licence figures to show how numbers are falling.
1992 - 61684 1998 - 60420 1999 - 59755
After the war, the "Trans-Atlantic tests" and the "National  Field  Day" events were revived, and are still held annually to this day.   These events are organized by the Radio Society of Great Britain (formerly the London Wireless Club).
©Photo taken and processed by G3NGD.
G3HRV  'Alf '  located in Walkden Manchester.
In 1951, the RSGB offered to establish a communications network to meet any national disaster on land, at sea, or in the air, but the Post Office declined the offer.
During the last few hours of January 1953, a flood disaster of immense magnitude struck the  East Coast of  England;  Post Office telephones, Government wireless stations and utility services were out of action for days. Radio Amateurs in these stricken areas, ignoring the terms of their licence placed their experience at the disposal of the authorities.
After long talks with the Post Office, the RSGB set up the Radio Amateurs Emergency Network (RAYNET) , which today works in collaboration with the British Red Cross Society, the St. Johns Ambulance Brigade and the Police.
©Photo taken and processed by G3NGD.
                                                  G3NGD/M  Home constructed Mobile equipment in Ford Van (1965) - Top Band Top left.
                          Ex -Tank Transceiver Model B44 modified for 70 MHz with Transistorized Power Supply Inverter  (Bottom left)
  (The Transistorized Power Supply  was designed and constructed by G3NGD; a second one was fitted in the Engine Compartment for Top Band TX)
Early in 1954, the Post Office introduced a new Amateur Mobile and Television licence. The mobile age had arrived; amateurs started to build mobile equipment and demonstrate it at mobile rallies. The first mobile rally was held at Binsey near Oxford, on October 9th, 1955, and was attended by over seventy-five radio amateurs and friends.
                                           A modern Mobile Amateur Radio Station  ZB2YL/M in Gibraltar 
For several  hours, mobile operators demonstrated their equipment and discussed the fine points of this absorbing new development in amateur radio. Many amateurs have become interested in space techniques, and this has led to the creation of the amateur satellite service in 1971. The OSCAR (orbiting satellite carrying amateur radio) satellites are now an accepted and exciting part of the amateur scene.
The 'seventies
Radical changes occurred during the 'seventies. The shelves of "electronic scrap" at the local amateur radio emporium  were replaced by expensive Japanese radio equipment. The new generation of radio amateur has become a "black  box  operator" (not interested in how it works).  The Post Office introduced a VHF (Very high frequency) only licence, which an applicant can obtain without passing a Morse test. This licence restricted the holder to VHF and UHF working only, and deprived him/her of the thrill and excitement in communicating with people all over the world using the short-wave bands. It is not until he/she has become proficient in the Morse code that he/she will be granted a FULL  LICENCE. 
On 14th September 1972, the first UK repeater was activated with the callsign GB3PI and was located in Cambridge at  the Pye Telecom site. Soon after, other repeaters were set up and they operated on 2m and 70cm bands.
In 1977, the separate  mobile and  amateur television licences were abolished; these modes of operation were included in the main licence (One Fee).
See callsign reference - G6ADF/T - in call-sign listing below. G3NGD became interested in Amateur Television (G6ADF/T)
                         At the World Administrative Radio Conference in 1979, three new bands were gained: 
                                    10·100 - 10·150MHz,   18·068 - 18·168MHz,   and  24·890 - 24·990MHz.
                                      Contact between G3NGD (England) and VK3NOO (Australia) 1977
  United Kingdom Amateur Callsigns
                                   1st Character:    Full licence - G or M;  Novice licence - 2
                                    2nd Character:    1st Character   Full      Club(Full)   Novice
England G/M/2 None   X   E
Isle of Man G/M/2 D T D
Northern Ireland G/M/2 I N I
Jersey G/M/2 J H J
Scotland G/M/2 M S M
Guernsey G/M/2 U P U
Wales G/M/2 W C W
                                            GB3 + 2 Letters:   Repeaters
                                            GB3 + 3 Letters:   Beacons
                                            GB  :   Special Event stations.
                                            GB7 + 2 Letters:  Data Repeaters
                                            GB7 + 3 Letters:  Data Maiboxes
                                                                /M            mobile including pedestrian & inland waterways
                                                                /P             temporary location, portable or temporary address
                                                               /MM         maritime mobile
Class A licence
Two letters:
G2AA  1920 - 39
G3AA  1937 - 38
G4AA 1938 - 39
G5AA  1921 - 39
G6AA 1921 - 39
G8AA 1936 - 37
Class A licence 
Three letters:
G2AAA  pre-war
G3AAA 1946
G3CAA  1947
G3EAA 1948
G3GAA 1949 - 50
G3HAA 1950 - 51
G3IAA  1951 - 52
G3JAA 1952 - 54
G3KAA 1954 - 56
G3LAA  1956 - 57
G3MAA 1957 - 58
G3NAA 1958 - 60
G3NGD Dec 1958
G3OAA 1960 - 61
G3PAA  1961 - 62
G3QAA not issued
G3RAA  1962 - 63
G3SAA  1963 - 64
G3TAA 1964 - 65
G3UAA 1965 - 66
G3VAA  1966 - 67
G3WAA 1967
G3XAA 1967 - 68
G3YAA 1968 - 69
G3ZAA 1969 - 71
G4AAA 1971 - 72
G4BAA 1972 - 73
G4DAA 1974 - 75
G4EAA 1975 - 76
G4GAA 1977
G4IAA 1979
G4MAA 1981
G4QAA not issued
G4RAA 1982
G4SAA  1983
G4WAA 1984
G0AAA  1985
G0EAA 1986
G0HAA 1987
G0JAA  1988
G0LAA  1989
G0MAA 1990
G0NAA 1991
G0SAA 1992
G0TAA 1993
G0VAA 1994
G0WAA  1995
M0AAA  1996
M0BAA  1997 - 98
M0CAA 1998 - 99
M0DAA  2000
Class A/B licence   Three letters:
M5AAA 1999
M5BAA 2000
Class B licence Three letters:
G6CAA 1981
G6QAA  not issued
G6RAA  1982
                                               Note: G6 callsigns were originally Amateur Television Callsigns.
                                                          They were allocated before the B licence was authorized.
                                                          G6ADF/T was used by G3NGD when using Amateur Television.
Class B licence   Three letters:
G8AAA  1964 - 67
G8BAA 1967 - 68
G8CAA  1968 - 69
G8DAA  1969 - 70
G8EAA 1970 - 71
G8FAA  1971 - 72
G8HAA 1973
G8IAA  1973 - 74
G8JAA  1974 - 75
G8KAA 1975
G8MAA 1976 - 77
G8NAA 1977
G8OAA 1977 - 78
G8PAA 1978
G8QAA  not issued
G8TAA  1979
G8ZAA 1981
G1AAA 1983
G1DAA  1984
G1LAA  1985
G1QAA not issued
G1SAA  1986
G1XAA  1987
G7AAA  1988
G7EAA  1989
G7FAA 1990
G7HAA 1991
G7MAA 1992
G7OAA 1993
G7SAA 1994
G7TAA 1995
G7WAA 1996
M1AAA  1996
M1CAA  1997
M1DAA  1998 - 99
M1EAA 1999
M1FAA  2000
Novice Licence Class A:
2E0AAA   -  1991 onwards
Novice Licence Class B:
2E1BAA 1992 
2E1CAA  1993
2E1DAA 1994
2E1EAA 1992
2E1GAA 1997 - 98
2E1HAA  1999
2E1IAA  2000

