What is Amateur Radio?

Amateur radio could be defined as two-way communications by radio between persons with recognized amateur status. Although in one sense it is a self-contained hobby, it is obvious that it would be impossible without other participants. Amateur radio is an international hobby with a common objective to communicate with others via radio and create contacts with like-minded individuals around the world.

Amateur radio is predominantly an indoor hobby, and most activity is carried out at the enthusiast’s home. However, there are also outdoor aspects. A portable station, for example, can be set up while on holiday, and a group of amateurs can go for expeditions into the countryside of even abroad. In addition, amateur radio societies and clubs regularly hold field days in which groups set up portable stations and hold competitions.

There is another facet of amateur radio that has become almost a hobby in itself and which provides added interest for the enthusiast. The construction of home-made radio equipment, which has become almost a tradition amongst many amateur radio users, can give a great feeling of personal pride and satisfaction, and enthusiasts may enjoy telling others that their transceiver is “all home brewed”.


What are the Origins of Amateur Radio?

Over a century ago, the first Italian Guglielmo Marconi made the first “wireless” transmission by sending a radio transmission across the room of his parents’ house in Bologna. This breakthrough aroused the interest of a few scientifically minded people who, in the early 1900s, formed specialized groups around the country. In 1913, the London Wireless Club applied for what was the first officially issued amateur radio transmitting license. This was obtained from the post office, which, until a few years ago, acted as the controlling authority for all radio transmissions.

It was not long before the need for a national organization – as opposed to localized clubs – became apparent. The enthusiasts soon proved that, with the long wavelengths allocated to them, considerable distances could be covered with quite acceptable levels of readability. However, this soon attracted the attention of commercial and broadcasting organizations, and the experimental fraternity were forced to relinquish their long wavelengths. It seemed doubtful whether the experimenters would get signals to travel much further than their own back gardens on the shorter wave lengths, but much to everyone’s surprise, communication on short waves was shown to be possible over hundreds, even thousands of miles.

By now, enthusiasts were beginning to regard themselves as bonfire amateur, and decided it was time they established a national lobby to protect their interests. As a result, the Radio Society of Great Britain was formed in the UK, and the American Radio Rely League in the USA Similar organizations were also set up in other countries, and later they all became affiliated to an International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).

Even so, the commercial and broadcasting sectors once again stepped in, and the amateurs virtually lost their short waves as well. However, they were finally left with an allocation of specific narrow bands within the total span of the short waves spectrum from about 200 down to 10 meters. Dedicated radio amateurs are never deterred, and with the help of their national societies and the IARU they have succeeded in retaining most of their original amateur wavelength allocations to the present time.


How has Amateur Radio Developed?

The amateur’s role has become very diverse, and he now has a whole spectrum of activities to chose from, including slow scan television, radio teletype, satellite, moon bounce and digital communications through computers.

Groups are organizing field days and contests, mobile working repeater networks, emergency groups, technical groups and so on. Added to this is the abundance of frequency allocations is HF, VHF and UHF bands. It is easy to see how far the hobby has developed since Marconi’s first transmission. Today there are more than two million amateurs worldwide.


How does Radio Amateurs Identify Themselves?

Each radio station is assigned its own callsign with a prefix to indicate the country in which the station is licensed. The prefix is a combination of letters and figures that precedes the station callsign and identifies the country. For example, A41 is for Oman, 5H for Tanzania, G for Great Britain and so on.


How active is Amateur Radio?

Amateur radio bands are never idle. One can always be sure of finding a contact somewhere, near or far, on one of the various wavelength allocations. If the 10 or 20-meter bands are a little quite, then there may be activity on 80 or 2 meters. Atmospheric and other conditions permitting, the amateur bands are always active. Indeed they should never be otherwise since complete occupation is one way of letting the authorities know that radio amateurs are making full use of their allocations.


What is an Amateur?

An amateur is someone who pursues an interest solely for what it may offer in terms of acquiring greater knowledge, improving skills, and at the same time gaining personal satisfaction and enjoyment. If an amateur utilizes his experience for remuneration then, in effect, he has become a professional. Many radio amateurs are also qualified engineers, practicing in the field of radio, electronics and television. Although this is their profession, they seem quite able to maintain their radioactivity on a strictly amateur basis.


Can Anyone Become a Radio Amateur?

There is very little restriction and certainly no discrimination. Applicants for a license in the Sultanate of Oman must be of an Omani nationality, 16 years of age or over, and must have passed the radio amateur’s examination in both theory and Morse code. Foreigners residing in Oman can, upon approval from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, obtain a license to operate, provided that they are licensed in their own country and are members of their own societies.


What do Radio Amateurs Talk About?

Conversation on air may be topical or technical, and probably the only subjects prohibited are religion, politics, any form of advertising or anything of obscene nature. The playing of music is also prohibited, but one can record a speech or Morse code transmission from another amateur station (with permission from that station), and replay it over the air with acknowledgement. While conversations with local stations may be topical, the more distant stations (DX contacts) are usually confined to exchange of signal reports and information concerning locations, equipment, aerials used, weather conditions etc., and possibly technicalities regarding any special tests that may be carried out in connection with equipment, such as a change of aerial or power.


Can Anyone Operate the Station?

No one except the license holder is allowed to transmit. A visiting licensed radio amateur may operate your station provided that his license is equal to yours. The visitor must also sign your logbook and the entries of the transmissions made at the time.


What can one Contribute to Amateur Radio?

Far too many people think in terms of “what can I get out of it” rather than “what can I contribute to it”. A great deal can be gained from any hobby, but with amateur radio even greater satisfaction can be obtained from contributing something to it, however small. There is a general code of behavior that the majority of amateurs practice. Being friendly to others, observing the etiquette of good operating, being helpful to new comers and not allowing one’s hobby to interfere with other duties are all important. Among the amateur radio fraternity are hundreds of blind and physically handicapped operators who frequently need the assistance of others but rarely, if ever, ask for that help. This provides an opportunity to help others less fortunate than oneself. While on this subject, it should be mentioned that blindness and physical handicap need not deter one from becoming a radio amateur. In fact, it is an ideal pastime, enabling one to keep in direct touch with the world at large.


Is there a National Society for Amateur Radio?

In almost every country there is a national society with local clubs. The national society in the Sultanate of Oman is the Royal Omani Amateur Radio Society (ROARS). Any Omani interested in radio can become a member. The function of ROARS is to look after the interests of its members, whether licensed amateurs or short wave listeners (SWL). It may also represent members in negotiations with the National Licensing Authority and at international conferences on wavelength/frequency allocations. ROARS provides many facilities for members, including training programmers and regular meetings. Since June 1983, the Society’s headquarters has been located at Al Alam, a small suburb on the outskirts of the capital Muscat.