M3MDY Amateur Radio Station, Kent, S.E. England

Welcome

Welcome to the web site of the Amateur Radio Station M3MDY, operated by Martyn de Young.

The station officially came into being on 8 September 2003, and is based at 51o 18' 02"N, 0o 26' 16" E, (locator square JO 01 sh) in Aylesford, Kent, in the SE of England.

Unfortunately, due to lack of time, funds and space, plus a surfeit of domestic tasks to be completed, the station is unlikely to actually operate from this location for some time, however there will be occasional visits to other locations in the vicinity!

The site is intended to give a brief introduction to this fascinating hobby, as well as provide links to on-line resources I have found interesting or useful (and in most cases, both!) and also to develop my web development skills!

Why m3mdy?

M3MDY is the official callsign issued with my Foundation Licence. It uniquely identifies me to any Radio Amateur (or Radio Licensing Authority, for that matter!) around the world. M3 indicates the licence is issued in the UK and is a Foundation licence. The other type indicators recently issued in the UK include 2E0 and 2E1 (Intermediate "A" and "B" Class) and M0 and M1 (Full "A" and "B" Class). Following recent changes in the UK licensing scheme, both 2E0 and 2E1 callsigns give the same benefits, as do M0 and M1

MDY are my initials, but could be any three-letter combination. Originally, licences were issued strictly in alphabetic order, but since 2001, the UK authorities have introduced the option, for licensees to choose their own combination, so long as it has not previously been issued.

A number of variations can be made to the basic UK callsign. I would, for example, operate as M3MDY at home, M3MDY/M (Mobile) in the car (or even on foot!) or M3MDY/P (non-Permanent - often used as "Portable") while on holiday. If my holiday wasn't in England (a foundation licensee can't operate outside the UK), I would be MI3MDY/P in Northern Ireland, MD3MDY/M walking across the Scottish highlands,MM3MDY/P once I set up in my house in Douglas, or MM3MDY/M on my TT racer (I wish!)

What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur Radio, briefly, is a worldwide hobby, followed by men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds, which allows a unique opportunity to communicate with a minimal infrastructure. But why bother? When there are so many other ways of communicating: telephones, mobile phones and even the Internet? True, these others are often easier, cheaper, more reliable and more direct, but all require considerable additional infrastructure to operate, from telegraph poles to satellites. True, Amateur Radio now uses all these technologies. but it is still possible for an enthusiast to buy a handful of components and tools, build a transceiver, power supply and antenna, and with nothing more than that (plus, of course, a licence!) make contact with people anywhere in the world - and beyond! Imagine the thrill of passing the time of day with a member of the Royal Family, a middle-eastern Oil Sheik, an Alaskan oil-worker, a Siberian construction worker, an Australian sheep shearer, a Pacific island doctor, a sailor in mid-ocean, and the crew of the International Space Station. All in one day, all by your own efforts, and all from the comfort of your own garden shed!

The introduction of the Foundation Licence, and news of the impending removal of the Morse requirement encouraged me to look again at Amateur radio as a hobby. A quick Google search of the Internet, found a local club (BRATS) where I could find out more, and indeed download a free Foundation training course. They also have similar course for the Intermediate exam. At about the same time, I also found another very useful on-line training course, created by ARC, which includes Foundation and Full Licence courses). I took part in a practical session at the club, which includes a very brief and straightforward "Appreciation of Morse" required to be completed before taking the written paper. I passed my Foundation exam on 30 August 2003, and hope to pass the Intermediate Exam in the next year or so. Only time will tell!

Licencing

Radio signals have the ability to circumnavigate the world, so it is vital that operators use appropriate equipment and procedures, to operate in such a way as to not interfere with other users of the radio spectrum. These include such as the military, emergency services, airlines, commercial operators, TV and radio broadcasters. Even car door locks and garage doors can use (and be interfered with by) radio waves! For this reason, the hobby (along with all other aspects of radio and telecommunications use) is controlled worldwide by the International Telecomunications Union (ITU), based in Geneva, Switzerland and described as "an international organization within the United Nations System where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services." To meet ITU requirements, all countries require operators to undertake some form of training, taker a formal eaexamination and obtain a licence (and callsign) before taking to the airwaves.

In the UK, The Radiocommunications Agency (RA) is currently the official regulator (although this will soon become the responsibility of the Office of Communications - OfCom). The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) is the officially recognised non-governmental group furthering the hobby in the UK.

Following recent reviews, there are three grades of UK licence: Foundation, Intermediate and Full, or RAE. The Foundation Licence was recently (2002) introduced at a lower level that the former Novice Licence, to encourage more people to join the hobby. As a result, it was for the first time possible for operators to use the High Frequency (HF) bands (but with only limited power levels permitted) without having to achieve a level of proficiency in Morse Code. Before this, at both Novice and Full level, there were two grades. "B" grade exams didn't cover Morse, and thus only "A" grades (and strangely, Foundation Licencees!) could operate HF.

At the recent World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-03), it was agreed that the Morse requirement for HF operation could be dropped, if individual countries so wished, as with modern communication developments, Morse no longer holds the importance it once had to radio communication as a whole.

Only days after the conference, the UK was among the first to announce the changes, the "A" and "B" grades dropped, and all operators now have access to HF. It seems that many other countries are following suit, much to the chagrin of many seasoned operators, although surprisingly, the "Land of the Free", so often to the fore in the pursuit of personal freedoms, has not shown any great compulsion to make the same leap.

Is the liberalisation of the HF bands a good thing? It is perhaps too early to say, but it has certainly been a hot topic of conversation both across the airwaves, and on the Internet! Many who have worked hard to achieve their Morse tickets will deplore the "dumbing down" of their hobby, and the sudden saturation of what was once their own private, even elitist, domain. On the other hand, many others will see the introduction of new blood as a good thing for the future of this hobby. I suspect the truth will be somewhere between the two. As for me? Having shied clear of the hobby partly due to the Morse, I might even have a go at becoming proficient at it, even though now I don't need to. That is what hobbies are about, aren't they?


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This web site Copyright © 2003 Martyn de Young


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