©Photo taken and processed by G3NGD.
Station of  G3FGI at Manchester in 1960
The photograph shows, the Marconi CR100 Receiver - bottom left and the HRO Communications Receiver on  the table. This receiver used plug-in coils which are stacked on top of the receiver on the left of a BC221 Frequency Meter. 
The Transmitters were 'home constructed'.
©Photo taken and processed by G3NGD.
The G3NGD Mobile Transmitter 1.8 - 2.0 MHz  Home designed 1965

©Photo taken and processed by G3NGD.
                                                     The G3NGD Mobile Transmitter 1.8 - 2.0 MHz  underneath chassis view
Many "old timers" like myself try to hold onto the past. This has been shown by the many people still building Amplitude Modulated  (AM) Transmitters and  Receivers, and participating in contacts on a regular basis on Top Band (1963KHz).  Listen on Sunday morning at 1100Hrs - there is  a  lot of activity in the Greater Manchester Area.  -  G3NGD operates using his HOME BREW Chatterbox Transmitter & Receiver.
               The 'eighties
In the early 'eighties, the old 405-line vhf  television services finished broadcasting in the uk. This used to be an Amateur Radio band until the BBC acquired it for television after the second world war. Radio Amateurs requested the band be returned, and this was granted in 1983 (The band is 50 - 52MHz.).

                          In the 1980's, Information Technology and the Computer age arrived.

Radio Amateur enthusiasts like myself started to purchase or build the Sinclair ZX81 micro-computer. 
This escalated to the introduction of the INTERNET. 
Unfortunately, the Internet has led to a reduction in recruitment of Radio Amateurs - it  is so easy to contact people world-wide  using the 'Internet'. This is all well and good but one doesn't get the thrill of that exotic contact especially when using home constructed equipment. (Prior to the year 2006, the licence fee was only £15 per year -  now it is FREE of charge!). 

