The Postie’s role in radio

The club looked recently at’The role of The Postie in the High Tech World of Amateur Radio’.

Sunday, 4th May 2014, 6:55 am

Most people know something about Amateur Radio even if it is only the slightly misleading impression created in the Radio Ham sketch by Tony Hancock.

Despite radio amateurs employing various techniques or modes to contact each other including bouncing signals off the moon, using repeaters linked to the other side of the world via the internet, Morse code etc , the one most people think of, telephony or plain speech.

A mode that most lay people would not think of is Teleprinter known to Ham’s as RTTY. If you are old enough you may remember the Saturday afternoon sports results coming into the studio on a ribbon of paper from “the Teleprinter” where text was sent over the telephone lines as a series of changing tones and read live in the studio from a rattling clanking noisy machine that translated these warbling audio tones into text.

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This mode is still used by many radio amateurs today but the big noisy machine has been replaced by the PC and the text is no longer printed onto a ribbon of paper but read as scrolling text on the PC screen.

The reason Radio Amateurs use this mode today is that in very noisy radio conditions the message has a greater chance of getting through than by using plain speech.

In March Ian GM3SEK was running the Wigtownshire Amateur Radio Club call sign GM3W from his home near Whithorn when he made a contact with Toshio Watanabe (JE8NTJ) in Hokkaido Japan some 9000km away using RTTY.

One of the things that many radio hobbyists like to do is confirm an interesting contact by sending a postcard called a QSL card and indeed some Hams have huge collections of these cards. This practice stems from the early days of radio around 100 years ago when it was much less likely than today for a ham to be able to easily make a 2 way contact and all radio was at the experimental stage with Hams leading the way. So imagine 100 years ago that someone in Scotland is transmitting on their home made radio equipment and their signal is received by a Radio Amateur in the USA however the Ham in the USA could not complete the contact back using radio but still wishes to let the radio experimenter in Scotland know that their signal had reached the USA.

What he does is get a post card and fill in the details of what he heard and posts it to Scotland to feedback to the person in Scotland what they have achieved thereby letting the Scot know that his set up was working well.

This is of course where the Postie comes into Amateur Radio as it is the trusty Postie that delivers the card confirming the contact and that is as true today as it was 100 years ago.

Now Toshio in Japan must have been very keen to confirm his contact with GM3W as he fills out the postcard (QSL) in the picture and pops it into the airmail envelope (also pictured) but for some reason addresses it to “Wigtownshire Amateur Radio Club, operating from locations near Stranraer Scotland” then instead of a postcode he puts the clubs call signs GM4RIV and GM3W on the envelope. Amazingly a matter of days later we arrive at the club meeting place at the Aird Centre, Stranraer for our regular Thursday night meeting and there is the letter from Toshio.

Thanks to the deductive powers and the persistence of a Stranraer Postie the mail got through and in due course thanks to of our Postie Toshio will have a souvenir of his contact with GM3W in the form of a WARC QSL card.

So thanks unknown Postie for a job well done and if you ever want to find out a bit about us Wigtownshire Radio Amateurs and have a cuppa and a biscuit on us we’ll be pleased to see you at The Aird Centre London Road Stranraer any Thursday at 7PM or contact us via