Michael's cover image

Michael HARRIS

Year of Award: 2005 Award State: Tasmania Multimedia > Radio
To study radical advances in amateur radio and ascertain how these operations may be transferred to Australia - USA, U.K.

My project was about new opportunities for Australian radio amateurs that have been made possible by changes in the licensing conditions, but which had already been established in the USA for a number of years. By their nature, radio amateurs are never short of ingenuity, but relaxing some old legal fetters has given them the freedom to invent, to work more closely with amateurs overseas and to develop new applications. WINLINK – a completely independent email system that works anywhere in the world and is free to users – is one example. It finds uses in emergency communications, in natural disaster relief and in tracking vessels at sea.

When I returned from my Fellowship I was keen to spread information about the relevance of Amateur Radio to marine users at cruising and sailing seminars, yacht clubs and amateur radio groups. I also hoped to make use of technical information I had experienced that would, for example, enable the use of the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) for forwarding position and weather reports from vessels at sea.

In contrast to Australia and the UK, amateur radio in the US at that time had a long association with public service. Helping communities is a major part of many activities, though this need not, as some have suggested, lead to a dumbing down of technical standards required for the licence. True, Morse code no longer plays a prominent part in modern communications technology and it is appropriate that it should have been dropped as a compulsory syllabus item. It is also true that building equipment by soldering components on circuit boards is no longer a mainline activity, but then other high-level skills are still required to design, build and maintain communications systems such as those described in my report. Knowledge of how to assemble circuits from discrete components has been replaced by knowledge of programming techniques, software development and use of communication codes other than Morse.

The project was very much about circumstances prevailing at the time and was never intended to be ongoing. I maintain an active interest in this area, though family ill-health has limited this to some degree. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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