On the positive side however, 

                                     Radio Amateurs put the Computer to excellent use in:

                                                               Slow Scan Television
                                                                    Packet Radio
                                                           Using the PC for Logging
                                                                          Mail Box
                                                                  Satellite Tracking
                                      Sending CW for Moon bounce and Meteor Scattering.
                                                           Chordial Hop Predictions
                                                   Distance & Bearing for Beam Settings
                                                               Design Calculations
                                                         Echolink Communications

                                                              and many other applications.

Space Operation:
With the advent of  the American Space Shuttle, space flight became a comparatively normal event and Amateur Radio was allowed on a number of  missions. The first amateur operation from space was W0ORE using a Motorola hand-held. Further missions took radio amateurs into space, and in 1985 an all-German crew operated with the callsign DP0SL.
For Britain there has been operation from space, when the first British cosmonaut, Helen Sharman, went up with a Russian MIR space mission in May 1991 using the callsign GB1MIR.

              The 'nineties
The number of people entering Amateur Radio began to fall, and so in 1991, a  new Licence - 'The Novice Licence'  was introduced. This  was  really a  way of encouraging young  people to participate in the hobby without having to take a  full examination. To qualify for the  licence, applicants needed only to take part in a course organized by the Radio Society of Great Britain and sit a simple examination.
Although many people took up the hobby via this route, the number of Licensees continued to fall,  and so in  1999, the A/B Licence was introduced. For  this licence, in addition to a  pass being required in the RAE, one has only to take a Morse test at five wpm.
(Note: pressure was placed on the authorities to abolish the Morse code examination after the year 2000. This has now taken place and has made it very easy to obtain a licence). Many people today are in for the easy option. They want qualifications to be given away with very little effort being made by the individual.

There were many Radio Amateurs that opposed this move, as Morse Code has many advantages:
using Morse with 'Q' codes for example,  provides an "International language"
Morse Code gets through the interference
Morse Transmitters are simple for the novice to build (no modulator to build)
Morse Code Transmitters have a  narrow bandwidth, occupy less radio spectrum and  unlikely to cause EMC problems.

In the 'old days', Radio Amateurs were very proud to be associated with the hobby, but today, the general public think that Amateur Radio is like C.B. radio. This is far from true, and should remain that way.

This has been shown in the year 2006, when a move to de-regulate Amateur Radio was defeated. Radio Amateurs still have to take an examination to obtain a licence.
However, if the Radio Amateur has an e-mail address, the licence is issued 'free of charge' for life. Unfortunately, people who don't have computer access have to pay a  charge of £20.00 to Ofcom. (There are no age concessions). Radio Amateurs will have to confirm their details every five years by e-mail. No doubt, Radio Amateurs will have to download the latest edition of the Licence Conditions from the Ofcom website, on an annual basis.
Update: The Licence renewal can now be updated by accessing the OFCOM WEBSITE free of charge.

Throughout the world at the present time (Year 2000),  there are just short of three million radio amateurs with their own radio stations communicating regularly with other enthusiasts in their own country and more distant countries. Japan  heads  the list with 1296000 licences, followed by the USA with  679864. The  United  Kingdom has 57124 not including club stations. To these figures, however, one must add the teens of thousands of amateurs who merely "listen" to amateur radio broadcasts.

If amateur radio is to survive, we need to encourage more people, particularly youngsters into the hobby. With this in mind, there is a 'proposed future structure' of Amateur Radio Licensing currently in discussion, as follows:
Full Class A, Full Class A/B and Full Class B becoming  a new class 'ADVANCED'
The Novice Class A becoming an 'Intermediate' and  the Novice Class B  becoming an  'Intermediate  - Foundation'  Licence.

As the future unfolds, communications equipment will become more sophisticated; already with the advent of the "silicon chip", the conventional amateur radio station is becoming obsolete. Much use has already been made of computers as detailed above. Amateur Radio has already been used to make contact with astronauts in space.

The future years will unequivocally show a considerable growth in the use of amateur artificial satellites for long distance VHF communication. Using the latest techniques and improvements in amateur radio equipment and satellites themselves, that which  is now a very specialized field will become a major amateur activity. Trans-Atlantic contacts will become as simple as talking on  the telephone to a friend across town.

QSL from The Seychelles (Indian ocean)
QSL from American Samoa 

The Government's attitude to  the 'radio amateur' has certainly changed since those early days when fighting with officialdom seemed to be the order of  the day.

Marconi said:   "that had it not been for amateurs, wireless telegraphy
               as a great world-fact might not have existed at all".

There is no doubt, that the latest developments in radio communication as we know it today, would not have been possible without the hard work and determination given by the radio amateurs of yesteryear.
One of  the  important  features of  radio work,  whether on an amateur or professional  basis, is the great opportunities it provides for international associations. The ability to make friends in other countries and to co-operate with them in  the pursuit of a common hobby, goes a long way to obtaining an understanding of the problems of other nations: such understanding is a great factor in continuing and extending the peace of the world.

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Updated: May 2014