Ham radio operators are good at having conversations with people thousands of miles away, but possible not so good at getting the message across that their hobby is incredibly fascinating.
Most people know that amateur radio involves licensed people operating communications equipment to make contact with other hams all over the world.
What is less understood is that there are all kinds of aspects to the hobby, something Spalding & District Amateur Radio Society (SDARS) was trying to promote as part of its Sue Ryder Field Day at the weekend.
The Spalding club was using a unique call sign to make contact with as many countries and contacts as possible during an overnight camp in Surfleet where it has outside facilities. At the same time, about £80 was raised as part of ongoing support for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice.
The event was a success, with 39 countries logged so far, the most distant being Chile (7,280 miles).
Member Pete Henderson, who organised the event with Andy Schofield, said: “China was in the top five. It wasn’t the furthest, but it was quite a good one.” Club secretary Graham Boor explains that amateur radio is far broader than talking or listening to signals.
He says: “We have people in the club learning Morse code because if everything else fails Morse code would still get through.
“Amateur radio is used in disaster relief when communications have failed. All you need is a transmitter, a 12V battery and an aerial and we can provide communications and you don’t have to have a big aerial.”
Even if clubs aren’t involved in disaster relief, they may be asked to assist local emergency planning officers by providing amateur radio, says Graham.
Then there are the people communicating with the International Space Station, tracking high altitude balloons and even involved in something Graham calls “moon bounce”, or bouncing signals from Earth to the Moon and back to Earth.
Graham says: “Quite often, amateur radio has provided the key elements for a lot of advanced communications in use today.”
Getting involved in amateur radio is a good foundation for a career in electronics or communications, as Graham knows. He became involved in the club in 1972 and it led to life-long employment as a television engineer.
In fact the club is licensed by the Radio Society of Great Britain to conduct training, with an examination at the end of it, something recognised in two regional club of the year awards.