When I was about 12 or 13 years old I watched the movie Contact starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. It starts out with the main character calling “CQ” and looking to make long distance contact via radio frequency – it’s something I wanted to explore myself at some point but around the same time we started exploring the internet at home and that stole the show.
Earlier this year  I came across a clip on TikTok of a woman in her car, at the coast in Northern Ireland using a radio to make long distance contacts, she was able to reach people in Egypt, India and Europe. I started exploring this a little more and found the more I pulled at the thread, the more interested I became.
📻 Radio Operator? I’m on QRZ here!
I’ll be honest I found it a bit overwhelming at first as there are various channels to the hobby that you can explore and practice, I done some initial research, ordered myself an inexpensive entry level radio (Baofeng UV-5R) and started listening from a local car park that overlooks the area that I live in. I heard some people chatting away and shortly after decided to join the closest radio club to me, Paisley Amateur Radio Club. The members of the radio club were incredibly welcoming, very keen to share their knowledge and answer many questions that I had. I’m very grateful for their support so far and proud to support the club where I can.
Transmitting requires a license
In the previous paragraph I underlined listening, as to talk/transmit you require a license issued by Ofcom which I didn’t have. I enrolled for a course, completed a test and was issued a foundation license, callsign and became a radio ham (MM7DVZ) – all of this was completed online in roughly one month. I learned a lot in this short space of time, and grew a bigger appetite for the hobby.
Due to my family and work commitments my progression with amateur radio has been at a slow pace, my initial focus at the moment is simply making distant contacts (This is referred to as DX in the hobby), learning protocol and how antennas work. At my home I have two antennas, I won’t go into the detail of each but one is for “line of sight and a little more” the other uses propigation to reflect frequencies off the atmosphere and cover longer distances. My furthest contact to date using my “line of sight” antenna is Tinto Hill which is 33 miles away, my further contact using my “HF” antenna is Venice, Italy at a distance of 1,014 miles.
What is next?
I mentioned that I passed my test and obtained a license, there are three tiers of license in the UK and I’ve achieved the Foundation one. I don’t need to do any more but I find the subject very interesting and am keen to learn as much as I can. I start a course in January 2023 towards gaining my Intermediate license that will allow me to transmit with higher power and utilize higher microwave frequencies.
The most expensive part of the equipment I use is the radio itself and the radio was provided to me on loan by a generous member of the club, I’m doing my research and will be looking for my own radio soon. I’ll be looking for one that I can use at home, in the car and when we go on holiday to a cottage or lodge. I look forward to driving to the coast in the summer, erecting a mobile antenna and making some distant contacts free of interference from wifi connections and LED light transformers.
With the two items above addressed I’ll then explore other parts of the hobby other than making vocal contacts with other operators, I am particulary interested in some digital modes, interacting with satellites and introducing software defined radios (SDR) in the mix.
My Equipment & Setup
Here is the equipment that I’m using at the moment;
- Diamond X50 Colinear Antenna for 2M & 70CM Bands
- Long Wire into a 9:1 Balun for HF Bands (Tunes 6M to 80M)
- Icom IC-706MKII (On loan)
- MFJ-945E Tuner (On loan)
- Baofeng UV-5R for Mobile with Retevis RHD771 Antenna
On the way: ATU-100 EXT Automatic Tuner
Interested in amateur radio?
If you’ve read this and think you’d be interested in exploring the hobby yourself, it’ll welcome you with open arms. If there is anything I can help you with you can contact me via the socials at the top-right of this page or by emailling firstname.lastname@example.org. To get the ball rolling I’d recommend grabbing a Baofeng and listen for any activity in your area, tune into your local repeater and enrol for the free EssexHam Foundation Online course. I’ve also included a video by the Radio Socity of Great Britan (RSGB) to give you more insight to the hobby.
All the best if you proceed with the hobby!