Being part of a tradition


I am really glad that I am able to contribute something back to the community and society around amateur/ham radio. For all those who have no idea what that is, do please check out the Wikipedia page and also visit the pages of the Singapore Amateur Radio Transmitting Society, SARTS.org.

Radio has always excited me – ever since I managed to open up a transistor radio that my mom had in the late 1960s and tweaked around with the coils on the board. And then I got hold of a car radio and had to figure out how to get that working at home (had to get 8 size D batteries that drained VERY QUICKLY and then a 240/250VAC to 12VDC transformer – all by saving my school allowance bit by bit).

When I was in Secondary three, I read in the local newspaper of a group of people called Amateur Radio Operators and that they can use a walkie-talkie like device to talk to anyone around the world. Unfortunately, I don’t recall if the article indicated how to get in touch with the group – mind you, these were Before Times. I searched for anything related to amateur radio and radio in the telephone directory but did not find anything relevant. In retrospect, I should have just tried to contact any of the shops selling radio equiment if they knew of amateur radio and operators in Singapore – but my search skills were very naive then.

I did check out the Queenstown Public Libary and found lots of books on the topic of amateur/ham radio. All I did was to read and imagine. I realized that the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore was the entity that managed the licensing of amateur radio operators and that one needed to learn morse code and be proficient in electronics and radio.

The Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (TAS) was established to run the telephone (aka land lines) in Singapore. TAS was itself renamed from the Singapore Telephone Board. It was a government agency as were similar entities around the world.

Here are some logos from Remember Singapore, that show the evolution of STB->TAS and so on.

STB became TAS (or Telecoms in short), then when the telephone operations were hived off to Singapore Telecom and the regulator functions were kept in TAS. TAS, in 1999, merged with the National Computer Board (NCB.gov.sg) to form the Inforcommunications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA.gov.sg) which, later in the 2010s, merged with the Singapore Broadcasting Authority/Media Development Authority to become IMDA.gov.sg.

Suffice to say, the amateur/ham radio licensing, testing and equipment type approval, frequency and spectrum management remains part of (TAS->IDA->)IMDA. And, there are lots of issues with how the licensing, ham testing, type approvals, frequency/spectrum assignments are managed. It could be compounded because, the the best of my knowledge, NO one in IMDA has a ham license – not even the licensing authority. In some ways, it is like saying the the person who issues the driving license at Traffic Police does not herself have a driving license. I recall when I finally figured out how to get a Singapore license back in the TAS days – in the 1990s – the person I spoke on the phone was asking me why bother getting a ham license when “you can just as easily pick up the phone to talk to anyone in the world”. That person (I don’t recall who it was though) is missing the joy of learning, the joy of discovery, the joy of failure, the joy of experimentation and the joy of being curious.

Weather outlook for Sunday 15 November 2020

Fast forward to 15 November 2020. I had offered to SARTS the opportunity to perhaps use an unused (and kinda hard to get to) deck at my home to put up an antenna for the purposes of it being a repeater. My place is on the 12th floor of an apartment building (about 40m above ground) and has a clear view of Bukit Timah Hill, Bukit Batok, Bukit Gombak and clear sky above and about 180 degree looking north. And with Roland 9V1RT, Ben 9V1KB and James 9V1YC, we did a signal and propagation test while it was raining, windy and with some bolts of lightning thrown in, and the tests passed.

Looks like, phase one of my giving back to the ham community in Singapore is successful and next we have to figure out in getting the needed equipment, and safe and proper mounting of the antenna and related radios with good lightning protection etc.

4 comments

  1. Interesting article !! yes, HAM should be installed at few community centres/Science centre as a trial. At the moment, it requires to change the Singapore Law to allow this to happen.
    -chandra

    • The Singapore Science Centre has a ham station but I there is no one there to operate it. I look forward to talking about ham radio with children in schools and show them how things are done and how they can take part. FT8, for example, is a great way to go low power ham stuff. Lots of innovation is happening and we just need to plug in, learn and contribute.

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