New Directions Radio: Ham Radio Clubs

British ham television operators build complete stations by forming clubs.

| November/December 1976

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    Copthorne MacDonald, the inventor of slow-scan television.

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Copthorne Macdonald is the inventor of slow-scan television . . . a method of amateur radio transmission that allows ham operators to both hear and see each other during shortwave broadcasts.

Alone.... or Together?

Rugged individualism. It's a great old American tradition, and a way of life that many of us—consciously or—unconsciously—have adopted. Yet, for all the virtues of self-reliance, there's a limit to what individuals acting alone can do.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Back in the late '50's, broadcast television had been going strong on both sides of the Atlantic for about ten years. However, there'd been—in the U.S., at least—almost no amateur TV activity. The reason: A television station is quite complex and expensive to build, even on an amateur level . . . and those of us who were intrigued by the idea of ham TV simply couldn't see any way to get over the money hurdle.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that members of the British Amateur Television Club had been building TV cameras, sync generators, and complete TV stations all along! By the late '50's, to be more specific, these folks had put together a number of very sophisticated ham stations, and two-way video communication between amateurs was taking place all over the British Isles.

In view of the fact that British hams had even less money—on the average—than U.S. hams, how could this have happened? It happened because the British amateurs (who don't share our hang-up about every project having to be a totally personal one) had formed small club groups in which time, energy, and financial resources could be pooled. If there were five people in a group, then each individual—in effect—built one-fifth of a station . . . but the end product was one whole station that each of the five could use. American amateurs had done almost nothing in this field, simply because we couldn't envision anything but the "do-it-yourself" (literally) approach.

It's something to think about.


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