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 to 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 liberation
of 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.
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 (Home designed and constructed by G3NGD) - Bottom left.
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.
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 restricts the holder to VHF
and UHF working only, and deprives 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,
and these modes of operation were included in the main licence (One Fee).
See callsign reference - G6ADF/T - in call-sign listing below.
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
PREFIXES: 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
APPROXIMATE DATES OF CALLSIGN ISSUE
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:
2E1AAA 1991 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 every Sunday morning at 1100Hrs - there is a lot of activity in the Greater Manchester Area. - G3NGD operates using his HOME BREW Chatterbox Transmitter & Receiver.
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
Using the PC for Logging
Sending CW for Moon bounce and Meteor Scattering.
Chordial Hop Predictions
Distance & Bearing for Beam Settings
Echolink Communicationsand many other applications
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
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 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.
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.
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.
Updated: June 2006