Ham Radio



Yaesu Radio

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What is Amateur Radio?

A radio amateur means a person who is interested in the radio technique solely for a private reason and not for financial gain (non-professional) and to whom the Authority (ICASA in South Africa or FCC in the US) has granted an amateur radio station license and shall mean a natural person and shall not include a juristic person or an association provided that an amateur radio station license may be issued to an amateur acting on behalf of a duly founded amateur radio association.

The amateur radio service is defined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as a radio communication service for the purpose of:

  • self-training
  • intercommunication
  • and technical investigations

carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorised persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interests.

Radio Amateurs, or "Hams" use two-way radio communication to make contact with other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use satellites (and even bounce signals off the Moon) and on occasion speak with astronauts. Radio Hams can do this from home or while mobile in cars, boats or on foot.

Radio Hams have a full range or communication modes at their disposal. These include plain voice, Morse code, numerous digital computer modes and even graphical modes like television. As a licensed amateur radio operator, you will be able to join in experiments using all these modes.

Amateur radio can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, even the most severely disabled can make friends around the world from their own home. This hobby knows no boundaries.

Using even the simplest of radio set-ups and antennas, amateurs communicate with each other for fun, during emergencies, and in contests. Through HAMNET they may be called upon to handle messages for police, Metro Emeregency and other public service organisations during all kinds of emergencies.

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My Journey So Far

The seed was planted for me near the end of 2018 when I was thinking about how fragile our cellphone and technology links actually are. Any extended power outages, a disaster, government censorships of social networks, etc means communications can be cut off. I started thinking more and more about alternatives and amateur radio was the natural option as I realised more and more how it is used every day in the background where we do not see it. It is obviously not just about emergency use, but often used for well-organised social chats, experimentation, where no cellphone signals are present, communicating with people in distant countries and much more. Prior to this I was very active on CB radio back in the early 1980's.

I registered for one of the bi-annual 4-month courses that are offered in Cape Town and also online for the RAE exam which was next in May 2019 (also only twice a year in South Africa). The course went into lots of depth on regulations, radio procedure, electronics, RF propagation, RF interference, filters, amplifiers, Q codes, phonetic alphabet, and lots more. To qualify we also had to do a practical HF assessment which included setting up an HF radio and antenna and making 5 HF contacts (QSOs) on the air. The great thing also about going on the course (apart from being better prepared) is also about getting to know a few other fellow new hams.

I took a week of leave before the exam to do my final preparation and finally the day of the exam dawned on 18 May 2019. About a week after this our results were published and I had a pass, and I became ZS1OSS!

Since then, I have called in on the weekly news bulletins every Sunday morning and did my first SSB simplex chat with a colleague from work. I'm easing my way into the chats and still need to tune my antennas a bit better before I can expand wider. I've also set myself up on JS8 digital mode, and joined the Western Cape branch of HAMNET.

You can find me on Echolink or Brandmeister DMR ID 6551052.

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My Equipment

  • Base rig 1 - Yaesu FT-991A HF/VHF/UHF All Mode Transceiver
  • Base rig 2 (and mobile HF) - Icom IC-7100
  • Portable 1 - Anytone AT-D878UV Digital DMR VHF/UHF with Roaming and GPS, with Nagoya NA-701 antenna
  • Portable 2 - Yaesu FT-60R VHF/UHF
  • Mobile 1 - TYT TH-7800 50W VHF/UHF Full Duplex, Cross-Band Repeater
  • Mobile 2 - Kenwood TM-D710GA with built-in APRS and Echolink (maybe replacing Mobile 1)
  • Antennas:
    • Watson W-30 Colinear VHF/UHF base antenna
    • Homebrew VHF quarter-wave (works best actually)
    • MFJ-1778M G5RV Junior Wire Antenna 40m-10m
    • Nagoya UT-308UV VHF/UHF magnet mount antenna
    • Comet SBB-1 16" dual-band mobile (primary mobile antenna) on a Comet LD-5M lip mount
    • Shark Mono Band Verticals Mini 40m 36" (HF mobile antenna) on a Diamond Antenna K400-3/8C lip mount
    • Comet CHA-250B HF Vertical Base Antenna 6 Meter Through 80 Meters
  • ATU - MFJ-993B Auto Tuner 1.8-30MHz
  • FAA-450 Antenna Analyser (EU1KY)

Watcon antenna and dipole
The Watson W-30 Colinear antenna with my homebrew inverted V wire dipole antenna

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See Winlink

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How to Configure APRS in South Africa


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JS8Call Digital Mode

JS8Call is open source software providing text messaging over weak radio signals spanning continents. See JS8Call Digital Mode.

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